News: David Smith’s death 10 years ago echoes George Floyd’s; key PolyMet decision expected Thursday, and more

In this blog:

  • Washington Post: How Minneapolis police handled the in-custody death of a Black man 10 years before George Floyd
  • WaterLegacy: Key PolyMet decision expected this Thursday, Sept. 3
  • The Intercept: Trump Supporters Rush to Defend One of Their Own Who Killed Protesters in Kenosha
  • The Koncow Maidu’s Trail of Tears in California

How Minneapolis police handled the in-custody death of a Black man 10 years before George Floyd

David Smith’s death 10 years ago at the hands of police didn’t spark public outrage as Floyd’s death did.

A decade before George Floyd’s death, David Smith died from similar injuries sustained during a Minneapolis police arrest. “But his case did not cause public outcry, and officers involved did not face discipline,” writes the Washington Post.

In September, 2010 Minneapolis police officers Timothy Callahan and Timothy Gorman responded to a call about a person acting strangely at the YMCA, the story said. They “Tasered a young Black man five times during a chaotic fight, wrestled him to the ground and handcuffed him facedown on a basketball court.”

Callahan sat on David Cornelius Smith’s legs while his partner, Timothy Gorman, pressed his knee for 4 minutes and 30 seconds between Smith’s shoulders, a video shows. Smith moaned on the floor, then fell silent. …

Smith, 28, died about a week later. The medical examiner ruled it a homicide, “listing cardiac arrest as the cause and ‘mechanical asphyxia’ — the kneeling — as a major contributing factor.”

The officers were not criminally charged or disciplined. The Internal Affairs unit never interviewed them, according to court records.

In response to questions from the Post, a Minneapolis Police Department spokesman wrote: “If mistakes were made, they were done so under the standard law-enforcement practices and training at the time.”

Evidence obtained during the Smith family’s wrongful death lawsuit challenges that statement. In a deposition of Amelia Huffman, commander of criminal investigations at the time of Smith’s death, she said: “There were clearly issues in this case where the way we train officers to monitor someone’s medical condition and breathing, these training standards were not upheld.”

In 2013, the city settled the wrongful-death claim for $3 million, with no admission of liability but a promise that its officers would ‘undergo training on positional asphyxia.’”

Had the Minneapolis Police Department taken this case — and it’s training promise — seriously, we likely wouldn’t be talking about George Floyd today.

The story is long and detailed, and behind a paywall.

WaterLegacy: PolyMet Mine update

WaterLegacy, a nonproft dedicated to “Protect Minnesota’s Life Giving Waters,” provided the following update in a recent email:

You may remember that the Court of Appeals suspended the PolyMet water pollution permit and transferred the case to district court to determine if there had been procedural irregularities in issuing this permit. WaterLegacy and our allies had a hearing in state district court this winter revealing that the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (“MPCA”) secretly asked the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to withhold EPA’s criticism of the weak PolyMet permit and then destroyed records of MPCA’s own lobbying. The judge’s decision on MPCA procedural irregularities will be released by September 3, 2020.

The email included alerts to upcoming issues:

  • Northshore Mining Company has proposed a massive expansion of the Milepost 7 tailings basin in Silver Bay, just three miles from Lake Superior.
  • Kennecott, Rio Tinto and Talon continue to prospect for nickel, copper, cobalt, and platinum group metals for a Tamarack sulfide mine, near Big Sandy Lake, and the Kettle and Tamarack Rivers in the St. Croix River and Mississippi River watersheds. You can learn more here.
  • The Essar Steel project, a taconite mine and pellet facility now under the name Mesabi Metallics Co., is seeking a permit to emit more than 10 times the amount of particulate pollution and more than 10 times the amount of mercury that the PolyMet project would emit.

[Initial post said the court’s decision was expected Wednesday, Sept. 3. Sept. 3 is a Thursday.]

The Intercept: Trump Supporters Rush to Defend One of Their Own Who Killed Protesters in Kenosha

Here’s how The Intercept’s story opens:

When Tucker Carlson set off a firestorm of criticism on Wednesday — by describing a 17-year-old Trump supporter who opened fire on protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin on Tuesday, killing two, as a well-meaning kid who decided he “had to maintain order” in the Democrat-run state because “no one else would” — the Fox News host was surfacing an idea that had already spread widely on the far-right.

The story isn’t behind a paywall. Click on the link above for the full read.

The Koncow Maidu’s Trail of Tears in California

On this day in history yesterday, August 28, 1863, the Koncow Trail of Tears began, according to the website This Week in California History:

All Koncow Maidu were forced from their homeland, rounded up at Bidwell Ranch, near today’s Chico, then lead away to Round Valley Reservation in Mendocino County. Any Indians remaining in the area were to be shot. 461 Maidu began the Trail of Tears, 277 survived.

That’s a survival rate of only 60 percent.

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