Headlines: May 29, 2020
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Protests continue to rage in Minneapolis for a third day in a row over the police killing of a black man named George Floyd. On Thursday night, the Minneapolis police department’s third precinct building was once more surrounded by protesters as it is close to where Floyd was killed. Police fired tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowds but eventually protesters broke through and set the entire building on fire along with two other nearby buildings. One reporter who says he was closest to the fire described the scene as the entire building collapsed before his eyes. Police arrested CNN reporter Omar Jimenez and his crew while they were covering the protests. Here is Mr. Jimenez, a black reporter, being arrested by white officers in the middle of his live report on the protests over George Floyd’s killing. Soon after his arrest all members of his TV crew were also arrested as the camera lay on the ground transmitting the view of them being escorted away in handcuffs on live television. The CNN crew was released shortly after, and Minnesota Governor Tim Walz apologized for the arrests saying there was “no reason” for it.
President Donald Trump wasted no time in referring to protesters as “THUGS” on his Twitter feed and then issuing what sounded like a threat of military force. He said, “Just spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him that the Military is with him all the way. Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The tweet was so threatening that Twitter, which has for years allowed Trump to violate their community standards, issued a warning saying, “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about glorifying violence. However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey slammed the President over his tweet saying in an interview, “Weakness is pointing your finger at somebody else, during a time of crisis. Donald Trump knows nothing about the strength of Minneapolis.” House Democrat Rashida Tlaib also responded saying, “When someone tells you who they are, believe them. The Impeached President is a violent white supremacist.”
Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer who knelt on George Floyd’s neck was arrested on Friday morning after days of advocates demanding that he be charged. It has now emerged that Chauvin had 18 previous complaints filed against him according to MPD’s Internal Affairs Department. Of the other 3 officers involved one had six complaints filed against him. Now, a new video has emerged of Floyd’s last moments from the other side of where the original video was taken, showing that 3 of the 4 officers were pushing down on Floyd’s prone body, forcing him down on the ground as he moaned in pain and begged for his life. Although the Justice Department says it is investigating Floyd’s killing, the House Judiciary Committee has asked it to investigate systemic police misconduct all over the nation. Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler wrote, “Public trust in the blind administration of justice is being seriously tested by recent high-profile killings of African-Americans.”
In addition to the angry demonstrations against racist police brutality in Minneapolis, mass protests in Louisville, Kentucky raged against the recent killing of Breonna Taylor. Taylor, an EMT nurse, was shot and killed by Louisville police officers who entered her home saying they were acting on a drug warrant over another suspect. Activists have been demanding answers for her killing for months and on Thursday hundreds marched, linking her killing to that of Floyd in Minneapolis. Seven people were shot although there were no fatalities. Protests also took place in Los Angeles for a second night, as well as in Denver, Colorado, and Columbus, Ohio. Another videotaped incident in Midland, Texas, of police interacting with a black family shows a 90-year old grandmother attempting to intervene as police officers chased her grandson for what they say was driving through a stop sign. The elderly woman who uses a cane fell onto the ground while surrounded by officers as her family members screamed in fear for her. Activist and writer Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor wrote an op-ed in the New York Times on Friday saying, “Of course there are protests. The state is failing black people.” She explained, “what is … unmistakable in the bitter protests in Minneapolis and around the country is the sense that the state is either complicit or incapable of effecting substantive change.”
In other news President Trump signed an executive order on Thursday aimed at social media companies. The order claims to undo Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act – a congressional law that Trump has no authority to single handedly overturn. That section allows companies Facebook and Twitter to not be held liable for the content that users publish on their platforms. Ironically, it is precisely what allows Trump to continue to perpetuate conspiracy theories and outright lies without being censored. Overturning Section 230 would give Twitter the power to censor Trump in the name of protecting themselves from liability.
In other news, Congress is considering a “return to work” bonus for those workers furloughed because of the coronavirus lockdown but whose employers are now reopening workplaces. Republican Senator Rob Portman wants to offer workers a bonus of $450 a week if they resume work. Meanwhile the House passed a bill on Thursday that would make it easier for small businesses to access taxpayer backed loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Although the bill passed with broad bipartisan support, it is likely to languish at the Senate where Republican Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell has clearly indicated he is not interested in passing more financial aid bills. In other financial news the US Commerce Department announced on Friday that consumer spending fell by more than 13% in the month of April. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The April drop in spending was the steepest for records tracing back to 1959.”
The Veterans Administration has sharply dropped its use of hydroxychloroquine, the controversial malaria drug that Trump has touted and claimed to have taken. A VA spokesperson testifying before a House committee explained that the VA had dramatically ratcheted down the use of the drug to treat Covid-19 patients in its care after a large study showed the drug linked to worse outcomes.
Finally Covid-19 is spreading rapidly through India, with fatalities from the disease surpassing China. According to Al Jazeera, there are, “record jumps in new cases in recent days as hospitals are overwhelmed with patients.” The Maharashtrian city of Mumbai is the nation’s hardest hit with nearly a fifth of all cases recorded there. There are reports of Covid patients waiting for days for a hospital bed and disturbingly some cases where two patients are forced to share a single bed. Mumbai has more than 20 million residents and is densely populated.