Column: The Peculiar Timing of the $27 Million Settlement

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George Floyd Square, Friday March 12, 2021 / Screenshot/ Instagram

By Marjaan Sirdar, Freelance Columnist

The “peculiar” timing of the unprecedented $27 million pretrial settlement, paid by the city of Minneapolis to the victim’s of killer cop, Derek Chauvin, wasn’t peculiar at all. Without unwavering accountability, such settlements enable the city and county to repeatedly get away with executing grave injustices against vulnerable populations and no real commitment to cease this behavior, as demonstrated with the violent police raid of the Near North homeless encampment on March 18. 

$27 million press conference

Friday March 12, 2021 was a good day for the family of George Floyd, after nearly a year of grieving and suffering, following his public killing at the hands of Derek Chauvin who was a Minneapolis police officer at the time. At the press conference to announce the city’s settlement of $27 million in the wrongful death civil suit filed by the family last July, Floyd’s family attorney, Ben Crump, praised the mayor and the city council leadership saying, “Today Black Lives Matter to them.” 

Reporters at the press conference questioned the timing of the $27 million settlement, the largest pretrial settlement for a wrongful death case caused by police in U.S. history, as being peculiar considering the trial was just beginning. 

Screenshot / Press conference coverage by Unicorn Riot

What the settlement means for the trial

The settlement may make it harder to seat an impartial jury for the trial, the defense argued following the press conference while renewing their requests to have the trial moved out of Hennepin County. Judge Cahill agreed to add more jury strikes to the defense team because of the settlement’s publicity.

Activists and legal experts are also worried that the city’s timing with the settlement can help Chauvin get a mistrial or appeal in the future. “Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender in Minneapolis, said that the timing could hardly be worse for the court case and that Mr. Chauvin’s lawyers might even ask for a mistrial,” according to the New York Times

Impending raid of GFS

Some activists believe the “peculiar” timing of the settlement wasn’t peculiar at all. An anonymous source with inside info into city matters told me the day the settlement was reached that a police raid at George Floyd Square, the site where Floyd was murdered in which activists have declared an autonomous zone, was imminent. 

Just hours following the press conference, MPD held a practice raid with more than 30 squad cars driving through the square, as shown on video posted to Instagram by an activist at GFS. They walked K9s around the community and pointed assault rifles at bystanders, but made no arrests or illegal recoveries, according to people on the scene. The streets remained closed upon police exiting.

On Wednesday March 17, MPD held a press conference stating that they are bringing in the feds, including FBI and ATF, to reopen GFS. 

“As chief I refuse to abdicate one block, one city block, to a group of individuals who choose violence over peace,” Chief Arradondo declared at the press conference.

Police raid homeless encampment

While the national press was focused on the city of Minneapolis doing “right” by the Floyd family, the city ordered the violent raid of the Near North homeless encampment at the crack of dawn on March 18, which was recorded by several activists and bystanders

One resident, Mandla Xaba, who’s been living at the encampment told KARE 11: “There were no vans coming to help people relocate, this was a police force coming to move people inhumanely.”

Twitter/ Screenshot of MPD violently evicting homeless people from Near North encampment.

Wag the dog

At the March 12 press conference with the Floyd family, Mayor Frey said:

Today’s settlement reflects our commitment to advancing racial justice. Our sustained push for progress. Our commitment to Minneapolis and our commitment and compassion to one another.” 

However, it should be noted that Floyd’s family only received $7 million more than Justine Damond’s family, who was killed by MPD in 2017. Although Damond’s death was not nearly as horrific, public or consequential as George Floyd’s. And, despite Council Vice President Andrea Jenkins stating, “We are committed to lead the way. Because Black Lives Matter in this city. Not just George Floyd’s life, but all Black lives,” this same mayor and city council led the way in declaring Black lives worth 1% of their white counterparts. 

In 2019, the family of Jamar Clark, an unarmed Black man who was killed by MPD in 2015, was awarded $200,000 by the city of Minneapolis, just months after Damond’s family was awarded $20 million. The Floyd settlement was a surprise reversal for many observers. 

Brutal policing, sanctioned not exceptional 

For decades, brutal actions by MPD like that of Mohamed Noor — the officer who was convicted for killing Damond — and Derek Chauvin — who is standing trial now — have been legally justified by the state. Harsh policing for offenses as little as petty retail crimes, essentially what Derek Chauvin killed George Floyd over, was sanctioned by the public-private partnership led by Target Corporation through its “SafeZone”/“Safe City” programs going back to 2004. 

SafeZone explainer video by the People Power Podcast]

The settlement came two days after Part 3 of my devastating report 21st Century Jim Crow in the North Star City was published by Unicorn Riot. 21st Century Jim Crow makes sweeping implications that Minneapolis has served as a model for brutal oppression, social control, and the global surveillance state exemplified today in China with their own “Safe Cities” program, inspired by Target Corporation and funded by Minneapolis taxpayers.

At the March 12 press conference, activists called out the hypocrisy of city leaders shedding tears on stage without demonstrating true resolve in past years to prevent more police killings from happening. Civil rights attorney Nekima Levy-Armstrong demanded to know “What tangible actions will the city take next?” But Jim Rowader, city attorney and former Target executive, dismissed such comments to be addressed at a more “appropriate time”.

Take action

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t: If the system throws the book at Chauvin then he potentially becomes the scapegoat and Target and associates could get off scot-free for the murderous system they created through their “Safe City” initiative, that cost taxpayers $70 million in settlements alone since 2006, according to the city of Minneapolis’ website. However, we can take action and demand both Chauvin be held accountable as well as corporations and government. 

  • Read my ongoing report here and share it widely;
  • Contact your elected officials and demand independent investigations into my findings in 21st Jim Crow;
  • Contact your congressperson and demand congressional investigations into the city, county and corporations for their collaboration to commit ongoing crimes against humanity;
  • Donate here to support the Northside Mutual Aid efforts;  
  • Donate here to support the GFS.

Closing

“If the powers that be force the reopening of [George Floyd Square]… More grave injustices will come. The fire next time may not be as easily extinguished,” I wrote in my column for the Uptake on July 5, 2020.

My warning to the powers that be was true then and remains true today: “[O]ur leaders seem resolved to return to “normalcy” despite the evidence that suggests we will end up right back where we were after Floyd’s murder.” 

No justice, no peace. 

About the author: Marjaan Sirdar is a freelance writer in South Minneapolis’ Bryant neighborhood, where George Floyd was killed by the MPD. He is the host of the People Power Podcast.


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