This summer Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival became one of the first professional theatres to open its doors since the coronavirus pandemic closed venues nationwide more than a year ago.The Festival celebrated its 30th Anniversary season welcoming patrons back to in-person performances indoors at the Labuda Center for the Performing Arts and outdoors at the new Air Products Open Air Theatre on the campus of DeSales University.
As one of the few active professional theatres in the nation this summer, and despite reduced seating capacity due to COVID restrictions, the Festival successfully produced seven productions and events this season. PSF reached its attendance goals welcomingnearly 10,000 audience members to 64 performances in just four weeks, in contrast to a nine and a half week season in a typical year.
With state, local, and union rules shifting repeatedly in the months leading up to the season, PSF developed multiple scenarios for the summer season, ultimately selecting the scenario that allowed for the highest-level audience experience with the most productions.
“From Shakespeare to August Wilson, from intimate solo performances to large-cast celebrations on a new stage, from indoors, to outdoors, to virtual offerings, this was a season to remember,” says Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy. “And neither the occasional rain, heat, nor hot air balloon landing adjacent to an outdoor performance could quell the enthusiasm of our patrons in their return to the theatre. Kudos to our staff, our artists, our donors and our patrons for helping us to pull this particular rabbit out of this particular hat.”
When the state announced it would expand attendance capacity for outdoor gatherings the Festival designed a new outdoor space to accommodate additional attendees. With the support of DeSales University, PSF prepared the mall adjacent to the Labuda Center and built the new Air Products Open Air Theatre on the lawn just a few weeks in advance of opening A Midsummer Night’s Dream, marking a memorable debut as PSF’s first-ever outdoor Shakespeare production.
Safety protocols kept patrons, staff and artists safe. In-person productions ran 90-minutes with no intermission and seating capacity was tailored to smaller socially distanced audiences. The Festival programmed the indoor Main Stage theatre for 22% of capacity, where ticketed patrons sat socially distanced and masked. Attendees of the Air Products Open Air Theatre venue were socially distanced but not masked.
Artists quarantined upon arrival, weekly testing began immediately, the summer staff was nearly fully vaccinated, and actors and technicians generally worked in “bubbles.” Careful observance of these protocols helped the Festival achieve a COVID-free summer of performances.
Prior to the season launch the Festival held its Luminosity Gala outdoors under a tent, the first fundraiser held in-person by a major Lehigh Valley arts nonprofit after the pandemic shutdown. Attendance was 252 and the event raised more than $120,000 to help support PSF’s educational and artistic programs. The combination of community, foundation, and government support PSF received, including pandemic rescue dollars, proved crucial to the Festival’s financial strength and continued success in fulfilling its mission.
The Festival is now completing the planning process for summer 2022, and expects to open both indoor theatres to full capacity next summer. A season announcement will be made in October. “We are eager to return to a few of the plays we didn’t get to produce in 2020, and round out the season with a diversity of enriching offerings for an unforgettable summer,” says Mulcahy.
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival features acclaimed actors from Broadway, television, and film, and is traditionally the summer home to more than 200 artists from around the country, including winners and nominees of the Tony, Obie, Emmy, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, Jefferson, and Barrymore awards.
About Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival
Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival, under the leadership of Producing Artistic Director Patrick Mulcahy, is the only professional Equity theatre of its scope and scale within a 50-mile radius. PSF is one of only a handful of theatres on the continent producing Shakespeare, musicals, classics, and contemporary plays, all of which can normally be seen in rep and in multiple spaces within a few visits in a single summer season. Similarly, PSF was among just a handful of theatres on the continent in recent summers to produce three Shakespeare plays in a single summer season. A patron would have to travel seven to nine hours from PSF to find a comparable range of offerings at a single theatre within a few weeks’ time.
The Festival’s award-winning company of many world-class artists includes Broadway, film, and television veterans, and winners and nominees of the Tony, Emmy, Obie, Outer Critics Circle, Drama Desk, Jefferson, Hayes, Lortel, and Barrymore awards. A leading Shakespeare theatre with a national reputation for excellence, PSF has received coverage in The Washington Post, NPR, American Theatre Magazine, Playbill.com, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and in recent seasons The New York Times has identified PSF as one of the leading summer theatre festivals in the nation. “A world-class theater experience on a par with the top Bard fests,” is how one New York Drama Desk reviewer characterized PSF.
Founded in 1992 and the Official Shakespeare Festival of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, PSF’s mission is to enrich, inspire, engage, and entertain the widest possible audience through first-rate productions of classical and contemporary plays, with a core commitment to Shakespeare and other master dramatists, and through an array of education and mentorship programs. A not-for-profit theatre, PSF receives significant support from its host, DeSales University, from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Traditionally, with 150 performances of seven productions, the Festival attracts patrons each summer from 30+ states. In 30 years, PSF has offered 200+ total productions (82 Shakespeare), and entertained 1,000,000+ patrons from 50 states, now averaging 34,000-40,000 in attendance each summer season, plus another 13,000 students each year through its WillPower Tour to schools. PSF is a multi-year recipient of awards from the National Endowment for the Arts: Shakespeare in American Communities, and is a constituent of Theatre Communications Group, and the Shakespeare Theatre Association (STA). In 2013, leaders of the world’s premier Shakespeare theatres gathered at PSF as the Festival hosted the international STA Conference.
The first bronze statue to be lifted from its stone pedestal was that of Robert E. Lee, the infamous commander of the Confederate Army, which stood in Market Street Park. This public park was once named in the general’s honor until June of 2017 when it became known as Emancipation Park; one year later, it was yet again renamed as Market Street Park.
As the crane was put in place to remove the statue of Lee, the city’s mayor, Nikuyah Walker, spoke to onlookers. “Taking down this statue is one small step closer to the goal of helping Charlottesville, Virginia, and America grapple with the sin of being willing to destroy Black people for economic gain,” she said.
Two hours later, the statue of Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson—who gained his enduring nickname after successfully commanding a brigade in the First Battle of Bull Run—was taken down from its place in Court Square Park. Similar to the tale of Market Street Park, this spot once boasted the name of Stonewall Jackson, was renamed Justice Park and has since become Court Square Park.
In response to the removal of both statues, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Virginia Jalane Schmidt said, “I literally felt lighter when the statues came down, it was such a relief.”
According to CNN, both statues have been placed in storage while the city pursues different places to preserve and, more importantly, contextualize them such as museums, historical societies or Civil War battlefields. The city has reportedly already received 10 offers, six of which are out of state and four of which are within the state of Virginia.
This ultimate removal and push for contextualization came after nearly five years of heated court battles and protests. Back in 2016, then-high school student and current student at the University of Virginia, Zyahna Bryant, launched a petition to get the statues removed from their dominant positions over the city. Early the following year, city council voted to take down the statues, but this action was thwarted by a legal challenge. During the summer of 2017, “the statues of Lee and Jackson—and threats to remove them—served as a rallying cry for the far right,” as NPR said. On August 11 and 12 of that summer, this tension boiled over into the horrific, violent and racist riots of the Unite the Right Rally. On the second day of rioting, white supremacist neo-Nazis came to a head with counter-protesters when one man drove his car into a crowd, killing one woman, Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others, only a few steps away from the statue of Robert E. Lee.
It was not until April of this year that the Supreme Court of Virginia overturned the original challenge to the removal of the statues. On June 7, the city council voted once again to remove the state-owned statues.
The racist legacy of these statues and the necessity of their overdue removal goes deeper than the obvious immortalization of individuals who dedicated themselves to the perpetuation of the enslavement of Black people. These statues are also artifacts of the Jim Crow era in Virginia, seeing as they were not erected in the immediate wake of the Civil War, but in fact decades later. The Robert E. Lee statue, for example, was not dedicated until 1924. NPR described the unveiling ceremonies of these statues:
“Charlottesville’s statues of Lee and Jackson were erected in the early 1920s with large ceremonies that included Confederate veteran reunions, parades and balls. At one event during the 1921 unveiling of the Jackson statue, children formed a living Confederate flag on the lawn of a school down the road from Vinegar Hill, a prominent Black neighborhood. The Jackson statue was placed on land that had once been another prosperous Black neighborhood.”
The programs coordinator from the Albemarle Charlottesville Historical Society, Sterling Howell, said on the installment of Confederate memorials, “This was at the height of Jim Crow segregation, at the height of lynchings in American history. […] There was a clear statement that [Black people] weren’t welcome.”
The first statue was of Revolutionary War general George Rogers Clark on his horse in front of three crouching Native Americans and two frontiersmen behind them, one of whom was raising his rifle. This statue sat on University of Virginia grounds, across from the popular dining and shopping area called “The Corner.”
The second statue depicted famous explorers, Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, standing tall and looking outwards while Sacagawea squatted beside them. The statue stood outside a federal courthouse downtown.
According to city council member Michael Payne, the council voted in favor of the removal of the Lewis and Clark statue in the fall of 2019. The process of removal was significantly sped up, however, after the contracting company that removed the Lee and Jackson statues offered last-minute to take down the George Rogers Clark and Lewis and Clark statues at no additional cost.
While these four statues no longer loom over the busy streets and passing-by residents of Charlottesville, Virginia, the fight to come to terms with the racist history of Virginia, the South and the entirety of America is nowhere close to over. In Charlottesville alone, ties to this dark past are enduring. As just one example, the man who commissioned all four of the aforementioned statues, Paul Goodloe McIntire, is still immortalized across the city, including as the name for the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce.
In June, the total reported number of shootings were at 272. According to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), at least 150 people were killed by gun violence in more than 400 reported shootings across the country as major cities nationwide confront a surge in gun violence during the Fourth of July weekend. The 72-hour data chart includes shooting accidents and gun violence victims and has constantly been updating.
New Yorkers saw 21 shootings that injured 26 people between Friday and Sunday, according to the New York Police Department, is a decrease from the same period last year when 30 people were shot in 25 shootings. On July 4, NYC experienced 12 shooting incidents that involved 13 victims, an increase from last year when there were eight shootings and eight victims.
Gun violence incidents in New York have spiked almost 40% over the same period in 2020, with 767 shootings and 885 victims.
In Chicago, 92 people were shot over the holiday weekend, 16 of whom died. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the 76 wounded include six children and teenagers, and two Chicago police officers who were dispersing a crown on the city’s West Side.
The homicide rate in Chicago this year is 2% lower than the same period in 2020, but the number of victims is still 14% higher.
GVA defines a mass shooting “based only on the numeric value of four or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.”
Eight people were injured in a shooting near a car wash in Fort Worth, Texas, early Sunday morning after a group of men got into an argument. Fort Worth Police released a statement on Twitter than an officer heard gunfire around 1:30am and found eight people with gunshot wounds upon arrival at the scene.
A KTLA report shows that two men were killed and seven people were injured in a neighborhood late Sunday night in North Las Vegas. Police say that victims were chased through Venice neighborhood before deadly car-to-car shooting.
In Norfolk, Virginia, four children were shot on Friday afternoon – a 6-year-old girl, a 14-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl, and 16-year-old boy – the 6-year-old girl was reported to have life-threatening injuries; however, she is now considered to be in stable condition. Detectives have charged a 15-year-old boy with the following: malicious wounding, attempted malicious wounding, shooting into an occupied building, possession of a firearm by a juvenile, and two counts of use of a firearm.
In suburban Atlanta, police responded to a report on Saturday and found golf professional Gene Siller shot near the green of the 10th hole of the Pinetree Country Club in Kennesaw. This was also where he worked as the golf pro, according to the Cobb County police. Siller was found unresponsive with an “apparent gunshot wound to the head” and pronounced dead at the scene, along with two other gunshot victims on the course.
One juvenile dead and eleven others were injured in a shooting at a block party in Toledo, Ohio on Sunday night. According to Police Chief George Kral, more than 80 rounds were fired from multiple guns. Two victims, a 51-year-old and a 19-year-old, are in critical condition, Kral said, and the other nine people wounded are in stable condition, their ages ranging from an 11-year-old to three 19-year-olds.
Cincinnati police said two males (16 and 19) were killed and three others were injured at a holiday celebration at a park late Sunday night. The two were “engaged in a verbal altercation that resulted in them exchanging gunfire” and the other victims were caught in the crossfire. Two girls (16 and 17) and a 15-year-old boy were wounded in the shooting. According to Cincinnati police Chief Eliot Isaac, the 17-year-old girl is in critical condition while the other two victims suffered gunshot wounds that were not life-threatening.
Dallas police responded to two separate shootings on July 4. A 61-year-old man was killed in the first incident after being shot “multiple times in the street during a disturbance” and died at a local hospital. The second incident involved five men who were shot, and three of the victims were pronounced dead after being transported to a nearby hospital.
At least eleven people are dead after a building collapse in Surfside, FL. Rescue operations continue.
A condominium partially collapsed in South Florida on June 24, at 1:20 AM. At least half of the 135 units in the 13-story building have collapsed, according to the Miami-Dade mayor Danielle Levine Cava. The Champlain Towers South building was originally shaped like an “L,” but the lower half of that shape was completely sheared off, including the building’s pool and garage.
The Miami-Dade Fire Rescue is leading the rescue efforts along with multiple other agencies. The White House and FEMA are also monitoring the situation and will provide assistance to the local officials if needed.
A woman who resides on the ninth floor recalled her experience to Local 10, “The whole building shook like an earthquake. I opened my sliding glass and I saw a plume of dust and then I opened the door and I saw that the building had pancaked in the back.”
Another resident commented that he and his wife fled to the garage, only to find that the pipes had burst and it was flooded.
Rescue teams are recovering victims from the rubble, while all tenants in unaffected apartments are being evacuated. Firefighters continue to sift through the wreckage for victims, which includes using dogs and microphones.
“Debris is falling on them as they do their work. We have structural engineers on site to ensure that they will not be injured, but they are proceeding because they are so motivated and they are taking extraordinary risk on the site every day,” says Miami-Dade Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, describing the “extreme risk” of the firefighters dangerous duty.
Over 400 workers are involved in the rescue effort, with up to 200 rescuers searching through debris at all times, according to Miami-Dade Fire Rescue Chief Alan Cominsky.
Surfside Mayor Charles W. Burkett cannot think of a reason for this collapse to have happened, other than an unexpected sinkhole or human interference. While he confirmed that roof work was being done on this building, this is a regular occurrence that he doesn’t believe could have caused the collapse. However, former Surfside Vice Mayor Barry Cohen, a resident of the collapsed building, believes that the roof work actually may have compromised the integrity of the building.
Unfortunately, a thunderstorm has paused all rescue efforts for the time being, according to Commissioner Sally Heyman.
The Champlain Towers South condominium community have continued to mourn the victims of the tragedy in the days following the harrowing accident.
A third lawsuit has now been filed against the Champlain Towers South Condominium Association on behalf of ninth floor resident, Raysa Rodriguez. Rodriguez is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial. The compliant alleges: ““Despite the obvious duties required by Florida law, and this admitted duty of care by the Association’s Declaration and other governing documents, Defendant, through their own reckless and negligent conduct, caused a catastrophic deadly collapse of Champlain Towers South in Surfside.”
Rodriguez additionally alleged that in 2018, “major structural damages” were outlined in a structural field survey report submitted to the defendant by Morabito Consultants. The compliant is seeking a class action status lawsuit to represent all of the condominium’s victims of the tragic accident.
Rodriguez’ attorney, Adam Schwartzbaum, argued that the building has been aware of these “critical” structural issues for some time, and that warning signs of collapse have been apparent for the last decade. Schwartzbaum says, “Certainly for at least three years, there was a major red flag…sirens flashing, alerting the condo association of this of this danger.” He elaborated in another comment that, “based on our investigation there were many warnings signs more than 10 years ago, maybe even longer. These are not things that were just a few years ago.”
A letter sent from the building’s condo association president reveals that damage to the basement garage of the building had become “significantly worse” since its prior inspection, three years ago. The letter also reveals that the estimated repair costs had risen from $9 million to $15 million, reveals USA Today.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said that President Joe Biden thinks an investigation into the Champlain Towers South collapse should be set in motion.
The harrowing search-and-rescue operation is still currently underway, stretching into day six of the rescue effort.
A family reunification center has been set up for anyone looking for unaccounted or missing relatives at a community center at 9301 Collins Ave. Those searching for their loved ones or to report that they have been located are asked to call 305-614-1819. An emergency information hotline has also been created at 305-993-1071.
In December of 2020, the beginning of the end of the pandemic was set into motion as the first COVID-19 vaccines were administered in the United States to frontline workers. Sandra Lindsay, an ICU nurse from the Long Island Jewish Medical Center, was the very first individual to receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. The momentous occasion was filmed and live streamed on New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Twitter feed. At the time, Lindsay proudly stated, “I want to instill public confidence that the vaccine is safe. We’re in a pandemic and so we all need to do our part.”
Yet, in the six months following Lindsay’s statement of comfort and inspiration, it can be argued that the totality of the American people has not, in fact, done their part. According to data collected by the CDC, 45.1% of the total US population have been fully vaccinated, a number that only increases across age demographics: 77.2% of the population that is 65 years and older have been vaccinated. Additionally, 53.3% of the total population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. However, the rate of vaccination wildly varies when broken down state by state. According to CNN, states like Vermont and Connecticut have vaccination rates that exceed 80%. Meanwhile, other states—a majority of which are in the South—have vaccination rates below 35%.
According to Becker’s Hospital Review, Mississippi currently has the lowest vaccination rate in the country with only 28.86% of their population being fully vaccinated. The CDC reports that fewer than one million residents have received both doses of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines or one dose of the Johnson and Johnson vaccine, making them fully vaccinated. For reference, their total population is approximately three million people, based on data from the United States Census Bureau in 2019. Following Mississippi for the lowest vaccination rates are Alabama and Arkansas, with 31.86% and 33.3% of their respective populations being fully vaccinated. (As an interesting side note, these three states were also among the first to lift their mask mandates; Mississippi on March 2, Alabama on April 9 and Arkansas on March 30.)
These stark discrepancies in vaccination rates pose legitimate and pressing problems for states and counties that are struggling to vaccinate their citizens. Most concerning in these areas is the increased spread of more contagious strains of COVID-19, specifically the Delta variant. As the World Health Organization explains, the more a virus spreads, “the more opportunities it has to undergo changes.” These changes can directly alter both spreadability and severity of the virus. Earlier this year, the UK variant (or the Alpha variant) gained international attention because it was more transmissible than earlier COVID-19 strains. The Delta variant—which experts are now predicting will become the dominant strain in the United States—is even easier to spread between individuals. Moreover, the Delta variant is more unpredictable in how it affects individuals, in comparison to other strains. Steve Edwards, the CEO of CoxHealth, spoke on the variant and said, “We can’t tell why one patient is doing poorly and one is doing well. There’s just something different about how this variant is affecting the immune system of our patients.”
Due to this new Delta strain, doctors are doubling down on their insistence that citizens must get vaccinated to protect themselves and others. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the CDC, said, “After two doses—reminding you, get your second dose—after two doses, you are protected from that Delta variant.” Dr. Paul Offit, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious diseases and vaccines, added, “Unless we vaccinate a significant percentage of the population before winter hits, you’re going to see more spread and the creation of more variants, which will only make this task [of ending the pandemic] more difficult.” These claims are backed by a recent study conducted by Public Health England that found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 96% effective against hospitalization caused by the Delta variant after two doses.
Therefore, in states like Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, there have been significant upsurges in cases of this new Delta variant, according to the aforementioned CNN article. Like what the country experienced when COVID-19 cases swelled during the winter months of late 2020 and early 2021, hospitals are again filling up in these lesser vaccinated states. According to the CDC, as of June 17, 2021, Mississippi was averaging 119 new cases of COVID-19 every seven days. Similarly, Alabama was averaging 190 new cases, and Arkansas was averaging 247 new cases every seven days. Meanwhile, Vermont was averaging only six new cases each week. It is important to note that, although slow and incomplete, some progress has been made in these southern states; Mississippi’s average weekly cases peaked in early January at around 2,324 new cases. But this progress is far from over and not yet something to celebrate.
Doctors and legislators now need to turn their attention towards pushing the vaccine into communities that are currently resistant to its presence or that are being faced with systemic barriers blocking them from receiving it. Scott Gottlieb, former commissioner of the FDA, said, “Now we need to think about trying to push out the vaccine into community sites where people could get it delivered to them through a trusted intermediary, that’s going to mean doctors’ offices, schools, places of employment.”
This continued effort to vaccinate American citizens becomes increasingly important when one considers that the pandemic is disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minorities. America has continually fallen short of health equity, the concept that all citizens have equal opportunity for fair treatment and being healthy, and it has been brought to the forefront during the pandemic. Factors including discrimination, access to healthcare, employment as essential workers and housing conditions all pose challenges to achieving health equity. Thus, American Indian citizens and Alaska Natives represented 1,216.1 COVID-related hospitalizations per 100,000 people in America from March 1, 2020 to June 5, 2021. Black citizens represented 997.8 COVID-related hospitalizations, and Hispanic and Latinx citizens represented 993.5 hospitalizations. White Americans represented only 354.7 COVID-related hospitalizations across that same timespan.
Moreover, vaccination rates sorted by race also point towards immense health inequity. Only 1.0% of the American Indian and Alaska Native population, 9.1% of the Black population, and 15.1% of the Hispanic and Latinx population have received at least one dose of the vaccine. In stark contrast, 60.2% of the white population have received their first dose.
To stop the spread of the Delta variant, reduce the further mutation of the COVID-19 virus and protect the American population, vaccinations remain of the utmost importance, per the repeated recommendations of the CDC and other medical professionals.
“How can this happen on a military base? How can this happen while she was on duty? How can this just happen and then let it go under the rug like it was nothing?” These were the words of Mayra Guillen, sister of Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, who has been missing for months and is now confirmed dead.
On April 22nd, Pfc. Vanessa Guillen, a 20-year-old Hispanic Small Arms and Artillery Repairer, went missing. She was last seen alive at a parking lot at squadron headquarters in Fort Worth, Texas. For months, Pfc. Guillen’s family held out hope that their beloved was still alive, yet the discovery of remains near the Leon River, north of Austin, has vanquished that hope. While the FBI is still awaiting a positive DNA analysis, the family believes that the remains belong to Vanessa.
Yet, this story does not begin with her disappearance nor does it end with her death. Prior to her vanishing, Pfc. Guillen, according to her sisters, was having difficulties with sexual harassment while stationed at Fort Hood, outside Killeen, Texas. The attorney representing the family in the case revealed that Guillen had confided to her sisters and several other soldiers that a superior had walked in on her while taking a shower and that he proceeded to sit down and watch her. Other relatives and Pfc. Guillen’s boyfriend have noted on social media that something is “not right” and that Vanessa felt unsafe at the military base.
Spc. Robinson was the leading suspect in Vanessa Guillen’s disappearance, and as authorities caught up with him on Tuesday evening, he shot himself. It has since been revealed that Robinson was, in fact, responsible for the murder of Pfc. Guillen’s. Guillen’s was bludgeoned to death with a hammer in the armory where she worked, according to the family’s attorney. They made this discovery through an extensive investigation, in which witnesses divulged that they saw Robinson transporting a large box labelled “very heavy in weight.”
Then, after consenting to an examination of his cellphone records, court documents reveal, it was discovered that Robinson made several phone-calls to his girlfriend Cecily Aguilar on the night of Apri 22nd and into the early hours of the April 23rd. After being interviewed multiple times, Aguilar finally told investigators that her boyfriend had murdered Guillen. She also revealed how she and her boyfriend had met up and dismembered Guillen’s body together with a “hatchet or machete type knife” and, after attempting to set her corpse on fire, buried Guillen’s body parts in three different holes. Texas Rangers have since arrested Aguilar and she now faces up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000.
The issue of sexual harassment within the Army remains a problem in this case, given that Guillen’s family, according to their attorney, claimed that Vanessa was planning on reporting Robinson the day after she was murdered, and had delayed over fear of reprisal and inaction. Yet the Army says there exists no credible evidence that she was sexually harassed before her disappearance, and in a statement from the Fort Hood Press Center, officials said that the criminal investigation “has not found any connection between sexual harassment and Vanessa’s disappearance.” They plan to continue their investigation in light of new revelations.
The family is now pushing for legislation to create an independent agency for soldiers who are victims of sexual harassment and assault.
After a year Vanessa’s fiancé speaks out claiming “They failed us,” see the full ABC interview here.
For more updated information and to read other statements from family and friends click here.
It has been a year since Vanessa’s body was found and her family members, friends, and fellow military members still have many unanswered questions. While it is assumed that Vanessa’s killer was one of another soldier stationed at Fort Hood in Texas, Aaron Robinson, the army is still investigating. Her fiancé spoke to ABC last week, discussing his anger and frustration at the lack of answers and closure he, her family and friends have. Many are upset with how the Army handled the situation and investigation. Interrogating her friends instead of going after Robinson, who many suspected from the beginning.
Her family now hopes that the “I Am Vanessa Guillen” bill, which will make sexual harassment a crime in military law will be approved and help prevent other soldiers from being harassed while defending their country, and other families from feeling the loss they do.
Stay tuned to 360 Magazine for more updates and links to current articles and videos.
ABC will also be airing coverage every week until someone is convicted.
Derek Chauvin sentenced to 22.5 years in death of George Floyd
Derek Chauvin, the former police officer who killed George Floyd on a Minneapolis Street last year, was sentenced Friday to 22 and half years in prison. Under Minnesota law, Chauvin will have to serve two-thirds of his sentence or 15 years — and he will be eligible for supervised release for the remaining seven and a half years. Minnesota’s sentencing guideline range is ten years and eight months to fifteen years for this crime; however, Chauvin’s sentence exceeds that.
According to CNN, a 22-page memorandum noted that there were two aggravating factors that warranted a harsher sentence for Chauvin: 1) He abused his position of trust or authority and 2) he treated Floyd with particular cruelty. Judge Cahill noted that Chauvin remained indifferent to Mr. Floyd’s pleas even as he was begging for his life and terrified by the knowledge that he was likely to die.
“Mr. Chauvin’s prolonged restraint of Mr. Floyd was also much longer and more painful than the typical scenario in a second-degree or third-degree murder or second-degree manslaughter case” – Judge Peter Cahill
Engaging, insightful, informative, and often on-the-scene, Monique Pressley is an important voice with a unique vantage point. Pressley has been closely following the Chauvin trial and sentencing throughout its duration and has provided insightful legal analysis and POV for numerous media outlets, including NPR, BET.com, Black News Channel, #RolandMartinUnfiltered and more. More than a source for general legal and political analysis, Pressley is also in the fight for social justice alongside legal activists such as renowned civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump, lending her expertise and aid to families and victims of police misconduct and fatal interactions.
In addition to her current work as a crisis manager for political and entertainment figures, this multi-faceted champion for important causes has served as a former congressional staffer to the legendary U.S. Rep. Charlie Wilson (D-TX); has advocated on both sides of the courtroom as a former assistant attorney general specializing in defense of police misconduct civil suits and as a criminal defense attorney; and cultivating the next generation of trial lawyers as a professor and coach at her alma mater, the esteemed Howard University School of Law.
A rare combination of insider access, cultural currency/influence, a wealth of knowledge, and an uncanny ability to interpret complex legal or political issues for audiences makes Pressley an ideal choice for coverage or inclusion as a third-party expert.
As she is currently providing ongoing consult to Attorney Crump in the Floyd matter and a member of a core team meeting with members of Congress and the White House, Pressley is available to speak today’s developments in the Chauvin sentencing decision, as well as discuss updates in the ongoing effort to pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act.
The case regarding the former police officer involved in the death of George Floyd, Derek Chauvin, has been unfolding. Chauvin has now been charged with both second- and third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. He was found guilty on all accounts. The case can be viewed live on CNN’s website here.
George Floyd’s death was recorded via cellphone footage from a nearby bystander, Darnella Frazier. Frazier, then seventeen at the time, has brought critical attention to Floyd’s death as a result of her footage, a major piece of evidence in bringing light to the case. Frazier has revealed that she only observed violence from the police officers at the scene of Floyd’s death, which contradicts the defense’s illustration of the bystanders as a “angry mob that was striking fear into the police.” Earlier this month on Facebook, Frazier had posed a query to her followers, asking what would have happened if no one recorded Floyd’s arrest and death, posing an important question surrounding the relationship between the police and the community members that the force governs. Frazier ended her testimony with an emotional statement: “When I look at George Floyd, I look at my dad. I look at my brothers. I look at my cousins, my uncles because they are all Black. I have a Black father. I have a Black brother. I have Black friends. And I look at that, and I look at how that could have been one of them.”
Frazier had witnessed the distressful scene alongside her nine-year-old cousin. The witness said that the officer on the scene had his knee on Floyd’s neck, even after the EMT personnel asked “him nicely to get off of him.” She continues, explaining that the ambulance personnel had to get the officer off of Floyd. “I was sad and kind of mad”, she remarks, “because it felt like he was stopping his breathing, and it was kind of like hurting him.”
Another witness to Floyd’s death, mixed-martial artist Donald Williams II, has taken to the stand to account what he observed at the scene of Floyd’s arrest. Williams had called the police on the police after seeing Floyd transported from the gruesome scene via ambulance. Williams claims, “I believed I witnessed a murder.”
Williams has faced speculation and discreditation from the defense attorney of Officer Chauvin, Eric J. Nelson. Nelson spent much of the morning on the second day of the trial questioning William’s knowledge of martial arts defense. Nelson also attempted to portray Williams as angry, to which Williams clarified his reaction was out of desperation because of the harrowing situation at hand. Nelson also attempted to portray the crowd of bystanders as mad at and violent towards the police officers present at the scene. As earlier stated, this claim contradicts Frazier’s assertion that the police were the source of violence at the scene. Nelson averted the attention from the video footage, asserting that there are 50,000 items in evidence and this case is “is clearly more than about 9 minutes and 29 seconds.”
On the other hand, the prosecution said it would bring in seven medical experts and the Hennepin County medical examiner who performed the autopsy on Floyd (who classified the case as homicide) to bring further clarity to the case. Chauvin’s attorney is arguing that Floyd died due to a drug overdose and heart condition, though the nine minutes and twenty-nine second video also clearly shows Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, restricting his ability to breathe. Prosecuting attorney, Jerry W. Blackwell, spoke about the video footage: “You can believe your eyes, that it’s homicide–it’s murder.”
Another witness to the scene, paramedic Seth Zachary Bravinder, testified that when he arrived on scene, he could tell that Floyd already wasn’t breathing. When lifting Floyd into the ambulance, the paramedic recalls Floyd’s state: “I guess limp would be the best description. He wasn’t — he was unresponsive and wasn’t holding his head up or anything like that,” Bravinder said. He continues, explaining that Floyd flatlined while on the way to the hospital. Once realizing his patient had flatlined, Bravinder and his partner stopped the ambulance to give medical aid to Floyd. Bravinder elaborated on the condition of Floyd, explaining that the term “flatlining” refers to “not a good sign…basically just because your heart isn’t doing anything at that moment. There’s not — it’s not pumping blood. So it’s not — it’s not a good sign for a good outcome.”
Another paramedic who delivered medical assistance to George Floyd, Derek Smith, also delivered a testimony in the trial of Chauvin. Upon arriving on scene, Smith reports that he saw Floyd on the ground with three officers on top of him. He continues detailing the scene: “I walked up to the individual, noticed he wasn’t moving. I didn’t see any chest rise or fall on this individual.” Smith reported that he thought Floyd was dead, and upon checking the victim, he says that Floyd’s pupils were “large” and “dilated” and that he couldn’t detect his pulse. Still, Smith says he did all that he could in an attempt to revive Floyd: “”[H]e’s a human being and I was trying to give him a second chance at life.”
A doctor who provided emergency care to Floyd at Hennepin County Medical Center, Dr. Bradford Wankhede Langenfeld, also took to the stand. Dr. Langenfeld had pronounced Floyd dead on May 25, 2020. Langenfeld attested that the emergency responders who responded to the event were originally called upon for a “lower type of acute event of facial trauma,” but the call was later upgraded to call for “an individual under distress.” When Floyd arrived at the hospital, Langefeld explains that the paramedics attempted to resuscitate Floyd for “approximately 30 minutes,” by inserting a tube down his throat to ventilate his lungs, as well as attempted to administer CPR and medication. The report did not mention that the police officers on scene nor any of the bystanders attempted to give Floyd CPR. Langenfeld, who provided medical treatment to Floyd, testified that hypoxia was likely a cause of Floyd’s cardiac arrest. He says, “Based on the history that was available to me, I felt that hypoxia was one of the more likely possibilities.” Langenfeld clarified to prosecutor Jerry Blackwell that hypoxia refers to “cardiac arrest meaning oxygen insufficiency.” Langenfeld continues describing the condition of his patient: “There was no obvious, significant external trauma that would have suggested he suffered anything that could produce bleeding to lead to a cardiac arrest.” Jerry Blackwell asked if Langenfeld theorized oxygen deficiency as the leading cause of Floyd’s death, to which Langenfeld replied: “That was one of the more likely possibilities. I felt at the time based on information I had, it was more likely than the other possibilities.”
Capt. Jeremy Norton of the Minneapolis Fire Department had also been in the ambulance which escorted Floyd to the hospital. In his testimony, he recalled the scene when he entered the ambulance: “He was an unresponsive body on a cot.” Norton continues, attesting that after Floyd was delivered to the hospital, he filed a report with his supervisors regarding the incident. Norton says, “”I was aware that a man had been killed in police custody, and I wanted to notify my supervisors to notify the appropriate people above us in the city, in the fire department and whomever else, and then I also wanted to inform my deputy that there was an off-duty firefighter, who was a witness at the scene.”
Minneapolis police inspector, Katie Blackwell, also testified in Chauvin’s trial. She detailed that she had worked with Chauvin for over 20 years, and had selected him as a field training officer. Blackwell documented that Chauvin had been regularly instructed in defensive tactics and the proper use of force as taught by the Minneapolis Police Department. She continued testifying, adding that officers are also trained in their medical unit about the dangers of possible asphyxiation and the cruciality of positioning people up right or on their side to recover from such. She added that once a person is under control, officers should position them in a recovery position “as soon as possible.” Further, Blackwell said that Chauvin participated in a 40-hour Crisis Intervention Training in 2016, and another seven hour refresher course in 2018– which included de-escalation training as part of the program. In viewing an image of Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, Blackwell said: “I don’t know what kind of improvised position that is,” she said. “It’s not what we train.”
Another witness, Christopher Martin, continues to fill in more details to the harrowing day of Floyd’s death. Christopher Martin was the cashier at Cup Noodles, a convenience store in south Minneapolis. He explains that Floyd came in to buy cigarettes with a friend on May 25, and describes Floyd’s condition as “very friendly” and “talkative.” Martin testified that Floyd appeared to be under the influence of drugs. Martin continues, explaining that Floyd had paid with a counterfeit $20 bill. After realizing the counterfeit payment, Martin reported it to his manager, as the store had a policy of deducting the amount of counterfeit payment from its employee’s paychecks. Martin’s boss instructed the worker to approach Floyd and ask him to come back into the store, and Martin was met with refusal. He returned to the store and told his manager that he would accept the pay deduction, but Martin’s manager encouraged him to again approach Floyd. After Floyd refused for the second time, Martin’s manager told another store worker to call 911. Minutes later, Martin says that he recalls a large crowd of people gathering outside, “yelling” and “screaming.” Martin joined the crowd outside, observing as bystanders demanded for the police to take Floyd’s pulse as Chauvin continued to kneel on the victim’s neck. Reflecting on the scene, Martin says he felt “disbelief and guilt.” Elaborating on that statement, Martin explains: “If I would have just not taken the bill, this could have been avoided.” Martin has also added that “the one thing I would say to Derek Chauvin is justice will be served.”
The man who had been in the car alongside Floyd, Morries Hall, refuses to testify in the trial of Derek Chauvin and has asserted that he will invoke his Fifth Amendment if called to the stand. Hall had fled Minnesota shortly after Floyd died, and was soon after arrested in Texas on account of outstanding felony warrants that had been issues to him prior to Floyd’s death. One of the charges includes being a felon in possession of a firearm. Regarding the day of Floyd’s death, Hall has been accused of trying to get rid of evidence related to the case. A court document filed by the defense reports: “Surveillance video from the nearby Dragon Wok restaurant shows that Mr. Hall appeared to use Mr. Floyd’s resistance as a distraction to destroy evidence…The video demonstrates that Mr. Hall watched through the windows of Mr. Floyd’s vehicle to ensure that he was not being observed by police, then…. Mr. Hall furtively dropped something into the sewer drain on the street.”
Courteney Batya Ross, Floyd’s girlfriend since August 2017, took to the stand and revealed that both herself and Floyd had struggled with opioid addiction. She explains their opioid use: “Both Floyd and I, our story — it’s a classic story of how many people get addicted to opioids. We both suffered from chronic pain. Mine was in my neck and his was in his back. We both have prescriptions. But after prescriptions that were filled, and we got addicted, and tried really hard to break that addiction many times.” Elaborating on Floyd’s opioid usage, Ross disclosed that Floyd had been hospitalized for overdose in March of 2020.
The prosecution presented this information regarding Floyd’s usage to light not to paint him in a negative light, but to show the full truth of the situation. CNN legal analyst Laura Coates explains the prosecution’s strategy: “’It’s because as the prosecutor, you want to present and address and resolve these bad facts. You don’t want to have the defense be able to say, ‘Hey, jury, why didn’t they tell you about this? Here are the things they don’t want you to know.’ Sprinkling seeds of doubt’….Coates added that the prosecution is addressing it so they can “package it essentially” to say, “‘So what? He has an opioid addiction.’ And of course in America, we view opioid abuse very differently than we did even decades ago. How does this actually impact Chauvin’s decision to act?’”
Retired Sgt. David Pleoger of the Minneapolis Police Department took to the stand to describe a phone call that had taken place between Chuavin and himself on May 25, 2020, after Chauvin had kneeled on Floyd’s neck. He recalls: “I believe he told me that they had — tried to put Mr. Floyd — I didn’t know his name at the time, Mr. Floyd into the car. He had become combative,” adding that “I think he mentioned that he had injured — either his nose or his mouth, a bloody lip, I think, and eventually after struggling with him, he suffered a medical emergency and an ambulance was called and they headed out of the scene.” Pleoger also detailed that he has known Chauvin since 2008.
Another member of the force, Jon Curtis Edwards, a sergeant with the Minneapolis Police Department, took to the stand to discuss details about the crime scene and body camera footage. Edwards reports that he arrived at the scene of 38th and Chicago around 9:35 p.m. ET. Upon arrival, Edwards says there were only two officers still present– J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane– and not many other people around. While Edwards attests that he arrived on scene with his body camera turned on, he says that the two officers who had been at the scene did not have their cameras on. Edwards asked them to turn their body cameras on. Then, after the two officers detailed to Edwards where the scene had occurred, Edwards told them to place crime scene tape around the area “so that we could preserve any potential evidence that was there.”
The most senior officer on the Minneapolis police department and head of the Minneapolis Police’s homicide unit, Lt. Richard Zimmerman, also took to the stand. He clarified that the actions of Chauvin are not compliant with the training that police officers receive, adding that “if your knee is on a person’s neck, that could kill them.” As the most long-standing member of the police force, and having been trained every year in the appropriate use of force, he says that he has never received instruction to deliver force via kneeling on the back or neck of someone, as Chauvin demonstrated. “Pulling him down to the ground face down, and putting your knee on a neck for that amount of time is just uncalled for. I saw no reason why the officers felt they were in danger — if that’s what they felt — and that’s what they would have to feel to be able to use that kind of force,” Zimmerman stated. He says that Chauvin’s use of force would only be used in a “top-tier, deadly force” situation and in case of Floyd was “totally unnecessary.” There are varying degrees of how officers can work to restrain someone. Zimmerman explains, “Once a person is cuffed, the threat level goes down all the way. They are cuffed, how can they really hurt you,” he said. “You getting injured is way down. You could have some guy try to kick you or something, but you can move out of the way. That person is handcuffed, you know, so the threat level is just not there.” Upon arriving at the crime scene around 10 p.m., Zimmerman recalls walking up to officers J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane. Determining the two as “involved officers,” Zimmerman says he instructed them to go to city hall to be interviewed. Zimmerman explains that the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) took over the handling of the case when the hospital determined Floyd had passed. Lt. Richard Zimmerman, head of the Minneapolis Police’s homicide unit, said the use of force by former officer Derek Chauvin against George Floyd was “totally unnecessary.”
Police Chief Medaria Arradondo from the Minneapolis Police Department also took to the stand to discuss the use of force and de-escalation techniques. He has held his position as chief for three years, and has been involved with the department since 1989. At the beginning of his testifying, he was asked to identify Derek Chauvin, whom he successfully pointed out. He discussed de-escalation tactics and the use of force in the Minneapolis Police Department. Reading the department’s policy, Arradondo states: “As an alternative and/or the precursor to the actual use of force MPD officers shall consider verbally announcing their intent to use force including displaying an authorized weapon as a threat of force when reasonable under the circumstances.” He continues, “The goal is to resolve the situation as safely as possible. So you want to always have de-escalation layered into those actions of using force.”
When asked about Chauvin’s use of force unto Floyd, Arradondo said “The conscious neck restraint by policy mentions light to moderate pressure. When I look at exhibit 17 and when I look at the facial expression of Mr. Floyd, that does not appear in any way, shape or form that that is light to moderate pressure.” Arradondo comments on the use of restraint by Chauvin: “I absolutely agree that violates our policy,” detailing that the Department’s core values include treating everyone with “dignity and respect.” Arradondo continues, “Once Mr. Floyd had stopped resisting. And certainly once he was in distress and trying to verbalize that, that should have stopped. There is an initial reasonableness in trying to just get him under control in the first few seconds. But once there was no longer any resistance, and clearly when Mr. Floyd was no longer responsive, and even motionless, to continue to apply that level of force to a person proned-out, handcuffed behind their back. That, in no way, shape or form is anything that is by policy. It is not a part of our training. And it is certainly not part of our ethics or our values.”
Arradondo also commented on the first amendment right of protesters to record officers with their cellphones, even if the officers find the recording “irritating.” This “absolute first amendment right” is granted to all people, “with the exception that they cannot obstruct the activity of the officers but they absolutely have the right, barring that, to record us performing our duties,” he added. In the case of Floyd, the recording of officers was deemed by Arradondo as non-obstructive.
In his own viewing of the footage surrounding Floyd’s death, Arradondo commented that the city-owned video camera footage he originally saw didn’t show as much detail as community member footage. Arradondo recalls learning of the bystander video recording: “Probably close to midnight a community member had contacted me and said, chief, almost verbatim, but said, chief, have you seen the video of your officer choking and killing that man at 38th and Chicago? And so once I heard that statement, I just knew it wasn’t the same milestone camera video that I had saw. And eventually within minutes after that, I saw for the first time what is now known as the bystander video.”
In reviewing the footage, which showed Chauvin’s use of force on Floyd’s neck, Arradondo commented on whether the officer followed the department’s de-escalation policy: “”I absolutely don’t agree with that”…”that action is not de-escalation. And when we talk about the framework of our sanctity of life and when we talk about the principles and values we have, that action goes contrary to what we’re taught.”
George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, also was present in the court room alongside the Floyd family attorney, Ben Crump. Having to relive his brother’s death through re-watching the traumatic video footage, Philonise commented that it was an “emotional day watching his brother being tortured to death, screaming for his mom, talking about his kids… it was a tragedy that should have never happened.” While Chauvin and his defense are attempting to pin Floyd’s death on other factors, including drug use and health issues, Crump refocuses the case on Chauvin’s defense’s allegations: “That’s their playbook. That’s what they’ve done to so many people of color who have been unjustifiably killed by police. [They] assassinate their character so it can be a distraction from their excessive use of force.” As Chauvin’s defense looks to explain the cause of Floyd’s death as due to factors outside of the police force, Crump declares “The reason Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck is because he lacks humanity.”
When it came time for Chauvin to take the stand, he plead his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent, choosing not testify in his own defense. On Thursday, Chauvin’s attorneys rested their case shortly after his invocation. The prosecution had rested its case on Tuesday, after hearing from 38 witnesses over 11 days of the murder trial. Chauvin has plead not guilty to second-degree unintentional manslaughter, second-degree manslaughter, and third-degree murder charges.
Chauvin’s defense attorney, Eric Nelson, said during his closing argument that “that Derek Chauvin’s own use of force trainer at the Minneapolis Police Department testified that placing the knee on the neck of a suspect “is not an unauthorized move,” according to CNN. Nelson is referring to the earlier testimony of Minneapolis Police Lt. Johnny Mercil, who conducts the training for the Department. Mercil had testified that using a knee on someone’s neck “can be justified in certain circumstances,” perhaps as a means of “using body weight to control.” However, Mercil had also remarked “however, I will add that we don’t — we tell officers to stay away from the neck when possible and if you’re going to use body weight to pin, to put it on their shoulder and be mindful of position.” Keeping all this in mind, during his closing argument Nelson urged the jury to consider the circumstances Chauvin had arrived at on-scene, including meeting “active resistance” and “potentially active aggression” from Floyd. Nelson stated to the jury, “The state has really focused on the 9 minutes and 29 seconds, 9 minutes and 29 seconds, 9 minutes and 29 seconds. It’s not the proper analysis because the 9 minutes and 29 seconds ignores the previous 15 minutes and 59 seconds. Completely disregards.” Nelson reminded that jury that his client, Chauvin, has a “presumption of innocent,” until possibly being proven guilty beyond a reasonable guilt by the state.
The case’s prosecuting attorney, Steve Schleicher, reminded the jury that “George Floyd is not on trial here,”…”For 9 minutes and 29 seconds. He begged, George Floyd begged until he could speak no more, and the defendant continued. This assault. When he was unable to speak, the defendant continued. When he was unable to breathe the defendant continued. Beyond the point that he had a pulse. Beyond the point that he had a pulse, the defendant continued this assault. Nine minutes and 29 seconds.” During Schleicher’s closing statement, he asserted that Chauvin’s actions were not in line with the motto of the Minneapolis Police Department, “to protect with courage.”
Another prosecuting attorney, Jerry Blackwell, took to the stand again to deliver his closing statement. He reminded the jury that while “”when he [Eric Nelson] was talking about causation, he talks about fentanyl, heart failure, hypertension. He says that we have to show beyond a reasonable doubt that none of these other factors played a role”…but “”what we need to prove is that the defendant’s actions were a substantial causal factor in his death. It does not have to be the only causal factor. It doesn’t have to be the biggest substantial factor. It just has to be one of them.” Further, he asserted the power that Chauvin held over Floyd while kneeling on the victim’s neck: “He had the bullets, the guns, the mace that he threatened the bystanders with. He had backup. He had the badge. He had all of it. And what was there to be afraid of, here particularly, at this scene?”
Blackwell also urged the jury to consider what he called the case’s 46th witness– common sense. He cited the eyewitness account of the nine-year-old bystander, claiming that the case is “so simple a child could understand… [t]he 9-year-old girl said, ‘get off of him.’ That’s how simple it was. Get off of him. Common sense.”
As the closing arguments of the case are being released today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi released her statement: “Today is a solemn day as the closing arguments are presented in the George Floyd murder trial. I commend the Floyd family for their dignified calls for justice, which were heard around the world”…”As outraged as we are by his death, let us be prayerful that the truth will prevail and will honor George Floyd’s memory.”
Chauvin is on trial for three different charges, in which the jury must deliberate whether or not the prosecution “proved beyond a reasonable doubt.” The first charge Chauvin could be convicted of is second-degree unintentional murder. The prosecution must prove that Chauvin caused George Floyd’s death while committing an underlying felony. Futher, prosectors must also prove that Chauvin acted with no intent to kill, just intent to act. If convicted, Chauvin could face up to 40 years in prison. Secondly, Chauvin faces a possible charge for third-degree murder. In order to be convicted, prosecutors must prove Chauvin committed a reckless act that is “eminently dangerous” to others with “depraved mind.” If Chauvin is convicted of third-degree murder, he could face up to 25 years in prison. Finally, Chauvin faces a third conviction for second-degree Manslaughter. In order to be charged, the prosecution must prove Chauvin was “culpably negligent” and disregarded awareness of substantial risk of great bodily injury or death of Floyd. If convicted of second-degree manslaughter, Chauvin could face up to 10 years in prison. All of the charges are seperate, so Chauvin could end up being charged for a combination of charges, being found guilty on all accounts, or be found completely non-guilty.
While the world waits to heart the outcome of Derek Chauvin’s trial, the NYPD is bracing for the reaction to the case’s verdict. In a statement, the. NYPD said that the department has been preparing for months and has provided the necessary training for its officers to “protect and facilitate the constitutional right to peace protest.” In DC, the Army has positioned 250 members of the National Guard in preparation for potential protest, riots, and civil unrest. Around the country, police departments are preparing to face the reaction to the outcome of the trial.
The jury panel working to determine the outcome of the trial consists of six white jurors and six Black or multi-racial people. Of the jurors, seven are women and five are men. The panel consists of a grandmother, nurse, chemist, and auditor, among others. The jury’s verdict must be unanimous, and must prove the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
Shortly after the juror deliberations had begun, several of Minnesota’s most prominent politicians spoke about to urge for calm, regardless of the trial’s outcome.
Gov. Tim Waltz spoke to Minnesota residents: ““We must acknowledge two truths: We cannot allow civil unrest to descend into chaos, we must protect life and property,” the governor continued. “We also must understand very clearly, if we don’t listen to those communities in pain, and those people on the streets, many of whom were arrested for speaking a fundamental truth, that we must change, or we will be right back here again.”
Minneapolis’ mayor, Jacob Frey, echoed similar peaceful sentiments: ““There’s been pain and anguish, anger and frustration that is undoubtedly acutely felt by our Black and Brown communities,” Frey said. “Regardless of the outcome of this trial, regardless of the decision made by the jury, there is one true reality, which is that George Floyd was killed at the hands of police.” Similarly, Saint Paul’s mayor cautioned against violence.
Gov. Melvin Center spoke out about the jury deliberations on Monday afternoon: ““Whatever the jury decides, we know that in this age of insurrection and extremism that we must be ready for the possibility of those who would exploit this moment and drown out the powerful voices of constructive protests across our nation with violence and destruction.'”
Even President Biden spoke out about the trial, sharing similar thoughts. The President said he hopes the right outcome of the trial will prevail, and commented on the “overwhelming” evidence of the case. Biden also had a private conversation to discuss familial loss with George Floyd’s brother, Philonise.
The verdict of the case has been decided and publicly announced, as reported by CNN: “Former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin has been convicted on all charges by a jury in the Hennepin County court. The jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in George Floyd’s death in May 2020.”
As seen in media from Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and president and senior lecturer of Repairers of the Breach:
“Today’s three guilty verdicts in the trial of Derek Chauvin are an important public act of accountability. But any verdict on a charge of less than first-degree murder — a charge that Chauvin did not face — is a sign that we still have work to do. Before the entire nation, fellow officers took the stand in this trial and testified that their colleague did not protect and serve but abused power and killed George Floyd. We must meet this public act of justice and accountability with federal legislation that will hold officers of the law accountable in every state, and we must continue to work in every community to shift public investment from over-policing poor, Black and brown communities to ensuring restorative justice and equity for all people.”
EIGHT KILLED IN INDIANAPOLIS FEDEX FACILITY SHOOTING
What we know so far
Brandon Hole, the shooting suspect, opened fire outside and inside of a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana on Thursday evening.
Eight people were shot and killed, while several others were wounded in addition to the gunman.
Police believe the gunman killed himself as officers encountered him.
The motive for the shooting known at this time.
Law enforcement were notified of a mass casualty situation at the Indianapolis FedEx location late Thursday evening. Timothy Boillat, a FedEx employee, was inside of the building when the gunshots began, according to CNN. He was on break when he heard “two loud metal clangs,” not realizing that it was gun shots. Boillat said his friend saw someone grabbing a gun out of the trunk of their car. It was at that moment that Boillat saw a body on the ground. Levi Miller was interviewed this morning by the Today Show and stated “I saw a man, a hooded figure. The man did have an AR in his hand, and he started shouting and then he started firing. I thought he saw me, so I immediately ducked for cover.”
Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations for Indianapolis Police, Craig McCartt, stated that four of the victims were found inside of the FedEx facility and four were found outside. The suspect was found deceased, in addition to eight other people. The Indianapolis Police Department said they have an idea of who the suspect was, however, have not formally identified him. The Department believes that the shooter was using a rifle, but they do not yet have any specifics on the weapon. The police are being assisted by the FBI in searching the suspect’s house. Special agent Paul Keenan is in charge.
During a news conference McCartt stated, “This suspect came to the facility. He got out of his car and pretty quickly started some random shooting outside the facility. There was no confrontation with anyone. That began in the parking lot and then he did go into the building.”
Alfarena McGinty, the Chief Deputy Coroner at the Marion County Coroner’s Office, said that the Department is conducting an investigation, but cannot yet enter the crime scene to confirm the victims’ identity until all evidence has been collected. “We are still a number of hours out before we are able to go on to the scene to conduct our investigation, and then after that, we’ll work with the families. Following that process, what we have to do is we will perform our examinations,” she said, adding that extra staff will be called in to complete those examinations in the next 48 to 72 hours, reports CNN.
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, there have been at least 147 mass shootings incidents in 2021 in the United States. The Gun Violence Archive is an online archive of gun violence incidents collected from various law enforcement, media, government and commercial sources daily in order to provide near-real time data about the results of gun violence. GVA is a non-profit corporation based out of Washington DC, as stated on their website.
Indianapolis Police has released the names of the deceased victims from Thursday night’s shooting.
The victims are:
32-year-old Matthew R Alexander
19-year-old Samaria Blackwell
66-year-old Amarjeet Johal
64-year-old Jaswinder Kaur
68-year-old Jaswinder Singh
48-year-old Amarjit Sekhon
19-year-old Karlie Smith
74-year-old John Weisert
A statement by IMPD says the next of kin has been notified by the Marion County Coroner’s Office.
The cause of death will be determined after autopsies are complete, according to the statement.
IMPD said the names of those injured are not being released.
The Untitled Space is pleased to present “UNRAVELED: Confronting The Fabric of Fiber Art” group show opening on April 17 and on view through May 28, 2021. Curated by Indira Cesarine, the exhibition will feature textile and fiber-based artworks by 40 contemporary women artists. “UNRAVELED: Confronting The Fabric of Fiber Art” explores in depth the themes and techniques of the medium through the works of female-identifying artists working with natural and synthetic fiber, fabric, and yarn. The exhibition presents figurative and abstract works that address our lived experience and history through the lens of women weaving, knotting, twining, plaiting, coiling, pleating, lashing, and interlacing. Narratives of self-identification, race, religion, gender, sexuality, our shared experience, as well as protest and the patriarchy are literally “unraveled” through embroidery, felt, woven and hooked rugs, braided and sewn hair, sewn fabrics, discarded clothing, cross-stitching, repurposed materials and more.
Exhibiting Artists: Amber Doe, Carol Scavotto, Caroline Wayne, Christy O’Connor, Daniela Puliti, Delaney Conner, Dominique Vitali, Elise Drake, Elizabeth Miller, Hera Haesoo Kim, Indira Cesarine, Jamia Weir, Jody MacDonald, Julia Brandão, Kathy Sirico, Katie Cercone, Katie Commodore, Katrina Majkut, Katy Itter, Kelly Boehmer, Linda Friedman Schmidt, Lisa Federici, Marianne Fairbanks, Mary Tooley Parker, Melanie Fischer, Melissa Zexter, Mychaelyn Michalec, Mz Icar, Orly Cogan, Robin Kang, Rosemary Meza-DesPlas, Ruta Naujalyte, Sally Hewett, Sarah Blanchette, Sooo-z Mastopietro, Sophie Boggis-Rolfe, Stacy Isenbarger, Stephanie Eche, Victoria Selbach, and Winnie van der Rijn.
unravel [ uhn-rav-uhl ] to separate or disentangle the threads of (a woven or knitted fabric, a rope, etc.). to free from complication or difficulty; make plain or clear; solve: to unravel a situation; to unravel a mystery.
“UNRAVELED: Confronting the Fabric of Fiber Art” investigates the narratives of contemporary fiber artists. The exhibition brings together a diverse group of artists who each address through their own personal vision, materials, and methods, works that are deeply rooted in the history of feminism, in the intersection of art and craft, addressing our living experiences and personal languages. We live in a world of extremes – on one hand, the pandemic has brought forth an intensity on digital and online programming peaking with the emergence of NFT art, and on the opposite end of the spectrum we are seeing a return to the comforts of the home and along with it a renaissance of organic and handmade artworks that embody that spirit. The laborious and repetitive methods required to create one work of fiber art can take hundreds of hours, yet equally the creation process is often referred to as a mediative act of healing, allowing for an expressive personal and cultural interrogation.
Fibers have been an integral part of human civilization for thousands of years. Textile art is one of the oldest art forms, dating back to prehistoric times. Despite early works of textiles such as embroideries and tapestries having been made by both men and women, the tradition of textiles and needlework evolved into that of “women’s work” and was not only dismissed as not “important” but was literally banned from the high art world by the Royal Academy in the 18th century (circa 1769). With the rise of the women’s movement as well as technological advances, women reclaimed the medium, subverted its history as a lesser art form, and transformed it into a tool of expression, of protest, of personality. From early suffrage movement embroidered banners to the groundbreaking exhibitions and works of female pioneers such as Bauhaus weaver Anni Alber’s momentous solo show at the Museum of Modern Art in 1949, Lenore Tawney’s exhibition at the Staten Island Museum in 1961 to Judy Chicago’s groundbreaking 1979 work “The Dinner Party”, we have seen the medium evolve and inspire new generations of fiber artists.
“UNRAVELED: Confronting the Fabric of Fiber Art” explores this new wave of female-identifying artists who are using materials ranging from thread and yarn to human hair, fabrics, and discarded clothing, among a range of other components to unravel the “language of thread” with works that provoke and interrogate. Whether drawn from a deeply personal narrative, or rooted in political motivation, each artist weaves, spins, sews, and hooks the viewer with their detailed and intricate textures that communicate and empower. The exhibition presents two and three-dimensional pieces that explore with gravity and humor our contemporary culture, its beauty, flaws, and idiosyncrasies through murals, assemblages, fragile and gestural threads, meditative, and metaphorical fibers. “UNRAVELED: Confronting the Fabric of Fiber Art” pushes the boundaries, investigates ancient as well as new materials and techniques, and presents a contemporary universe of the language of women and their interwoven, progressive vocabulary.”– Curator Indira Cesarine
“To know the history of embroidery is to know the history of women.” – Rozsika Parker author of “The Subversive Stitch” (1984)
“I am a multimedia artist who uses sculpture and performance to bear witness to the experiences of black women even as American society aims to render us and our lives as invisible and meaningless. Despite the prevalent “urban black” narrative, my experience is tied to the natural world, and I use materials that reference my desert environment and my lived experience as a black woman with Indigenous roots.” – Artist Amber Doe
“I mix subversion with flirtation, humor with power, and intimacy with frivolity. My subject matter is frank and provocative, dealing with issues of fertility, sexuality, self-image, isolation, vulnerability, indulgence, and beauty in the mundane, which are designed to challenge social stereotypes embedded within childhood fairytales. My work explores the many flavors of feminism.” – Artist Orly Cogan
“I pull from my autobiography to illustrate stories of trauma, sexuality, intimacy, and growth. Detailed beading and cyclical patterning emphasize the consistent labor in the repetitive motion of handsewing, that which mirrors the emotional and psychic labor expended in order to manage the suffering a body can accumulate over time. My sculptures translate the life experience of a survivor of complex trauma through the lens of glittering beadwork in order to recount deeply traumatic stories for the same cultural collective that due to repression, denial, censorship and deliberate silencing…” –Artist Caroline Wayne
“This body of work scrutinizes the amalgamation of victim shaming tropes that men and women are taught throughout their lives, both passively and actively, through social norms, pop culture, our educational and legal systems, religious establishments, and familial influences and upbringing.” – Artist Christy O’Connor
“My work focuses on my personal experience living within the confines of a female body, exploring sexuality, religion, and body image. The shared narratives of childbirth, menstruation, dysmorphia, sexual violation, and societal scrutiny all come into play and find connections with the viewers in their shared commonality.” – Artist Dominique Vitali
“My textile works are hand-sewn, fabric based sculptural pieces made from recycled materials that have multiple uses as ritual talismans, wearables, ecstatic birth blankets, dreamcatchers and traveling altars”. – Artist Katie Cercone
“Discarded clothing is my paint. I give second chances to the worn, the damaged, the mistreated, the abandoned, the unwanted, and to myself. My emotional narrative portraits and figurative artworks examine the human condition through my own lived experience. The violence of cutting and deconstruction make way for the reconstruction and refashioning of a broken past.” – Artist Linda Friedman Schmidt
“We are drawn to the grand gesture, the loud assured voice, the bold move, the aggressive brush stroke. I celebrate the opposite: the small moments in our lives – the unremarkable… as Covid-19 took over, some of the things I was celebrating became even more pertinent; toilet paper, soap, hand sanitizer. These objects became signs of hope, of safety, of comfort.” – Artist Melanie Fischer
ABOUT THE UNTITLED SPACE
The Untitled Space is an art gallery located in Tribeca, New York in a landmark building on Lispenard Street. Founded in 2015 by artist Indira Cesarine, the gallery features an ongoing curation of exhibits of emerging and established contemporary artists exploring conceptual framework and boundary-pushing ideology through mediums of painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, video and performance art. The gallery is committing to exploring new ideas vis-à-vis traditional and new mediums and highlights a program of women in art. Since launching The Untitled Space gallery, Cesarine has curated over 40 exhibitions and has exhibited artwork by more than 450 artists. Her curatorial for The Untitled Space includes solo shows for artists Sarah Maple, Rebecca Leveille, Alison Jackson, Fahren Feingold, Jessica Lichtenstein, Tom Smith, Loren Erdrich, Kat Toronto aka Miss Meatface, Katie Commodore, and Jeanette Hayes among many others. Notable group shows include “Art4Equality x Life, Liberty & The Pursuit of Happiness” public art exhibition and group show presented in collaboration with Save Art Space, “IRL: Investigating Reality,” “BODY BEAUTIFUL,” “SHE INSPIRES,” Special Projects “EDEN” and “(HOTEL) XX” at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, and internationally celebrated group shows “UPRISE/ANGRY WOMEN,” and “ONE YEAR OF RESISTANCE” responding to the political climate in America, as well as numerous other critically-acclaimed exhibitions. Recent press on Indira Cesarine & The Untitled Space includes Vogue (US), Vogue Italia, CNN, Forbes, Newsweek, W Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, Teen Vogue, New York Magazine, i-D Magazine, Dazed and Confused, and The New York Times among many others.
*Featured image artwork by Victoria Selbach for UNRAVELED: Confronting The Fabric of Fiber Art.
Artwork by Elise Drake, UNRAVELED Confronting The Fabric of Fiber Art.
Artwork by Mary Tooley Parker, UNRAVELED Confronting The Fabric of Fiber Art.
The series of mass shootings have continued within the United States, this time in Boulder Colorado at 3600 Table Mesa Drive. A gunman killed 10 people at a King Soopers supermarket on Monday afternoon. One of the victims included police officer Eric Talley who was first on the scene. Officer Talley was first to respond to report of gunfire at the grocery store. The workers and shoppers that survived were able to flee the scene and others were able to take shelter within the store – enduring the horrific violence that echoed throughout the store.
The shooting started shortly after 2:30 p.m. in the parking lot of King Soopers. Videographer Dean Schiller provided a livestream video showing what appears to be victims and an employee saying the shooter was inside of the store. Two roommates commented that “he just came in and started shooting” without saying a word. They went on to note that the gunman “let off a couple of shots, then was silent, and then he let off a couple more – He wasn’t spraying.”.
Survivor Ryan Borowski commented to CNN’s Don Lemon that he was still processing what happened. Borowski had just gone to buy some ice cream at the grocery store. He had changed his mind at the last minute and went down a different aisle. Borowski then heard the first gunshots, which he then started running to the back of the store. Borowski and several others rushed out of the store through the back, telling employees “Gun, gun, gun. Run, run, run.” Borowski went on to comment “I don’t remember anybody screaming. It was just go, go, go, get out of here… I knew I had to move.”.
Steven McHugh commented that his son-in-law and his two granddaughters were in the store as their dad got the vaccination for Covid-19. McHugh was told that his family watched people get shot and managed to run to a staff area to hide in a coat closet until police were able to intervene.
The 21-year-old suspect, Ahmad Al Issa, was taken into custody and treated for injuries, however, there are not many answers as to why the violent crime was carried out. Issa is facing 10 counts of first-degree murder and will be taken to Boulder County Jail. Officials say it will take days to investigate the crime scene thoroughly and notify families of the loss of their loved ones. Local, state, and federal agencies responded to the scene to aid in the investigation.
Officer Eric Talley had been with the department since 2010 and was very passionate about his job according to Officer Mark Bliley, head of the Boulder Police Department’s union. Bliley continued to say that Talley had a unique ability to connect with people; that he was a highly respected, well-loved person and officer – a solid person that everyone loved.
Kelli McGannon, King Soopers spokeswoman, said the company is working with investigators and will be deferring to law enforcement on all inquiries about the shooting. “Our hearts are broken over this senseless act of violence,” she said.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords commented “It’s beyond time for our leaders to take action” on gun control. Giffords is a gun control advocate and mass shooting survivor. She went on to comment that “This is not normal, and it doesn’t have to be this way. This is an especially personal tragedy for me. I survived a shooting at a grocery store, in a tragedy that devastated my beloved community of Tucson. It’s been 10 years, and countless American communities have had to face something similar. Today it’s a tragedy in Boulder, Colorado. This past weekend it was a house party in Philadelphia. And last week it was an armed attack on Asian American women in the Atlanta area.”
The supermarket shooting occurred just seven days after the violent mass shooting in Atlanta where eight innocent people, including six Asian women, were killed when a gunman terrorized three spas. On March 17, five people were gunned down in a drive-by shooting while preparing a vigil in Stockton, California. Just a day later, four victims were shot in Gresham, Oregon. In Houston, five people were shot within a club during a disturbance on March 20. In Philadelphia, five people were injured and one murdered during a shooting at a party on the same day.
The Colorado Healing Fund is collecting donations for victims of the Boulder shooting. The Colorado Healing Fund is a non-profit organization created to support victims of mass tragedies.
Victims of the King Sooper’s Mass Shooting:
Denny Strong, 20 years old
Neven Stoanisic, 23 years old
Rikki Olds, 25 years old
Tralona Bartkowiak, 49 years old
Suzanne Fountain, 59 years old
Teri Leiker, 51 years old
Officer Eric Talley, 51 years old
Kevin Mahoney, 61 years old
Lynn Murray, 62 years old
Jody Waters, 65 years old
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