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Protests continue across the United States over police killings of unarmed African Americans. Thousands have taken to the streets in New York City and areas across the country for each of the five nights since a grand jury declined to indict the officer who killed Eric Garner in a banned chokehold. Over the weekend, protesters in New York staged actions across the city, holding marches and “die-ins” at several locations, including the bustling Grand Central Terminal and inside the stores of major retailers.
Francis Brathwaite: “You know, we believe that it’s wrong and this is a flawed system within the justice system and we need to change it. And with our voices being heard and us being united, we believe we can make a difference in letting these people know that this has to stop. It has to stop today.”
Hakim Williams: “We are protesting Eric Garner, Mike Brown, many of the injustices that have been committed, and we need some justice. We need people to pay attention. We can’t have business as usual.”
In acts of solidarity with Garner and the protests, two professional athletes, Derrick Rose of the NBA and Reggie Bush of the NFL, wore warm-up shirts bearing Eric Garner’s last words: “I Can’t Breathe.”
The weekend protests included a major clash in Berkeley, California, on Saturday. Police fired tear gas and smoke devices at a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators after ordering them to disperse. Police vehicles were vandalized and several businesses damaged after a splinter group threw rocks, bricks and pipes. Two officers were wounded. Demonstrators say protesters were denied medical attention after also suffering injuries. More arrests were made Sunday as the protests broke out into unrest for a second night. Other protest cities included Los Angeles, where demonstrators marched down Hollywood Boulevard in a rally dubbed “Blackout Hollywood.” In North Carolina, more than 200 people interrupted a holiday event by holding a “die-in” on a street, laying their bodies on the ground. Other cities taking part included Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Miami and Minneapolis. Protests also continued in Cleveland, where 12-year-old Tamir Rice was killed last month, and in Phoenix, where Rumain Brisbon was killed last week. More actions against police brutality are expected throughout the week, including a national march on Saturday in Washington, D.C.
Prosecutors have announced a grand jury will be convened in New York to investigate the recent police killing of another unarmed African American. Akai Gurley was in the dimly lit stairwell of a Brooklyn housing project last month when an officer shot him dead. Police say the gun may have discharged by accident. But Kevin Powell, a spokesperson for Gurley’s family, said he wants the officer charged with homicide.
Kevin Powell: “We want a full investigation of the situation from Mayor de Blasio and the police commissioner, Bratton. We feel that the officer should be charged with homicide. We do not believe that this was just an accident. We feel that this is part of a pattern of a reckless disregard for the lives of young people, particularly young people of color in our communities, black and Latino young people. We hope that the mayor, and we believe he is, is sincere in his efforts to get justice in this case, particularly in light of the lack of an indictment with the grand jury in the Eric Garner case.”
The officer who shot Gurley, Peter Liang, did not respond to police radio contact for more than six minutes after the shooting. Instead, he texted his union representative for advice. A neighbor ended up calling for an ambulance that rushed Gurley to the hospital, where he was declared dead. Akai Gurley’s mother, Sylvia Palmer, demanded justice for her son.
Sylvia Palmer: “My son was my life. There’s nothing in this world can heal my pain and my heartache. And I pray to God that I get justice for my son, because my son didn’t deserve to die like that. He didn’t deserve to die like that. All his hope and dreams and aspiration are taken away from him so innocently. It’s not right. I need justice for my son.”
A funeral service was held for Gurley on Saturday, where he was remembered as a loving husband, son and father. A protest was held the same day, with dozens of people braving heavy rain at the housing project where he was killed.
At least 90 people have been killed and more than one million people evacuated since Typhoon Hagupit made landfall in the Philippines over the weekend. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. The typhoon has followed almost the same path taken by last year’s Typhoon Haiyan which left more than 7,000 dead or missing. It is the third year in a row the Philippines has been battered by a major storm during annual U.N. climate talks.
An Ecuadorean Shuar indigenous leader who opposed a major mining project has been found dead just days before he was due to speak at the U.N. climate summit in Lima, Peru. José Isidro Tendetza Antún was found buried with his arms and legs bound. He went missing one week before he planned to speak at a Tribunal on the Rights of Nature in opposition to the Mirador open-pit copper and gold mine. The project, operated by a Chinese company, would devastate swaths of the southern Amazon, a key area for biodiversity, which is home to the Shuar. Shuar leader Domingo Ankuash has accused Ecuadorean authorities of complicity in Tendetza’s murder. Addressing the tribunal where Tendetza was due to speak, Ankuash said the slain activist had faced harassment, including having his house destroyed.
Domingo Ankuash: “If they had not killed Tendetza, he would be with us here now. If there had not been mining in this region of the Condor, then Tendetza would be on the land in his region of Condor.”
Last week, a group of activists traveling from Ecuador to Lima in a climate caravan was stopped multiple times by Ecuadorean authorities and ultimately had their school bus seized.
A failed U.S. rescue operation in Yemen has left the two Western hostages dead as well as 11 others, including civilians. A force of U.S. and Yemeni commandos carried out the raid in a bid to rescue American photojournalist Luke Somers. But the captors shot Somers and another hostage, South African teacher Pierre Korkie, before fleeing. The charity Gift of the Givers says it had reached a ransom deal with the captors that was set to free Korkie just hours later. The United States says it was not aware Korkie was about to be released when it launched the operation.
The United States has sent six Guantánamo prisoners to Uruguay after reaching a deal earlier this year. All six were approved for release more than four years ago. Their transfer is the largest for a single group out of Guantánamo since 2009. One of the prisoners, Jihad Diyab, has filed a lawsuit against the force-feeding of hunger-striking prisoners. In an interview, outgoing Uruguayan President José Mujica said he agreed to receive the six out of his longstanding opposition to Guantánamo Bay.
Uruguayan President José Mujica: “That isn’t a prison. It’s a kidnapping den, because a prison entails subjection to some system of law, the presence of some sort of prosecutor, the decision of some judge — whomever that may be — and a minimal point of reference from a judicial point of view. Guantánamo has nothing.”
The latest employment figures show the United States is in the midst of its highest job creation since the 1990s. More than 300,000 private sector jobs were added in November, bringing this year’s total to more than 2.6 million. President Obama welcomed the news on Friday.
President Obama: “It’s been a long road to recovery from the worst economic crisis in generations, and we still have a lot more work to do to make sure that hard-working Americans’ wages are growing faster. But the United States continues to outpace most of the world. Over the last four years, we’ve put more people back to work than Europe, Japan and all other industrialized advanced countries combined. And we’re going to keep at it until every single American who is willing and able to work can find not just any job, but a job that pays a decent wage and allows them to support their families.”
An independent forensics team in Mexico says tests on human remains have confirmed the identity of one of the 43 students missing since late September. The initial DNA testing is consistent with theories the students’ bodies were incinerated at a garbage dump. The students’ abduction by police and drug gangs has set off protests across Mexico against state-backed violence and corruption, prompting the worst crisis of President Enrique Peña Nieto’s two years in office. Omar García, a student from the missing victims’ school, said the protests will continue.
Omar García: “We take this news with a lot of rage and anger, really just how anyone would take this news. It’s not easy. It’s quite difficult. But we are determined and will not back down like Enrique Peña Nieto wants us to do. This is a life of one of our compañeros (or classmate, you can say) of a boy who wanted to be a teacher, who came from a rural area and had the hope to be someone. His family have fought for almost two-and-a-half months to find him. It’s obvious that we take this with rage and with indignation and with stronger determination to keep fighting for justice, for the punishment of those responsible and to change these kinds of things that happen in our country.”
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu has lost her seat in a runoff contest with Republican challenger Bill Cassidy. Landrieu had tried to appeal to voters in part by backing Cassidy’s measure to authorize the Keystone XL oil pipeline, leading to a failed Senate vote last month.
A new investigation reveals attorneys general nationwide have secretly worked with energy companies to fight federal regulations. According to The New York Times, corporate lobbyists have helped Republican attorneys general in at least a dozen states craft strategy and file lawsuits against environmental rules. In return, the officials have received record donations for their political campaigns, including at least $16 million this year. In one case, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sent a complaint to federal regulators over air pollution limits. Pruitt did not disclose the fact that lawyers for the oil and gas company Devon Energy wrote his letter.