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Former President Bush, contrasting Trump approach, says protesters should be heard

By Peter Szekely

(Reuters) – Former President George W. Bush said on Tuesday the killing of George Floyd reflected a “shocking failure” concerning racism in the country, and urged that protesters be heard, in sharp contrast to fellow Republican Donald Trump’s get-tough approach.

Without mentioning the president by name, Bush suggested it was out of step with the country’s values to have driven protesters from Lafayette Square across from the White House on Monday just before Trump walked through for a photo opportunity.

“The only way to see ourselves in a true light is to listen to the voices of so many who are hurting and grieving,” Bush said in a statement. “Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place.”

Trump later issued a Twitter post lauding authorities for using “overwhelming force” and “domination” in Washington. The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that the order to remove the protesters came from Attorney General William Barr.

With demonstrations, sometimes marred by violence, erupting across the country since Floyd died on a Minneapolis street on May 25 with a police officer’s knee on his neck, Bush said he and his wife, Laura, were anguished by “the brutal suffocation.”

The latest incident of an unarmed black man dying at the hands of a white police officer raises troubling questions that need to be confronted, he said.

“It is time for America to examine our tragic failures – and as we do, we will also see some of our redeeming strengths,” said the 43rd U.S. president, who served from 2001 to 2009.

“It remains a shocking failure that many African Americans, especially young African American men, are harassed and threatened in their own country,” he said.

“This tragedy — in a long series of similar tragedies — raises a long overdue question: How do we end systemic racism in our society?”

(Reporting by Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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Polling highlights stark gap in trust of police between black and white Americans

Black Americans are much less likely to trust their local police and law enforcement to look out for them and their families than others — 36% trust the police, while 77% of white people and 69% of Americans overall said the same, according to a poll from Axios-Ipsos out Tuesday morning.

Protests over the police killing of a black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis and racial discrimination from law enforcement came to a head in the United States, sparking riots in many major US cities in the past week. Polling, conducted over the weekend, found that black people don’t feel protected by the police, and the majority of Americans see the protests as legitimate.

A Monmouth University poll out Tuesday afternoon found that most (78%) say the anger that protesters demonstrating in reaction to Floyd’s death feel is at least partially justified, though fewer (54%) say the actions of those protesters have been at least partially justified.

Other polling also found a lack of trust in law enforcement. A CBS News/YouGov poll showed a majority of Americans (57%) believe the police in most communities treat whites better than blacks, while 39% say they’re treated equally, and fewer believe blacks are treated better than whites.

Those numbers are more strongly divided by partisanship than they are by race, with a majority of whites and blacks alike who agree that whites are treated better than black Americans (52% and 78% respectively). However, a majority of Republicans (61%) said that the races were treated equally, compared to only 17% of Democrats.

Few are comfortable with the President’s handling of the situation. Monmouth found that a majority of Americans (53%) say race relations in the US have gotten worse since President Donald Trump took office four years ago, about the same share who felt that way after eight years of former President Barack Obama’s tenure.

Trump’s approval on the events and protests in Minneapolis is lower than his usual overall approval, almost half of Americans in the CBS/YouGov poll (49%) disapprove of how he’s handling the situation, while 32% approve and 19% haven’t heard enough.

Around three-quarters of registered voters reported Trump favors whites, compared to 23% who say the same of blacks, according to CBS/YouGov. Half of voters said the President actively works against black Americans.

The Axios-Ipsos poll was conducted online May 29 through June 1, with a random sample of 1,033 adults. The total sample of national adults has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The Monmouth University poll was conducted online May 28 through June 1, with a random sample of 807 adults. The total sample of national adults has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

The CBS/YouGov poll was conducted online May 29 through June 1, with a random sample of 2,071 adults. The total sample of national adults has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 2.6 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

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Exclusive: Most Americans sympathize with protests, disapprove of Trump’s response

By Grant Smith, Joseph Ax and Chris Kahn

NEW YORK (Reuters) – A majority of Americans sympathize with nationwide protests over the death of an unarmed black man in police custody and disapprove of President Donald Trump’s response to the unrest, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Tuesday.

The demonstrations, some of which have turned violent, began last week after a Minneapolis police officer was videotaped kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for nearly nine minutes, even after Floyd appeared to lose consciousness. The officer has been charged with murder.

The survey conducted on Monday and Tuesday found 64% of American adults were “sympathetic to people who are out protesting right now,” while 27% said they were not and 9% were unsure.

The poll underscored the political risks for Trump, who has adopted a hardline approach to the protests and threatened to deploy the U.S. military to quell violent dissent. The Republican president faces Democrat Joe Biden in November’s election.

More than 55% of Americans said they disapproved of Trump’s handling of the protests, including 40% who “strongly” disapproved, while just one-third said they approved – lower than his overall job approval of 39%, the poll showed.

A separate Reuters/Ipsos poll found that Biden’s lead over Trump among registered voters expanded to 10 percentage points – the biggest margin since the former vice president became his party’s presumptive nominee in early April.

Twice as many independent voters said they disapproved of Trump’s response to the unrest. Even among Republicans, only 67% said they approved of the way he had responded, significantly lower than the 82% who liked his overall job performance.

CONCERNS ABOUT VIOLENCE

The protests have deepened the sense of crisis for a country already reeling from the coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent devastating economic downturn. While many daytime demonstrations have been peaceful, some have led to violent clashes at night between police and protesters.

Majorities of both Republicans and Democrats said they supported peaceful protests but believed property damage undermined the demonstrators’ cause. Less than one quarter of Americans said violence was an appropriate response.

Even in rural and suburban areas largely unaffected by the demonstrations, most people expressed support. A little more than half of rural residents said they were sympathetic to the protesters, while seven out of 10 suburbanites agreed.

Forty-seven percent of registered voters said they planned to support Biden in the Nov. 3 election, compared with 37% favoring Trump. Biden vowed not to “fan the flames of hate” in a speech on Tuesday about the unrest.

Public opinion could be particularly volatile as the protests continue to roil major cities every night. Several police officers were shot on Monday night, and Trump has derided governors who have not asked for military assistance.

On Monday, police used tear gas to clear peaceful protesters near the White House so Trump could pose for a photograph in front of a church.

Americans are divided over the police response. According to the poll, 43% believed the police were doing a good job and 47% disagreed, with a majority of Democrats disagreeing and a majority of Republicans agreeing.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll on the protests was conducted online, in English, throughout the United States and gathered responses from 1,004 American adults. That poll had a credibility interval – a measure of precision – of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

The other poll conducted over the same period regarding Trump’s overall job performance and the 2020 election gathered responses from 1,113 American adults and had a credibility interval of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

(Reporting by Grant Smith, Joseph Ax and Chris Kahn; Editing by Soyoung Kim and Peter Cooney)

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Senate Republicans block bill condemning Trump on protesters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senate Republicans blocked a Democratic resolution on Tuesday that would have condemned President Donald Trump for the use of gas and rubber bullets against peaceful protesters near the White House.

Protests have swept U.S. cities, including Washington, D.C., since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American who died after a white policeman pinned his neck under a knee for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25.

On Monday, federal officials cleared protesters near the White House just before Trump marched through to pose holding a Bible outside a boarded-up church. That, and Trump’s threat to deploy federal troops to quell unrest, has deepened outrage among protesters.

“Congress condemns the President of the United States for ordering federal officers to use gas and rubber bullets against the Americans who were peaceably protesting,” the resolution sponsored by the minority Democrats said.

The Democrats tried to use fast-track procedures to pass the measure by a unanimous voice vote but were stopped when Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, objected.

Reporting by Richard Cowan, Susan Cornwell, Patricia Zengerle, David Morgan and Susan Heavey; Editing by Scott Malone, Richard Chang and David Gregorio

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Former President George W. Bush “anguished by the brutal suffocation” of George Floyd

Attorney General William Barr, center, stands in Lafayette Park across from the White House as demonstrators gather on Monday, June 1, in Washington. Alex Brandon/AP

Minutes ahead of President Trump’s televised address from the Rose Garden Monday evening, Attorney General William Barr ordered authorities to clear a crowd of protesters that had gathered nearby, according to a Justice Department official. 

Barr and other top officials from agencies responsible for securing the White House had previously planned to secure a wider perimeter around Lafayette park, a federally-owned green space just north of the building, in response to fires and destruction caused by protesters on Sunday night. That plan would have cleared the area later used for the President’s walk to a nearby church for a photo-op by 4 p.m. ET, the official said.

But it never happened. When Barr arrived at Lafayette park just after 6 p.m. ET — in a scene that was captured on news cameras and elicited heckles from the large, peaceful crowd — Barr saw that the area had not been emptied, and told police to clear the area, the official said. If federal law enforcement was met with resistance by the protestors, crowd control measures should be implemented, Barr had said, according to the official.  

Barr had been told that police believed protestors were gathering rocks to throw at law enforcement, and while he was in the park, water bottles were thrown in his direction, the official said. CNN did not witness any water bottles being thrown at the attorney general. Camera footage shows him standing and watching the crowd for several minutes, flanked by a security detail and two senior department officials. 

Just before 6:24 p.m., police broadcast their first warning for the crowd to distance. A CNN correspondent reporting from the rooftop of a nearby hotel heard three warnings broadcast over the next ten minutes as authorities moved closer to the crowd. 

At 6:35 p.m., authorities began charging the crowd in lockstep with their shields raised, some using their batons to strike the protestors as gas canisters were deployed. 

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Carole Baskin Just Got Control of Joe Exotic’s Former Zoo

Hey all you cool cats and kittens, there’s a new chapter in the Joe Exotic saga—Carole Baskin is now set to take over Joe’s zoo.

As fans of the Netflix docuseries Tiger King may recall, Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in federal prison when he was convicted on two counts of murder-for-hire and 17 wildlife charges, including killing five tigers.

Their complicated association arose as Baskin, owner of the Big Cat Rescue organization, repeatedly called out Maldonado-Passage for his alleged mistreatment of tiger cubs and the abuse of the animals kept at his G.W. Exotic Animal Memorial Park in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. Exotic retaliated with a string of threatening videos targeting her with rumors, which she consistently denied.

As their lawsuits continued and Maldonado-Passage’s debts mounted after losing a case over the use of Big Cat Rescue’s trademark, he gave the park to his mother, Shirley M. Schreibvogel, while Maldonado-Passage’s partner of sorts, Jeff Lowe, operated it.

A legal team representing Baskin and Big Cat Rescue filed a complaint back in February 2016, alleging that the transfer of the Oklahoma zoo property was fraudulent, undertaken only as a means of keeping it out of the reach of creditors. On Monday, a federal judge determined that the property was fraudulently transferred to Maldonado-Passage’s mother, Fox 25, an Oklahoma Fox news affiliate, reported Monday.

The determination means that as Maldonado-Passage is incarcerated, Baskin and her 28-year old animal rescue group, have been granted control of his former Oklahoma zoo, a development sure to interest Tiger King fans. Now, Lowe has 120 days to vacate the premises, and find a new home for of his animals currently residing there, according to a copy of the ruling published by the Courthouse News Service via People.

Maldonado-Passage, is currently being held at a Dallas-Fort Worth medical center after he was exposed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Fox 25 reported.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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Republicans chastise Trump for ousting protesters, church photo-op

And Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said it was “definitely not” right for peaceful protesters, who were gathered around Lafayette Park in front of the White House, to be sprayed with tear gas. And he criticized the president for walking to St. John’s Episcopal Church right before the 7 p.m. curfew, because “everyone knew there were going to be protesters in that area.”

“Doing what I thought was a really good speech — then that visual, that photo-op distracted from the message he had just given in the Rose Garden,” said Lankford, who led a student minister group before coming to Congress. “I just thought, this visual and this message don’t line up.”

The gentle criticism highlights growing concern among Republicans about the president’s inflammatory response to the nationwide protests over George Floyd’s killing by a Minnesota police officer — all with the backdrop of a global pandemic and the worst economy since the Great Depression.

Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the only black Republican senator, was even more direct, saying at a POLITICO event that “if your question is: Should you use tear gas to clear a path so the president can go have a photo-op? The answer is no.”

During his Rose Garden address Monday, Trump declared himself the “president of law and order” and threatened to end the protests by sending in the military — a move supported by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.). Shortly thereafter, Trump walked to the church and posed with a bible.

Democrats ripped Trump’s theatrics as cowardly and dangerous.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) offered a resolution Tuesday stating that “Congress condemns the President of the United States for ordering federal officers to use gas and rubber bullets against the Americans who were peaceably protesting in Lafayette Square in Washington, DC on the night of June 1, 2020.”

Schumer intends to seek unanimous consent to pass the resolution, though Republicans will surely block it. He also accused Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) of “doing everything he can… so Donald Trump doesn’t fire a mean tweet in his direction.”

Some Republicans argued the president’s message was unifying, pointing to his Rose Garden comments condemning the killing of Floyd in addition to the violence and looting. Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said succinctly of Trump: “He’s leading.” Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma said Trump showed that he “wants to get something done.”

McConnell declined to weigh in on the president’s actions, telling reporters: “I’m not going to critique other people’s performances.”

Others found the president still lacking in empathy. For the second consecutive day, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) urged the president to ease tensions rather than inflame them.

“I hope he projects calm. I hope people act calmly,” Thune told reporters Tuesday. “He has moments. But I mean, as you know, it lasts generally as long as the next tweet.”

But Senate Republicans also defended the address and argued that criticism of the president largely depended on one’s personal opinion of the president. Some also cited conflicting reports about whether tear gas was actually used — though reporters and eyewitnesses on the scene said police officers did, in fact, spray tear gas.

“My impression was he thought this was some unifying message. But of course, it was for half the country,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas). “And the other half were outraged by it, and that’s just where we are, sadly.”

During a party meeting Tuesday, Republican senators did not discuss the president’s actions or their disparate views of whether Trump had acted appropriately, several senators said afterward.

“Zero,” said Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana when asked if there had been discussion.

The Rose Garden address came after some Republicans urged the president to speak to the nation and try to unite the public, particularly after he harshly criticized governors on a call Monday for being “weak” and called on them to “dominate” the protesters. Trump also has devoted many of his tweets to attacking presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and touting his poll numbers.

GOP senators also largely stood by the president’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 in order to deploy U.S. troops into American towns and cities, speaking out en masse against the violence that has plagued major U.S. cities in recent days.

“The president talking that way will put a little spine in some of these governors that aren’t calling out the National Guard, to the extent that they need to, to restore order,” said Senate Homeland Security Chairman Ron Johnson (R-Wis.).

“It should be used sparingly. And it obviously shouldn’t be used if there’s peaceful demonstrations,” added Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa). “But if we have law-breaking people that take advantage of peaceful solutions to riot and to loot and to burn, then I would expect … that he would be there to help them.”

Despite the protests from some Republicans, much of the chiding amounts to simple rhetoric. And some want a broader focus on putting an end to the unrest.

“Just look at the pictures of that crowd and tell me those are real protesters and not professional agitators, some with a different agenda completely unrelated to the murder of Mr. Floyd,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), adding the focus should be on racial equality and “not this anarchy, violence and injustice that’s going on in cities across America.”

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Plans being discussed for Joe Biden to attend George Floyd’s funeral

A Biden campaign spokesman on Tuesday declined to comment on whether there were plans to attend the funeral. An attorney for Floyd’s family, Ben Crump, said Tuesday, “We understand that Vice President Biden will be in attendance.” CNN has reached out directly to Crump for comment.

The presumptive Democratic 2020 nominee delivered a speech on Tuesday that addressed systemic racism in America and empathized with those protesting across the nation in the wake of the police killing of Floyd. Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer, who has since been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, kneeled on his neck.

Protests against racism and police brutality have spread across the United States — from Minneapolis to the nation’s capital. Floyd’s family has called for the other three officers who were present during Floyd’s death, who have since been fired, to be charged and convicted.

Biden, speaking in Philadelphia on Tuesday, called Floyd’s killing “a wake-up call for our nation,” and began his speech: “‘I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe.’ George Floyd’s last words. But they didn’t die with him. They’re still being heard. They’re echoing across this nation.”

Biden spoke to Floyd’s family by phone last week, and Floyd’s brother, Philonise, described it as a “great conversation.” Biden told CNN’s Don Lemon that he offered the family empathy as someone who has also suffered loss, and praised their courage in this difficult time.

Philonese Floyd told CNN that President Donald Trump also called him, but that Trump “didn’t give me an opportunity to even speak” and that the conversation was very brief.

Biden on Tuesday condemned Trump’s response to the protests against racism and police brutality, drawing a sharp contrast between himself and the president. Peaceful protesters in a park outside the White House on Monday were hit with tear gas so that Trump could cross the park and visit St. John’s Church for a photo opportunity — a move that the Episcopal bishop that oversees the church later condemned.

On Sunday, Biden visited the site of a protest in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware. Biden also held a discussion with African American community leaders in Wilmington and a virtual roundtable with the mayors of cities that have seen protests and violence — Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles and St. Paul, Minnesota.

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William Barr ordered authorities to clear protesters near White House

Barr and other top officials from agencies responsible for securing the White House had previously planned to secure a wider perimeter around Lafayette Square, a federally owned green space just north of the building, in response to fires and destruction caused by protestors on Sunday night.

That plan, developed earlier Monday, would have cleared the area later used for the President’s walk to the nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church for a photo-op by 4 p.m. ET, the official said.

But it never happened. When Barr arrived at Lafayette Square just after 6 p.m. in a scene that was captured on news cameras and elicited heckles from the large, peaceful crowd, the attorney general saw that the area had not been emptied, and told police to clear the area, the official said.

If federal law enforcement was met with resistance by the protesters, crowd control measures should be implemented, Barr had said, according to the official.

The Washington Post first reported Barr’s direct involvement.

Barr had been told that police believed protestors were gathering rocks to throw at law enforcement, and while he was in the park, water bottles were thrown in his direction, the official said. CNN did not witness any water bottles being thrown at the attorney general. Camera footage shows him standing and watching the crowd for several minutes, flanked by a security detail and two senior department officials.

Just before 6:24 p.m., police broadcast their first warning for the crowd to distance. A CNN correspondent reporting from the rooftop of a nearby hotel heard three warnings broadcast over the next 10 minutes as authorities moved closer to the crowd.

At 6:35 p.m., authorities began charging the crowd in lockstep with their shields raised, some using their batons to strike the protestors as gas canisters were deployed.

Trump walked over to the church shortly after 7 p.m.

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Rooftop movie entertains violent Venezuelan barrio during quarantine

A boy watches a movie projected on a giant screen in the low-income neighborhood of Petare, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Caracas, Venezuela June 1, 2020. Picture taken June 1, 2020. REUTERS/Manaure Quintero

CARACAS (Reuters) – The sprawling working-class area of Petare on the east side of Venezuela’s capital of Caracas has made headlines recently for brutal gang battles that raged for days despite a nationwide quarantine to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

But on Monday night, residents itching for activity after more than two months of lockdown placed chairs on their rooftops or sat on the thin, concrete staircases winding through the sprawling “barrio” to enjoy a public screening of the animated film Aladdin put on by a local-nonprofit.

“The only thing missing is the popcorn,” said Estefani Armanzor, 27, said from her rooftop while holding her three-year-old son, Aaron to watch the film projected on a white screen affixed to a barrio resident’s roof. “We are in quarantine and the children are very bored.”

The screening was part of a series of movie showings put on by Unloading Zone, a nonprofit that promotes peaceful coexistence in the hilly neighborhood of small, red block homes with flat roofs known for gang violence and police brutality.

Similar projects, which seek to mitigate physical isolation in the midst of the pandemic, have been developed in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Unloading Zone has also organized children’s reading sessions and orchestra ensembles, said Jover Prato, a 42-year-old activist and one of the organization’s founders.

The activities show a different side of a neighborhood that in early May made national headlines for several straight days of gunfire between rival gangs, resulting in the deployment of heavily-armed security forces in sectors of the neighborhood.

But on Monday evening, a calm had returned to the hills, with dozens of children flying kites from their roofs boasting stunning views of the valley of Caracas, and families enjoying popcorn and fried corn cakes known as arepas – a staple of the Venezuelan diet – while watching the film.

“It’s great to be hear with all our neighbors,” Armanzor said. “It would be great if they did this again.”

Reporting by Vivian Sequera and Efrain Otero; Writing by Brian Ellsworth, Luc Cohen and Alistair Bell