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Tuesday, February 27, 2024
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A very political prison stabbing

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ON THE Friday after Thanksgiving, known as ‘Black Friday’ here in America, a 47-year-old former policeman was stabbed 22 times by a fellow inmate in a federal prison in Tucson, Arizona. That former policeman’s name is Derek Chauvin.

He was convicted of murdering a career criminal called George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for nine and a half minutes on a street in South Minneapolis on Memorial Day, May 25, 2020. He was found guilty by a 12-member jury in 2021 of unintentional second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter, and sentenced to 22 and a half years in prison. Had he not been found guilty, Minneapolis would have been burned to the ground.

Later that same year, Chauvin pleaded guilty in federal court to depriving Floyd of his constitutional rights, and was sentenced to 21 additional years behind bars, albeit to be served concurrently, hence his being in a federal prison in Tucson when he was stabbed and nearly killed. With good behaviour, he will be in his early sixties by the time he is released. Assuming he lives that long.

Those few unfamiliar with Chauvin’s name are almost certain to be familiar with his face and the image of him kneeling on George Floyd’s neck, an image that found its way around the world and, without exaggeration, triggered, or at least intensified civilisational shifts already under way, what Nietzsche calls ‘a transvaluation of values’. Try saying you believe men and women should be judged not by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character, or claiming that for a human being to get pregnant and give birth, that human being, for most of human history referred to as a ‘woman’, will require a uterus and a womb and much more besides, and you will know what I mean.

The Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) in Tucson is a medium-security prison. The degree to which Chauvin, a marked man for being a white cop convicted of murdering a black man, was kept away from the general population of inmates, as his lawyers have long urged, remains unclear. It seems likely that due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the jail was understaffed, making Chauvin that much more vulnerable.

His attacker, John Turscak, is a former FBI informant serving 30 years for crimes committed while a member of the Mexican Mafia street gang. He said he chose to attack Chauvin on Black Friday because black is ‘symbolic with the Black Lives Matter movement and the “Black Hand” symbol associated with the Mexican Mafia criminal organisation’. Sentenced in 2001, he was due to be released in 2026. Now that he is charged with ‘attempted murder, assault with intent to commit murder, assault with a dangerous weapon, and assault resulting in serious bodily injury’, he could be spending the rest of his life behind bars, assuming that he is found guilty.

According to press reports, Chauvin’s stabbing resulted in serious injuries which required life-saving interventions. Turscak later claimed he would have killed Chauvin had prison guards not intervened. The former, who murdered a man in California’s Folsom Prison in 1990, and sanctioned the murder of another man in 1998, conceded that he had been planning the attack for about a month due to Chauvin’s ‘high profile nature’.

Three days elapsed before Chauvin’s mother, Carolyn Pawlenty, who has power of attorney and is thus responsible for any decisions regarding her son’s medical treatment, received information relating to the assault. It is said that the first she heard about it was on social media. Even Chauvin’s legal team were kept in the dark for days.

When Chauvin was able to phone his mother, he told her how he tried to defend himself ‘but at every turn he would get stabbed again’. Guards, who were nowhere to be seen at the time of the attack, were forced to use pepper spray to subdue Turscak when they finally arrived. Whatever you think of Chauvin, he will serve the rest of his sentence never knowing, night or day, whether or a not a fellow inmate will seek fame by trying to kill him. If that is not a definition of ‘cruel and unusual punishment’, prohibited by the Eighth Amendment of the US Constitution, I’m not sure what is.

On learning about the near-fatal attack on Chauvin, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers acting president Marcia Howard, who teaches English at my wife’s old high school, mocked Chauvin’s mother’s concern for her son and referred to his attack as ‘shanksgiving’. Yes, we have sunk this low. To express sympathy or concern for Chauvin, or to question any aspect of the trial that convicted him, is out of the question. To do so will see your social credit plummet to depths from which it is unlikely to resurface.

Floyd’s initial autopsy showed ‘no life-threatening injuries’ to his body, or ‘blunt force injuries’ to his neck, but he did have enough fentanyl and methamphetamine in his system to kill him, and suffered from serious heart-related health issues.

We may never know the actual cause of Floyd’s death. A second autopsy, requested by his family, concluded he died from ‘cardiopulmonary arrest’, possibly caused by Chauvin kneeling on his neck. It is often overlooked that Floyd was saying he couldn’t breathe before Chauvin restrained him using a technique that was approved by the Minneapolis Police Department.

No evidence has emerged to suggest that Chauvin was motivated by a racial animus toward Floyd, which is ironic given that the former has become an avatar of racial hatred and white supremacy, the reification of centuries of white racism against blacks in America and elsewhere. No less a figure than Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, who filed the charges against Chauvin and has never hesitated to play the race card for political advantage, conceded: ‘We don’t have any evidence that Derek Chauvin factored in George Floyd’s race as he did what he did’.

As they say, this is an ongoing story. Chauvin lives in daily fear of his life while Floyd, who once held a woman hostage by pointing a loaded gun at her pregnant belly, has achieved canonisation and has scholarships offered in his name at many US universities while murals around the world, some depicting him with wings, honour this sad man whose death changed the course of history.

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Bernard Carpenter
Bernard Carpenter
Bernard Carpenter is a semi-retired history teacher.

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