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In Barcelona, Spain, 14 people have died after a van plowed into a crowded walkway Thursday along Las Ramblas—the city’s most famous avenue. More than 100 people were injured. Eyewitnesses described scenes of horror.
Manuel, eyewitness: “People were scared, running all over the place. There was blood on their faces. It was terrible.”
Carlos Tena Gallardo: “It’s an attack, my friends, an attack in the middle of Las Ramblas of Barcelona. There are lots of dead people along Las Ramblas. It’s really awful—even kids, mothers and little kids dead in the middle of Las Ramblas.”
The self-proclaimed Islamic State claimed responsibility. In the hours after the attack, Spanish police shot five people dead during what they described as an anti-terrorism operation in Cambrils, a town south of Barcelona. Police said the men were linked to the Barcelona attack, but provided little information. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy has declared three days of mourning. Earlier today, thousands of people filled the streets of Barcelona, chanting “We are not afraid.”
President Trump responded to the attack in Barcelona by writing on Twitter, “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” Trump was referencing a debunked myth that U.S. General John J. Pershing executed Muslim rebels in the Philippines in the early 1900s by shooting them with bullets dipped in pigs’ blood. Trump made reference to the same made-up story last year on the campaign trail.
President Donald Trump: “He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said, 'You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened.' And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem. OK? Twenty-five years, there wasn’t a problem.”
Historians say no evidence exists that this ever happened. While Trump condemned the terror attack in Spain soon after it occurred, he has still refused to describe two recent events in the United States as domestic terrorism: the bombing of Minnesota’s largest mosque and Saturday’s white supremacist rally in Charlottesville where a neo-Nazi drove his car into a crowd of anti-racist protesters, killing one and injuring 19 people.
President Trump faces growing criticism from across the political spectrum. On Thursday, Republican Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee openly questioned Trump’s stability and competence.
Sen. Bob Corker: “The president has not yet—has not yet been able to demonstrate the stability nor some of the the competence that he needs to demonstrate in order to be successful.”
Democratic Congressmember Steve Cohen of Tennessee has announced plans to introduce articles of impeachment against President Trump.
James Murdoch, the son of Rupert Murdoch, has condemned President Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville. Murdoch wrote, “I can’t even believe I have to write this: standing up to Nazis is essential; there are no good Nazis. Or Klansmen, or terrorists.” Murdoch, who is the CEO of 21st Century Fox, also pledged to donate $1 million to the Anti-Defamation League.
In Durham, North Carolina, a total of eight people have now been charged with toppling a Confederate statue. On Thursday, in a display of solidarity, over 100 people lined up outside the local courthouse to symbolically turn themselves in along with the eight charged. In other news from Durham, a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Duke University has been vandalized. Parts of Lee’s face was chipped off, including his nose. President Trump has weighed in again on the growing call for Confederate statues to be removed. On Twitter, he wrote, “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments.” Meanwhile, in Philadelphia, more than 2,000 people took part in a march Thursday denouncing racism and President Trump’s handling of Charlottesville. Many participants also called for the removal of a statue of former Philadelphia Police Commissioner and Mayor Frank Rizzo.
In other fallout from Saturday’s white supremacist march in Charlottesville, the American Civil Liberties Union has announced it will no longer defend hate groups seeking to march with firearms. The ACLU has faced criticism—even from many of its own members—for helping organizers of the Unite the Right rally to secure a protest permit after the city of Charlottesville tried to block the rally. Earlier in the week, Waldo Jaquith, a board member of the Virginia chapter of the ACLU, resigned after the deadly violence in Charlottesville.
In news from Syria, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights is reporting at least 59 civilians have died in U.S-led airstrikes in the city of Raqqa since Monday. The dead include 21 children. According to the United Nations, 25,000 civilians remain trapped inside Raqqa, the de facto capital of the self-proclaimed Islamic State.
In international news, the United States and South Korea have announced plans to go ahead with a massive joint military drill next week involving tens of thousands of troops. This comes despite protests from China, which has pushed for the U.S. to halt its military drills in exchange for North Korea halting its missile tests.
In news from Hong Kong, three student leaders of the pro-democracy Occupy movement have been sentenced to up to eight months in jail for organizing large protests in 2014 calling on China to allow free elections in Hong Kong. Joshua Wong is one of the student leaders heading to prison.
Joshua Wong: “We are still optimistic with our faith and love to our hometown. I still believe that time is on our side and one day Hong Kong will be the place that we can determine our own future. If one gets sent to prison, don’t give up. I believe there’s no reason for anyone that is not in prison to give up or step backward. Keep up the fight. We love Hong Kong. Thank you.”
A settlement has been reached in a landmark torture lawsuit against two psychologists who helped devise the Bush administration’s interrogation program. The psychologists, James Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, were sued by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of two former CIA prisoners who were tortured and the family of a man who died after being tortured in a secret CIA prison. The undisclosed settlement was reached just before the case went to trial. ACLU attorney Dror Ladin said, “This outcome shows that there are consequences for torture and that survivors can and will hold those responsible for torture accountable.”
In voting rights news, the state of Texas has been ordered to redraw the map of its congressional districts after a federal court determined some of the districts were designed to dilute the power of Latino and African-American voters. The maps were drawn by Texas’s Republican-led state Legislature. Mother Jones reports this is the seventh time since 2011 that a federal court has found that Texas intentionally discriminated against voters of color.
In news from Florida, two members of the Ku Klux Klan who worked as prison guards have been convicted of plotting to kill an African-American prisoner after his release. Earlier this week, a jury in Columbia County, Florida, found David Elliot Moran and Charles Thomas Newcomb guilty of conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. A third Klansman, who also worked as a prison guard, pleaded guilty earlier this year.
ExxonMobil has won a major court case over its role in a 2013 pipeline spill in Arkansas when more than 200,000 gallons of tar sands oil flowed through a residential neighborhood of Mayflower, Arkansas, and nearby waterways. U.S. pipeline regulators had fined Exxon $2.6 million and ordered the company to revise its pipeline safety procedures. But now a federal appeals court has sided with Exxon, overturning much of the regulator’s decision.
In sports news, an image is going viral today of a white football player putting his arm around an African-American teammate who put his fist in the air during the national anthem. Malcolm Jenkins of the Philadelphia Eagles has been raising his fist during the anthem for the past year. On Thursday, his teammate Chris Long—who is from Charlottesville—put his arm around him in a sign of solidarity.
In other sports news, basketball superstar Kevin Durant has said he won’t go to the White House if Trump invites the NBA champion Golden State Warriors. Durant said, “I don’t respect who’s in office right now.”
And in Puerto Rico, resistance to the dumping of toxic coal ash in the southern town of Peñuelas is spreading across the island. In the capital San Juan, activists wearing hazmat suits poured buckets of coal ash on the steps of the Capitol building Thursday morning in protest.
Puerto Rican activist: “The government of Puerto Rico is creating a health problem, an environmental problem and a problem for the future and the coming generations. We want Puerto Rico to close the coal-fired power plant. The only ashes that we want are those of the fiscal control board.”
Then, early this morning, over 100 police officers, including a militarized “strike force,” mobilized to stop residents of Guayama from blockading trucks carrying toxic ash as they left the coal-fired power plant en route to Peñuelas. This is community leader Hector Luis Sanchez de Jesus.
Hector Luis Sanchez de Jesus: “We are impeding, in whatever manner is possible, that these ashes produced here in Guayama depart for Peñuelas. We understand that these ashes are poisonous for the Earth, our Mother Earth, and for the health of all the residents of Puerto Rico. We have a moral commitment, a moral commitment with our friends in Peñuelas to stop these ashes from being transported there.”
Less than an hour later, 200 more police officers mobilized in Peñuelas to stop residents from blockading the trucks as they arrived to dump the coal ash there. At least 25 activists have been arrested blockading the trucks so far this month.