In This Episode
- A police officer shot and killed 20-year-old unarmed Black man Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb this Sunday, just a few miles from where former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is on trial for the murder of George Floyd. We discuss the details of the killing, plus the reactions from leaders and residents of the city.
- The CDC’s director Dr. Rochelle Walesnky said that vaccines won’t solve the COVID crisis unfolding in Michigan, and suggested a lockdown instead. Surges like these are exactly how the virus mutates, which is part of the reason why Michigan’s Governor Gretchen Whitmer needs to act to stop things from getting worse.
- And in headlines: a shooting at a school in Tennessee, a volcano continues to erupt in St. Vincent, and Will Smith pulls his movie out of Georgia.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, April 13th. I’m Akilah Hughes
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, where we are never taking off the bandage they put on when we got vaccinated.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, honestly, I kind of like it now. It’s so dirty that, you know, it doesn’t even really look like a Band-Aid, but it does just give me those good vibes from that day.
Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. Mine is filthy. I just needed to say that. [laughter]
Akilah Hughes: On today’s show, America’s mitten, Michigan, says it needs more vaccines to deal with the surge, but the CDC says: no, what you actually need are some lockdowns. Plus, we’ll have some headlines. But first, the latest:
[crowd] [voices] What was that for? What was that for?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, those are the sounds of angry community members in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota late Sunday night. They were out on the streets protesting the killing of 20-year old Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center police during a traffic stop Sunday afternoon.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, Wright was Black and tensions were already high in the area because just miles away, the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is going on. Gideon. What do we know so far about Wright’s death?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, it is just unfathomably tragic that this happened during a trial about an officer killing another Black man miles away, as you said. But that is ultimately illustrative of American policing. So this is a developing story, but according to local police officers, pulled right over because of expired registration tags. During that stop, the officers found that he had an outstanding warrant. And according to The New York Times, that may have been related to a missed court appearance stemming from two misdemeanor charges for carrying a pistol without a permit. The officers then tried to arrest Wright, and it appears he attempted to get back into the car. And then in released body camera footage, an officer is seen holding a gun while saying “Taser” and pointing it at Wright. She proceeds to shoot right as he drives away, and she can be heard saying, quote “holy shit, I just shot him.” So the official police line has been that the killing of Wright was a result of an “accidental discharge” i.e., as Brooklyn Center Police Chief Tim Gannon said: the officer mistook her Taser for her gun. Here’s Gannon on Monday:
[clip of Chief Tim Gannon] As I watched the video and listened to the officer’s commands, it is my belief that the officer had the intention to deploy their Taser, but instead shot Mr. Wright with a single bullet. This appears to me, from what I viewed and the officer’s reaction and distress immediately after, that this was an accidental discharge that resulted in the tragic death of Mr. Wright.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I don’t think that “I almost tased this person for a traffic stop, instead of shooting them” is the defense that they think it is. It’s also just nuts, because these are clearly different kinds of weapons, you know. There’s also no reports that Wright was aggressive with the officers, or was armed in any way—you know, just being a Black person. So how did the chief try to explain why a supposedly trained officer needed to use any weapon at all, and also made such a major mistake?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s insane. I mean, Gannon said that officers are supposedly trained to tell their partners and the people they’re supposed to protect, that they are going to use the Taser if they’re going to do it, as well as clearly knowing that a Taser is on one side of their hip, and a gun on the other. And that’s kind of as far as he went to explain things. The officer has been identified as Officer Kim Potter, a veteran on the force and the President of the Brooklyn Center Police Officers Association. She is on administrative leave, but a local DA’s office will take it from here and could have a criminal complaint ready soon. And the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension is investigating, too. Meanwhile, Brooklyn Center’s mayor said the officer should be fired.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I’m seconding that. So, you know, this is bringing up painful memories of a lot of deaths, but specifically the death of Oscar Grant, who is the 22-year old Black man shot by transit police in the San Francisco Bay Area back in 2009. The officer who killed him claimed that he thought he was firing a Taser, not a gun, despite the fact that they are different weights, and Tasers are often bright yellow. Also, you know, you don’t hold them the same way. They’re very obvious when you’re holding a Taser or a gun, which is which. But, you know, if your training doesn’t lead you to know the difference, you probably shouldn’t have access to either.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Plus, there are so many examples of traffic stops resulting in police killing Black people. Philando Castile, that’s just one example in Minnesota, again. But when cities rethink police, some are taking the strategy of shifting officers’ duties away from traffic stops. Berkeley, California, is getting close to that, for example. And that’s just one small piece of reimagining what the function and purpose is of the law enforcement that we pay. And there’s this really great piece on that idea specifically that I read about on the site, The Appeal. We can link to that in our show notes so you can read that, too.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. When it comes to the killing of Daunte Wright, the outrage spilled onto the streets, as we heard earlier. But let’s paint a picture of what happened on Sunday night.
Gideon Resnick: Yes. Protesters gathered in front of the Brooklyn Center Police Department headquarters, and then the National Guard was brought in with reports of tear gas and flash grenades getting used. And then yesterday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz set a curfew for a number of counties until this morning, promising, quote “the largest police presence in Minnesota history incoordination will be prepared.” So the answer to excessive police violence is the promise of more police presence. Got it. Yeah. As of when we recorded this on Monday night, a very large crowd gathered outside the Brooklyn Center police station past the curfew to stage a protest again. And officers were reportedly using tear gas and flash bangs to try and get the crowd to disperse, with some protesters countering by lighting up fireworks. And President Biden called Wright’s killing a tragedy yesterday, but also added this:
[clip of President Biden] There is absolutely no justification, none, for looting. No justification for violence. Peaceful protest, understandable
Akilah Hughes: I think this is probably a moment for President Biden to just shut the fuck up. Quite frankly, you know, if you’re not doing everything in your power to prevent these things from happening, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense for you to be telling people how to respond to murder, you know, and Black people being killed repeatedly, and the trauma that comes from that. So I think that, you know, just to react to that, that clip: it is a slap in the face to every Black person who put him in office. And I think, you know, for the sake of, you know, any sort of democratic legacy or future campaign, it would probably behoove him to just step aside if he’s not going to help. But as we mentioned, the Chauvin trial is happening at the exact same time. So can you give us a quick update on where all that stands?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So this is the third week of the trial, and Chauvin’s attorney apparently wanted to sequester the jury and have them be re-interviewed because of the killing of Wright. But the judge denied that. And then among the testimony yesterday was from yet another medical expert who joined others in saying that Floyd died because of Chauvin, and not drugs or a heart attack, as the defense has said. And Floyd’s brother Philonise also gave moving testimony about his brother and their relationship. The prosecution is expected to rest their case today and closing arguments are planned for next week. So we are going to stay on all of that. But now onto the coronavirus. Akilah, there’s more news out of Michigan, which you and Dr. Abdul El-Sayed we’re talking about on yesterday’s show. What’s going on there?
Akilah Hughes: So Michigan’s going through it. You know, they’ve been recording over 7,000 new COVID cases daily, they’re mostly driven by that invasive UK B117 variant. And Governor Whitmer’s plan for this was asking the White House for a, quote “surge of vaccines.”
Gideon Resnick: Right. And so how did that request actually go over?
Akilah Hughes: Not great. So the CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, said: no. And then she reiterated what Abdul told us, which is basically that even if everyone gets vaccinated in Michigan today, the actual results of that won’t be felt for 2-6 weeks, which means that what the state does in the meantime, will make all the difference. Dr. Walensky suggestion was a lockdown but Governor Whitmer, for whatever reason, is not considering that. And, you know, she might be fearing more backlash. She mentioned still receiving death threats on a Face the Nation appearance over the weekend, and that’s even after the failed kidnaping and murder attempts last year. Or it also could be just you know, she still incorrectly thinks the vaccines alone are going to solve the problem.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. How quickly we forget that there was a failed kidnaping attempt. That’s just a crazy reminder.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, exactly.
Gideon Resnick: So while the governor fights with the feds about vaccines, epidemiologists and us regular folks are sort of wondering what happened to the Michigan governor from the Trump side of the pandemic.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s a really great question. So back in December, Whitmer said she wouldn’t be bullied into going against CDC recommendations. And the context there was that she’d signed an executive order sharply limiting indoor gatherings for three weeks leading into the Christmas and New Year holidays, garnering criticism and a call to arms from the former president. And even as far back as March of 2020, Michigan seemed to be one of the most proactive states in trying to slow the spread of the virus. Generally speaking, Michigan’s mask mandates are still in place. So it’s not like Whitmer is anywhere near as reckless as, say, Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott in Florida and Texas, respectively. But it is concerning that as her state has become the epicenter in the U.S., she hasn’t tried any additional tactics to save lives.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, when is push going to come to shove there? So with so many states moving to reopen and general pandemic fatigue at a peak, closing down the state would likely be unpopular, to say the least, but what is the actual risk of not doing so?
Akilah Hughes: So according to experts from the World Health Organization, a surge like this is exactly how a virus mutates. This more contagious B117 variant mutated out of a situation where a lot of people are being infected with COVID, and as the virus replicated, it began to change. So the impact here cannot be oversold. If our current vaccines end up being less effective against variants, that puts us all at risk until newer vaccines are released. And if B117 were to mutate again in Michigan to be more resilient to vaccine and the treatments we have now, that puts the whole world at increased risk as we are still in this vaccine limbo. So we have to start thinking about this in a more global sense. But TL;DR, you know. I know it still sucks, but we need people to keep their distance and wear masks until enough people are vaccinated. And that would be easier if someone in a position of leadership—we’re looking at you Gretch—would, you know, lead. But that’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about some big news out of Hollywood: Arclight Cinemas and Pacific Theaters are permanently closing, citing a lack of a viable path forward after the pandemic crushed the movie theater business. The move affects 300 screens in California alone. If you’re not familiar, the Arclight Hollywood has special significance for moviegoers in L.A.—it’s a place you could regularly see celebrities watching other celebrities movies, or hear people in the audience applaud a after seeing their friend’s name in the credits. The theaters never reopened after closing last year’s. So Giddy, what’s your reaction to this?
Gideon Resnick: It sucks, man. It sucks whenever there’s any cool business that’s closing because of this. And it’s like, you want—I mean, to the conversation we were just having, like everybody wants stuff to be reopened to help these places out, and it seems like even the rush to do that when it’s unsafe, it might not be fast enough for some of these places. And that’s a huge bummer. I remember, like one of my early L.A. movie memories was that they were, they were going to play Uncut Gems at Arclight and Adam Sandler was going to be there, and all of the ones with Adam Sandler appearances sold out. And I was super bums. And then I just I, I—but I still had a great time. I saw a great time seeing it at Arclight, sans Adam Sandler. So . . . yeah.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, totally. I mean, it’s just it’s, it’s, it’s such a bummer. I think that that’s right. That’s the exact right vibe. It’s like it’s, you know, it’s hard for me to imagine a future where we don’t have movie theaters so I’m like, what is, what is the new normal? Like, what is this thing we’re all going towards? Because it seems like all the cool shit’s closing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Yeah. Well, have you ever had, like, specific experiences at either of these places? I feel like you must have.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. So it’s actually funny, our editor Charlotte Landes and I and some of their friends, we all went to see Charlie’s Angels, the new one, which was, you know, mixed reviews all around, but fan of the franchise regardless. And it is, you know, one of the places that has a great bar. It’s a place that like, you know, you can sit somewhere and talk about the movie afterwards. It just felt like it was, beyond being a great location it’s just like they really were invested in your experience at the movies. Like it wasn’t some terrible, crappy, you know, bad place that was like overheated and the food was overpriced or something. Like it was just like a good vibe-y movie spot. And there seemed to be fewer and fewer of those. So I, I share your grief. I am super bummed. I don’t even know where I would go within like a five-mile radius at this point. It seems like everything’s closing.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Vibes is the right word exactly. Like you can, we’re still going to be able to see movies I think. I hope. But you can’t recapture vibes. And like once vibes are gone, how are you going to get them? You can’t revive them.
Akilah Hughes: Exactly. Exactly. And you know, a mood is not a vibe. So they can try to recreate a mood, but the vibes are gone. [laughs] And that’s unfortunate for all of us. Well, just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, remember the good times at the movie theaters you love, and we’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: A student who opened fire on police at a high school in Knoxville, Tennessee, was shot and killed by officers yesterday. Officers were responding to calls of an armed person on campus when the student began shooting. He was killed by return fire. Austin-East Magnet High School was still recovering from separate gun-related deaths of four of its students earlier this year—this has not been a long year. I mean, not many months, it’s been a long year. But, you know. All of this came four days after Tennessee’s Republican governor, Bill Lee, signed a bill allowing most adults to carry a handgun without a permit, which goes into effect in July.
Akilah Hughes: Oh, gosh. Well, a volcano in St. Vincent continued to erupt for a fourth consecutive day yesterday, making parts of the Caribbean island virtually uninhabitable. The La Soufriere volcano had its largest explosion yet, creating avalanches of hot gas and debris that destroyed anything in their path. Around 16,000 people living in nearby communities were forced to evacuate last week. Dozens of people who refused to leave were rescued over the weekend. Water and food supplies on the island were compromised, and authorities were forced to drill for fresh water to distribute via water trucks. Nearby islands, including Barbados, are already experiencing ash fall from the eruptions and are preparing for bad air all week. St. Vincent’s prime minister predicted that it could take four months for the island to fully recover.
Gideon Resnick: I promise there is some amount of good news somewhere. We will find it.
Akilah Hughes: We’re going to find it.
Gideon Resnick: The man who took on aliens, robots, zombies, himself that younger, and a town called Bel Air, Will Smith, is doing his part to fight voter suppression. Smith and director Antoine Fuqua announced yesterday that their movie “Emancipation” will no longer shoot in Georgia, in protest of the state’s racist voting law. “Emancipation” is about an enslaved Black man seeking freedom, and it’s the first major film to pull out of the state since the law got signed. Georgia is a popular shooting location and brought in 9.5 billion dollars in 2017 from the film industry alone. Republicans are willing to risk all that money just to make elections less Democratic. Also yesterday, a coalition of 60 major law firms announced they will challenge laws around the country that infringe on voting rights. And that followed a conference call this weekend between one hundred corporate leaders who discussed how they could use their influence to push back against these laws. My little bit of advice is to try doing it early, instead of way too late.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, maybe be influential. Aliens are blazing at Area 51 tonight because New Mexico just legalized recreational marijuana. 420, just blaze. The state’s Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, signed the law yesterday, which will also expunge the records of people with low-level marijuana convictions. It will be a while before the state’s legal marijuana market is up and running, but the law requires it to launch before April 2022, a.k.a. 4-20 22. This is meant to be, and I applaud the law makers for honoring weed culture. New Mexico is the 17th state to legalize recreational weed, and it will not be the last. Delaware, Minnesota, Rhode Island and Connecticut are all working on legalization bills for this year. If you live in those places, get ready to try weed for the first time ever. Wink, wink, wink.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Rhode Islanders, excited for you to see what this is all about.
Akilah Hughes: Smoke weed. Never heard of weed. And those are the headlines.
Akilah Hughes: One last thing before we go: some cool, crooked store news! We’ve dropped our first-ever Pool Float that says VACCINATED in super fun colors—I will be taking it to the closest body of water as soon as humanly possible. There are limited quantities available, so get your preorder in now at Crooked.com/store.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, visit Area 51, and tell your friends to listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just list of all the aggressors Will Smith has defeated like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out, subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And blaze up, aliens!
Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Puff, puff, pass? You know,
Gideon Resnick: It’s the first thing they teach you when you land. [laughter]
Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.
Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.
Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.
Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.