Headlines: June 8, 2020
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Democratic members of Congress on Monday unveiled sweeping new legislation to reform police practices at the federal level, responding to mass, sustained protests around the nation against racist police brutality. Announcing the ‘Justice in Policing Act of 2020,’ House Speaker Nancy Pelosi explained what it would do. Senate Minority leader Chuck Schumer has pledged to introduce a Senate version of the bill, sponsored by Sens. Cory Booker and Kamala D. Harris. It remains to be seen if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will allow any discussion on the bill let alone a vote.
Protests continued in cities across the US and even the world over the weekend attracting huge numbers of people on the streets demanding a change in American policing. Los Angeles witnessed its largest march since the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, with an estimated 20,000 people on the streets of Hollywood on Sunday. Although police presence was minimal at that protest, the Los Angeles Police Department, which has killed more people than any other department nationwide, has come under fire for violently responding to earlier protests. After Black Lives Matter Los Angeles, together with the ACLU sued LAPD over the issue, the city announced it would not criminally prosecute any protesters arrested. In Seattle, Washington, an armed man drove into a crowd of protesters, shot one person, and walked among people gathered brandishing his gun. He was arrested by Seattle police shortly after. Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant has demanded that Mayor Jenny Durkan resign over her city’s police response to the protests. And in Minneapolis, where George Floyd’s killing sparked this latest chapter of protests, a veto-proof majority of city council members pledged to disband the Minneapolis Police Department. Mayor Jacob Frey has expressed his opposition to the measure and was booed by protesters while attending a rally against police brutality.
In Washington DC, where the liberal mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the words “Black Lives Matter” to be painted across two blocks in front of the White House, protesters are also disappointed. The DC Chapter of Black Lives Matter denounced the gesture called it a, “performative distraction” from the mayor’s “inaction” and efforts to counter BLMDC’s “demands to decrease the police budget and invest in community.” On Saturday activists added their own message to the street art: Black Lives Matter = Defund the Police. Meanwhile President Donald Trump has announced that he will be withdrawing National Guard troops from the nation’s capital. Reuters reports that Trump considered deploying 10,000 active duty military to DC. Meanwhile Attorney General William Barr continued to defend his decision to violently clear Lafayette Square a week ago for Trump’s church-front photo-op. Despite all evidence showing the protesters were peaceful Barr insisted they were not and accused the media of lying. Washington DC has been the site of the some of the most powerful protests and now activists are using a tall black fence that Trump erected around the White House as the walls of an impromptu political art exhibit. Activists are hanging their signs up on the fence in what one journalist called “a crowd-sourced memorial wall.”
The New York Times editor James Bennett has resigned after his paper’s staff and readers denounced his decision to run a provocative op-ed by Republican Senator Tom Cotton that effectively called on the government to wage war on its people. Several high profile commentators denounced the op-ed as “fascist.” Meanwhile a new poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC has found that a huge majority of Americans – 80% – feel the country is “out of control,” and nearly 60% are more concerned about the violence of police than of protesters.
And the Washington Post, which began tracking police killings since 2015, showed that in spite of huge focus on police reforms, and spending on training programs to reduce force, police have killed a remarkably consistent number of people each year – on average about 1,000 per year.
Among the protesters in Washington DC on Sunday was GOP Senator Mitt Romney, the first Republican from the government body to openly express support for the protests. Speaking to one reporter this is what Romney said while marching. Mitt Romney also made news over the weekend for joining fellow high-profile Republicans George W. Bush and Colin Powell in announcing he would not vote for Trump in November. Meanwhile a new CNN poll shows Trump rival Joe Biden with a 14-point lead – a result that Trump tried to downplay as “fake.” Biden for his part has not made it easy for voters to distinguish between him and Trump, and has announced that his campaign will not be supporting the increasingly popular demand to defund police departments. In other election news, those states that expanded voting-by-mail in the recent primary elections saw a large surge in turnout – a trend that Trump has openly railed against.
In news of the coronavirus pandemic, the latest death toll in the US has surpassed 110,000. The Wall Street Journal on Monday reported that rural America has been hard hit by Covid-19 particularly with large families that live together. A new study has estimated that the early and strict lockdowns of states this Spring likely prevented 60 million cases of infections worldwide. And, in economic news, the New York Times analyzed the financial filings of big hospitals that got bailout funds from the government and found that the CEOs of the institutions rewarded themselves with millions of dollars in compensation while laying off workers.
Wichita State University Tech canceled a commencement speech by Trump’s daughter Ivanka after students and faculty complained. Ms. Trump had recorded the speech and released it to the public in defiance claiming that she had been a victim of “cancel culture.” The hashtag #ByeIvanka began trending on Twitter.
Black Lives Matter protests are continuing to spread globally and one of the most prominent events took place in Bristol, southwest England when activists tore down the 150-year old statue of a slave trader. They later pushed it into the Bristol harbor. Thousands of people marched in front of their US Embassies in London and Spain over the weekend. Commondreams.org reports that ‘[p]rotests over Floyd’s killing have also taken place at U.S embassies in France, Mexico, Jamaica, and Ireland in recent days.”