Headlines: July 27, 2020
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Violence and chaos broke out in Portland, Oregon over the weekend with federal officers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) firing munitions into crowds of thousands of activists. The Guardian newspaper described it saying, “The federal agents fired waves of teargas and ‘non-lethal projectiles’ to drive back thousands besieging the courthouse to demand Donald Trump withdraw the paramilitaries, ostensibly sent to curb two months of Black Lives Matters protests.” Portland city police joined the federal agents to make arrests as protesters broke through a steel fence that had been erected around the courthouse. The LA Times reported that, “early Monday, federal agents in camouflage waded blocks beyond the federal courthouse that the Trump administration had said they were there to protect — against the wishes of local and state officials — and pushed back demonstrators.” Here is one dramatic scene from Saturday night. Reporter Ed Pilkington recently revealed that a top internal affairs investigator inside the Customs and Border Protection named James Tomsheck found that the agency that President Donald Trump has drawn from to deploy officers to Portland, was involved in “inappropriate use of lethal force resulting in needless death,” from the years 2006 to 2014.”
Similar scenes of violence played out north of Oregon, in Seattle, Washington, over the weekend when protests were held in solidarity with Portland activists. Police arrested 47 people in response to what they say were violent actions that included throwing projectiles. But the scenes of Seattle police beating and tear gassing people at close range contradicted claims that only protesters were violent. The officers declared the situation in Seattle to be a “riot.” The New York Times described it as, “Carrying signs such as ‘Feds Go Home’ and shouting chants of ‘No justice, no peace,’ some among the crowd of about 5,000 protesters stopped at a youth detention center and lit several construction trailers there on fire.”
In Austin, Texas, one man was killed after he approached an armed motorist who was attempting to drive through a crowd. The victim has been identified as Garrett Foster, a white man who showed up to the protests armed with an AK-47 rifle that he had slung around him and that he reportedly had a license to carry. Foster was attending the Black Lives Matter protest with his long-time girlfriend, a black woman and quadruple amputee. One attendee captured the armed exchange on video. The suspect who shot Foster is now in custody. Meanwhile in Aurora, Colorado, a car drove through a crowd of protesters, in what has now become a familiar tactic of those seeking to disrupt the Black Lives Matter actions. One protester was shot but is in stable condition.
In other news, Senate Republicans continue to struggle with the outlines of the next Covid-relief bill and as of Monday morning some Senators announced they want to decrease jobless benefits for Americans from $600 a week down to a mere $200 a week. House Democrats have proposed maintaining the $600 a week in benefits until January of 2021. The GOP’s idea of reduced benefits is apparently a transitionary method to tide workers over until states can implement a plan to replace 70% of their salaries. But such a plan could take months to implement according to internal memos that NPR obtained. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who is one of the wealthiest people in the Trump administration, complained about workers being overpaid during the Covid crisis. He said on Fox News, “It wouldn’t be fair to use taxpayer dollars to pay more people to sit home than they would get working and get a job.” Mnuchin has been known to shelter his wealth in offshore tax havens that deprive taxpayers of revenues. And, White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said in an interview that the new bill will also include a $1,200 stimulus check. Kudlow also casually mentioned that the White House would extend an eviction moratorium that is set to expire soon.
As the US’s Covid-related deaths near 150,000, Trump’s National Security Advisor Robert O’Brienjust tested positive for the disease. O’Brien is in constant contact with the President and last appeared in public alongside him on July 10th. A new Labor Department report found that about 4,000 federal workers have tested positive so far and 60 have died from the virus. Florida has now surpassed New York’s cases of infection to become the state with the second highest number of infections, after California. However when comparing per capita infections, California—the most populous state in the nation—is still relatively low on the list—far lower than Florida, and even lower than Texas which has the second highest population in the nation. A Baptist church in Alabama made headlines when 40 people were found to have been infected after attending a multi-day event.
A white couple wearing Nazi swastikas on their masks at a Walmart in Minnesota have gone viral in a video capturing their actions. A German American woman named Rafaela Mueller who spotted them, filmed the pair, saying she was appalled at the fascist symbols. She explains that she confronted them because, “This is what my great-grandmother fought against…If I don’t say something, what did she risk her life for?” Meanwhile a new poll shows that nearly 80% of Americans now support a national mandate requiring face masks. In other Covid news, the biotech firm Moderna that is on the frontlines of developing a vaccine, has just started the largest study to determine the safety and efficacy of their product, enlisting 30,000 volunteers. The company was just given another $472 million of tax payers money from the US government toward its efforts.
Congressman John Lewis’s body will lie in state at the US capitol rotunda on Monday ahead of his funeral. The civil rights icon became the first African American to be honored in such a manner. Former Vice President Joe Biden will be among those paying their respects to Lewis. A new poll has found that Biden—the Presumptive Democratic Presidential nominee—continues to enjoy a lead on Trump in swing states like North Carolina. But voters’ anxiety over Trump is apparently what is fueling Biden’s candidacy, rather than enthusiasm about the nominee himself. An AP Poll shows that 31% of Biden’s supporters are “excited” about the election, while 42% of Trump’s supporters felt the same way. One of Trump’s high profile supporters, Senator Tom Cotton, has symbolized how Trump’s presidency is based on white supremacy. Cotton, who once described slavery as a “necessary evil,” is opposing the New York Times’ 1619 project from being taught in schools. He has sponsored a bill seeking to ban the project that is focused on the racist origins of the US.
Hurricane Hanna has dumped well over a foot of rain in parts of South Texas and northern Mexico. Although weakened, the storm threatens to drop more water onto those same areas in the next day or two. Tens of thousands of people were still without power on Monday morning. A hurricane in the Pacific ocean called Douglas headed toward Hawaii but veered away at the last minute.