The latest on protests against racism and police brutality around the world.

ALBANY, N.Y. — New York state lawmakers repealed a decades-old law Tuesday that has kept law enforcement officers’ disciplinary records secret, spurred by the national uproar over the death of George Floyd.

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In this photo taken from video, New York police officer Vincent D’Andraia pushes Dounya Zayer during a protest in Brooklyn on May 29. D’Andraia, who was caught on video shoving Zayer to the ground, was charged Tuesday with assault and other crimes in the confrontation. Whitney Hu via AP

The measure to make officers’ records and misconduct complaints public is among several police accountability bills racing through the state legislature. Lawmakers passed other bills that would provide all state troopers with body cameras and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.

Many of those bills were first proposed years ago, but got new momentum after huge protests nationwide condemned police brutality.

The passage came as criminal charges were brought Tuesday against an NYPD officer over his rough treatment of a protester during demonstrations following the death of Floyd, who pleaded he couldn’t breathe as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck May 25.

Eliminating the law, known as Section 50-a, would make complaints against officers, as well as transcripts and final dispositions of disciplinary proceedings, public for the first time in decades.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has recently supported reforming the law, has said in the wake of the protests that he will sign the repeal. Only Delaware has a similar law.

Read the full story about New York’s bill here.

IBM quits facial recognition, joins call for police reforms

IBM is getting out of the facial recognition business, saying it’s concerned about how the technology can be used for mass surveillance and racial profiling.

Ongoing protests responding to the death of George Floyd have sparked a broader reckoning over racial injustice and a closer look at the use of police technology to track demonstrators and monitor American neighborhoods.

IBM is one of several big tech firms that had earlier sought to improve the accuracy of their face-scanning software after research found racial and gender disparities. But its new CEO is now questioning whether it should be used by police at all.

“We believe now is the time to begin a national dialogue on whether and how facial recognition technology should be employed by domestic law enforcement agencies,” wrote CEO Arvind Krishna in a letter sent Monday to U.S. lawmakers.

IBM’s decision to stop building and selling facial recognition software is unlikely to affect its bottom line, since the tech giant is increasingly focused on cloud computing while an array of lesser-known firms have cornered the market for government facial recognition contracts.

“But the symbolic nature of this is important,” said Mutale Nkonde, a research fellow at Harvard and Stanford universities who directs the nonprofit AI For the People.

Nkonde said IBM shutting down a business “under the guise of advancing anti-racist business practices” shows that it can be done and makes it “socially unacceptable for companies who tweet Black Lives Matter to do so while contracting with the police.”

Krishna’s letter was addressed to a group of Democrats who have been working on police reform legislation in Congress fueled by the mass protests over Floyd’s death. The sweeping reform package could include restrictions on police use of facial recognition.

IBM had previously tested its facial recognition software with the New York Police Department, although the department has more recently used other vendors. It’s not clear if IBM has existing contracts with other government agencies.

Read the full story about IBM here.

Republican senators quietly consider changes in police practices, accountability

WASHINGTON — Republican Sen. Tim Scott proposes a national database of police officer-involved shootings. Sen. Rand Paul wants to stop sending surplus U.S. military equipment to local law enforcement. And GOP Sen. Mitt Romney is trying to assemble a bipartisan package of bills in response to police violence.

Despite President Trump’s “law and order” approach to demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, Republicans in Congress are quickly, if quietly, trying to craft legislation to change police practices and accountability following the deaths of black Americans at the hands of law enforcement.

Republican senators, who risk losing control of the chamber in this fall’s election, are distancing themselves from the tone and substance of Trump’s response as they step gingerly into a topic many have long avoided as the “Black Lives Matter” movement gains support.

“I think we should all be optimistic right now,” Scott, the only black GOP senator, told reporters at the Capitol. “We have no reason not to be.”

The burst of legislative activity in the Republican ranks — GOP leadership named Scott to lead a working group — is an abrupt turnaround after years of black deaths with law enforcement. It comes as Trump lashes out at activists who want to “defund the police,” and Democrats, powered by the Congressional Black Caucus, unveiled the most sweeping police overhaul in years, with House passage expected.

Lawmakers are watching as demonstrations erupt in all corners of the country, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns, and acknowledging the arrival of a mass movement for law enforcement changes as politically impossible to ignore.

Notably, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose state faces unrest after the death of Breonna Taylor after police entered her Louisville home, has not closed off such proposals.

“Not withstanding the far left’s call to disband the police altogether, I believe most Americans are ready to consider how the memories of black Americans like George Floyd and Breonna Taylor can move us to continue combating residual racism,” McConnell said as the Senate opened Tuesday.

Read the full story here.

Trump pushes conspiracy theory about 75-year-old protester Buffalo police shoved to ground

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump on Tuesday advanced an unfounded conspiracy theory about a 75-year-old protester in Buffalo, New York, who was pushed down by police officers, tweeting without evidence that the confrontation may have been a “set up.”

Trump, who has called himself “your president of law and order,” was once again siding firmly with police over the protesters who have taken to the streets across the country.

With his tweet, Trump attempted to cast doubt on video showing Buffalo police shoving the man, who fell backward and hit his head on the sidewalk. He was seen bleeding from his head as officers walk away.

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In this image from video provided by WBFO, a Buffalo police officer appears to shove a man who walked up to police Thursday, June 4, 2020, in Buffalo, N.Y. Mike Desmond/WBFO via AP

The video is one of several that have emerged in recent weeks showing police using seemingly excessive force against protesters who are demanding justice and racial equality following the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck.

“Buffalo protester shoved by Police could be an ANTIFA provocateur,” Trump wrote. “75 year old Martin Gugino was pushed away after appearing to scan police communications in order to black out the equipment. @OANN I watched, he fell harder than was pushed. Was aiming scanner. Could be a set up?”

There is no evidence to suggest that anything of the sort took place. Trump was referencing a report on One America News Network, a far-right news channel that he often praises.

As he has tried to malign violent protesters as “radical-left, bad people” engaging in domestic terrorism, Trump has repeatedly invoked the label “antifa,” an umbrella term for leftist militants bound more by belief than organizational structure.

There have been violent acts, including property destruction and theft. Police officers and protesters have been seriously injured and killed. But federal law enforcement officials have offered little evidence that antifa-aligned protesters could be behind a movement that has appeared nearly simultaneously in hundreds of cities and towns in all 50 states since Floyd’s death.

Gugino, who is out of the intensive care unit but remains hospitalized, has been described by friends as a retiree and veteran peace activist driven by his faith and a desire for social justice. He is involved with the Western New York Peace Center and Latin American Solidarity Committee, said Vicki Ross, the center’s executive director.

Read the full story here.

Fence around White House becomes gallery of protest art

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People stop to look at signs on a security fence at 16th and H streets on Monday in Washington, after days of protests over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. The fence is meant to keep protesters away from the White House, but they have turned it into a kind of memorial wall. Andrew Harnik/Associated Press

WASHINGTON — That massive fence erected around Lafayette Park has become a do-it-yourself gallery of protest art. Messages, posters and portraits, ranging from loving to enraged, almost blot out the view of the White House across the way.

One block away at the corner of 16th and I streets — a constant flash point for most of last week — the calliope version of “La Cucaracha” rang out from an ice cream truck parked just outside the police roadblock. In front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, it was so tranquil Monday afternoon you could hear the birds chirping while a white visitor paid for a $20 Black Lives Matter T-shirt.

As the nation’s capital emerges from a violent and chaotic 10-day stretch of protests and street battles, a different mood is taking hold. The anger has given way to something closer to a street fair as community leaders, members of Congress and the D.C. government have rallied to the protesters’ cause.

Minnesota troopers punctured tires during protests

MINNEAPOLIS — Law enforcement agencies have acknowledged police officers punctured the tires of numerous unoccupied vehicles parked during the height of recent unrest over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Minnesota Department of Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon says troopers deflated tires to stop vehicles from “driving dangerously and at high speeds in and around protesters and law enforcement.”

Troopers also targeted vehicles “that contained items used to cause harm during violent protests” such as rocks, concrete and sticks, Gordon said Monday, according to the Star Tribune.

Deputies from Anoka County also deflated tires on vehicles during the protests connected to Floyd’s death, according to Anoka County Sheriff’s Lt. Andy Knotz. Deputies were following orders from the state-led Multiagency Command Center, which was coordinating law enforcement during the protests, Knotz said.

All four tires on the car of Star Tribune reporter were slashed in a Kmart parking lot while he was on foot covering the protests and unrest, the newspaper reported.

Protesters nationwide are calling for police reforms in response to Floyd’s death.

Protests prompt U.S. leaders to remove Confederate monuments

Protesters banged into the Confederate monument in Birmingham, Ala., covering the statue with red spray-paint and chipping away at its base with rocks. One group tried to use a thick green rope to bring down the 52-foot obelisk.

Then their mayor showed up with a megaphone.

“Allow me to finish the job for you,” Randall Woodfin told the protesters on May 31.

Two days later, he made good on his promise: The Confederate Soldiers and Sailors monument, first erected more than a century ago, was gone.

Regardless of what policy changes come next, the nation’s massive protests against racial injustice have already secured tangible victories in several cities. Government officials have taken down at least a dozen Confederate memorials, or pledged to do so in the coming days.

Read the full story here.

German agency received more complaints about racism in 2019 

BERLIN — Germany’s official anti-discrimination watchdog says it received significantly more complaints about racism in 2019 than the year before.

The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency said Tuesday that it received 1,176 complaints about racism last year, an increase of 10% compared to 2018.

This represented about a third of all 3,580 complaints received by the agency. Others concerned discrimination based on gender, disability, age, religion, sexual identity and world view.

The number of complaints about racism has more than doubled since 2015.

Bernhard Franke, the head of the agency, called for changes in the law to improve the legal standing of those affected by discrimination, saying that “Germany needs to do more in the fight against racist discrimination.”

He noted that the coronavirus pandemic has further exacerbated some forms of discrimination, with his office receiving numerous reports of racist abuse suffered by people of Asian background in recent months.


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