‘I allowed myself to feel guilty for a very long time’: the teenage cashier who took George Floyd’s $20 bill

A year ago, Christopher Martin took an allegedly counterfeit bill. The police were called, and shortly after, Floyd would be dead Christopher Martin: ‘I just kept replaying that decision in my head. What if I would have just told him he couldn’t buy the cigarettes?’ Photograph: Tom Silverstone/The Guardian Christopher Martin lived above a bricked grocery store in south Minneapolis, with a maroon awning and bold red signage that reads Cup Foods. So when a cashier’s position came up last year, he took it without thinking. He quickly learned the regulars’ orders by heart, their specific tobacco preferences, their favored snacks. The job was more than just a paycheck. “A family, community base,” he remembered. “A lot of jokes and laughs.” But on 25 May last year, he served a customer he had never met before, igniting a chain of events that rippled around the world and irreversibly changed Martin’s life. It was George Floyd, who had come to Cup Foods that day to buy a packet of cigarettes. He handed Martin an allegedly counterfeit $20 bill. Martin accepted, and then informed his managers. A co-worker called the police. And shortly after, George Floyd would be dead, held for nine minutes and 29 seconds under a white police officer’s knee as Martin watched from the sidewalk in disbelief. Within hours Minneapolis would be awash with protest and the world would grapple with yet another reckoning on racism and policing. And for months Martin would be plagued with guilt. In the year since George Floyd was murdered by former police officer Derek Chauvin, Martin, 19 years old, has been on his own journey. Within a week he and his family moved from their apartment. He quit his job. He battled with grief and trauma. And eventually he testified as an eyewitness in Chauvin’s murder trial – one of the most closely watched and significant cases in modern American history. … On a warm spring day, shortly after testifying, he sat in a park near his new home, one of a number of interviews Martin has given to the Observer over the past months. “I allowed myself to feel guilty for a very long time before the trial happened,” he said softly, with an eloquence that belies his teenage years. “I just kept replaying that decision in my head. What if I would have just told him he couldn’t buy the cigarettes?” Martin testified on the third day of the trial. He was one of seven bystanders to take the stand, a choice he made “to tell the whole world what really happened that day”. Dressed in a black and grey windbreaker, he told the jury calmly how he had considered putting the counterfeit $20 on his own tab, but had been told by store managers instead to confront Floyd before the police had been called. The court saw CCTV footage of Martin pacing the sidewalk, his hands on top of his head, as Floyd was pressed to the ground by officers. “Disbelief and guilt,” he said as prosecutors asked him to describe how he felt in those moments captured on CCTV. Despite his composure, Martin recalled his anxiety as he began to testify. It was his first time in a courtroom and he was aware that his words were being watched all around the world. He felt himself sweat. At times he zoned out. He was thankful that Chauvin was not in his eyeline. After he was dismissed, he left the courtroom and broke down in tears. In all of the months leading up to the trial he had never cried for George Floyd, but delivering his testimony was overwhelming. “It was like a wave of sadness and grief out of nowhere,” he remembered. “It was a good cry. It was kind of like a release of everything.” Black Lives Matter banners hang on the fencing outside the courthouse in Minneapolis where Derek Chauvin stood trial. Photograph: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images The Floyd murder had entered his mind periodically before the trial – sometimes he would fixate on it, at other times he would try to let it pass, but after testifying he set aside his pride and began to lean more on church mentors and family for support and counselling. “It was a Matrix sort of feeling,” he said, describing how it felt to witness a man he had only met for a moment die in front of him. “Like an out-of-body experience. It’s unreal. Unexplainable. You know there’s nothing you can do. There’s a lot of things in life that you have no control of. But it’s even worse when it’s right in front of you. And, you know, you just wish you could take back the decisions you made.” *** Martin was raised by a single mother, the youngest of five siblings. He struggled with his studies and was expelled a number of times, before transferring to a Christian boarding school 70 miles from Minneapolis. He learned the trombone and loved maths class. And last year he graduated high school in a state which has the lowest graduation rate, just 65%, for Black students anywhere in the United States. He harbors a long-term desire to leave Minnesota and become a realtor in California. For now, he has taken up a new job as a store clerk in a local Adidas retailer and spends some of his spare time obsessing about the Premier League, following Manchester City. Almost as soon as the murder had taken place last year, his family left home. Martin no longer felt safe and worried about reprisals from the police themselves. His opinion of the Minneapolis police department had already been coloured by an episode he’d had six years earlier. He had been on his way to football practice, dressed in sports gear, when an officer began asking questions about what was inside his bag, and tried to seize it. His older brother attempted to intervene and was slammed against a wall. “It was just so uncalled for.” Martin had initially refused to be questioned by investigators examining Floyd’s death, a decision guided by his distrust of police. He said he was subpoenaed in order to give his account. His mother and sister had moved into a hotel and he was living with his youth pastor. The stress of it all took a toll. “I felt like I was always on go mode,” he said of those months in the immediate aftermath. “I never got a chance to take a break and just lie down and get some rest.” *** Hours after the guilty verdicts against Chauvin were delivered, Martin returned to Cup Foods and stood at the site where Floyd took his last breath. “Miss you brother,” he posted on Instagram below a picture of himself looking up at a giant mural of Floyd painted next to the store. The verdicts led to a collective exhale of tension around the world and a feeling that some form of accountability had been reached. For Martin, it was a moment of personal catharsis. He felt the weight of the guilt beginning to dissipate. “I can realize the only person responsible is Derek Chauvin,” he said, acknowledging his own testimony had helped secure the conviction. “It’s a day by day thing, a long process. Hearing he was guilty took a lot of [my] guilt factor away.” And then there is the prospect of having to testify again. Three other officers involved in Floyd’s arrest have been charged over the incident by local prosecutors, and earlier this month the federal government announced a separate suite of civil rights charges against all four officers involved. “I guess it kind of sucks it’ll be dragged up again in a year,” he said as he shrugged his shoulders and sighed. The cycle of trials in the Floyd case underlies a broader cycle of police violence. Martin watched in horror as the police killing of Daunte Wright in a Minneapolis suburb unfolded during the Chauvin trial, a couple of weeks after his own testimony. “I grew up without a father,” he said reflecting on the police killings of two Black men in his city within a single year. “So the fact that someone else is going to have to grow up without their father always hits home for me, and I just pray a blessing over their family. I hope that they will be able to make it through this.”


Trucks of fresh water used to feed Taiwan's semiconductors as crops left to die in punishing drought

The world’s largest microchip maker is buying tanker trucks full of water to keep its plant going as farmers struggle to make ends meet during the worst drought in the history of Taiwan. The Taiwanese government this week said it would tighten water rationing from June 1 in the semiconductor making hubs of Hsinchu and Taichung if there is no significant rainfall by then. This would require companies to cut water consumption by 17 per cent. Chip manufacturing requires a significant amount of water, and the shortfall in Taiwan, the rainswept island that hasn't seen a typhoon in the last last year, has sounded alarm bells across the world. The global economy is suffering from a major shortage of semiconductors that are key to almost all consumer appliances and vehicles. A cut in supply from factories shut by Covid first hit the market last year, but a surge in spending on electrical items during lockdown has savaged the industry. The automotive sector is by far the hardest hit, with Ford, Volkswagen and Jaguar Land Rover shutting down factories and laying off workers. Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co Ltd (TSMC), the world’s largest chipmaker, told the Telegraph it had a contingency plan for the punishing drought compounding global supply issues further. “We have initiated some measures including cutting back water usage and ordering water by tanker trucks for some of our facilities. So far there’s no impact on production and we are closely monitoring the water supply situation,” said a spokesperson.


The GOP Welcomes the McCloskeys’ Sick, Sad American Dream

BILL GREENBLATT/UPI/ShutterstockAmerica is an amazing, generous and inspiring country where even if you have nothing but white skin, rage, fake victimhood, and criminal charges, you too can have a chance to rise up and try to become a Republican senator! That’s Mark McCloskey’s American dream. He’s betting that his illegal use of a firearm to menace peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters can capture the hearts of Republican voters and win him a Senate seat in Missouri.You’ll remember Mark and his wife Patricia as the personal injury attorneys who brandished guns from the safety of their mansion’s manicured front lawn in a privileged, gated St. Louis suburb. Viral photos of McCloskey—wearing a pink polo shirt tucked into his khakis, barefoot and pointing his assault rifle at unarmed Black people—spread around the world.Sane people were horrified. Republicans were inspired by a new hero who posed as an alpha male, a tough guy like Gary Cooper, John Wayne, or John McClane, fictional models of the sort of violent, pretend masculinity that has allegedly have been canceled by “the wokes.” In MAGA world’s upside-down account, the McCloskeys were the real victims, protecting themselves from terrifying BLM rioters who’d had the audacity to walk in front of their house. That’s the story the McCloskeys told at the 2020 Republican National Convention, where they were given primetime real estate to warn the base of “Marxist liberal activities” and “criminals” who want to “abolish the suburbs.” They fueled white anxiety by staring directly at the camera and warning voters that “no matter where you live, your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats’ America.” Well, Trump lost, Biden was elected, and now those very same families have vaccines and stimulus checks during a devastating pandemic—but, I digress.Gun-Toting St. Louis Lawyer Denies He’s Racist: ‘My Black Clients Love Us!’As I wrote last year, their speech would have fit perfectly in Birth of a Nation, the 1915 blockbuster based on white supremacist novels that revitalized the KKK and portrayed Black people’s emancipation as a zero-sum outcome that would inevitably oppress white men and terrorize white women. Judging from McCloskey’s rhetoric and history, he’ll be an effective cultural warrior for the modern GOP and help them achieve their goal of re-birthing this nation as a country ruled by a white Christian conservative minority.Of course, McCloskey announced his campaign in an appearance with Tucker Carlson. “God came knocking on my door disguised as an angry mob. It really did wake me up,” McCloskey told his fellow elitist and gated community enthusiast. If you take his absurd metaphor to its logical conclusion, then he admitted on live television that he threatened God with a loaded weapon until God left his property. That’s neither neighborly nor Christian, but at least McCloskey stood his ground and flexed his Second Amendment rights—against the Almighty, no less! McCloskey continued to check boxes on Republican bingo by promising he’d fight all their supervillains and strawmen: critical race theory, cancel culture, Big Tech, Marxists, and so forth.The GOP’s New Heroes Are All Killers, Kooks, and CreepsLike Donald Trump, the GOP’s chosen one and golden calf, McCloskey has a long, litigious and "hostilely"—his term—history of protecting his private property. In 2020, the St. Louis Dispatch catalogued the McCloskeys’ rich history of “fighting back.” McCloskey once admitted to pointing a gun at a neighbor just to “defend" a patch of his green lawn from being mowed. He once ran off trustees who were trying to make repairs to the wall surrounding their property. He once left a note admitting to destroying bee hives planted by the neighboring Jewish Central Reform Congregation just outside his mansion’s northern wall and threatened that he’d seek a restraining order and attorney fees if they didn’t clean up the mess. The community had planned to use the honey for Rosh Hashanah events.Like conservative Supreme Court justices, McCloskey is also apparently an originalist. His neighbors accused him and his wife of trying to enforce the old written rules in the neighborhood trust agreement as a way to block gay people from living on their block. In 1992, the trustees voted to impeach his wife, Patricia McCloskey, accusing her of being anti-gay. (They have emphatically denied those accusations.)The more you think about it, Mark McCloskey is the perfect model for the modern Republican elected official. He has absolutely zero experience in politics, like Sen. Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, a former football coach who didn’t know the three branches of the U.S. government. He seems more interested in fighting delusional cultural wars than actually legislating, which means he can take lessons from Rep. Madison Cawthorn, who didn’t so much confess as brag that “I have built my staff around comms rather than legislation" and unsurprisingly leads congressional freshmen for missing the most votes. He has "economic anxiety" which means he’ll always have a seat at the overcrowded table, flanked by Paul Gosar, a white supremacist, and every other Republican who promotes conspiracy theories about the Deep State and “replacement theory.”Meghan McCain Defends Gun Couple: ‘Defund the Police’ Narrative ‘Breeds Hysteria’Perhaps McCloskey’s most appealing trait for Republican voters is his commitment to aggression and using guns and lawsuits to get what he wants and protect what’s his. That’s catnip to a GOP base that loves the “old ultra-violence.” Only 35 Republican members of the House voted with Democrats to pursue a bipartisan commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead. A majority of Republican voters believe the “Big Lie” that rallied the mob and that will undoubtedly inspire future violence and attempts to cancel free and fair elections. Republicans have elevated and adulated murderer Kyle Rittenhouse, who also illegally carried guns and used them against BLM protesters during last summer’s protests.I bet Mark McCloskey stays awake at night in his spacious estate in St Louis, tossing and turning while plagued with painful regret: Had I fired my semi-automatic weapon at the peaceful crowd of BLM protesters, I’d be a sure thing in this race, if not running for president. Trump joked about shooting someone on Fifth Avenue but I waved a gun at Black people in a video seen around the world.But McCloskey didn’t fire, and that means he has to compete against two Republican rivals, state Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Eric Greitens, the disgraced former governor who blackmailed and coerced a woman into having sex with him.As you can tell, Republican voters in Missouri have a very difficult choice ahead of them when deciding which of these men best represents their values and interests. They can find comfort in knowing that at least two out of three candidates will stay on brand if they want to continue being the party of violent criminals.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.