“Any civilization puts a penalty on taking the life of other individuals. The exceptions would be war time or self-defense. This was not self-defense. She deserves to do some time in prison. There’s no evidence to suggest Schmitz posed a threat to McDonald’s life, and if McDonald did believe she was in danger, she had every opportunity to run away… You have a duty, when you’re not in your home, to flee if possible.” — Hennepin County Attorney Michael Freeman (City Pages, May 9)
Interesting logic, that it is the responsibility of the person who is being attacked to defuse the situation. “Well, that’s just too bad you got assaulted, a glass smashed in your face, when you were just walking down the street minding your own business going to Cub Foods. But those who attacked you verbally and physically are not to blame — it was your ‘duty to flee’ if you felt danger.”
This makes little sense, so a transgender woman like CeCe McDonald who is being attacked by a large man twice her age named Dean Schmitz, has only two choices: Try to flee or take a beating, but defending herself with a weapon is not an option. Since she did not start the brawl, it is Schmitz, the person who started it, who has the “duty to flee” when he sees that it is a dangerous situation.
When he sees that McDonald has a pair of scissors but he does not flee, he escalates it by saying, “You gonna stab me, you b**ch?” Well, he quickly got that question answered — stab him she does.
To say it was McDonald’s duty to flee is to empower Schmitz’s aggression, racism and homophobia, and to put the whole situation on her shoulders. The responsibility for doing the right thing does not fall on the shoulders of the person being attacked — to think so gives the attacker certain rights.
And if Dean Schmitz kills CeCe McDonald, does he walk, based on it being McDonald’s “duty to flee” when she felt danger? And if Trayvon Martin kills George Zimmerman, is Martin charged with murder — of course he is.
If Schmitz kills McDonald, there is a good chance he would have been charged with murder. There is a good chance Michael Freeman is saying the same thing — that Schmitz had a duty to flee. With this being such a volatile case, with McDonald being a Black transgender woman and Schmitz being a n***er-yelling racist homophobe with a swastika on his chest, the system took the safe, cowardly road and charged whoever was left standing with murder.
“We try to review it as racially blind as we can. The scales of justice have got a blindfold on them for a reason,” says Freeman. Really, so CeCe McDonald will join the disproportionately Black population of our prisons thanks to the racially blind scales of justice.
Freeman uses “civilization” to attack McDonald’s actions that night, when it is Schmitz and his behavior that needs to be attacked and dealt with if we are going to call ourselves a “civilization.”
The first thing that struck me about the City Pages article is that right when CeCe McDonald and her friends started walking to Cub Foods on Lake Street, a police car shined its spotlight on them and the police asked, “What are you doing out here?” Now, that is illegal; that is police harassment. They should have answered, “We’re just heading to the store, and we’re going to count how many times we get profiled and maybe even assaulted.”
Frank Erickson lives in Minneapolis.