Protests against police brutality erupted across the United States over the weekend, with tens of thousands of people taking to the streets and blocking roads, bridges and highways in cities including Chicago, Atlanta, Baton Rouge, St. Paul, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Rochester, New York. More than 300 people were arrested nationwide, including more than 160 in Baton Rouge, where two white police officers killed an African-American father of five, Alton Sterling, last Tuesday morning. Multiple videos of the killing show police officers had Sterling pinned to the ground before shooting him multiple times. Among those arrested in Baton Rouge was Black Lives Matter activist DeRay Mckesson, who ran for mayor in Baltimore. He was held for 17 hours.
In Minnesota, where Philando Castile was killed by police, more than 100 people were arrested on Saturday night on Interstate 94 during a standoff with police, during which officers in riot gear threw smoke bombs and pepper spray, while some threw Molotov cocktails and rocks at the officers. More than 20 police officers were injured. Philando Castile was killed during a traffic stop for a broken taillight. The aftermath of his death was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend, Diamond “Lavish” Reynolds, in an extraordinary video in which she narrates the killing while she is still in the car, with the police pointing a gun at her and her four-year-old daughter, as her boyfriend lay dying in the seat next to her. Philando Castile had been pulled over at least 52 times by police in recent years, receiving $6,588 in fines, although more than half of his violations were later dismissed—a record which many decried as an example of racial targeting.
Throughout the weekend, solidarity protests also erupted in Phoenix, Arizona, where police pepper-sprayed a crowd of more than 1,000 protesters; in Memphis, Tennessee, where hundreds shut down the Interstate 40 bridge; in Rochester, New York, where 74 people were arrested; and in Chicago, where protesters blocked traffic by forming a peace sign with their bodies. In cities across the country, the police deployed military-style vehicles, smoke bombs and tear gas to attempt to suppress the uprisings. The heavily militarized response to the protests was encapsulated by a photograph, which has since gone viral, of a tall black woman in a dress standing gracefully in front of two police officers in full riot gear who appear to be running toward her. The photo was shot by New Orleans photographer Jonathan Bachman. It’s reported the woman was later arrested. During a protest in Atlanta, where activists have been marching for four straight nights, one of the protesters spoke out.
Protester: “And it’s so beautiful to see my people and so many other people and different races coming together and making a stance, and saying, 'You know what? We're tired. We’re tired of it. So let’s move. Let’s do something. Let’s change.’ Today is the change. Now is the change. You are the change. We are all the change. We are history. We are the future. So what are you going to do about it?”
In response to the uprisings, three countries have issued travel warnings for the United States, including the majority-black Caribbean nation the Bahamas, which warned: “In particular young males are asked to exercise extreme caution in affected cities in their interactions with the police. Do not be confrontational and cooperate.” Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates also issued travel warnings.
Meanwhile, in New York, protests erupted after a new video has surfaced in the case of the fatal off-duty police shooting of an unarmed Brooklyn man on the 4th of July. Delrawn Small was driving with his girlfriend and two children through East New York when he and off-duty police officer Wayne Isaacs had a confrontation while driving. The police initially claimed Small got out of his car and punched Officer Isaacs in the face. But a grainy, black-and-white surveillance video of the intersection that was just released shows Small approaching Isaacs’ car. Isaacs then opens fire within one second. Small stumbles away and collapses on the street between two parked cars. Isaacs then gets out of his car and appears to tuck his gun into his waistband and then walks away. On Saturday, more than a dozen people were arrested during a march against police brutality. Activists blocked traffic across Manhattan, including on the FDR Drive. We’ll have more on the Delrawn Small case after headlines.
A series of high-profile entertainers and athletes have spoken out against police brutality and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, including Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder and tennis star Serena Williams, who said: “To those of you involved in equality movements like Black Lives Matter, I say this: Keep it up. … We’ve been through so much for so many centuries, and we shall overcome this too.” Williams won her 22th Grand Slam tournament when she won Wimbledon on Saturday.
The nationwide protests come as President Obama is cutting short his trip to Spain to fly back to the United States. Obama is expected to speak at a memorial service in Dallas Tuesday. This comes as new details have emerged about the shooting spree in Dallas, during which a sniper opened fire at the end of an anti-police brutality march on Thursday night. The sniper killed five police officers and wounded seven more. On Friday, Dallas police identified the gunman as 25-year-old African American Micah Xavier Johnson of Mesquite, Texas, which is just north of Dallas. Johnson was an Army veteran who served in Afghanistan in 2014. About six months into his tour, he was accused of sexually harassing a female soldier and was sent back to the U.S. by the Army. He also had a restraining order placed against him. Dallas police say Johnson told them during the standoff that he was acting alone, was not part of any group and wanted to kill white police officers. Authorities say they killed Johnson by detonating a bomb-equipped robot—which is sparking questions. This is suspected to be the first time police have killed a suspect using a bomb-equipped robot in the United States.
A handful of former politicians and pro-police groups have lashed out against President Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the Dallas shootings. On Friday, the head of the National Association of Police Organizations, William Johnson, accused the Obama administration of waging a “war on cops.” This comes despite the fact fewer cops have been killed on average under President Obama’s presidency than the average number killed annually under Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford. In fact, the safest two years for police officers over the last century were during the Obama presidency—the years 2013 and 2015, which also coincided with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Meanwhile, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani issued a tirade against the Black Lives Matter movement while speaking on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”
Rudolph Giuliani: “When you say black lives matter, that’s inherently racist. Black lives matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter. Hispanic lives matter. That’s anti-American, and it’s racist. Of course, black lives matter. And they matter greatly. But when you focus in on 1 percent of less than 1 percent of the murder that’s going on in America and you make it a national thing and all of you in the media make it much bigger than the black kid who’s getting killed in Chicago every 14 hours, you create a disproportion. The police understand it, and it puts a target on their back. Every cop in America will tell you that, if you ask them.”
During another part of this interview, Giuliani falsely claimed that a New York City police officer who killed Amadou Diallo in 1999 was sitting in jail for 25 years. In fact, all four officers charged in Diallo’s death were acquitted.
In news from the campaign trail, Vermont senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has announced he will join his rival, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for a campaign event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Tuesday, where he is expected to issue a formal endorsement of Hillary Clinton.
A half-dozen women have spoken out about being sexually harassed by Fox News Chair Roger Ailes. This comes only days after former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson sued Ailes for sexual harassment, saying he made repeated advances toward her. Carlson also says when she rejected his advances, Ailes retaliated against her by cutting her salary, curtailing her airtime and then refusing to renew her contract. One of the six women to speak with New York Magazine says she was 16 when Roger Ailes brought her into his office, locked the door and then pulled down his pants. When she refused to perform oral sex, she says he chased her around the office until finally allowing her to leave the room.
In news from Britain, former Prime Minister Tony Blair could be barred from future public office in the United Kingdom. Members of the British Parliament are hoping this week to vote on whether Blair deceived the Parliament in order to go to war in Iraq. The move for a contempt vote comes after the release of the Chilcot report, which blames Tony Blair for deliberately exaggerating the threat posed by Saddam Hussein in the lead-up to the Iraq War. The International Criminal Court is also considering proceedings against British soldiers accused of torturing Iraqi prisoners in 2003. This comes as the Pentagon has announced it carried out 10 strikes in Iraq and 13 strikes in Syria over the weekend. U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter is in Iraq today.
The family of an American journalist killed in Syria in 2012 has sued the Syrian government in U.S. federal court. Sunday Times reporter Marie Colvin died after a direct strike on a building where she was staying with other journalists. Her family says the attack deliberately targeted Colvin hours after she had broadcast live from the building on CNN and spoke of indiscriminate shelling by the Assad government in the opposition-held city of Homs. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 96 journalists have been killed in Syria since 2011. The majority are Syrian.
In news from South Sudan, fighting has intensified in the capital Juba. Fighting began last week as efforts to implement a peace agreement between the country’s two main factions failed. At least two United Nations peacekeepers were killed Sunday evening, and an estimated 200 people have been killed since last week.
In Cambodia, thousands are mourning the killing of political commentator Kem Ley. Ley was shot and killed at point-blank range Sunday while drinking a cup of coffee at a gas station. He was the founder of the Grassroots Democracy Party and a sharp critic of the country’s ruling Cambodian People’s Party, which is facing mounting opposition in the lead-up to local and national elections in 2017 and 2018.
And the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist whose work inspired the film “The Killing Fields” has died at the age of 82. Newsday and New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg helped create awareness of the genocide taking place in Cambodia in the 1970s and 1980s under the Khmer Rouge, following the secret U.S. bombing campaign in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. This is Schanberg speaking with the Daily Mail in 1991.
Sydney Schanberg: “It’s important to continue development aid. Without it, the country just isn’t going to grow out of this hell that they’ve been in for 30 years. And since the United States has some significant measure of responsibility for that hell, having initiated, in one sense, the war in Cambodia and then having supported the Khmer Rouge afterward in the ’80s for the sole purpose of keeping the Vietnamese out of power—it was sort of a Cold War policy—we owe the Cambodians this continued development aid, even though we have not great security interest or economic interest.”