Bloom Briefing 23: Philando Castile; U.K. Elections; Grenfell Tower

Welcome to the twenty-third edition of The Bloom Briefing: Notes from the Resistance. This week, the focus is on the acquittal of the officer who killed Philando Castile, the aftermath of the U.K. election, and the fire at Grenfell Tower.

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No Justice for Philando Castile

Philando Castile and his family will receive no justice. Officer Jeronimo Yanez, who indiscriminately fired seven bullets into a car containing Castile, his girlfriend, and her 4-year-old daughter, walked free from a courtroom on Friday after a jury acquitted him of all charges in Castile’s death.

Truthfully, words are inadequate. How are we possibly supposed to put into words an incident symbolizing 500 years of racial oppression? After all, the root causes of Castile’s death go back as far as the beginnings of European imperialism in the 15th-century and are as recent as police departments’ codes of conducts. The vast history of racism and state-sponsored racial terror in America is merely the interstitial tissue connecting the dots.

One can draw a direct line from slavery to the 3/5ths compromise, to the Civil War, to the demise of Reconstruction, to the racial terror perpetrated by the KKK, to segregation, to Jim Crow, to the Lost Cause history designed to serve as resistance to the Civil Rights Movement, to the racially coded language of Nixon and Reagan and Bush and Bush and (un-coded) Trump, to the installment of mandatory minimums and today’s racialized policing patterns.

So the verdict, of course, was no surprise. The vast majority of these cases pass without a conviction of the officer. But if you thought that the verdict might be evidence for the system not working properly, the above paragraph should be your reminder that it is, in fact, the system working exactly as it was intended: to institutionalize violence against African Americans.

Here is the second-by-second of Philando Castile’s final moments on this earth:
9:05:00 p.m. -- Castile's vehicle came to a complete stop.
9:05:15 - 9:05:22 p.m. -- Yanez approached Castile's car on the driver's side.
9:05:22 - 9:05:38 p.m. -- Yanez exchanged greetings with Castile and told him of the brake light problem.
9:05:33 p.m. -- St. Anthony Police Officer Joseph Kauser, who had arrived as backup, approached Castile's car on the passenger's side.
9:05:38 p.m. -- Yanez asked for Castile's driver's license and proof of insurance.
9:05:48 p.m. -- Castile provided Yanez with his proof of insurance card.
9:05:49 - 9:05:52 p.m. -- Yanez looked at Castile's insurance information and then tucked the card in his pocket.
9:05:52 - 9:05:55 p.m. -- Castile told Yanez: "Sir, I have to tell you that I do have a firearm on me." Before Castile completed the sentence, Yanez interrupted and replied, "Okay" and placed his right hand on the holster of his gun.
9:05:55 - 9:06:02 p.m. -- Yanez said "Okay, don't reach for it, then." Castile responded: "I'm... I'm ... [inaudible] reaching...," before being again interrupted by Yanez, who said "Don't pull it out." Castile responded, "I'm not pulling it out," and Reynolds said, "He's not pulling it out."
Yanez screamed: "Don't pull it out," and pulled his gun with his right hand. Yanez fired seven shots in the direction of Castile in rapid succession. The seventh shot was fired at 9:06:02 p.m. Kauser did not touch or remove his gun.
9:06:03 - 9:06:04 p.m. -- Reynolds yelled, "You just killed my boyfriend!"
9:06:04 - 9:06:05 p.m. -- Castile moaned and said, "I wasn't reaching for it." These were his last words.
9:06:05 - 9:06:09 p.m. -- Reynolds said "He wasn't reaching for it." Before she completed her sentence, Yanez screamed "Don't pull it out!" Reynolds responded. "He wasn't." Yanez yelled, "Don't move! F***!"
That is the transcript of the system working as it was intended.

U.K. Elections Follow-up

As of last writing, Theresa May was in a weakened position, having to negotiate an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party of Northern Ireland to form a coalition government. This poses a severe danger to the peace process in Northern Ireland (full explanation of how and why by Jonathan Powell here).

In short, the UK government and the Irish government are supposed to serve as a pair of neutral arbiters between Protestants and Catholics, who are represented by the DUP and Sinn Fein respectively. Obviously, Sinn Fein have reason to be concerned that a U.K. government that includes the DUP would not be able to be a neutral arbiter between themselves and the DUP.

Grenfell Tower Fire

On Wednesday, we awoke to the news that there had been a massive fire at a public housing complex called Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London. The fire is a tragedy that has left many dead and even more homeless, but I'd like to spend a moment on an interesting political aspect to this tragedy. To those of us viewing from across the pond the collective action being taken by those left homeless by the fire feels rather foreign.

Had a public housing complex in Anacostia or Camden or the Bronx or Garfield or Compton had a similar catastrophe, it’s hard to imagine that Nancy Pelosi or Chuck Schumer would have stood outside and given a press conference, as Jeremy Corbyn did. It’s hard to image that Donald Trump would have gone to meet with those displaced, as the Queen did. It’s hard to imagine Paul Ryan speaking about the incident at any great length at all, as Theresa May did.

Part of this is simply the politics of geography: public housing in a generally posh neighborhood of the capital makes the inequality more transparent than it might have been elsewhere. But part of it is also the heightened class consciousness in the U.K. There has long been a will for collective action among the working class, whether it be about a subject as profound as working and living conditions or as superficial as rising ticket prices for football tickets.

Just today, Labour MP Chi Onwurah wrote in The Guardian about how the class-based activism following such events has led to various governmental protections to help prevent future disasters. “There are the souls of the dead in every sub-clause of health and safety legislation. That is how our society has advanced, through a political response to the needless deaths of the poor, vulnerable, unheard and nameless.”

There’s more of a willingness to “let the market sort it out” in the U.S., but we could probably benefit from more of a recognition that often we’re all in this together. Where we come together to protect ourselves from rapacious enterprise, negligent landlords, and exploitative employers is a place called government.

Additional Reading:

If you read one article this week, make it this. At Buzzfeed News, a team of six has written about 14 deaths of anti-Putin activists in the U.K., none of which has been solved by the police, and all of which the US spy agencies have linked to Russia.

About a year ago, David Graham wrote about the unequal protections of the 2nd amendment for people of color at The Atlantic. It’s worth a read given the acquittal of Jermonio Yanez.

At The Upshot, the New York Times’s data blog, Emily Badger and Niraj Chokshi wrote about the increasing political polarization of the United States. Democrats and Republicans hold more unfavorable views of each other than at any time since surveys have measured such attitudes.

At the New York Times, Sarah Leonard wrote about the increasingly leftist youth in American and Britain.