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

NEW YORK — A flood of donations following the death of George Floyd has left racial equality and social justice groups in a position they might never have expected to be in: figuring out what to do with a surplus of cash.

Floyd, a Black man who died May 25 pleading for air as a white Minneapolis police officer held a knee to his neck for nearly eight minutes, has spurred global protests and a wider reckoning of police brutality and racism in the U.S., as well as a public clamoring to offer financial support to address those issues.

The donations have come from all corners of the U.S. and the globe, including from prominent celebrities and huge companies as well as individual donors putting up anywhere between a few dollars to hundreds of millions.

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People raise their fists during a rally June 5 in Las Vegas against police brutality sparked by the death of George Floyd. A flood of donations during the surge of global protests following the death of Floyd have left racial equality and social justice groups in a position they might never have expected: figuring out what to do with a surplus of cash. Associated Press/John Locher

“Both individuals like Michael Jordan and corporations like Google across America are making much bigger commitments than they have in the past,” said Melissa Berman, President & CEO of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. “They are also increasingly willing to name the problem as racism and not use euphemisms.”

At the same time, GoFundMe sites have generated millions in donations, mostly made up of very small dollar amounts from a large number of people. A GoFundMe for the mother of Ahmaud Arbery, who was fatally shot while jogging, has raised nearly $2 million from more than 60,000 donors. A fund for Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her home by police, has raised more than $6 million from more than 200,000 donors. And Floyd’s GoFundMe site had raised $14.5 million from more than 500,000 donations from 140 countries.

There have been $2 billion in racial equity pledges and commitments since May 25, 2020. By contrast for the whole calendar year 2019, donations in the same category totaled $166.4 million. That’s according to Candid, a nonprofit which tracks donations.

Read the full story on donations to racial equality groups here.

Three men indicted on murder charges in killing of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia

ATLANTA — A prosecutor on Wednesday announced that three men have been indicted on murder charges in the killing of Ahmaud Arbery in coastal Georgia.

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A recently painted mural of Ahmaud Arbery is on display in Brunswick, Ga., where the 25-year-old man was shot and killed in February. It was painted by Miami artist Marvin Weeks. Sarah Blake Morgan/Associated Press

Speaking to reporters outside the Glynn County courthouse, prosecutor Joyette Holmes said a grand jury has indicted Travis McMichael, Greg McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on charges including malice and felony murder in the death of the African American man.

“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” Holmes said during the news conference, which was streamed online by news outlets.

Lawyers for the McMichaels have cautioned against a rush to judgment and have said the full story will come out in court. A lawyer for Bryan has maintained that his client was merely a witness.

Arbery was slain Feb. 23 when the Greg and Travis McMichael, a white father and son, armed themselves and pursued the 25-year-old Black man running in their neighborhood. Greg McMichael told police he suspected Arbery was a burglar and that Arbery attacked his son before being shot.

Bryan lives in the same subdivision, just outside the port city of Brunswick. Bryan said he saw the McMichaels driving by and joined the chase, a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent testified earlier this month.

It wasn’t until May 7 — two days after Bryan’s cellphone video leaked online and stirred a national outcry — that the McMichaels were arrested. Bryan was arrested on May 22, and an arrest warrant said he tried “to confine and detain” Arbery without legal authority by “utilizing his vehicle on multiple occasions” before Arbery was shot.

In addition to malice murder and felony murder charges, the McMichaels and Bryan each are charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.

Read the full story about the indictments here.

Boston approves ban on facial recognition technology

BOSTON — The Boston City Council voted unanimously Wednesday to pass a ban on the use of facial recognition technology by city government.

The move makes Boston the second-largest U.S. city after San Francisco to enact a ban. The city joins several other Massachusetts communities that passed similar bans, including Cambridge, Springfield, Northampton, Brookline and Somerville.

“Boston should not use racially discriminatory technology that threatens the privacy and basic rights of our residents,” At-Large Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu said in a statement. “Community trust is the foundation for public safety and public health.”

The push against the technology is being driven both by privacy concerns and after several studies have shown current face-recognition systems are more likely to err when identifying people with darker skin.

“While face surveillance is a danger to all people, no matter the color of their skin, the technology is a particularly serious threat to Black and brown people,” Councilor Ricardo Arroyo said in a statement.

The American Civil Liberties Union-Massachusetts has been pushing a bill on Beacon Hill that aims to establish a statewide moratorium on the government use of facial surveillance and other remote biometric screening technologies until the Legislature imposes checks and balances to protect the public’s interest.

The Boston measure is now sent to Democratic Mayor Marty Walsh’s desk. If he takes no action in 15 days, it will automatically become law.

Senate Democrats block Republican policing bill, stalling efforts to change law enforcement practices

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a Republican-drafted bill aimed at overhauling the nation’s policing practices amid a national outcry for a systematic transformation of law enforcement — spelling a potential death knell to efforts at revisions at the federal level in an election year.

On a 55-to-45 vote, the legislation written primarily by Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) failed to advance in the Senate, where it needed 60 votes to proceed. Most Democratic senators said the bill fell far short of what was needed to meaningfully change policing tactics and was beyond the point of salvageable.

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Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Kevin Dietsch/Pool via Associated Press

“The Republican majority proposed the legislative equivalent of a fig leaf — something that provides a little cover but no real change,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a floor speech Wednesday morning. “The harsh fact of the matter is, the bill is so deeply, fundamentally and irrevocably flawed, it cannot serve as a useful starting point for meaningful reform.”

The failed vote came after an impassioned speech by Scott, the lone black Republican in the Senate, who said his bill was an opportunity to say “not only do we hear you, not only do we see you, we are responding to your pain.”

The gridlock on Capitol Hill stands in contrast to the growing public support for policing reforms in the four weeks since the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody, galvanized the nation with demands for racial justice. A national Associated Press-NORC survey conducted this month found a sweeping desire nationwide for police reform, with clear majorities across racial and party lines supporting changes such as requiring officers to wear body cameras and prosecuting those who use excessive force.

Senate Democrats call GOP policing bill ‘not salvageable,’ signal they will block measure

Democrats argued that had Republicans wanted to produce a substantive, bipartisan police proposal, they would have started with a template that included more input from them before letting the bill advance on the floor. In private, Democrats also spoke of their deep distrust of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and questioned whether he wanted a bipartisan bill to pass the Senate.

But Republicans repeatedly noted that Democrats could try to amend the bill on the Senate floor, and GOP senators privately offered amendment votes meant to address several criticisms of the bill that Schumer, and Sens. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.) laid out in a letter to McConnell on Tuesday. The Democrats turned down that offer, according to two GOP officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss procedural deliberations, and also rejected a subsequent offer of more amendment votes.

Scott privately told Democrats that if they did not get votes on amendments they sought, that he, too, would help them filibuster his own bill again before it proceeds to a final vote, according to one of the officials.

“We’re literally arguing about whether to stop arguing about whether to start arguing about something else,” McConnell said on the Senate floor Wednesday morning. “Nobody thought the first offer from the Republican side was going to be the final product that traveled out of the Senate.”

Three members of the Democratic caucus broke ranks and voted to advance the bill — Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.), Doug Jones (D-Ala.) and Angus King (I-Maine).

The Senate GOP plan incorporates a number of Democratic proposals, such as legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime and a national policing commission to undertake a comprehensive review of the U.S. criminal justice system.

It also withholds federal grants to state and local law enforcement agencies that don’t proactively bar the practice of chokeholds. It also calls on states and localities to report to the Justice Department when so-called “no-knock warrants” are used, and it would punish those that do not do so by withholding federal funding.

Detroit police challenged over face recognition flaws after Black man’s mistaken arrest

A Black man who says he was unjustly arrested because facial recognition technology mistakenly identified him as a suspected shoplifter is calling for a public apology from Detroit police. And for the department to abandon its use of the controversial technology.

The complaint by Robert Williams is a rare challenge from someone who not only experienced an erroneous face recognition hit, but was able to discover that it was responsible for his subsequent legal troubles.

The Wednesday complaint filed on Williams’ behalf alleges that his Michigan driver license photo — kept in a statewide image repository — was incorrectly flagged as a likely match to a shoplifting suspect. Investigators had scanned grainy surveillance camera footage of an alleged 2018 theft inside a Shinola watch store in midtown Detroit, police records show.

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In this Feb. 11, 2020, file photo, Silkie Carlo, left, demonstrates in front of a mobile police facial recognition facility outside a shopping centre in London. A Black man who says he was unjustly arrested because facial recognition technology mistakenly identified him as a suspected shoplifter is calling for a public apology from Detroit police. AP Photo/Kelvin Chan, File

That led to what Williams describes as a humiliating January arrest in front of his wife and young daughters on their front lawn in the Detroit suburb of Farmington Hills.

“I can’t really even put it into words,” Williams said in a video announcement describing the daytime arrest that left his daughters weeping. “It was one of the most shocking things that I ever had happen to me.”

The 42-year-old automotive worker, backed by the American Civil Liberties Union, is demanding a public apology, final dismissal of his case and for Detroit police to scrap its use of facial recognition technology. Several studies have shown current face-recognition systems more likely to err when identifying people with darker skin.

The ACLU complaint said Detroit police “unthinkingly relied on flawed and racist facial recognition technology without taking reasonable measures to verify the information being provided.” It called the resulting investigation “shoddy and incomplete,” the officers involved “rude and threatening,” and said the department has dragged its feet responding to public-information requests for relevant records.

Detroit police and Wayne County prosecutors didn’t immediately return emailed requests for comment Wednesday, but the police department told NPR it has since enacted new rules limiting the use of facial recognition to cases involving violent crimes and only using still photos, not security footage.

Police officer involved in Breonna Taylor shooting is fired

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Louisville Metro police department has fired one of the police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor, more than three months after the 26-year-old black woman was killed in her home.

A termination letter sent to Officer Brett Hankison released by the city’s police department Tuesday said Hankinson violated procedures by showing “extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly” shot 10 rounds of gunfire into Taylor’s apartment in March. The letter also said Hankison, who is white, violated the rule against using deadly force.

Taylor, who was Black, was shot eight times by officers who burst into her Louisville home using a no-knock warrant during a March 13 narcotics investigation. The warrant to search her home was in connection with a suspect who did not live there, and no drugs were found inside.

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Kevin Peterson, center, founder and executive director of the New Democracy Coalition, displays a placard showing Breonna Taylor as he addresses a rally in Boston on June 9. Brett Hankison, one of the three Louisville officers involved in the shooting, was fired Tuesday. Steven Senne/Associated Press

The no-knock search warrant that allows police to enter without first announcing their presence was recently banned by Louisville’s Metro Council.

The letter said Hankison fired the rounds “without supporting facts” that the deadly force was directed at a person posing an immediate threat.

“I find your conduct a shock to the conscience,” interim Louisville Police Chief Robert Schroeder said in the letter. “Your actions have brought discredit upon yourself and the Department.”

Read the full story about the firing here.

Rhode Island may change official name to remove slavery connotation

The state of Rhode Island is moving toward changing its official name to remove a portion that connotes slavery.

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Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order that could lead to “and Providence Plantations” being removed from the state’s official name (Rhode Island and Providence Plantations). Kris Craig/Providence Journal via Associated Press

Gov. Gina Raimondo signed an executive order that could lead to “and Providence Plantations” being removed from the state’s official name (Rhode Island and Providence Plantations). The official name has come under renewed scrutiny in the wake of global protests over racial injustice spurred by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Under Raimondo’s executive order, the issue will be put on the ballot for the November election.

“I urge the voters to approve the name change in November but will take all measures now that are within my control to eliminate the name from my official communications and those of my executive agencies,” Raimondo said.

The state’s full name will also be removed from state-operated websites, official documents, stationary and other executive orders.

The state seal may also be replaced or redesigned.

The state senate has also passed a resolution to remove “and Providence Plantations” from the official name, but it is unclear when the issue will be put to a vote.

Harold Metts, the state’s only Black senator, introduced the bill.

“Whatever the meaning of the term ‘plantations’ in the context of Rhode Island’s history, it carries a horrific connotation when considering the tragic and racist history of our nation,” Metts told the Providence Journal last week.

Nearly 78 percent of the state’s voters opposed removing the phrase in 2010 when a similar resolution was made a ballot measure, according to the Providence Journal.


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