WTF Just Happened Today? Day 92: “An American achievement.”

Today in one sentence: The Justice Department will investigate whether the Minneapolis Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing”; Republican lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills; the U.S. has administered 200 million coronavirus vaccines since Biden took office; and the U.S. Postal Service is running a covert internet surveillance program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts.

The Justice Department will investigate whether the Minneapolis Police Department “engages in a pattern or practice of unconstitutional or unlawful policing,” including the use of excessive force, discriminatory conduct, or the abuse of those with mental health illness or physical disabilities. Attorney General Merrick Garland announced the investigation one day after former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder in the death of George Floyd. The investigation is separate from the previously announced federal criminal inquiry into whether Chauvin violated Floyd’s civil rights during his arrest and death last May.

71% of Americans agree that Derek Chauvin was guilty, while 13% disagreed and 15% had no opinion. 

Republican lawmakers in 34 states have introduced 81 anti-protest bills – more than twice as many proposals as in any other year. Republican legislators in Oklahoma and Iowa have granted immunity to drivers who strike and injure protesters with their car in public streets; Indiana would bar anyone convicted of unlawful assembly from state employment, including elected office; Minnesota would prohibit those convicted of unlawful protesting from receiving student loans and unemployment benefits; Kentucky would make it a crime to insult or taunt a police officer; and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed sweeping legislation he’s called “the strongest anti-looting, anti-rioting, pro-law-enforcement piece of legislation in the country.”

The U.S. has administered 200 million coronavirus vaccines since Biden took office. Biden said that more than half of all U.S. adults had received at least one shot and that more than 80% of Americans 65 and older have been partially or fully vaccinated. “Today, we did it, today we hit 200 million shots in the 92nd day in office,” Biden said. “This is an American achievement, a powerful demonstration of unity and revolve – what unity will do for us, and a reminder of what we can accomplish when we pull together, as one people, to a common goal.” About 13 million doses were administered during the Trump administration. 

The Trump administration awarded nearly $1.3 billion to a company to supply more than 100 million prefilled Covid-19 vaccine syringes in 2020, which have never been delivered. The ApiJect syringe never received the needed FDA approvals and the plant to manufacture the needles was never built. Pfizer said that even if ApiJect got all the needed approvals, it would “not have any impact on our output or process.”

The U.S. Postal Service is running a covert internet surveillance program that tracks and collects Americans’ social media posts, looking for what a government bulletin described as “inflammatory” postings. The Internet Covert Operations Program has not previously been made public. According to a March 16 government bulletin, which was marked as “law enforcement sensitive” and distributed through the Department of Homeland Security, the iCOP program “monitored significant activity regarding planned protests occurring internationally and domestically […] Locations and times have been identified for these protests, which are being distributed online across multiple social media platforms, to include right-wing leaning Parler and Telegram accounts.” Why the post office, which handles mail deliveries, would a run social media surveillance program is unclear. 

A 16-year-old Black girl was shot and killed by a police officer outside her home after she called 911 for help in Columbus, Ohio. The shooting happened about 20 minutes before Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict was announced.

Police Officer Shoots and Kills 16-Year-Old Ma’Khia Bryant, Body Camera Footage Released

A police officer in Columbus, Ohio, shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant late Tuesday afternoon, around the same time the verdict in Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd was being read.

Columbus Division of Police Interim Chief Michael Woods gave a press conference Tuesday evening during which he showed footage from the body-worn camera of the officer who shot and killed Bryant.

Woods began his press conference by saying “Earlier today we had a police-involved shooting,” and I’m going to stop right there and point out that this particular phrase—along with its cousin, “officer-involved shooting”—needs to disappear. It’s such a passive (aggressive) way to say the cops shot someone when the words “police shot ____” are right there, and I want everyone to stop doing that shit. Please. Thank you.

Woods said police dispatch received a call from an address on Legion Lane in Columbus at 4:32 p.m. The caller told the dispatcher that “females were there trying to stab them and put their hands on them.” Officers were dispatched to the address at 4:36 p.m. and arrived on the scene at 4:44 p.m.

The video shows that the officer who fired his weapon did so within 9-10 seconds of arriving on the scene. He arrived in what was complete chaos, as there were two girls clearly fighting in the front yard of a house and a crowd of people standing around watching. As the two girls keep fighting, a third girl wearing pink appears to walk toward the police officer, who then asks “Hey, hey. What’s going on? What’s going on?”

Before the girl can answer, the officer turns his attention to the two girls fighting. As he draws his holstered weapon, he yells, “Hey, hey, get down! Get down!”

The two girls separate, and the officer turns his attention to Bryant. She is moving away from the girl she was fighting as well as the officer, and her way is blocked by a car that is parked in the driveway. She and the girl wearing pink fall against the car, when the officer points his weapon, still yelling “Get down!” and opens fire.

He fires what sounds like four shots, and it should be noted that both Bryant and the person in pink were standing against the car when he opened fire, so we could easily be talking about two dead Black children tonight.

Bryant goes down immediately, the girl in pink runs to avoid the bullets, and the gathered crowd erupts in shock and dismay, including one man yelling at the officer, “She was just a kid! Are you crazy?!”

Other officers on the scene move to provide first aid to Bryant, and a voice that sounds like the original officer says “She was coming at her with a knife.”

What appears to be a kitchen steak knife can be seen on the ground near Bryant’s feet.

Woods said Bryant was attempting to stab both the first young lady she was fighting with as well as the girl in pink. He then showed a slowed down version of the video.

“This is a tragic incident for all involved, but especially for the family of the female,” Woods said after playing the second video. He added that they would not be releasing her name until all her next of kin had been notified.

A Black Teenage Girl Is Shot and Killed by Columbus Police

As the search for justice in one police killing was resolving itself in Minneapolis Tuesday, just minutes before the verdict was announced in the death of George Floyd, another police killing took place in Columbus, Ohio, where an officer shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant outside what appears to be her home.* Many of the details of the incident remain sketchy, even after the local police department quickly released an edited officer cam video of the chaotic incident in the driveway of a suburban street. As the officer gets out of his car and approaches the group, asking “What’s going on?” a fight flares.

“The video shows an officer approaching a driveway with a group of young people standing there,” the Columbus Dispatch reports. “In the video, it appears that the 16-year-old, identified now as Ma’Khia Bryant, who was moments later shot by police, pushes or swings at a person, who falls to the ground. Bryant then appears to swing a knife at a girl who is on the hood of a car, and the officer fires his weapon what sounds like four times, striking Bryant, who died a short time later.”

After the officer fired, a knife can be seen on the ground next to Bryant. In the background, bystanders can be heard shouting, “She’s just a kid!” “She had a knife. She just ran at her,” an officer can be heard saying on the footage. A video taken by someone at the scene shows officers then kneeling over Bryant, administering CPR. Police officials said Tuesday evening that officers had responded to a 911 call around 4:30 p.m. from a female caller about a group of girls that were trying “stab them and put their hands on them,” police said. It’s still not totally clear who made the call, but Bryant’s aunt, Hazel Bryant, told a local reporter that it was Ma’Khia who had called the police after a group of “older kids” threatened her.

Bryant was in foster care at the time of the shooting, the county children’s services confirmed, and appears to have been outside her foster home. Hazel Bryant told the Dispatch that Ma’Khia had gotten into an altercation with someone else at the home. It’s unclear what led up to the moment officers arrived on the scene. It is also unclear whose knife it was that can be seen in the footage or who brought it to the scene. When slowed down, the video does appear to show Bryant holding the knife shortly before being shot. Hazel Bryant said Ma’Khia had dropped the knife, however, before she was shot.

Officer Who Killed Ma’Khia Bryant Identified as Nicholas Reardon

“The Columbus, Ohio police officer who shot and killed 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant has been identified as Nicholas Reardon.

Bryant was killed just as the nation got word of Derek Chauvin’s conviction for killing George Floyd last May. Around 4:40 p.m., a woman called 911 to report a disturbance on the southeast side of Columbus. Reardon was the first officer to respond, and it didn’t take him long to draw and fire his service weapon.

Bryant was killed. Reardon has been taken off street duty pending an investigation.”

Ma’Khia Bryant’s TikToks Are A Reminder That She Was Just A Kid

“In the days following her death, people have been sharing Ma’Khia’s TikToks, which only serve as one more reminder that, no matter how police might try to justify or explain her murder, she was only a child.Ma’Khia’s videos — mostly hair and beauty tutorials — have since been deleted from TikTok, but they’ve gone viral on Twitter. Before they were taken down, many TikTok users also dueted and stitched her videos, adding their own reactions and captions to her tutorials. One of Bryant’s videos received 2.6 million views on Twitter in two days; it has been retweeted over 31,000 times. In the TikTok, Ma’Khia smiles, blows a kiss, and dances to a Bryson Tiller song, all while showing off her haircare routine.

Ma’Khia’s aunt, Hazel Bryant, told the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau that she had gotten into an altercation with several older girls who were threatening her with assault. Ma’Khia was holding a knife when the police arrived, and Interim Chief of Police Michael Woods said that officers believed she was going to stab one or both of the girls she was seen pushing in the bodycam video.Nicholas Reardon, an officer at the scene, shot her four times. Conservative pundits have already begun justifying her death by insisting that she posed a risk to the other girls. But this argument doesn’t take into account that Ma’Khia called the police for help to end the fight. And as many have mentioned, cops have been able to stop themselves from murdering white children and adults wielding guns. But Ma’Khia was a 16-year-old girl — not an adult, not a young woman — she was a child.”

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