In This Episode
- The trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin is set to begin today with opening statements. We explain what to expect and highlight new police reform efforts in cities across the country, including a pandemic decriminalization program in Baltimore that could become permanent.
- Covid-19 cases are starting to rise again driven by increasing infection rates in places like New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. And although vaccinations continue to rise, experts still caution the public to wear masks in large settings.
- And in headlines: Myanmar’s deadliest day since the February coup, a new bill in Arkansas targets health care for trans youth, and Suez boat gets freed.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, March 29th, I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, officially predicting that this summer is about to be a WAD Boy Summer.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, you know, it’s up to you guys to decide what that means, because we don’t even know.
Gideon Resnick: One thing I do know: I’m selling T-shirts for $20. On today’s show, COVID cases tick up again in the US, then some headlines.
Akilah Hughes: But first, the latest:
[news clip] The Twin Cities are on edge, preparing for a trial that the world will be watching. Ex officer Derek Chauvin faces charges of second degree murder, manslaughter and third degree murder, after kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes.
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. So today, opening statements begin in the trial against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. We have been following this for a while now, but given that we are entering a new phase here, Gideon remind us what we actually need to know.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So at the moment, Chauvin is charged with a number of counts that we heard there for the killing of George Floyd last May. The trial is expected to last several weeks at least. There will be a dozen people on the jury with two alternates, and they actually won’t be shown on the video feed of the trial to protect their anonymity. Just kind of a crazy detail about all of this. But what do we know based on a compilation of different reports so far: about half of the jurors are white and more than half are under 40 years old.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and Gideon, what do we know about how the prosecution and the defense will be trying to make their cases?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, as of Sunday we were still learning about what those jurors are actually going to hear. But we did learn from The Washington Post that the judge is going to allow Chauvin’s attorney to show body cam footage of a 2019 incident where Floyd was pulled over by Minneapolis police—a separate thing that is not what the trial is directly about. Officers reportedly pulled him over and arrested him, after which Floyd said that he was addicted to painkillers and swallowed Percocet. Now, Floyd was never charged in that case, but it basically seems like the defense wants to use this to make the argument that it was actually health issues and drug use that led to Floyd’s death. Now, prosecutors reportedly are angry, rightfully, that this would even get introduced, because it could impact the jury’s view of Floyd—who, again, is not on trial here. So we’ll see how that part of this develops.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s a little insane. It’s like if I get killed by the police, they were like: oh, you were drunk a year ago.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Akilah Hughes: It’s like, OK, you still murdered. Anyway, while Chavez trial is the high-profile case that we’re following now, there’s going to be more to come, isn’t that right?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So the three other officers that were on the scene of Floyd’s death are going to face their trials later this year. But Akilah, through all of this, the movement following Floyd’s death is not about a single case or the prosecution of one, quote unquote “bad apple,” but about a system under indictment. The killing of George Floyd sparked major calls for police reform from communities around the country. There have been some recent developments on that front. Like what exactly?
Akilah Hughes: All right. So there is a major win for police reform advocates in New York. Qualified immunity is coming to an end, thanks to legislation passed last Friday by city council. So that means that NYPD officers are no longer protected from civil lawsuits. And now it’ll be easier for civilians to sue the police for misconduct, usually in the case of excessive force or unreasonable search and seizure. That was the headline, but there are actually a few more significant wins within the new legislation. The Civilian Complaint Review Board is now allowed to investigate police with a history of bias and racial profiling complaints. It is pretty insane that it wasn’t allowed before, like they just weren’t allowed to look into it. And that board will now be responsible for giving recommendations for discipline in those cases too. And the NYPD used to be responsible for giving out press credentials, which maybe seems like a mild thing, but those are now going to be coming from the mayor’s office of Media and Entertainment. So maybe less, you know, journalists will be arrested at protests.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and there’s some news out of Baltimore in addition to this, right?
Akilah Hughes: That’s right. So a year ago, Baltimore state attorney Marilyn Mosby heard the news about jails being super-spreaders for the virus, and as a way to reduce the jail population she vowed to stop prosecuting drug possession, prostitution, minor traffic violations and other low-level offenses. So now it’s a year later and not only did the move reduce jail populations, but crime in Baltimore is down overall. And this mirrors what criminal justice experts have long argued: that prosecuting small quality-of-life crimes does nothing for public safety. It just increases the jail population.
Gideon Resnick: Right. So that move was originally temporary because of the pandemic. But Akilah, what is happening there now?
Akilah Hughes: So with the proof all over in this pudding, all right, Mosby has moved to make that change permanent in Baltimore. And it’s huge, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because a lot of other cities took Baltimore’s lead in this trial period. In Seattle, for example, the D.A. is only filing charges in violent cases. Brooklyn’s D.A. announced earlier this month that his office would decline to prosecute low-level offenses that don’t jeopardize public safety. So all of this bodes well for the future of policing in a country that actually wants to have equal protections and actually cares about crime reduction. The problem is that when we talk about decriminalization, too often in the U.S. we frame the conversation as somehow “disrespectful to police officers.” But police should want less crime and for the focus to be on actual harmful crimes, if only to validate why they must exist. Right: Like logically, shouldn’t the police want there to be less crime so that they can say that they’re even go to their jobs? It just makes sense. But the only reason that they maybe wouldn’t want that, is if labeling the neighborhoods they over-patrol as more criminal inherently gives them license to oppress certain communities with impunity. I’m happy to have that conversation at any point. So we’ll be keeping an eye on how more police departments are being forced to change how they police and how they’re held accountable, as we always do. And we’ll post more details in our show notes. Now Gideon, let’s turn to the virus because it’s the beginning of another pandemic week. Where does the COVID-19 of it all stand?
Gideon Resnick: Ah, the question we always have to ask ourselves. So there is good news and less good news as per usual. And we can kind of tell the story of both in some numbers. So the good news first: over 15% of people have been fully vaccinated in the US so far, according to the CDC, and over 28% has gotten at least one shot. That is uniformly awesome. Now less awesome: that plateau in cases that we’ve been talking about. Dr. Anthony Fauci says we might be peaking again:
[clip of Dr. Fauci] When you’re coming down from the big peak and you reach a point and start to plateau, once you stay at that plateau you’re really in danger of a surge coming up. And unfortunately, that’s what we’re starting to see.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so that’s Dr. Fauci on CBS’s Face the Nation. He’s basically saying there that there’s some evidence that things are starting to tick upwards after this plateau. Here are some other numbers that tell that story. There is an average of more than 60,000 daily cases last week, and that is an 11% jump from just two weeks before, according to The New York Times.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and do we know why that’s happening yet?
Gideon Resnick: I wish we had the full answer, but part of it, Fauci and others say, is certainly the UK variant that is more contagious, but another is simply just states lifting restrictions. Right? That’s always part of this equation—with particular trouble areas in places like New York, New Jersey and Michigan. So in this overall variants v. vaccine race, some researchers said that variants were basically winning this week. Thankfully, though, this upcoming week, even more states will begin opening vaccinations to all adults. So there’s still a hope that any broader surge can be held off here.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and even if you are vaccinated, keep R.S.V.P.’ing “no” to those ragers and parties right now. You should still keep meet-ups very small, and those masks to stay up in public because Gideon, what are researchers trying to figure out about what happens when vaccinated people head out into crowds?
Gideon Resnick: Well, they are trying to figure out whether or not those vaccinated people can still spread the virus.
Akilah Hughes: Ding. Ding. Ding.
Gideon Resnick: That is the main, main question right now. And to answer that, researchers will be tracking infections in vaccinated college students and their close contacts. It’s reportedly going to include more than 12,000 college students who have received the Moderna vaccine at more than 20 universities. Scientists plan to have them do daily nose swabs—this is a very different college experience than you or I had—and sometimes give blood samples over the course of about five months, according to The New York Times. That is going to hopefully give us more insights into what people can and cannot do, as we get more of the population vaccinated.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so that’s a look at the U.S. But what about the rest of the world right now?
Gideon Resnick: Well, so we’ve touched on the situation in Europe recently, which is struggling in many places at the moment. But I think perhaps no place is experiencing a bigger catastrophe than Brazil. Right now, the country accounts for one quarter of the whole world’s daily COVID deaths, according to the Associated Press.
Akilah Hughes: That is not great. Not great. Pretty horrific.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and it’s conceivable that the worst is actually still ahead there. We’ll link to a Wall Street Journal story about it so you can learn more. But that’s obviously a very worrying situation for Brazil and the rest of the world. For now, get your vaccinations when you can, and keep vigilant. I hate to say it is not over yet, but we will get there. That’s the latest for now.
Akilah Hughes: It’s Monday, WAD squad, and today we’re doing a segment called Nothing But Net, where we talk about a story that took over the Internet. All right. So today we’re talking about what happens when a rapper’s shoes are disrespectful to God. Lil Nas X is releasing his first shoe today. It’s a Nike Air Max 97 that ties into the music video for his new song, Montaro (Call Me By Your Name). In the video, Nas X gives Satan a lap dance that kills him and gets his powers—very metal. [laughs] Fittingly, the shoes are called “Satan’s Shoes” and there are 666 pairs of them, they’re black with a pentagram pendant, and apparently they have one drop of real blood in the air bubble.
Gideon Resnick: Unreal.
Akilah Hughes: The shoe was not sanctioned by Nike, which doesn’t usually put body parts in their shoes. But some conservatives online assumed it was and got really mad at both Nike and Lil Nas X. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem tweeted like a true 30 Rock parody of a churchgoer: she said, quote “our kids are being told this kind of product is not only okay, it’s “exclusive.” But do you know what’s more exclusive? Their God-given eternal soul.”
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Akilah Hughes: And former NBA player Nick Young wrote, quote “My kids will never play Old Town Road again. I’m still debating about wearing Nike after this.” Still debating. OK, Nick. Uh, so Giddy, a lot of twists and turns here. What is your reaction to all of this?
Gideon Resnick: I didn’t know Swaggy P was so offended by references to Satan. Good Lord. When has Nick Young been relevant besides the gif recently?
Akilah Hughes: No where.
Gideon Resnick: I, my reaction to this is Lil Nas X is really good at the Internet.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, definitely.
Gideon Resnick: This is an incredible series of twists and turns. And from like the video execution, to the shoe, to the second video that was like a play on the first video, to like his posting about it—he’s just like he’s a genius at this stuff. I love it.
Akilah Hughes: I agree. I think that he’s just like, he is of the Internet. He was born here. These are his streets. It’s insane that a lot of people who are not familiar with any of the rules, are trying to fight him. And just like that, we’ve explored the net. We’ll be back after some ads.
Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: Myanmar experienced its deadliest day of violence over the weekend since the military coup. According to the United Nations, the country’s security forces killed more than 100 people on Saturday, including a five year-old boy and several other children and teenagers. The killings, which took place in cities across the country, came a day after the military used state-run TV to threaten protesters with a, quote “shot in the head or the back” end quote, if they continue to oppose military rule. A spokesperson for a group of elected government officials called the event a, quote “day of shame” for the military. Since the coup in February, security forces have become increasingly violent in their crackdown on their own people, killing over 400 civilians, and imprisoning thousands more. The US, EU and UK all condemned the killings this weekend. And last week, the US said it would impose sanctions on two military-owned conglomerates in the country.
Akilah Hughes: Less than one week after Arkansas passed a discriminatory law to ban transgender kids from competing in sports consistent with our gender identity, Republicans in the state are at it again. A new bill expected to pass this week would prohibit health care professionals from providing transgender minors with gender-affirming health care. It would also allow insurers not to cover that care for people of any age. The bill, which would be the first of its kind and will 100% be challenged in court, is opposed by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Medical Association, among others. The sports world is also speaking out on this issue. Over the weekend, Olympic gold medalist and World Cup soccer champion Megan Rapinoe wrote an Op-Ed in The Washington Post saying these bills, which have been proposed in dozens of states, are, quote “attempting to solve a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Gideon Resnick: Super excited for a friend of mine who hit a rough patch but just made a big breakthrough. My friend is a boat named the Ever Given, and he’s now back afloat after getting stuck on the banks of the Suez Canal.
Akilah Hughes: Woohoo!
Gideon Resnick: Salvage teams freed the Ever Given around 5:30 a.m. local time in Egypt. Per Bloomberg News, it still wasn’t clear how long it would take the canal to re-open and clear the long backlog of ships that have been waiting to enter it, though news is still developing and may change by the time you hear this. The rise of the Ever Given came after a weekend with limited progress. Crews did manage to move the boat, but only by 100 hundred feet or so, which, given my expertise in this field, I would estimate to be about the length of one screw in the Ever Given’s hull.
Akilah Hughes: Georgia Republicans want to use a time honored strategy to win elections: do them with fewer Black people. Governor Kemp signed a law last Thursday to restrict voter access in the state. Framed as a solution to voter fraud—which is yet another problem that doesn’t exist—the law limits ballot drop boxes, adds more rigid voter I.D. requirements for absentee ballots, and more. President Biden singled out a rule against giving water to people standing in line to vote as one obvious example of how the law is not about voter fraud, but is just to make voting harder. The only connection between water and claims of voter fraud is that both of them are always spraying out of Rudy Giuliani. As Kemp signing the law, Democratic State Rep. Park Cannon was arrested for the crime of standing outside his door and lightly knocking. Local activists have called on companies headquartered in Georgia like Coca-Cola, Delta and Home Depot to reject the law or be subject to boycotts. It shouldn’t be controversial to say: hey, let’s not do Jim Crow.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s an easy one. Take it. Take the win.
Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I think that that one’s a real gimme. And those are the headlines.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, dry off Rudy Giuliani, and tell your friends, listen.
Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just tide charts for boating reasons like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And get ready for WAD Boy summer!
Akilah Hughes: I’ll be honorary if you won’t give me a shirt. It’s fine.
Gideon Resnick: I take it back. You have a shirt, you have multiple shirts.
Akilah Hughes: Thank you.
Gideon Resnick: You will be in charge of giving out the shirts. You’re more responsible than me. That’s that should be the rule.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you.
Gideon Resnick: You’re welcome.
Akilah Hughes: I’m a WAD Boy.
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 Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.
Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.