Headlines: June 9, 2020
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George Floyd’s funeral on Tuesday was at the center of attention just over two weeks after he was killed at the hands of Minneapolis police. Floyd will be lain to rest next to his mother, who he called out for as one of his last words while being pinned down on the neck by officer Derek Chauvin for nearly 9 minutes. Leading up to the funeral memorial services were held in Minneapolis, Raeford, North Carolina, and Houston, Texas, which Floyd’s family has ties with. In Houston on Monday, one of Floyd’s brothers addressed a crowd remarking on George’s death. Officer Chauvin appeared in court this week and faces a $1.25 million bail. He remains in a maximum-security prison in Oak Park, Minneapolis.
A new poll by the Washington Post and Schar School finds that there has been a sea change in American attitudes about policing: “More than 2 in 3 Americans (69 percent) say the killing of Floyd represents a broader problem within law enforcement, compared with fewer than 1 in 3 (29 percent) who say the Minneapolis killing is an isolated incident.” Six years ago when the protests in Ferguson, Missouri sparked a similar but smaller national uprising, the number of Americans who saw problems with policing was only 43%. The poll also found that 61% of Americans disapprove of President Donald Trump’s handling of the protests.
Wanda Cooper-Jones, the mother of a black man killed in Georgia by a retired cop and two accomplices published a video op-ed in the New York Times on Tuesday entitled, “How Was My Son Ahmaud Arbery’s Murder Not a Hate Crime?”
As protests continue across the US against racist policing, several incidents of vigilantes, possibly inspired by President Trump or Fox News, have shown up to protests armed, or using their vehicles as weapons. A man affiliated with the KKK admitted to deliberating driving his truck into a crowd of protesters in Richmond, Virginia. The driver of a minivan struck several protesters in Indianapolis, and in Seattle, a gun-toting man drove into a protest, shot one man, and walked into a crowd wielding his gun. The Guardian newspaper has compiled a lengthy list of incidents where “Protesters [were] confronted by armed men – including members of the so-called ‘boogaloo movement’ – in different parts of America.” Last week Fox News host Tucker Carlson and his invited guest called for “vigilante justice” against protesters. On Monday night, Carlson’s commentary was so rife with lies, racist tropes, pro-police propaganda, and violent rhetoric that critics slammed it as “his most racist yet.” Carlson said that this moment, “is not about black lives,” and warned that “they’ll come for you,” which many took as meaning black people were coming for Fox’s white viewers.
A black teenager in Milwaukee, Wisconsin is asking for hate crimes charges to be filed against a white lawyer who spat in his face. The Washington Post explained, “The woman, 64-year-old probate lawyer Stephanie Rapkin, interrupted the protest on Saturday when she parked her car in the middle of the street, apparently to go to a store, blocking the marchers’ path.” When 17-year old Eric Lucas approached her, she spat in his face. Speaking later at a news conference Lucas said, “I am viewed not as a child but as a color.” Rapkin’s legal career is now is jeopardy and she has been charged with battery and disorderly conduct and arrested.
As nationwide protests against police brutality have been marked by an extreme show of police brutality, some officers are finding that their previous immunity to legal consequences may not hold in this moment. An officer in Brooklyn, New York was arrested and charged for shoving a 20-year old woman to the ground. The arrests came soon after officers in Buffalo, New York were charged and arrested with assaulting an elderly man. President Trump has dropped all pretense of whose side he takes with a widely denounced tweet claiming that the man, 75-year old Martin Gugino, “could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” who “fell harder than was pushed,” and could have “set up” police.
Police officers in Minneapolis have admitted to slashing the tires of dozens of vehicles saying that it was, “not a typical tactic.” The police bizarrely justified their behavior as a deterrent for vigilantes wanting to drive into protests. Several of the damaged cars were being driven by reporters covering the protests. Meanwhile Minneapolis’ liberal Democratic mayor Jacob Frey, who was booed over the weekend for refusing to consider a defunding of police, has dug his heels in. In an interview Frey said he was open to, “massive cultural shift,” and “major structural reforms,” but not on disbanding the police. A veto-proof majority on Minneapolis’s city council has pledged to vote on disbanding the police department as some other cities like Camden, New Jersey have done with some measure of success.
Presidential Candidate Joe Biden and several of his fellow Democrats are also taking a stand against defunding of police, refusing to distinguish themselves from Trump on the issue. On Monday, after Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and others introduced the “Justice in Policing Act of 2020,” wearing African kente cloth distributed by the Congressional Black Caucus, social media users widely ridiculed them. Kenyan writer Nanjana Nyabola tweeted, “Stop using Africans and African cultures as props to deflect criticism. We are not your props.”
A new poll shows that President Trump’s popularity has sharply waned over the past several weeks with a nearly 13-point drop. In spite of the on-going risk of coronavirus, the Trump reelection campaign plans on resuming its political rallies in 2 weeks. Meanwhile Covid-19 infections are spiking. One analysis concluded that since the beginning of this month, “14 states and Puerto Rico, “recorded their highest-ever seven-day average of new coronavirus cases since the pandemic began.” We may not be seeing the most accurate documentation of the virus’ spread as a new report finds that at least 28 states are not following the CDC’s guidelines for counting Covid-19 infections. Meanwhile a World Health Organization official has retracted a controversial and widely reported statement she made this week. The official, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove stated in response to a question, that asymptomatic spread of the disease was very rare. Her answer made headlines all over the world. Scientists at the Harvard Global Health Institute countered her claim saying, “All of the best evidence suggests that people without symptoms can and do readily spread” the virus.
The National Bureau of Economic Research has official declared that the United States is in a recession. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, the highly respected institution said that the economic expansion that began during President Barack Obama’s Presidency, peaked in February of this year – just before the Covid-19 pandemic was declared.
And finally, in Hong Kong, thousands of people marched on Tuesday in spite of a ban on public demonstrations. The march marked the first anniversary of the beginning of a year-long sustained period of militant protest against the Chinese government’s power over Hong Kong. Many prominent activists face expanded charges as China seeks to stamp out the Hong Kong uprising. Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam who has been denounced as a stooge of China, claimed that residents needed, “to prove that Hong Kong people are reasonable and sensible citizens of the People’s Republic of China” if they want their freedoms and autonomy to continue.