On the morning of July 2nd, FBI officers approached an isolated property in New Hampshire to arrest Ghislaine Maxwell, the former long-term girlfriend of convicted sexual felon Jeffrey Epstein. The details of Maxwell’s arrest came to light this week as prosecutors described her failed attempts to evade apprehension.
According to the prosecutors, Maxwell is “skilled at living in hiding” and made multiple attempts to avoid detention. The 56-year-old was charged with six counts, including transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, perjury, and facilitation of sexual abuse of minors by Jeffrey Epstein. But she clearly hadn’t planned to come quietly. To protect herself and support her efforts to evade the FBI, she had reportedly hired armed former British military personnel and is accused of buying the New Hampshire home where she was found under an alias in 2019; bizarrely, it even emerged today that she is secretly married. Despite announcing themselves when they arrived, FBI agents said that they had to break through a locked gate and described Maxwell fleeing to another room before “quickly shutting the door”. She was eventually arrested, unscathed, and taken into custody, before being denied bail for being "at extreme risk of flight".
In stark contrast, a few weeks earlier, police approached a 46-year old male in Minnesota for his alleged use of a counterfeit $20 bill. Yes, his name was George Floyd. Like Maxwell, the officers who approached him claimed that Floyd resisted arrest. Unlike Maxwell, Floyd was then subject to such violence that he died from suffocation when a police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
Ghislaine Maxwell will now be able to proclaim her innocence in court, something which many black Americans have been denied the ability to do — some because they are treated unfairly once they enter the justice system; others, like Floyd, because they don’t get as far as entering the system alive.
The harrowing stories of black Americans, especially those told by people who were supposedly evading arrest for spurious crimes, are becoming worryingly repetitive. And this extends to black American children. In September last year, Kaia Rolle, a six-year-old child, was aggressively handcuffed and taken into custody in tears when she did not understand police requests. In New Mexico, a police officer was filmed on bodycam shoving an 11-year-old black American girl against a wall. Incidences like these lead me to wonder whether the outcome might have been very different for Maxwell if she was not white.
US President Trump was this week asked why black Americans are “still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country.” Brushing the question away, Trump responded, “And so are white people. So are white people. What a terrible question to ask.” The President then doubled down, adding, “So are white people. More white people, by the way.” Although factually accurate, this claim fails to take into account the very simple fact that there are more white people than black people in the United States. Black Americans, by proportion, are 2.3 times more likely to die at the hands of police than their white counterparts, and are 6 times more likely to be incarcerated.
Even in the cases of mass shootings, and despite carrying assault rifles minutes after going on mass killing sprees, white attackers have frequently been arrested alive and unharmed. Patrick Wood Crusius from the El Paso shooting, Robert Bowers from the Pittsburgh Synagogue shooting, Dylann Roof from the Charleston church shooting: These are all white men, who were all successfully arrested, and are all still breathing. Tamir Rice, on the other hand, a 12-year-old unarmed black boy, was shot dead by police. His crime? Playing in the park.
When white privilege is this stark, it is no surprise that people of color — especially black Americans — feel a sense of fear when approached by police, as opposed to protection. The recurrent disparity in policing approaches towards people of color over their white counterparts has been brought to light once again by Ghislaine Maxwell’s arrest.
If anything, Maxwell’s successful arrest should serve as an example to law enforcement across the nation that a non-lethal approach can work, even if the accused tries to resist arrest. We can only hope that that lessons goes on to benefit black people, rather than simply more white people like her.