In May of 2020 an event shook the country where a man was brutalized by the police and killed as a result. While the racial and political nature of this event is beyond our scope, the moment is not lost on us.
In 2019 I had to take my turn in court to face a contempt charge on an illegal support order, and despite pending appeal, the county insisted on making the full weight of the law evident for me. I was sent multiple mailings, text messages, and phone calls. All to remind me that should I fail to show, I will have a warrant issued for my arrest. The day comes and I show up to court, immediately being handed a slip that clearly bans all recording devices and anyone not party to the case from the hearing. No witnesses to record their abuse of power. I am taken to the office where I am told that I should hand over any money I have, preferably at least $500-$1000, to show that I am working towards paying more. My wallet is emptied. I am then taken to room to have my mugshot taken, despite having committed no crime, no arrest warrant, no due process.
Myself and the other “deadbeats” are taken outside the court room, where an armed bailiff awaits the judge’s entrance. We are shuttled into the wooden pews, a grand courtroom exhibiting the opulent architecture of a government with no restraint. As I sit towards the front, a young black man, maybe 25 years old is brought forward first. The child support officer reads out the charges, he is behind $2500 in child support, and was not able to pay his $250/month support order. He just spent six months in county jail and was released just a couple of months before. Unable to secure work with a criminal record, he was brought back in front of the judge for contempt for non-payment. The judge asked him why he did not pay, his answer was “I’m trying, I just can’t get a good enough job to pay enough.” Callously she looked at him, told him to empty his pockets because he “is coming here to pay, and if you have anything you need to hand it over now.” They search him but he has no money. The judge then orders him handcuffed and incarcerated for another six months. Six months of life for $2,500. Now the county has another “employee” for six months, where the meager amount paid for prison labor will go right back to the county when they garnish it for support. He will again emerge in six months to stand in front of the judge, unlikely to elicit any further sympathy.
I did not know his name, but his life too is taken by our justice system. Just more slowly. By the corrupt judges, attorneys, and the police who support this theft of our criminal justice system in the name of profit. These are the institutions that should be dismantled. This is what represses young black men more than anything else in today’s society. And while covering all of these issues the media has glossed over an important detail, that George Floyd was a father who was paying child support, having recently lost his job as a security guard due to the lockdowns. He still had no choice but to pay the support, can you blame him for passing a bad $20 when faced with fate of the gentleman above?
RIP George Floyd.