Yanez Acquitted, And Nothing Is Learned

Former St. Anthony’s. Minnesota, police officer Jeronimo Yanez was acquitted of the killing of Philando Castile. Thousands took to the streets to block I-94 in St. Paul to protest the verdict, or more broadly, the anger and frustration of cops killing blacks with seeming impunity. While this reaction might be understandable as emblematic of the frustration felt by a community, it wasn’t going to do anything to stop the killing.

Police holding wooden batons formed a line to block the crowds protesting on I-94, ordering them to disperse, as heavily armed troops with armored vehicles were positioned nearby. Police have also reportedly closed off the adjacent bridges, leaving the protesters only one way to leave. At least three police buses were reported to have been dispatched.

The image of cops with batons blocking protesters might have become a rallying image at a different time. Here, it was just cops doing their job.

Earlier, a car pushed through the crowd of protesters as protesters tried to stop it, causing some of them to walk onto the onramp of I-94.

Protesters then linked arms and blocked all traffic on I-94 at Dale street, chanting, “whose streets? Our streets”and “shut it down.”

Police diverted traffic and warned people to avoid the area.

Protesters have long chanted for their cause, but chants are the palliative of the angry. They don’t do anything, except maybe annoy the people who were stopped from going wherever they were going, whose streets they are too. The story wasn’t about the killing, the verdict, the outrage or, really, even the protest. It was about the traffic blockage.

Julia Craven, who is apparently one of the handful of writers remaining at Huff Post, was charged with putting words on paper about the verdict.

It’s happening again.

I have to write about Philando Castile, the 32-year-old black man who was shot and killed by a Minnesota police officer last July. I have to compose myself, sit at this laptop and write something profound about another black life taken by a police officer, another officer found not guilty for killing a black person.

And, you know, I have nothing much to say.

The title of her post is

There Is No Justice In America For Black People Killed By Cops

The subtitle is

“The system continues to fail black people.”

Does this make you want to rush over and read the post? Does it make you want to cry for this latest “injustice”? If not, that’s because she’s not writing for you. Or for me.

Like a number of black people, I am traumatized by this ― to the point where I expect there to be no justice, no ramifications, no fucks given when a black person is killed by a police officer. Every time this happens, my stomach twists into knots. I want to scream, but I can’t.

When I think about how Castile, an elementary school cafeteria worker, was pulled over 46 times before the traffic stop that took his life, I get angry. Actually, I get pissed the hell off. I am tired. I am sick. And it hurts to think that Castile could have been my father, my boyfriend, my brother, my cousin or my nephew, who just started driving this year.

Scream, if you want. But it’s not going to save a life. Not a black life. Not a white life. Not any life. You get “pissed the hell off”? Isn’t that special? Philando Castile is dead and you write about your feelings. Then again, you also offer his mother’s feelings:

But I also feel selfish for turning inward and thinking about all the black men close to me when I see Castile’s mother, Valerie, on national television: gripped with righteous anger, but fighting back the pain long enough to get her point across.

“The system continues to fail black people,” she said Friday after the verdict. “My son loved this city, and this city killed my son. And the murderer gets away! Are you kidding me right now?”

So the philosophical upshot of Craven’s post is “are you kidding me right now?” Deep. Effective. This will surely work at least as well as blocking traffic on I-94. Enter the ACLU with its two cents:

To Make Black Lives Matter, We Must Tear Down the Case Law that Gave Police the Power to Stop, Search, and Abuse

The phrase “tear down the law” harkens to Reagan’s “tear down the wall,” Except case law doesn’t get torn down. That’s not how it works, and one would suspect the ACLU-MA legal director, Matt Segal, knows as much.

Something is missing from the debate over police reform. Though police killings of Black men have sparked a nationwide movement to stop police violence, the police can fairly ask whether they deserve all of the blame.

That’s not because current levels of police violence are warranted (they aren’t), or because policing is race neutral (it isn’t). It’s because the chief architects of American policing are not police departments; they’re courts. The movement for police reform should be joined by an equally ambitious movement for court reform.

Ignoring the hyperbole, recognition of bad caselaw, from Terry v. Ohio, the 1968 Warren Court decision, to which only Abe Fortas dissented, which goes unmentioned) to Graham v. Connor, the Reasonably Scared Cop Rule, and the despicable Whren in between, decided two decades ago.

Where was the ACLU when these cases were decided? Where was the movement for court reform over the eight years of President Obama? But now, support the ACLU and they’ll fix everything by tearing the caselaw down. Note the popup when you try to read the ACLU post. They want money, and if insipid pandering will get you to fork over some loot, well.

When the Black Lives Matter movement started, there was a broader recognition by Americans of all colors that things had gotten out of control, enough so that there was consensus that favoring police over others, particularly people with dark skin, had to end. Then it faded as it went from dead bodies to hurt feelings.

Old white guys aren’t allowed to speak, as black people’s voices must be heard.

Are you kidding me right now?

I hear you. I hear the cha-ching coming from the ACLU. I hear the horns of drivers on I-94 of people trying to get wherever they’re going on roads that are theirs too. You know who doesn’t hear you? Philando Castile, because he’s dead. Have you learned anything?

21 thoughts on “Yanez Acquitted, And Nothing Is Learned

  1. Richard Kopf

    SHG,

    Not understanding what “tear down the case law ” meant, I clicked on the link to the ACLU article. What popped up first was a plea for money. I was asked to contribute to the ACLU on a monthly basis. Since I didn’t understand what “tear down the case law” meant I was disinclined to contribute.

    Then I got to thinking that the better fundraising slogan is most certainly “jihad for justice.” While my slogan is equally incomprehensible, it is far better at evoking the social justice ethos. It also hints at Huey Newton without being too obvious.

    Anyway, having taken action for the cause, I feel much better now because, like lives, slogans matter too. Or something.

    All the best.

    RGK

    1. SHG Post author

      I considered giving a trigger warning about the popup, but figured that would detract from its allure. Notably, it’s been a very effective fundraising campaign, which explains those ACLU Bentleys appearing in the parking lots of television news studios.

    2. David Meyer-Lindenberg

      Your Honor,

      as Lion Feuchtwanger put it in his Jewess of Toledo, “the difference between a crusade and a jihad is that the jihad is only called when the Muslims are sure of victory.”

      All the best,
      David

      PS: You should’ve maxed Stan out. What a wuss.

      1. Richard Kopf

        David,

        Regarding Stan:

        As the philosopher, Marilyn Monroe once observed, “We are all of us stars, and deserve to twinkle.”

        All the best.

        RGK

        PS Does the Jewess of Toledo have anything to do with my hometown in Ohio? I think it might ’cause my first love was a girl from Toledo who was Jewish. But, I must admit, I am very confused this morning.

        Additional PS: I know you don’t hate kitties, so don’t pay attention to him

  2. MollyG

    SGH,

    The ACLU message is mostly the same one that you have been writing about for a very long time. The laws that govern the police are very deferential to them at the expense of everyone else. Most of the court cases that created that deference happened before the age of smartphones, where most of America and the courts would not believe that the police would have such horrible behavior. You have written about “dropsy”, where police would routinely lie about how they found drugs and the courts believed them. Now with smartphones (which were still new and rare when Obama took office) the public awareness of police abuse is increasing. However the laws still assume honorable behavior from the police. The laws need to catch up with reality and hold the police to the same level of accountability as all of us. If I walked up to a car and shot the driver because I maybe, possibly thought I saw a gun, I would be quickly convicted of homicide.

    The ACLU is using this as a fundraising opportunity, but their message is also one that I have been reading here for a long time.

    1. SHG Post author

      My message has never been quite the same as the ACLU’s message. From a distance, it may appear “mostly the same,” but it never was. If that’s what you’ve been reading here, I have failed you.

      1. MollyG

        Please do not think you have failed me. This is my favoirite blog. I know your message is different from the ACLU, but also similar. I am on the board of my local ACLU chapter and I always keep your writings in mind when we discuss criminal justice issues.

        This post also is more about the street protesters then the ALCU post.

        1. SHG Post author

          The ACLU could play a crucial role in fighting crim law and civil rights issues, but it has grown fat, lazy and complacent. It’s conflicted and suffers from mission creep. It’s been taken over by SJWs who rationalize their anti-civil rights agenda as a pro-14th Amendment equal protection position, a rabbit hole of meaningless contradictory vagaries, versus the very specific, very focused fight for rights under the first ten.

          If you follow here, you will note that it can be painful at times to take positions that don’t comport with my feelz (yes, I have them, just like real people), but that I know intellectually that by giving into the “end justifies the means” rationalizations or indulging feelz when thoughts are needed (“but, you know, it’s just so horrifying!!!”), we will destroy a delicate system that has allowed all of us to co-exist in relative freedom to pursue happiness.

          When the ACLU occasionally gets it right, I applaud them. But they tend to not only get far more wrong these days, but actively undermine civil rights and liberties in the pursuit of their flavor of social justice. No, we do not say “mostly” the same thing. If I have failed to make that clear, then I have failed you.

          1. rsf

            You have made it abundantly clear. That is what drew me to this blog. People have a tendency to see what they want in the media they consume. There is little that can be done about that without eradicating any attempt at impartiality.

        2. Charles

          MollyG, when you say “mostly,” it’s like claiming that chimpanzees and humans “mostly” have the same DNA, approximately 98.8% by one source. Yet it’s that 1.2% that makes a world of difference between living in the jungle and writing symphonies … and constitutions. (h/t G.K. Chesterton)

          As Ken White has written at Fault Lines, the Bill of Rights is a “bundle…and the thread holding it all together is thin.” What we need from the ACLU is an acknowledgement that they will intend to defend the Bill of Rights 100%, not 98.8% (even assuming that they would claim that high of a percentage).

          1. MollyG

            Sometimes two rights come into conflict, and it is reasonable for people to disagree as to how to resolve that conflict. Two people can defend the defend the Bill of Rights 100% and still disagree sometimes. So I think that “mostly” is pretty good.

            I will agree however that the ACLU has taken some dubious positions lately.

            1. SHG Post author

              As lawyers (as Charles and I are), we are well aware of two constitutional rights conflicting. But that’s not what either of us is talking about. The ACLU has often forsaken a constitutional right when it comes in conflict with trendy positions and interests. And in some instances, Second Amendment in particular, it has abandoned the Constitution altogether. And in many, it has worked to aggressively undermine rights in favor of political interests.

              When two constitutional rights come into conflict, the ACLU should sit it out, as they aren’t society’s arbiters of which constitutional right is the most deserving. But when it’s a constitutional right under attack, and they fight against the right, the ACLU becomes the enemy, and they’re no different than the cops.

  3. maz

    “Where was the ACLU when these cases were decided?”

    Filing amicius curiae briefs urging reversal, actually…

    1. SHG Post author

      Sometimes they were. Sometimes they were not. But as nice as amicus may be, in Gavin Grimm and the Travel Ban EO cases, they directly represent litigants. Actually.

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