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

WASHINGTON — Senate Republicans are proposing changes to police procedures and accountability with an enhanced use-of-force database, restrictions on chokeholds and new commissions to study law enforcement and race, according to a draft obtained by The Associated Press.

Tim Scott

Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., seen in January, is set to introduce legislation Wednesday calling for changes to police procedures and accountability with an enhanced use-of-force database, restrictions on chokeholds and new commissions to study law enforcement and race,. Associated Press/J. Scott Applewhite

The JUSTICE Act — Just and Unifying Solutions To Invigorate Communities Everywhere Act of 2020 — is the most ambitious Republican policing proposal in years, a direct response to the massive public protests over the death of George Floyd and other black Americans.

The package is set to be introduced Wednesday by Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, the Senate’s lone black Republican, and a task force of Republican senators assembled by Republican leadership.

The 106-page bill is not as sweeping as a Democratic proposal, which is set for a House vote next week, but it shows how swiftly the national debate has been transformed as Republicans embrace a new priority in an election year.

The legislation would beef up requirements for law enforcement to compile use of force reports under a new George Floyd and Walter Scott Notification Act, named for the Minnesota father whose May 25 death sparked worldwide protests over police violence, and Scott, the South Carolina man shot by police after a traffic stop in 2015.

It would also establish the Breonna Taylor Notification Act to track “no-knock” warrants. Such warrants used to be rare, but the 26-year-old was killed after police in Kentucky used a no-knock warrant to enter her Louisville home.

Read the full story on the Republicans police reform bill here.

UN Human Rights Council to turn attention on ‘systemic’ racism in U.S.

When President Trump announced two years ago that the United States would withdraw from the U.N. Human Rights Council (UNHRC), the White House said that the decision did not mean that the country would retreat from its stance on human rights – a cause the administration accused the council of betraying.

“Our commitment does not allow us to remain a part of a hypocritical and self-serving organization that makes a mockery of human rights,” Nikki Haley, then the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said of the top U.N. human rights body.

Now, amid mass police accountability protests across the United States, UNHRC is set to turn its attention to America. The body will hold a rare “urgent debate” Wednesday on human rights in the United States, and African countries are circulating a draft resolution calling for a high-level investigation into U.S. racism and police violence.

The United States, no longer a council member, will not get a vote on the matter. The State Department and White House would not immediately comment on the record. “The doors remain open to them,” said Rolando Gomez, a media officer for the council.

UNHRC’s Wednesday event will focus on “systemic racism, police brutality and violence against peaceful protests” in the United States, after a request by all 54 African countries, who highlighted the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody last month, sparking a protest movement.

The draft resolution, among other proposals, calls for an independent international commission of inquiry, one of the highest-level probes the United Nations can launch, to look into “deaths of Africans and people of African descent” in the United States with the aim of “bringing perpetrators to justice.”

Read the full story on the Human Rights Council’s focus on the U.S. here.

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Members of Alpha Company of the 244th Quartermasters battalion march to the physical fitness track at the Ft. Lee Army base in Ft. Lee, Va., in 2006. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he’s “OK” with renaming military bases that are named after Confederate Army officers. Associated Press/Steve Helber

McConnell ‘OK’ with removing Confederate names from bases

WASHINGTON — Top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell said Tuesday he’s “OK” with renaming military bases such as Ft. Bragg that are named after Confederate Army officers, declining to side with President Trump and other Republicans opposed to the move.

The Kentucky senator said he’ll live with whatever lawmakers decide as they debate an annual defense policy bill for the military in the coming weeks.

Trump has blasted the calls to rename the military bases. “Hopefully our great Republican Senators won’t fall for this!” he said in a tweet last week.

A Republican-controlled Senate panel voted last week to require bases such as Ft. Bragg and Ft. Hood to be renamed within three years. McConnell, himself the descendant of a Confederate veteran, didn’t endorse the idea but said he wouldn’t oppose it. Similarly, top House Republican Kevin McCarthy of California said last week — after repeated prodding — that he doesn’t oppose the idea.

“I can only speak for myself on this issue. If it’s appropriate to take another look at these names I’m OK with that,” McConnell said. “Whatever is ultimately decided I don’t have a problem with.”

The debate over the Confederate flag and other symbols of slavery and black oppression has burst open in the wake of widespread protests over police abuse of African Americans and specifically the choking death of George Floyd. Public opinion has shifted dramatically since Floyd’s killing.

The Democratic-controlled House is sure to include legislation to rename bases and it’s plain that Republicans in the Senate who are opposed to the idea, such as Josh Hawley of Missouri, don’t have the votes to remove it during floor debate.

The Senate’s requirement for the bases to be renamed within three years was approved by a voice vote as a piece of the annual Pentagon policy bill. A commission would be set up to oversee the process.

But McConnell came out forcefully against a proposal by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to remove statues of Confederates such as Jefferson Davis from display in the Capitol, calling it “nonsense” and saying it would “airbrush the Capitol.”

Calls grow for de-escalation training after Atlanta shooting

ATLANTA — The deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta in the span of less than three weeks have led to a push in the U.S. for more training of police officers in how to “de-escalate” tense situations before they explode in violence.

“You’ve got to get cops to understand that it’s not a cowardly act, that backing off could save this person’s life,” said Tom Manger, a retired police chief in Virginia and Maryland and former president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association.

Officers undergoing de-escalation training are taught how to keep their cool, talk to people in such a way as to calm them down, and use the least amount of force required. Typically the instruction includes exercises in which actors playing members of the public try to provoke officers.

“It’s very clear that our police officers are to be guardians and not warriors within our communities,” Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Monday in announcing she will require city officers to continuously undergo such training in the wake of Brooks’ fatal shooting Friday night.

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A crowd of demonstrators marches to the Capitol on Monday in Atlanta. Rayshard Brooks, 27, was shot and killed by Atlanta police after they tried to handcuff him for being intoxicated and asleep behind the wheel of his car at a Wendy’s drive-thru. Steve Schaefer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via Associated Press

Calls for increased de-escalation training have also come from politicians on Capitol Hill as well as from California’s attorney general, Michigan lawmakers and Houston’s police chief.

President Trump signed an executive order Tuesday that would encourage better police practices and establish a database of officers with a history of excessive-force complaints. It also would promote certification agencies that teach officers de-escalation techniques.

Such techniques have been around for years but have embraced more strongly amid the growing movement to stop the killings of black people by police.

Among other measures that have been adopted or are under consideration across the U.S. in the wake of the latest deaths: bans on chokeholds, making police disciplinary records public, releasing bodycam footage of shootings more quickly, and requiring officers to intervene when they see misconduct by fellow members of the force.

Manger said that in situations like the one that ended in Brooks’ death, officers should be taught to make high-pressure, split-second decisions that involve alternatives to force — for example, waiting for more backup to arrive or taking cover or retreating.

Police detain armed militia members after man is shot at Albuquerque protest

Protesters in Albuquerque wrapped a chain around the neck of a bronze statue and began tugging, chanting, “Tear it down,” shortly before sunset on Monday. Their efforts to pull down a monument of Spanish conquistador Juan de Oñate suddenly stopped as four shots rang out.

Most people instinctively turned toward the noise, videos from the scene show. A few screamed. Just yards away, a group of militia men sporting militarylike garb and carrying semiautomatic rifles formed a protective circle around the gunman.

The gunshots, which left one man in critical but stable condition, have set off a cascade of public outcry denouncing the unregulated militia’s presence and the shooting, although police have yet to announce an arrest or describe exactly what happened. The victim is also unidentified.

“The heavily armed individuals who flaunted themselves at the protest, calling themselves a ‘civil guard,’ were there for one reason: To menace protesters, to present an unsanctioned show of unregulated force,” New Mexico Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said in a statement. “To menace the people of New Mexico with weaponry – with an implicit threat of violence – is on its face unacceptable; that violence did indeed occur is unspeakable.”

Albuquerque Democratic Mayor Tim Keller said the statue would now be speedily removed as an “urgent matter of public safety” until authorities determine a next step.

“The shooting tonight was a tragic, outrageous and unacceptable act of violence and it has no place in our city,” Keller said in a statement. “Our diverse community will not be deterred by acts meant to divide or silence us. Our hearts go out the victim, his family and witnesses whose lives were needlessly threatened tonight.”

Read the full story here.

Seattle council bans police use of crowd control weapons

SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to bar police from using tear gas, pepper spray and several other crowd control devices after officers repeatedly used them on mostly peaceful demonstrators protesting racism and police brutality.

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People walk near tents that make up the “No Cop Co-op” Monday inside what has been named the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest zone in Seattle. Associated Press/Ted S. Warren

The 9-0 vote Monday came amid frustration with the Seattle Police Department, which used tear gas to disperse protesters in the city’s densest neighborhood, Capitol Hill, just days after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best promised not to. The council heard repeated complaints from residents forced out of their homes by the gas even though they weren’t protesting; one resident said his wife doused their child’s eyes with breast milk.

A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary order banning Seattle police from using tear gas, pepper spray, foam-tipped projectiles or other force against protesters, finding that the department had used less-lethal weapons “disproportionately and without provocation,” chilling free speech in the process.

Socialist Council Member Kshama Sawant, who sponsored the legislation, said the police department had demonstrated it could not be trusted with the weapons.

“Many of us have witnessed it; many of us have experienced it,” Sawant said. “They falsely claimed that the protesters were violent rioters and that they had no alternative. … They even attempted to maintain those lies in the face of videos showing the police were the source – and the sole source – of the violence.”

Read the full story on the Seattle council’s action here.

‘When does it stop?’ Slain man’s family makes tearful plea

ATLANTA — Pleading through tears Monday, the family of a black man killed by Atlanta police outside a drive-thru demanded changes in the criminal justice system and called on protesters to refrain from violence amid heightened tensions across the U.S. three weeks after George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

An autopsy found that 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks was shot twice in the back late Friday by a white officer who was trying to arrest him at a fast food restaurant for being intoxicated behind the wheel of his car. Brooks tried to flee after wrestling with officers and grabbing a stun gun from one of them.

“Not only are we hurt, we are angry,” said Chassidy Evans, Brooks’ niece. “When does it stop? We’re not only pleading for justice. We’re pleading for change.”

About 20 of Brooks’ children, siblings, cousins and other family members sobbed at a news conference as more than 1,000 people gathered not far away at an NAACP-led protest outside the Georgia Capitol.

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Family members of Rayshard Brooks attend a news conference on Monday in Atlanta. Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow, asked those demonstrating to “keep the protesting peaceful,” saying: “We want to keep his name positive and great.” Ron Harris/Associated Press

Floyd’s death May 25 after a white Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into the black man’s neck touched off demonstrations and scattered violence across the U.S., and Brooks’ killing rekindled those protests in Atlanta. The Wendy’s restaurant where Brooks was shot was burned down over the weekend.

Evans said there was no reason for her uncle “to be shot and killed like trash in the street for falling asleep in a drive-thru.”

“Rayshard has a family who loves him who would have gladly come and got him so he would be here with us today,” she said.

Relatives described Brooks as a loving father of three daughters and a stepson who had a bright smile and a big heart and loved to dance. His oldest daughter learned her father was slain while celebrating her eighth birthday with cupcakes and friends, wearing a special dress as she waited for Brooks to take her skating, said Justin Miller, an attorney for the family.

“There’s no justice that can ever make me feel happy about what’s been done,” said Tomika Miller, Brooks’ widow. “I can never get my husband back. … I can never tell my daughter he’s coming to take you skating or for swimming lessons.”

Read the full story about the Atlanta killing of Rayshard Brooks here.

Protesters make their point with viral video clips

Citizen footage has played a role in previous protest movements: Rodney King’s violent arrest in Los Angeles in 1991 was filmed by a man on his nearby balcony with a camcorder, and images posted to social media were crucial to the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street.

But the Black Lives Matter movement has been different. Bystander video sparked it, with cellphone-bearing citizens capturing the killings of Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, George Floyd and others. While those high-profile clips showed the extremes of police brutality, the ubiquity of smart phones during nationwide protests in recent weeks has provided a window into protesters’ interactions with officers unimaginable to past generations of Americans.

Some of the weeks’ most jarring videos have been shot by traditional news media, like two Buffalo police officers shoving peace activist Martin Gugino. Many non-TV journalists have used the camera apps on their smart phones, too.

But for every encounter captured by reporters, dozens more have been uploaded to social media by protesters and onlookers themselves. Among the most notable: a Philadelphia police officer striking a Temple University student in the head and neck with a metal baton, and a New York City officer shoving a woman to the ground and cursing at her. Both officers are facing charges only after recordings filmed by citizens went viral.

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People record speakers and the crowd during a Caribbean-led Black Lives Matter rally at Brooklyn’s Grand Army Plaza on Sunday in New York. Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Camera phones are allowing protesters to tell their own stories, whether it be through photos or videos on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or via livestreaming apps like Periscope. Every demonstration in the world is being documented, from New York and London all the way to Holland, Arkansas — population roughly 550. Documentary filmmakers have been out collecting footage, too.

Yet, what is resonating most now are videos that offer evidence of police aggression that’s helping to disprove police claims and show some Americans a side of law enforcement that black communities have been complaining about for decades.

“The only way those folks are ever going to change their mind is to just be overwhelmed with so much evidence that they can’t really deny it anymore,” said criminal defense and First Amendment lawyer T. Greg Doucette.

Read the full story about the role of video and audio clips here.

Vehicles hitting protesters raise disturbing echoes of 2017 Charlottesville killing

Emily Bloom said she barely had time to dive to safety before a gray Kia with its engine revving was driven through the intersection where she had stood moments earlier in downtown Gainesville, Fla., protesting police brutality.

While marching with fellow protesters in the Richmond, Va., suburb of Lakeside, Rachel Kurtz said she, her husband and her 11-year-old son had to leap to the sidewalk and out of the path of a blue pickup truck.

In the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle, Dan Gregory fell to the ground, shot in the shoulder, after he said he attempted to stop a black Honda Civic headed toward a group of protesters. And in front of the Bakersfield Police Department in California, Lexi Colebrook said she watched in horror as an SUV hit her friend, who managed to stumble toward the sidewalk and escape serious injury.

The incidents are among at least 19 cases in the past few weeks in which witnesses or police say civilian vehicles were driven through massive demonstrations after the May 25 death of George Floyd, who was handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a Minneapolis police officer for nearly nine minutes.

In at least eight of the events, a driver faces charges for what prosecutors described as a deliberate act, according to arrest and court filings.

Dan Gregory, 27, was shot as he tried to stop the driver of a car headed toward protesters on June 7 in Seattle, according to prosecutors. The driver has been charged with assault, court files show. Photo by Stuart Isett for The Washington Post.

That includes the event in Richmond, where prosecutors say the driver sought to intimidate protesters with his truck and hit one demonstrator’s bicycle, running over the cyclist’s foot. According to court documents, the driver told police he is a high-ranking official of the Ku Klux Klan.

In Illinois, a motorcyclist was charged with hate crimes and aggravated battery after police said he plowed into a demonstration in Bloomington.

The accusations echo the 2017 vehicle attack at a white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., that killed Heather Heyer, a counterprotester. And they occur amid a resurgence of internet memes featuring messages such as “All lives splatter” and “Run them over” and pictures of bloodied trucks.

“To me, this is a pattern beyond coincidence,” said Jacob Stoil, an expert on military history and irregular warfare who is an assistant professor at the U.S. Army’s School of Advanced Military Studies at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. “We’ve now seen a pretty steady stream of it.” Stoil, who emphasized he was speaking about his personal research and not on behalf of the Army or any institution, added, “My research would suggest that this is a cluster, and a growing cluster.”

Shared in numerous instances by right-wing activists and some members of law enforcement, the social media messages at times seem to encourage attacks, using phrases such as “Run ’em all over” and “Get the protester plow.” Others put the onus on protesters to get out of the way, such as when commentator Steven Crowder recently tweeted: “Charge or block a vehicle and break the windshield with the driver still in it? Congratulations! You are now a speed bump!”

Read the full story here.


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