Headlines: June 1, 2020
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Protests raged across the United States over the weekend against racist police brutality sparked by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. While the Minnesota city was at the center of the massive unrest, across the country tens of thousands of people marched, faced a violent and militarized police response, were arrested, burned down buildings and cars, and raged against what they view as systemic racial injustice. At least 4,400 people were arrested as per an analysis by Associated Press. Numerous US cities devolved into what seemed like war zones as police reacted belligerently, attacking unarmed protesters with tear gas, rubber bullets, and flash bang grenades, arresting many en masse. The New York Times captured some of the sounds from the streets of Minneapolis and spoke to one protester. Meanwhile a man dangerously drove a massive gas tanker into crowds of 5 to 6,000 protesters on a closed off highway at high speed on Sunday evening. There were no reports of injuries and the truck driver has been arrested.
In Louisville, Kentucky where activists have for months been demanding justice for the police killing of a black woman named Breonna Taylor, police killed one person after firing into a crowd of protesters. The killing took place in the early hours of Monday morning and law enforcement has claimed that they were returning fire. One man at the scene captured this on his phone. Earlier in the week seven people were shot. Meanwhile, the FBI has finally announced an investigation into the killing of Breonna Taylor, underscoring the fact that violent clashes and protests achieved what peaceful protest was unable to. Taylor was killed by police when they entered her apartment looking for another suspect. Her killing has sparked a demand to end such type of police raids that are given “no knock” warrants to enter people’s homes.
On Sunday the nation’s capitol burned as protests and police violence there unfolded for a third day in a row. Among the actions, more than a thousand people marched to Lafayette Square across from the White House where President Donald Trump remained hunkered down. Trump had earlier made a call for his supporters, who he referred to with the acronym MAGA, to descend upon DC. Protesters clashed with Secret Service members, several of whom were injured. Trump and his immediate family were escorted to a bunker under the White House for a brief period. According to AP, “The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds,” and that, “Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.” Meanwhile DC Mayor Muriel Bowser denounced Trump as “a scared man. Afraid/alone.” On Monday during a conference call, Trump demanded that state Governors “dominate” protesters. And, according to the Washington Post, “Attorney General William P. Barr has directed the Federal Bureau of Prisons to send riot teams to Miami and Washington, D.C., as part of the federal government’s escalating response to the civil unrest across the country.”
In New York City, protests also raged as police viciously attacked protesters. Here is one instance of several protesters being set upon by gangs of police and beaten down as they attempted to escape the violence. Earlier in the weekend police drove several cruisers into crowds of protesters endangering their lives. New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio vehemently defended police and blamed protesters saying, “The folks who were converging on that police car did the wrong thing to begin with and they created an untenable situation.” He also said, “If those protestors had just gotten out of the way we wouldn’t be talking about this situation.” Many are now calling on DeBlasio to resign over the comments.
Protests also raged in Los Angeles where a curfew was declared on Saturday just as other cities had done. California Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in LA as the National Guard descended on the city. Here’s one independent reporter’s conversation with protesters of as police came down hard just as they have done in other cities.
Among the common themes of how the weekend’s protests played out was the violence of police. Vox.com in its roundup of police brutality documented how one young man’s mask was pulled down and his face pepper sprayed as he backed away with his hands up in New York City. In Seattle, police pepper sprayed a 9-year old girl in the face. In Columbus, Ohio, elected officials who were attempting to make peace were met with police pepper spray. A woman bystander in Dallas, Texas bled from the forehead after she was struck by rubber bullets. Police shoved down an elderly man walking with a cane in Salt Lake city. In Minneapolis, police assaulted a family with paint grenades for simply standing peacefully on their own home’s front porch. Another common theme was that police are attacking journalists around the country as they cover the protests. According to the Washington Post, “In several cases, reporters appear to have been swept up in indiscriminate efforts by authorities to disperse crowds. But in a number of incidents, journalists were injured, harassed or arrested even after identifying themselves as reporters — a blatant violation of constitutional protections and long-standing ground rules that guide interactions between media and law enforcement officials.”
Among the actions that Trump has taken, in addition to stoking more violence, is to declare “Antifa” a terrorist organization – a vague announcement he made on Twitter. Antifa is a shorthand for people who consider themselves anti-fascist and does not refer to an organization or group. Critics pointed out that white supremacist right wing groups like the KKK and newer fascist organizations have not received such designations. Nor does the US declare domestic groups to be terrorist – only foreign ones. Additionally, the vague notion could come to mean anyone standing up to police violence. Attorney General Barr underscored Trump’s announcement saying, “The violence instigated and carried out by antifa and other similar groups in connection with the rioting is domestic terrorism and will be treated accordingly.”
Meanwhile Democratic Senator Brian Schatz on Sunday said he plans to introduce legislation to amend the federal program authorizing the transfer of excess military equipment to police departments. US police departments have received billions of dollars of military hardware and equipment since the 1990s.
And finally, primary elections are scheduled to take place in 7 states and the District of Columbia on Tuesday. Most of the primaries are being done by mail and the last official Democratic Party candidate Joe Biden could cinch the official number of delegates to be his party’s nominee after Tuesday. Biden has struggled with visibility since the coronavirus pandemic.