Headlines: June 19, 2020
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Americans on Friday celebrated Juneteenth, the day that marks when enslaved African Americans in Texas were informed of their legal right to freedom, more than 2 years after the Emancipation Proclamation. Given the renewed national interest in persistent racism over the past 3 weeks, Juneteenth has taken on an added significance this year. The New York Times reports that, “Many corporate employees have Friday off, after Twitter, Nike, Target and other major companies added Juneteenth as a paid holiday this year. Capital One said its offices and bank branches would close early on Friday. And Virginia and New York said that Juneteenth would be a paid holiday for state employees.” Additionally, “On Friday, Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota called on the state legislature to establish Juneteenth as a state holiday. And Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York said that starting next year, Juneteenth would be an official city and school holiday.” On Thursday the National Archives announced it had found the original hand-written military order dated June 19th, 1865 that read, “The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, ‘all slaves are free.’” It went on to state, “This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor.”
Meanwhile a new AP/NORC poll shows that a majority of Americans support the current mass uprising against racist police violence and feel that it will change the nation for the better. Specifically, “54% of Americans say they approve of the protests, while 32% disapprove. Another 14% say they hold neither opinion.” The poll comes as Trump issued threats to anti-police protesters ahead of his planned rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday. Initially Trump’s reelection campaign had announced its first political rally since the pandemic to take place on Juneteenth but after public outrage Trump pushed it by a day. On Friday he posted to Twitter, “Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!” Earlier, Trump posted a doctored video of CNN reporting a friendship between a black toddler and a white toddler. The video was manipulated to give the impression that CNN cast the friendship in an ominous light with a misspelled caption, “Terrified Todler Runs From Racist Baby,” when in fact CNN had reported on the friendship. Twitter, rather than taking down the tweet marked it as, “Manipulated Media.”
Ahead of Trump’s Saturday rally in Tulsa, city officials have imposed a curfew. Declaring a “civil emergency,” Mayor G.T. Bynum’s order says that police informed him, “individuals from organized groups who have been involved in destructive and violent behavior in other states are planning to travel to the City of Tulsa for purposes of causing unrest in and around the rally.” The rally has become a flashpoint over multiple intersecting issues that include Tulsa’s history of a racist mob massacring hundreds, perhaps thousands of black residents nearly 100 years ago. It also highlights the clash between Trump supporters who back the police and don’t wear protective masks, and Black Lives Matter activists critical of the police and Trump, and supportive of wearing masks and adhering to social distancing guidelines. The arena where the rally will be held has asked the Trump campaign for a detailed plan on Covid-19 related health and safety measures. A number of local businesses and others sued the arena for allowing the event and jeopardizing public safety but a county judge denied their request for an injunction. It is being appealed at the state supreme court.
Meanwhile the group Republicans Against Trump has produced an ad to air on Fox News in Oklahoma and elsewhere on Friday. The ad features several GOP voters saying Trump is a danger to the nation. And, a top State Department official who has been part of the Trump administration since the beginning has just resigned over his racist behavior over the past several weeks. Mary Elizabeth Taylor, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, who is African American, said in her resignation letter, “The President’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions.” Taylor was the first black woman to serve in her post.
In the latest on police violence and protests, hundreds of armed counter-protesters have harassed and confronted Black Lives Matter activists in the town of Bethel, Ohio. When a small group gathered in the largely white town to show their solidarity with the national movement to end racist police brutality, hundreds of people showed up armed with rifles and baseball bats to harass them. In Louisville, Kentucky where activists for months have demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, an officer involved in her shooting has just now been fired. And, a pro-police foundation has decided to gift all police officers in Atlanta, Georgia a $500 bonus after an officer named Garrett Rolfe was charged with felony murder in the killing of Rayshard Brooks.
As the coronavirus continues to spread through the US, the fears of anti-police protests contributing to a surge in infections has not played out as expected. In Minneapolis, Minnesota, which has seen near continuous mass and public protests since the May 25th police killing of George Floyd, authorities stepped up Covid-19 testing, offering it to anyone who had attended protests, regardless of symptoms. What they found was much lower-than-expected levels of infections, offering scientists data to help understand what works and what doesn’t. One scientist explained it due to widespread mask-wearing coupled with being outdoors. He said, “I think we would have seen a very different situation with fewer masks and indoor events.”
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar has withdrawn her name from the running for Joe Biden’s running mate. In a statement, the centrist Democrat said, “I truly believe, as I told [Mr. Biden] last night, that I believe that this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.” Under pressure to pick a Black woman, Biden is considering Representative Val Demmings, but facing push-back from progressives over her record as police chief of Orlando, Florida about ten years ago. A similar backlash plagues California Senator Kamala Harris, whose previous position as her state’s Attorney General drew criticism over her reluctance to address racial bias in the criminal justice system.
A new poll shows Biden leading Trump by 11 points – confirming the double-digit lead the former Vice President has had over Trump across several polls recently. The Trump-backing Republican Party is now worried that Biden’s low-key election campaign is paying off. Biden has remained under the radar, making very few in-person appearances, and limiting press conferences. In addition to the coronavirus pandemic claiming well over 100,000 American lives, and Trump’s fomenting of racial divisions amidst anti-police protests, John Bolton’s new book has added fuel to the fire. In a statement that Biden released about Bolton’s revelations he said Trump, “was willing to trade away our most cherished democratic values for the empty promise of a flimsy trade deal that bailed him out of his disastrous tariff war that did so much damage to our farmers, manufacturers, and consumers.” He added, “If these accounts are true, it’s not only morally repugnant, it’s a violation of Donald Trump’s sacred duty to the American people to protect America’s interests and defend our values.”