By Kerri Barber
American citizens are being denied Constitutionally protected rights to Due Process and Equal Protection under the law. Both are federal legal rights that supersede state and local statues and are supposed to be universally recognized protections. Instead, a pattern of growing negligence has flourished and, in some cases, been encouraged across the country.
George Floyd, a 46-yr old member of the Minneapolis community who worked as security for a small business, was killed by rogue officers who violated his Constitutionally protected rights and their own procedures.
Police brutality and flagrant disregard for citizen rights have prompted a wave of terrorism that has only increased in recent years with few offenders being charged for their crimes.
The controversial case of Laquan McDonald and his assassination by former Chicago police officer, Jason Van Dyke, is only one of hundreds of such cases. Van Dyke was convicted in 2018 and immediately transferred to Federal Bureau of Prisons custody and detained in a medium security facility in New York, reportedly, “because of the notoriety of the case, ” wrote WTTW reporter Matt Masterson after speaking with Illinois Department of Corrections officials. Van Dyke was moved again in December 2019 to a facility in Maryland where he will serve the remainder of his three year sentence for second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm for the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald.
Masterson wrote, “Van Dyke was sentenced in January to 81 months in prison. He was expected to serve about half that time with a scheduled release date in February 2022.”
Second-degree murder is defined as an intentional killing that was not premeditated. In some states, second-degree murder also encompasses “depraved heart murder,” which is a killing caused by a reckless disregard for human life.
Due Process is defined by Law Dictionary as, “a fundamental principle of fairness in all legal matters, both civil and criminal, especially in the courts. All legal procedures set by statute and court practice, including notice of rights, must be followed for each individual so that no prejudicial or unequal treatment will result.”
The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld this most basic right for citizens and immigrants in numerous cases throughout the country’s history and often evolved as the culture of the nation matured. The first case involving, “separate but equal,” was the Plessy v. Ferguson (18 May 1896) case involving “whites only” train cars and a 7/8 Caucasian passenger arrested in Louisiana for refusing to move from a whites-only designated train car.
Plessy lost his appeal and segregation continued until 1954 when the Supreme Court reversed the prior decision in Brown v. Board of Education which ruled that, “…separate is inherently unequal. “
Due Process is so important that it is enshrined within the Constitution twice:
“The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution each contain a due process clause. Due process deals with the administration of justice and thus the due process clause acts as a safeguard from arbitrary denial of life, liberty, or property by the government outside the sanction of law.”
The right to Equal Protection under the law is a federal protection that supersedes state local laws and regulations. The recent Marriage Equality ruling of 2015 codifies this protection that took effect in 1868, which states, “nor shall any State […] deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws”.
In the case of George Floyd, officers only knew that Floyd matched the description given by shop owners of an individual who allegedly used a counterfeit bill to purchase goods. The alleged crime is a felony only if the prosecution can prove the perpetrator knew the bill was a fake.
CBS Evening News released the shop’s security video that shows Floyd was not in a disguise, nor did he leave the scene. Instead, when police arrived, they found Floyd sitting on the hood of his car. Both of these points would make it nearly impossible for prosecutors to prove intent to garner a fraud conviction.
United States Department of Treasury estimates there are an estimated $70 million in counterfeit bills in circulation at any given time. That is approximately 1 fraudulent note for every 10,000 in genuine currency, making it likely that at some point, an ordinary citizen may come into possession of such a bill and not realize it.
Floyd would likely have had forgery charges dismissed altogether, but Floyd never got the chance to face charges and defend himself.
The shop’s security footage shows Floyd already in controlled custody, handcuffed, and cooperating with the single officer. The other officer can be seen taking a statement from witnesses. These same two officers participated in murdering Floyd moments later. Corporate media then reported that Floyd had “resisted arrest”.
Michelle Gross, president of Community United Against Police Violence has been pushing back against police brutality in Minneapolis for years. Today, she is watching her city burn and residents rioting after the murder of George Floyd.
Via phone Gross expressed frustration with local officials and said community leaders are done waiting for District Attorney Michael Freeman to do the right thing and that they are pushing for a special prosecutor to be appointed, “someone from outside, someone from a civil rights background,” she said.
Gross says they have no faith in Freeman and that Senator Klobuchar herself has done little to ameliorate the problems she helped cause through mass incarceration.
Midland,Texas Traffic Stop Could Land 21-Yr Old In Jail Longer than Convicted Killer Jason Van Dyke
Across the country in Midland, Texas, another case is developing that highlights the extreme disparity in due process and severe lack of Equal Protection rights applied to citizens.
Marfa public radio reported on an incident that occurred in early May where a gang of uniformed thugs held an unarmed 21 year old at gun point then assaulted his 90 yr old grandmother.
Tye Anders was driving his mother’s 2017 silver Dodge Challenger to visit his grandmother on his 21st birthday.
Midland police released the dash-cam video which includes the caption noting the video was activated after the alleged infraction. In the video itself, Anders can be seen making a complete stop at a stop sign.
“Once [officer] Rosero flashed his lights, Anders continued driving for a little over 20 seconds until he arrived at his 90-year-old grandmother’s home, according to the department. After Anders parked, officers called for him to get out of his car, but he didn’t. About 6 minutes pass, where Anders later explains he was calling different family members. “
A terrified Anders can be seen in the video crying and shouting at officers, “Please don’t shoot me! You are going to kill me!,” as six armed officers targeted him with service revolvers and shotguns shouting at Anders to, “walk toward” them.
In numerous prior incidents around the country, unarmed citizens have been gunned down by police who later reported they were defending themselves when they were charged by someone they had detained. One of Anders’ relatives filmed the incident from the driveway and can be heard shouting this to officers.
“He’s scared! Y’all have guns on him, he’s Black,” one woman yelled.
“Do y’all not see how many Black people are getting shot?! Do you not see that? And y’all have guns on him! He’s only 21! Of course, he’s fucking scared!”
“Y’all gonna find any reason to shoot him because he Black!” she screamed. “Because of the color of our fucking skin we get punished!”
Officers maintain that the grandmother fainted and was not assaulted by officers. This further escalates the situation as panicked family members struggle to reach her.
Midland police initially refused to release the video footage captured on officer’s dash-cams and body-cams with Midland Mayor Patrick Payton saying, “We don’t need to prove a point.”
The lone African-American city council member, John Norman, disagreed and eventually prevailed in getting the footage released to the public that finances both the city council and mayor’s office as well as the police force.
The city is now hosting “talks” to foster racial sensitivity, but maintains that officers did nothing wrong.
Tye Anders was charged with a third degree felony of evading police instead of a misdemeanor traffic stop. If convicted, Tye Anders will face a possible prison sentence longer than that of convicted murder Jason Van Dyke.
For Midland, this was the second incident of excessive force in less than a month when officers apprehended 16-year-old Fernando Rodriguez and kicked him to the ground.
If the United States is a nation of laws, then these laws must apply to all citizens equally. Without the protections afforded under Due Process and Equal Protection there can be no democracy, functional or otherwise.