George Floyd protests
June 15, 2020

The protests for racial equality and justice sparked by the police killing of George Floyd started out as a largely spontaneous phenomenon, but Sunday's faith-based events in Washington, D.C., were planned — by black clergy, mostly, but also the NAACP. "Black Lives Matter Plaza was transformed into a church Sunday morning, with thousands of mostly African American worshipers praying, protesting, kneeling, and dancing near the White House after marching from the National Museum of African American History and Culture," The Washington Post reports.

Black church leaders had refrained from holding their own event partly out of safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic, and marchers were urged to stay six feet apart and masks were strongly encouraged.

"We were waiting for a call for something not just incensed with anger, but something that integrated our faith," said Pastor Howard-John Wesley of Alexandria, Virginia's historic Alfred Street Baptist Church. "We wanted to carve out something safe for teens — I was scared to let them come downtown. We wanted to teach them about protesting peacefully."

"A broad representation of the black church was on display at different events Sunday, showing general support for the Black Lives Matter movement, from conservative Pentecostals to more liberal Episcopalians and Baptists," the Post reports. "On the details of what to do next, voices varied." By afternoon, clergy from other Christian denominations had joined, plus Jewish, Hindu, Muslim, and Sikh faith leaders.

"The government stands under God's judgment, and must therefore be held accountable for protecting the innocent, guaranteeing basic freedoms and liberties, and establishing justice and equality," said Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the United Methodist Church. Rev. William Barber II, leader of the Poor People’s Campaign movement, also spoke, after preaching at Washington National Cathedral earlier in the day. Until America faces "this raw truth" of its history of racial violence, "we can't repent right," Barber said to 14,000 people watching online. "America, you're killing yourself!” Peter Weber

June 14, 2020

Shortly after Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned from the role Saturday evening, the department announced early Sunday that the police officer who fatally shot a black man Friday evening has been fired.

The officer, Garrett Rolfe, shot and killed 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks in a Wendy's parking lot, where Brooks had been found asleep in his parked car in the drive-thru. After officers woke Brooks, he failed a sobriety test. Video then shows Rolfe, along with his fellow officer Devin Brosnan — who has been placed on administrative leave — struggling with Brooks, who grabbed one of the officer's tasers and appeared to point it at them after running away. Shots are heard on the video, but the footage did not capture Rolfe drawing his weapon and firing, shooting Brooks, The Associated Press reports.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not believe the shooting was justified, adding that multiple incidents in which Atlanta police officers used excessive force amid protests sparked by George Floyd's killing showed the department has failed to meet the city's expectations. She also said it was Shields' own decision to step down.

In response to Brooks' death, protesters set fire to the Wendy's where the shooting took place and blocked traffic on a stretch of highway, actions which resulted in dozens of arrests. Read more at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

June 13, 2020

As protests against police brutality and systemic racism have seemingly grown less tense, the movement's offshoots in Europe have led to violent clashes between not only demonstrators and police, but far-right groups, as well.

In London, far-right groups claiming they want to defend British culture and protect London's monuments reportedly hurled racial slurs at the anti-racism protesters, and the two sides broke out into fights as police tried to break them up. London's Black Lives Matter protests were reportedly smaller and more scattered than in recent days because the right-wing groups announced they would congregate in the area where a larger march had been planned.

Meanwhile, French police reportedly used tear against protesters who tried to hold a banned march in Paris.

The protests inspired by the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, have struck a chord in France, where police have reportedly received almost 1,500 complaints against officers last year, many of them alleging violence. Since the protests began, the country has banned chokeholds as a restraining tactic in some cases, and France's Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said any officer strongly suspected of racism would be suspended. Police unions have pushed back, even launching counter-protests. Read more at Reuters and BBC. Tim O'Donnell

June 10, 2020

After a tumultuous Sunday night of protests and tear gas in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood, police boarded up and vacated the East Precinct headquarters Monday and the protesters moved in, setting up barriers and declaring a "cop-free" enclave they are calling the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ. On Tuesday night, hundreds of protesters marched to City Hall and occupied the empty building for about an hour, listening to speeches and calls for the resignation of Mayor Jenny Durkan and defunding police department. They didn't have to break in — Kshama Sawant, a member of the city council, brought her key and let them in, King 5 reports.

The protesters left City Hall at about 10 p.m., and by 11 p.m., several groups of protesters had congregated back at CHAZ to watch the Ava DuVernay documentary 13th, about racial inequality in America and the criminal justice system, The Seattle Times reports. The autonomous zone includes a memorial to George Floyd, a snack station, a medic booth, and a section for street artists. Peter Weber

June 8, 2020

Protesters gathered in Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood Sunday for a ninth day of protests against racial injustice and police brutality concretized in the killing of George Floyd. The protest's peace was first shattered when a black car drove toward a crowd demonstrating near 11th Avenue and Pine Street shortly before 8:30 p.m. The driver appears to have shot a 27-year-old man who reached into his car, purportedly to protect other protesters, according to video of the incident and The Seattle Times.

The driver, who is white, then walked through the crowd with his gun drawn, winding toward the line of police, where he and his gun were taken into custody. The protester he shot in the arm, who is black, was taken to the hospital, where he is in stable condition.

After that incident, tensions continued to mount between Seattle police warning protesters to stop advancing past a barricade they had erected and some protesters advancing anyway. Around midnight, the Times reports, "police used flash-bangs, pepper spray, and tear gas against the remaining crowd," and with gas hanging in the street, "explosions from the flash-bangs continued for at least 20 minutes." The Stranger's Chase Burns captured some of the melee from the newspaper's offices, where the gas eventually rose to and left staff coughing and crying.

It was "a prolonged and intense confrontation," The Stranger's Rich Smith reports. "Some protesters batted away projectiles with umbrellas, tossed traffic cones, shined laser pointers, and threw bottles and fireworks at police as they fell back. Others stood with their hands raised, bright lights shining in their faces." By 1 a.m. there were only a few dozen protesters and police facing off, he adds. "The Marshall Law Band played live on 11th Ave for large stretches of the conflict, if not the whole time." Peter Weber

June 6, 2020

The NFL has changed its tone.

The league worked its way into the spotlight this week, as several players and coaches spoke out about police brutality amid protests over George Floyd's death. Tensions rose when New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, who is white, said he would never agree with anyone who "disrespected" the United States flag, an issue that has divided the league since 2016 when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick launched a movement to kneel during the national anthem before games in the hopes of bringing attention to racial injustices, including police brutality, in the U.S.

Brees, a well-respected player, faced backlash from even his own teammates, and eventually apologized. And, now, so has NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. In response to demands from players, many of whom appeared in a video featuring several of the sport's biggest stars, Goodell said Friday the league now encourages players to "speak out and peacefully protest" and that "we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier." Goodell said he is also personally protesting and wants "to be part of the change much needed change in this country."

Critics noted that Goodell's statement did not include a specific apology to or mention of Kaepernick, and it's unclear if Goodell was encouraging players to kneel during the anthem. A rule requiring players to stand remains in limbo, though it doesn't seem likely to be enforced. It's also unclear if this will pave a path for Kaepernick, who many analysts and some coaches believe could at the very least fill a backup role, to return the league. Read more at The Wall Street Journal and ESPN. Tim O'Donnell

June 5, 2020

Attorney General William Barr has declared a loose collective of anti-fascist activists to be domestic terrorists. Events haven't substantiated his claim.

Barr announced Sunday that FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTF) were working with state and local partners to nab "violent radical agitators who have hijacked peaceful protest and are engaged in violations of federal law," singling out "antifa another other similar groups" as agents of "domestic terrorism." On Wednesday, prosecutors in Las Vegas said the JTTF had arrested "three alleged members of the 'Boogaloo' movement" — generally far-right anti-government extremists — on terrorism charges, alleging they planned to use Molotov cocktails and other explosives to trigger violence at George Floyd rallies.

Twitter said Monday it had suspended a fake antifa account, @ANTIFA_US, that on Sunday urged fellow "Comrades" to "move into the residential areas ... the white hoods ... and we take what's ours." The account was linked to the white nationalist group Identity Evropa, Twitter said. Donald Trump Jr. and conservative sites like Red State and Hot Air amplified the fake antifa tweet, and Fox News claimed Wednesday that armed antifa rioters were "coming to the suburbs," citing one anonymous "government intelligence source."

False rumors spread on Facebook and Nextdoor that buses filled with thousands of antifa agitators were coming to loot "white neighborhoods." Facebook said Tuesday it suspended fake accounts tied to the white nationalist Proud Boys and American Guard groups that had masqueraded as antifa organizers asking members to bring weapons to the protests.

Barr and President Trump have fanned the flames, blaming antifa "terrorists," without evidence, for the looting and vandalism at the fringes of peaceful protests. There may be more than just politics at play, Bryan Bender writes at Politico.

Trump has threatened to send active-duty soldiers to cities under the 1807 Insurrection Act. If governors oppose him sending in the Army to enforce state laws, Trump could deploy troops only to enforce federal laws, Claire Finkelstein, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, tells Politico. "That might set up: 'We couldn't get these federally declared terrorists under control so we have to call out the military to quell the civil unrest on grounds of federal terrorism law,'" she said. "The more the attorney general can identify a federal interest in what is basically a state law matter — destruction of property, failure to abide by curfews — they potentially orchestrate a basis." Peter Weber

June 4, 2020

The American Civil Liberties Union and protesters from Maryland and Washington, D.C., filed a lawsuit on Thursday against the Trump administration over the use of force to push peaceful demonstrators out of Lafayette Square on Monday.

President Trump, Attorney General William Barr, and other federal officials are named as defendants in the lawsuit. Security personnel used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowd, which was protesting the death of George Floyd. This happened shortly before Trump walked over to take photos in front of St. John's Church.

The lawsuit states federal forces had "no legitimate basis to destroy the peaceful gathering," and this case is about Trump and Barr "ordering the use of violence against peaceful demonstrators who were speaking out against discriminatory police brutality targeted at black people."

Barr, who has been leading the federal response to the protests, on Thursday defended the use of force, saying protesters were becoming "unruly." Several military leaders have in turn denounced it, with former Defense Secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general, calling the show of force an "abuse of executive authority," adding that "we must reject and hold accountable those in office who would make a mockery of our Constitution." Catherine Garcia

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