Posted on

Three More Former Minneapolis Officers Now Charged In George Floyd’s Death

Sergio Flores / Getty Images

A mural of George Floyd is shown painted on the side of Scott Food Mart in Houston.

The three former Minneapolis police officers who watched as their partner pinned George Floyd to the ground and crushed his neck with a knee for more than eight minutes have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

Thomas Lane, 37, J. Alexander Kueng, 26, and Tou Thao, 34, face two charges each of aiding and abetting their fellow former officer Derek Chauvin in connection to Floyd’s death, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said Wednesday.

Charges against Chauvin were also upgraded to second-degree murder, carrying the possibility of a longer sentence if convicted.

“I believe the evidence available to us now supports the stronger charge of second-degree murder,” Ellison said. “I strongly believe these developments are in the interest for justice, Mr. Floyd, our community, and the state.”

Former officers Alexander Kueng (left), Thomas Lane (top right) and Tou Thao.

Arrest warrants were issued, and one of the officers was in custody at the time the charges were announced, officials said. All three were in custody by the late afternoon, according to Hennepin County booking records.

All four officers were fired shortly after the May 25 incident, but it wasn’t until Friday when Chauvin, the white officer who put Floyd in a knee chokehold, was arrested and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter by local prosecutors. Two autopsies have found that the compression of Floyd’s neck contributed to his death.

According to Minnesota law, third-degree murder carries a sentence of up to 25 years and is filed in cases where someone’s death was caused “without intent.”

Second-degree murder, or a murder that is not premeditated, carries a sentence of up to 40 years.

“George Floyd mattered,” Ellison said. “His life has value, and we will seek justice for him, and for you, and we will find it.”

Asked about the protests that have been sparked because of Floyd’s death, Ellison said he felt a “tremendous sense of weight” with the case.

“This is a very serious moment,” he said. “I can honestly tell you I take no joy in this, but I do feel a tremendous sense of duty and responsibility.”

The latest charges come after Ellison took over the prosecution in Floyd’s death, which was captured on video and has sparked days of unrest across the country as thousands have taken to the streets to protest police killings of unarmed black people.

According to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin, officers were called after someone reported that a customer had used a counterfeit $20 bill. Officers pulled Floyd out of his car at gunpoint and placed him in handcuffs.

When officers tried to put him inside a police car, Floyd fell to the ground and told them he was claustrophobic, according to the complaint. When Floyd fell to the ground, Kueng and Lane held his back and legs as Chauvin put him in a knee chokehold.

Thao is seen in the video standing over Chauvin and Floyd; he then turns his back to face onlookers as they call on the officers to stop and check Floyd’s pulse.

An independent autopsy found Floyd died of asphyxiation. Experts who worked on that report said the pressure applied to his neck and back cut off air to his lungs and blood flow to his neck, making him lose consciousness. The official autopsy by a local medical examiner determined his cause of death to be “cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement subdual, restraint, and neck compression.”

“These officers are complicit by their silence, but we now know based on the audio from their body cam that they also are accomplices because their failure to act when they knew that he did not have a pulse,” Benjamin Crump, an attorney representing Floyd’s family, said Wednesday near the site where the 46-year-old was killed. “The system needed to be listening to George Floyd.”

In the eyes of Floyd’s family, Crump said, the three other officers are “just as guilty” as Chauvin for his death.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, who tweeted news of the charges before the attorney general’s announcement, called the charges “another important step for justice.”

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison is increasing charges against Derek Chauvin to 2nd degree in George Floyd’s murder and also charging other 3 officers. This is another important step for justice.

In an interview with CNN on Sunday night, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo told Floyd’s family that he believed the other three officers, in addition to Chauvin, were also responsible for the death.

“Mr. Floyd died in our hands, and so I see that as being complicit,” Arradondo said. “Silence and inaction, you’re complicit. If there was one solitary voice that would have intervened … that’s what I would have hoped for.”

Posted on

Stop Using the Boston Tea Party to Justify Violence in Modern America

Lawful protest in the American political process isn’t the same as the lawless rioting, looting, and destruction of lives and property that became a threat to the public in the past week.

The death of a black man, George Floyd, at the hands of a white police officer May 25 in Minneapolis sparked widespread protests there and across America. Many of the demonstrations, despite the general lockdown and stay-at-home orders still in place during the coronavirus pandemic, have been peaceful.

However, in many cities, vandals and looters are destroying public and private property and ransacking minority-owned businesses among many others. Several people have been killed amid the violence.

Defacing a monument to the 54th Massachusetts, a regiment of all-volunteer black soldiers during the Civil War, hardly seems like an appropriate or reasonable protest of Floyd’s killing, or racism in America, or really anything else.

These shameful and destructive actions have been denounced by many—including Floyd’s family–and are a direct assault on the rule of law.

Unfortunately, some have taken to justifying the violence we’ve seen in recent days and have been making a direct comparison to the Boston Tea Party and other acts of rebellion in the American colonies leading up to the Revolutionary War.

 “The destruction of a police precinct is not only a tactically reasonable ­response to the crisis of policing, it is a quintessentially American response, and a predictable one,” journalism professor Steven W. Thrasher at Northwest University wrote in Slate: “The uprising we’ve seen this week is speaking to the American police state in its own language, up to and including the use of fireworks to mark a battle victory. Property destruction for social change is as American as the Boston Tea Party.”

The insinuation is that the destruction of the 3rd Precinct police station in Minneapolis, or looting and arson, is somehow in line with venerable American traditions and can lead to positive change within the American system of free government.

This is nonsense.

Intolerable Acts

In the early 1770s, discontent was brewing in Boston and other parts of the British colonies in America in response to a series of acts passed in Parliament putting duties and taxes on various goods vital to the economy of the colonies.

The taxes were obnoxious enough, but what was truly intolerable to the American colonists was that they had no say in the laws, no avenue to have representation in the British Empire’s governing body.

The Tea Act of 1773, which led to the Boston Tea Party, actually was, in part, a lowering of a previous tax. This too was unacceptable. Yes, the taxes were bad enough, but the rate of taxation was not, ultimately, the issue at hand.

Instead, it was the colonists’ belief that they were living under an arbitrary and increasingly authoritarian government, that their pleas for change would be effectively ignored.

The American colonies, with a long history of self-rule and belief that they were British subjects just as much as those living in London, saw the actions of the British government as looming tyranny.

Instead of finding ways to accommodate the colonists’ fears, as some wiser statesmen such as Edmund Burke were imploring Parliament and King George III’s ministry to do, the British government tightened the screws.

Confrontation was becoming inevitable.

Boston stewed with discontent in the winter of 1773. Colonists refused to let ships that brought tea owned by the East India Company–essentially a monopoly backed by England–to be unloaded for sale in the city.

It’s important to note too that colonists had negotiated for weeks simply to have the ships filled with tea sent back to England rather than force a confrontation. British law mandated that duties on goods aboard ships be paid within 20 days, or authorities would seize the ships and sell the items.

The owner of one of the tea-carrying ships, Francis Rotch, pleaded with the crown-appointed Massachusetts governor to allow him to sail back to England, but the governor repeatedly denied his request.

When Rotch returned to Boston on the evening of Dec. 26, 1773, and delivered the bad news to Boston’s Committee of Correspondence that his request had been rejected, the die was cast.

The Tea Party

A group of townspeople associated with a patriot group called the Sons of Liberty, many dressed as Mohawk warriors went into action.

Historian Jack Rakove recounted what happened next in his book, “Revolutionaries: Inventing an American Nation”:

Once the “Mohawks,” numbering fifteen or twenty a vessel, boarded the ships, the crowd watched silently as 340 massive chests of East India Company tea were hauled on desk and whacked open with axes; then the contents were thrown overboard. By 9 P.M. a cargo valued at a hefty nine thousand pounds sterling was weakly brewing in the low-tide waters.

The Sons of Liberty carefully targeted their protest. They opposed an arbitrary and obnoxious tax, not a ship owner, and certainly didn’t intend to harm Bostonians. They conducted themselves in as orderly a  fashion as possible.

In fact, Samuel Adams, one of the leaders of the Sons of Liberty, insisted that the protest occurred “without the least Injury to the Vessels or any other property.”

The Sons of Liberty broke a  padlock to get to the tea inside, but replaced it the next day. They certainly didn’t take that moment to rob their local businesses or burn buildings to the ground.

Not everyone was convinced. Notably, George Washington and Benjamin Franklin weren’t pleased with the property destruction, however justified, and disapproved when riots previously erupted in response to Parliament’s “Intolerable Acts,” as they were called.

Franklin and Washington, like numerous other American colonists at the time, hoped that a lawful resolution was possible despite their opposition to the British government’s actions in general.

Columnist Dan McLaughlin, writing in 2014 for The Federalist,  was correct in saying the reason Americans so fondly remember the Boston Tea Party and other incidents of rebellion in the American colonies is “not because rioting was morally justified or successful in bringing about its aims, but because we see the ultimate result that those outbursts led to the American Revolution.”

The Boston Tea Party was an act of rebellion from a colony revolting against the use of arbitrary power, which the Declaration of Independence later explicitly cited as the reason for the colonies to separate from England.

Our System of Free Government

The Constitution and the governing system created by the founding generation following the Revolution was designed to ensure that American citizens did not have to suffer arbitrary government. We, unlike the colonists of the 1770s, would have the chance to petition authorities, conduct elections, and seek representation in government.

It’s worth noting that when groups of Americans organized militias to oppose taxes in the 1790s and threatened to topple local authorities in Pennsylvania, President Washington personally led a military force to crush it.

Violent resistance to duly passed laws, whether good or not, would be met with force.

Laws may not change and–as the world is not perfect–injustices will still occur under our system, but we have the tools to appeal to ballots over bullets that the colonists didn’t. This is the cornerstone of liberty and self-government.

Associating the violent destruction of a police station and wanton looting of businesses this past week with the Boston Tea Party is an abuse of history. It makes a mockery of our constitutional, free government.

Posted on

Long Voting Lines, Mail Ballot Problems Mar Tuesday Primaries : NPR

Voters stand in line as they wait to cast their ballots during primary voting in Braddock, Pa., on Tuesday. Problems with absentee ballots and a smaller number of polling places led to long lines in several states as primary elections that were delayed by the coronavirus resumed.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

hide caption

toggle caption

Gene J. Puskar/AP

Voters stand in line as they wait to cast their ballots during primary voting in Braddock, Pa., on Tuesday. Problems with absentee ballots and a smaller number of polling places led to long lines in several states as primary elections that were delayed by the coronavirus resumed.

Gene J. Puskar/AP

The day after eight states and the District of Columbia held primaries — amid both a pandemic and civil unrest — proponents of mail-in voting said there were lessons to be learned for November, when millions more voters are expected to use absentee ballots.

They noted that voters had to wait for hours Tuesday to cast ballots at limited polling sites in Washington, D.C., in part because many did not receive the absentee ballots they had requested. Similar problems arose in Pennsylvania, Baltimore and elsewhere.

“In 46 states and the District of Columbia, voters this year will have the right to vote by mail, but as we saw just yesterday that right is implemented with varying degrees of effectiveness,” Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified at a House Judiciary Committee subcommittee hearing on voting rights on Wednesday.

Benson said states and local election offices can run more efficient and safe elections this year if they have enough resources. She noted that expanding mail-in voting can be costly, but states are strapped for funds.

Congress has already approved $400 million to help election offices respond to the pandemic, but states say they need much more. Most have expanded mail-in voting for the primaries and expect to do so for the general election as well.

The Democratic-led House recently approved another $3.6 billion to help them do that, but the legislation is unlikely to pass in the Senate, which is under Republican control.

President Trump and others in the party have complained that mail-in voting is susceptible to fraud and should be available on a limited basis, despite voters’ concerns about the health risks of voting in person. While some mail-ballot fraud exists, studies have shown that it’s extremely rare.

“This pandemic has blown up our economy. It’s suppressed our liberties. Let’s not blow up our elections,” Tom Fitton, the president of Judicial Watch, told the House panel. His group has sued several states and counties for failing to keep their voter rolls up to date, something Fitton claims makes mail-in voting exceptionally vulnerable to fraud.

“I view this as the real threat to the integrity of our elections,” he said. “Voter registration lists throughout the country are out of date, containing registrations for voters who no longer live at the stated address, who have died or are no longer eligible to vote.”

But Benson said there are many protections in place, such as signature matching and the ability to track the location of a particular ballot, that prevent people from fraudulently voting by mail.

She was recently criticized by Trump for going down a “Voter Fraud path” for her plan to send absentee ballot applications to every Michigan voter in November.

Trump falsely claimed that Benson would be sending actual ballots to every voter and he threatened to withhold federal funding from the state, although he later backed off.

Stacey Abrams, the chair of Fair Fight Action, a voter advocacy group, told the House panel that in 2016 more than half of all states reported “zero substantiated allegations of fraud.” She said eight states reported one case each and the remaining states reported only a small number of cases, “none sufficient to alter the outcomes of elections.”

Abrams is among those pushing for an expansion of absentee voting, while retaining the ability for voters to cast their ballots in person, if they choose. She noted that mail-in voting does not work for everyone, including some or those with disabilities or no set addresses.

“We want every American who has the right to vote to know that they have the freedom to do so and the access. And that access will not exist if we have limited means and people have to put their lives at mortal risk in order to cast their ballot,” she said.

In fact, all states currently offer both options. The debate is over the extent to which each option is available, and how much communities can afford.

Like other places holding primaries yesterday, the District of Columbia reduced the number of polling sites — from the usual 144 to 20 — because it expected the overwhelming majority of residents would vote absentee. But when hundreds of residents failed to get their ballots in time, they showed up in person, overwhelming the system.

Some voters reported have to wait for up to five hours. The waits were so long that the D.C. elections office took the unprecedented step of allowing some voters to email their ballots in.

Posted on

DEA Can Secretly Surveil George Floyd Protesters

The Drug Enforcement Administration has been granted sweeping new authority to “conduct covert surveillance” and collect intelligence on people participating in protests over the police killing of George Floyd, according to a two-page memorandum obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Floyd’s death “has spawned widespread protests across the nation, which, in some instances, have included violence and looting,” the DEA memo says. “Police agencies in certain areas of the country have struggled to maintain and/or restore order.” The memo requests the extraordinary powers on a temporary basis, and on Sunday afternoon a senior Justice Department official signed off.

Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Saturday following a night of widespread and at times violent protests in which he blamed, without providing evidence, “anarchistic and far left extremists, using Antifa-like tactics,” for the unrest. He said the FBI, DEA, US Marshals, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives would be “deployed to support local efforts to enforce federal law.”

Barr did not say what those agencies would do.

The DEA is limited by statute to enforcing drug-related federal crimes. But on Sunday, Timothy Shea, a former US attorney and close confidant of Barr’s who was named acting administrator of the DEA last month, received approval from Associate Deputy Attorney General Bradley Weinsheimer to go beyond the agency’s mandate “to perform other law enforcement duties” that Barr may “deem appropriate.”

Citing the protests, Shea laid out an argument for why the agency should be granted extraordinary latitude.

“In order for DEA to assist to the maximum extent possible in the federal law enforcement response to protests which devolve into violations of federal law, DEA requests that it be designated to enforce any federal crime committed as a result of protests over the death of George Floyd,” Shea wrote in the memo. “DEA requests this authority on a nationwide basis for a period of fourteen days.”

A spokesperson for the DEA declined to comment.

On Tuesday afternoon, Keith Kruskall, associate special agent in charge of the DEA’s New York division, sent an urgent email seeking 25 volunteers to assist with “security” to the Capitol in Washington, DC from Tuesday through Friday.

Two sources knowledgeable about the deployment said 15 people from the DEA’s elite Special Response Team and 10 special agents were chosen. Not all 25 volunteered, the sources said.

Kruskall’s email did not describe what specific tasks the detachment would be given. It added that if insufficient numbers of agents volunteered, others would be assigned the job. According to the sources, fewer than 25 agents raised their hands

“Drug enforcement agents should not be conducting covert surveillance of protests and First Amendment protected speech,” said Hugh Handeyside, a senior attorney for the ACLU. “That kind of monitoring and information sharing may well constitute unwarranted investigation of people exercising their constitutional rights to seek justice. The executive branch continues to run headlong in the wrong direction.”

Three DEA sources told BuzzFeed News they are troubled by the memo and see it as an example of the Justice Department potentially abusing its power in an attempt to smear the protests and crack down on protected First Amendment activity.

The sources requested anonymity because they are not authorized to speak with the media.

In addition to “covert surveillance,” the memo indicates that DEA agents would be authorized to share intelligence with local and state law enforcement authorities, to “intervene” to “protect both participants and spectators in the protests,” and to conduct interviews and searches, and arrest protesters who are alleged to have violated federal law.

A day after Shea’s memo was approved, President Trump said he is “mobilizing all available federal resources — civilian and military — to stop the rioting and looting, to end the destruction and arson, and to protect the rights of law-abiding Americans, including your Second Amendment rights.”

Under the Insurrection Act, the president has the authority to deploy the US military for domestic purposes. It has not been employed since 1992, when troops were sent in during the Los Angeles riots.

There is a long history of federal agencies infiltrating and surveilling protest groups. During the protests in Baltimore in 2015 over the death of Freddie Gray, who died in police custody, the Department of Homeland Security monitored Twitter and other social media platforms for “intelligence” on the protesters. In Ferguson, Missouri, during the 2014 protests over Michael’s Brown’s killing by a white police officer, DHS planned to “plug” federal officers into protests to conduct surveillance and collect intelligence. And the FBI conducted extensive monitoring and surveillance of the Occupy Wall Street protest movement that began in 2011.

It’s unknown if the ATF, FBI, or other federal law enforcement agencies have been granted the same authority as the DEA.

Posted on

Find another convention venue after Cooper balked at “full” event

Gotta say, I’d have had more sympathy for Roy Cooper in this situation two weeks ago. That would have been before the same people who scolded Republicans and conservatives who wanted to reopen the public square and demonstrate for those policies suddenly thought squeezing several thousand people into streets for demonstrations for a week on end was no problem at all. Political speech takes precedence over commerce, they have argued — so why does that not apply to a full political convention in August?

North Carolina’s Democratic governor apparently thinks some political speech requires more planning than others:

Governor Roy Cooper sent his letter to Republican Party leaders a day before the deadline President Donald Trump set for the state to guarantee that convention attendance in Charlotte would not be limited by social distancing restrictions.

Cooper said he could make no such promise for the four-day nominating convention scheduled to open on Aug. 24.

Without knowing how the COVID-19 outbreak will continue to unfold, he said, “planning for a scaled-down convention with fewer people, social distancing and face coverings is a necessity.”

Republican officials so far have submitted proposals for a “full convention” rather than one with fewer participants and social distancing as requested by the state, Cooper said.

“As much as we want the conditions surrounding COVID-19 to be favorable enough for you to hold the convention you describe in late August, it is very unlikely,” Cooper said.

That’s a common-sense approach in a pandemic, but the problem with those restrictions is that they aren’t applied equally. Police have arrested people for taking their children to play in the park, but seem entirely uninterested in enforcing quarantine restrictions on large public protests, especially in relation to the George Floyd homicide. Of course, those are outdoors, but the vectors for transmission aren’t impossible outdoors either, especially in crowds of these densities. If we’re going to have a standard for public events, including political speech, it should be one standard.

The RNC says pass on Cooper’s separate standard for the GOP’s convention:

Trump had already made that decision last night, after Cooper’s final response on the matter:

President Trump said Tuesday that the Republican Party would seek to pull its August nominating convention out of North Carolina, after Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper refused to heed a party demand that he pre-authorize a gathering of at least 19,000 people.

“Governor Cooper is still in Shelter-In-Place Mode, and not allowing us to occupy the arena as originally anticipated and promised,” Trump tweeted shortly after 9 p.m. “. . . We are now forced to seek another State to host the 2020 Republican National Convention.”

Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel had said earlier in the day that the party would begin exploring options outside North Carolina.

“We have an obligation to our delegates and nominee to begin visiting the multiple cities and states who have reached out in recent days about hosting an historic event to show that America is open for business,” she said in a statement.

There will inevitably be some red-state governors looking to boost the GOP by promising them a full convention, although one has to wonder whether they will press for an outdoor rather than indoor venue. That would minimize (although not eliminate) the COVID-19 risk, while giving plenty of room for a big convention response. Security would be tougher but hardly impossible; Trump holds outdoor rallies all the time.

This still leaves a couple of problems. First, red states don’t really need a convention to stoke enthusiasm. The point of picking North Carolina was because it’s on the bubble, the same reason the DNC chose Wisconsin for its convention. Republicans hoped to boost turnout in the state to put it firmly in the red column in November. Florida might be on the bubble enough to benefit from that, as might (gulp) Georgia, but any potential loss of enthusiasm in NC over the change would theoretically complicate Trump’s election chances there. Even if you don’t entirely buy the idea that convention awards help the ticket — I’m skeptical — pulling out at the last minute is bound to cause some resentment. Trump and the RNC appear to be betting that Cooper’s going to pay that price, but I’m skeptical about that, too.

Second, Cooper’s double standard aside … what’s really the point here for either party? The conventions are anachronisms with pointless security headaches at best, and arguably deleterious to public health in this cycle. The only worthwhile point in pushing this is to highlight the double standard of catering to mobs while restricting everyone else, including businesses, but at the end of the day it’s still about meaningless political posturing and revelry that has almost no impact at all on voter behavior. The 2020 convention fight looks like a game of chicken between two old drivers who don’t know that there’s no point at all in the collision.

Here’s a suggestion to change Cooper’s mind. Rather than call this the Republican National Convention, perhaps the GOP can re-brand it as the Republican National Demonstration for Urban Police Reform, and dare Cooper to cancel it. Not only would that highlight the double standard, it would actually provide a point for the event.

Posted on

George Floyd death: All four officers to face charges

The three other Minneapolis police officers at the scene of George Floyd’s death will face charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder, the Minnesota attorney general announced Wednesday.

State Atty. Gen. Keith Ellison also elevated charges against former Officer Derek Chauvin, who was recorded on video kneeling on Floyd’s neck as he begged for air, to second-degree murder.

Arrest warrants were issued for the three other officers. Aiding and abetting second-degree murder is a felony under Minnesota state law.

Ellison said during a news conference Wednesday that he does not believe “one successful prosecution can rectify” the pain felt by the community.

“He should be here,” Ellison said of Floyd. “But he’s not.”

Floyd’s son Quincy Mason Floyd on Wednesday visited the site where his father died, kneeling among the flowers and posters. As Floyd’s family began arriving in the city for his memorial on Thursday, they called for action against the other officers to be taken before the event.

“We want justice,” said Floyd’s son, 27, who lives in Texas, standing before a large painted angel now marking the spot. “No man or woman should be without their fathers.”

The family’s attorney, Benjamin Crump, standing next to Quincy, said they expected the officers to be “charged as accomplices for the killing.” The Minneapolis police chief said they were “complicit,” and that audio and video from body cameras showed “they are also accomplices by their failure to act, when they knew he didn’t have a pulse,” according to Crump.

“We expected all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, tomorrow,” he said. “Because we cannot have two justice systems in America: one for black America, and one for white America.”

All four officers, including Tou Thao, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, were fired shortly after Floyd’s death. Chauvin was initially charged last week with third-degree murder and manslaughter before Gov. Tim Walz asked Ellison to take over the prosecution. Chauvin is being held at a state prison.

“This is another important step for justice,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) said on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Walz announced that the state’s Department of Human Rights will investigate the Minneapolis Police Department and filed a “civil rights charge related to the death of George Floyd.“

The Police Department that same day released personnel records for Chauvin. The former officer, who had worked with the department since October 2001, had been disciplined for only one incident during his tenure, despite being the subject of internal affairs investigations by the department at least 17 times.

In that August 2017 incident in Longfellow, a neighborhood just south of downtown Minneapolis, Chauvin was accused of pulling a woman out of her car after stopping her for going 10 mph over the speed limit. The woman filed the complaint the next day.

According to internal records, Thao has been investigated at least six times by the department. None of those investigations resulted in discipline, records show. One case is pending.

The Minneapolis Police Department declined to confirm or comment on the additional charges against the fired officers.

Before being asked to lead the prosecution, Ellison, a former U.S. congressman for Minnesota, said of Floyd’s death: “George Floyd mattered.”

“The available video appears to show George Floyd vocally pleading for his life,” Ellison said. “He appears to be informing officers that he couldn’t breathe while the officer’s knee was on his neck. He appeared to present no danger. Video shows onlookers who were disturbed pleading for the officer to give medical attention. Those calls appear to have gone unheeded as Mr. Floyd became unresponsive.

“Whenever someone dies at the hand of law enforcement or state power, we owe it to everyone affected to investigate thoroughly.”

On Wednesday at the memorial marking the spot where Floyd died, Suzie Hewitt, who grew up in the Twin Cities, kneeled as she and others in the crowd put their arms around her mother, who sobbed on the curb.

“All of those complaints against the officer,” Hewitt said, referring to Chauvin, “those were us, for years and years, and nothing got done.”

“All of this frustration, sadness, anger — this is what black trauma looks like,” she said. “I love Minnesota — it is my home … but now people are coming together to address this issue; it is no longer just theirs.”

Posted on

Esper says no military for protests amid troop confusion – Twin Cities


WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Mark Esper declared on Wednesday he opposes using military troops for law enforcement in containing current street protests, tamping down threats from President Donald Trump, who had warned states he was willing to send soldiers to “dominate” their streets.

Less than 48 hours after the president threatened to use the Insurrection Act to contain protests if governors were not able to get a handle on unrest, Esper said the 1807 law should be invoked in the United States “only in the most urgent and dire of situations.” He added, “We are not in one of those situations now.”

Yet Esper abruptly overturned an earlier Pentagon decision to send a couple hundred active-duty soldiers home from the Washington, D.C., region, amid growing tensions with the White House over the military response to the protests.

At Trump’s encouragement, Esper had ordered about 1,300 Army personnel to military bases just outside the nation’s capital. Defense officials said some of the troops were beginning to return to their home base Wednesday, but after Esper visited the White House following a press conference, plans changed, Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy told The Associated Press.

The reversal added to confusion over the president’s threat to invoke the Insurrection Act for protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. White House officials had indicated even before Esper’s comments that Trump was backing away from invoking the act, though officials said Trump was upset that Esper’s statement conveyed “weakness.”

Press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president was still willing to deploy federal troops despite Esper’s comments.

“If needed, he will use it,” she told reporters. “But at this time he’s relying on surging the streets with National Guard. It’s worked with great effect.”

At the same time, the president was taking credit for the deployment of federal and other law enforcement officers to the nation’s capital, saying it offered a model to states on how to stop violence accompanying some protests nationwide.

Trump argued that the massive show of force was responsible for protests in Washington and other cities turning more calm in recent days and repeated his criticism of governors who have not deployed their National Guard to the fullest.

“You have to have a dominant force,” Trump told Fox New Radio on Wednesday. “We need law and order.”

Underscoring his criticism, McEnany said, “The weak-kneed policies of New York stand in stark contrast to the law and order policies of this president.”

She didn’t dismiss reports of tension between Trump and Esper. Asked repeatedly if Trump still had confidence in his Pentagon chief, she said, “As of right now, Secretary Esper is still Secretary Esper, and should the president lose faith we will all learn about that in the future.”

Esper, in his Pentagon remarks, also strongly criticized the actions of the Minneapolis police for the incident last week that ignited the protests. Floyd, a black man being arrested, died after a white officer pressed his knee to Floyd’s neck for several minutes. Esper called the act “murder” and “a horrible crime.”

The defense secretary himself has come under fire from critics, including retired senior military officers, for having walked from the White House on Monday evening with Trump and others for a presidential photo opportunity in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had previously sustained damage from protesters.

Esper said that while he was aware they were heading to St. John’s, he did not know what would happen there.

“I was not aware a photo op was happening,” he said, adding that he also did not know that police had forcibly moved peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square to clear the way for Trump and his entourage.

The White House laid responsibility for Monday’s events in Lafayette Park on Attorney General William Barr, saying he gave the order for law enforcement to clear out the protest before Trump’s walk to the church ahead of Washington’s 7 p.m. curfew. McEnany said the decision was made earlier Monday but had not been executed by the time Barr arrived in the park to survey the scene. He gave the order at that time.

McEnany said law enforcement conducted the operation with appropriate force, which included pepper spray and other chemical agents, and officers on horseback and batons clearing a crowd made up almost entirely of peaceful protesters.

Trump put a political spin on his criticism of states that have seen violence. He said, “You notice that all of these places that have problems, they’re not run by Republicans. They’re run by liberal Democrats.”

The Defense Department has drafted contingency plans for deploying active-duty military if needed. Pentagon documents reviewed by The Associated Press show plans for soldiers from an Army division to protect the White House and other federal buildings if the security situation in the nation’s capital were to deteriorate and the National Guard could not secure the facilities.

Though the crackdown on the Washington demonstrations was praised by some Trump supporters Tuesday, a handful of Republicans expressed concern that law enforcement officers risked violating the protesters’ First Amendment rights.

The situation in Washington had escalated Monday, becoming a potent symbol of Trump’s policing tactics and a physical manifestation of the rhetorical culture war he has stoked since before he was elected.

The clampdown followed a weekend of demonstrations outside the White House. Trump had been furious about images juxtaposing fires set in the park outside the executive mansion with a darkened White House in the background, according to current and former campaign and administration officials. He was also angry about the news coverage revealing he had gone to the secure White House bunker during Friday’s protests.

Trump on Wednesday acknowledged he visited the bunker Friday but claimed he was only conducting an inspection as protests raged outside the White House gates.

Soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division remain on standby at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland and Fort Belvoir in Virginia outside Washington.


AP writers James LaPorta in Delray Beach, Florida, Michael Balsamo and Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and Sarah Blake Morgan in West Jefferson, North Carolina, contributed.

Posted on

NBA presents players with plan for season restart – Boston Herald


The NBA has told the National Basketball Players Association that it will present a 22-team plan for restarting the season to the league’s board of governors on Thursday, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press.

The teams that will be going to the ESPN Wide World Of Sports complex on the Disney campus near Orlando, Florida, would play eight games to determine playoff seeding starting around July 31 before the postseason begins, according to the person who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the league has not released its proposal publicly.

The plan, once approved, would have 13 Western Conference teams and nine Eastern Conference teams going to Disney, and the cutoff being that teams must be within six games of a playoff spot at this point. Playoffs would start in August, and the NBA Finals will likely stretch into October, the person said.

The Milwaukee Bucks, Los Angeles Lakers, Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics already have clinched playoff spots — and, if only eight games are left, that would mean the Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets would theoretically have clinched spots as well.

The Dallas Mavericks would be virtually assured of clinching a West spot, holding a seven-game lead over eighth-place Memphis. That would mean the Grizzlies, Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio and Phoenix all would be in the running for the No. 8 seed out West. In the East, Washington is six games behind No. 7 Brooklyn and 5 1/2 games behind No. 8 Orlando — so within range of triggering a play-in series.

“I’m all in from the state’s perspective,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a news conference Wednesday in central Florida. “I don’t think you could find a better place than Orlando to do this. I think it’s very exciting.”

DeSantis met by phone with NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum on Tuesday. The governor also said the state helped with the plans to make a golf match last month featuring Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning — one that raised $20 million for coronavirus relief — happen. And Major League Soccer announced Wednesday a plan to restart its season in Orlando.

“Orlando really could be the epicenter of the comeback of professional sports,” DeSantis said.

For an NBA play-in series to happen to determine the No. 8 seed on either playoff bracket, the ninth-place team would have to be within four games of eighth place once the eight-game schedule of lead-in games is completed. If a play-in series occurs, it would basically be a best-of-two — where the No. 9 seed would have to win two head-to-head matchups to take over the No. 8 spot.

There also would be some jostling for playoff positioning happening in the eight-game restart. In the East, Toronto and Boston are separated by three games for the No. 2 spot, and Miami, Indiana and Philadelphia are separated by two games for the No. 4 spot. Out West, the Clippers, Denver, Utah, Oklahoma City and Houston are all within four games of one another in the race for the No. 2 seed on that bracket.

There are still some elements of the restart plan that could be changed, and other matters are still being negotiated — such as how much of a percentage of their salaries players will lose because some regular-season games will be canceled. If 15% of the regular season is not played, which would be the current estimate based on the proposal, players would have to give up roughly $610 million in salary for this season.

It’s also unclear what will happen to the eight teams that would not be vying for a postseason berth under the proposed format — Charlotte, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, New York, Cleveland, Minnesota and Golden State. If the 2020-21 NBA season doesn’t start until December at the earliest, which would seem to be a very real possibility, those teams could go about nine months without playing games, and some have expressed concerns over what that will mean for player development.

The NBA suspended its season March 11, becoming the first of the U.S. major pro leagues to do so after it became known that Utah’s All-Star center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. The list of NBA players who were known to test positive eventually grew to 10 — not all were identified — and Commissioner Adam Silver said the actual total was higher.

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is a 255-acre campus with multiple arenas that could host games simultaneously and has been home to, among other things, the Jr. NBA World Championship in recent years. ESPN is primarily owned by Disney, one of the NBA’s broadcast partners.


More AP NBA: and

Posted on

AP report raises concerns about China and WHO; China denies

At least two U.S. senators said Wednesday that China hid data from the World Health Organization that could have altered the course of the coronavirus outbreak, even as a Chinese official denied delays in sharing information and said the government acted openly and transparently.

They were referring to an Associated Press investigation published this week that found China stalled on providing critical coronavirus information to WHO, which expressed considerable frustration in private even as it praised the country in public. Politicians said the report raised key questions, and public health experts said it shed light on a story that has become highly politicized.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Zhao Lijian, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the AP report “seriously inconsistent with the facts.” He read off a timeline of events that did not contradict the AP’s findings and added that China had always maintained “close and good communication and cooperation with WHO.”

WHO officials refused to answer repeated questions Wednesday from international journalists about the AP report, but they did not question its accuracy.

Ami Bera, chairman of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs subcommittee that focuses on Asia, acknowledged that WHO was imperfect and said the U.N. health agency should stand up more forcefully to powerful countries like China.

“I do think the WHO has to be very careful in not being so conciliatory to China,” he said.

Senator Rick Scott said that instead of exposing China’s failure to share information, WHO officials praised the country’s response to the coronavirus.

The AP found significant delays by China in the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak that compromised the WHO’s understanding of how the disease was spreading, according to internal recordings of WHO meetings, documents and interviews. The AP uncovered evidence that China sat on releasing the genome of the virus for more than a week after three government labs had fully decoded it.

The recordings of meetings throughout January obtained by the AP showed the WHO was kept largely in the dark, while its public commendations of China were likely aimed at trying to coax more information out of officials.

Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese response in public as “very impressive, and beyond words.”

Zhao said he was unfamiliar with the internal information cited by AP. But he said “the facts and data are in plain sight” and that China acted “with openness, transparency and a sense of responsibility.” He did not directly address the comments made by WHO officials in the recordings.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said AP’s reporting raised critical issues about how the outbreak was handled.

“I think there are many questions that need to be asked about the World Health Organization, about China and other countries’ behaviors through this,” Trudeau said. “The World Health Organization remains a truly important ally…but there are many questions that need to be answered going forward.”

At the White House, a senior Trump administration official maintained that China pressured the WHO to mislead the world when the virus first emerged.

“The WHO’s complicity with China to cover up the source of the virus violated the organization’s own regulations,” the White House staffer said.

The WHO declared the coronavirus outbreak to be a global emergency on January 30, its highest level of alert. Numerous Western countries, including the United States, did not make serious preparations for the virus’ arrival for months.

In recent weeks, U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly blasted the WHO for allegedly colluding with China to hide the extent of the outbreak, saying the U.S. would be cutting its ties with the organization.

The new information uncovered by the AP does not support the narrative of either China or the U.S., but instead portrays an agency urgently trying to solicit more data despite limited authority.

In one internal meeting, the WHO’s top China representative acknowledged the country was only providing outbreak information with the U.N. health agency about 15 minutes before it appeared on state-owned China Central Television.

Several British Conservative politicians known for their hawkish views on China also cited the AP story.

In a tweet, former Cabinet minister Owen Paterson tweeted called it a “shocking report.” Paterson noted the finding that in the week after three Chinese government labs and one commercial lab had all sequenced the virus but could not share it publicly, 600 more people were infected.

Suerie Moon, a global health academic at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, called the AP report “a huge public service in uncovering what happened in January.”

“It does show the Chinese government is a powerful stakeholder in WHO,” said Moon, who sat on an independent panel evaluating the WHO’s flawed response to the 2014-16 Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

“I do think Tedros’ praise was excessive,” Moon said. “But there was a clear objective behind it.”

Posted on

Minnesota to toughen murder charge in George Floyd case, charge three other officers, Klobuchar says

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) – Minnesota’s attorney general will increase the murder charge against a fired Minneapolis police officer in the death of an unarmed black man that has triggered nationwide protests and will level charges against three other sacked officers, U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar said on Wednesday.

George Floyd, 46, died after Derek Chauvin, a white policeman, knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, reigniting the explosive issue of police brutality against African Americans five months before a presidential election.

Klobuchar, who is from Minnesota and a potential running mate for presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the Nov. 3 election, said Attorney General Keith Ellison would increase to second-degree murder the charge against Chauvin, 44.

Chauvin had been charged last week with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The new charge can carry a sentence of up to 40 years, 15 years longer than the maximum sentence for third-degree murder.

In a tweet, Klobuchar said the three other former officers who were involved in the incident will be charged also. “This is another important step for justice,” she said.

The Minnesota-based Star Tribune, citing sources, said the other officers – Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao – would face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

Ellison’s office could not be reached for comment. He was expected to hold a news conference later on Wednesday.

When reached by Reuters over the phone, Earl Gray, the attorney for Lane, said he had not received any information on the charges yet. Attorneys for the other officers who may be charged did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Benjamin Crump, attorney for the Floyd family, said on Twitter that the family saw the news as a “bittersweet moment” and were “deeply gratified” that Ellison was upgrading the charge against Chauvin and charging the other officers involved.

“This is a significant step forward on the road to justice, and we are gratified that this important action was brought before George Floyd’s body was laid to rest,” Crump said in a statement.

Protesters have demanded over the past week that the three additional officers be charged in the case as they have vented their anger in demonstrations that have at times led to widespread vandalism and looting in major cities.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of cities coast to coast for an eighth night in protest over the death of Floyd and brutality against other black Americans.

Slideshow (12 Images)

Authorities took the unusual step of ordering curfews, and bands of police in riot gear and other heavily armed officers patrolled, ringing landmarks and shouting at protesters while helicopters roared overhead.

While most protests have been peaceful, there was less looting and vandalism overnight, and clashes between police and protesters were more sporadic.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien, Nathan Layne, Maria Caspani, Rich McKay, Jonathan Allen, Sharon Bernstein, Dan Whitcomb, Lisa Lambert, Susan Heavey, Phil Stewart and Idrees Ali; Writing by Paul Simao; Editing by Nick Macfie, Howard Goller