Confirmed coronavirus cases in Latin America have topped 1.5 million. In Brazil, critics of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro’s disastrous handling of the COVID-19 pandemic dug 100 graves and placed black crosses in the sand of Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach in a tribute to the more than 40,000 Brazilians who have died of the coronavirus. Brazil has become an epicenter of the pandemic in the Global South with over 802,000 confirmed cases — the world’s worst-hit country after the United States.
Another 1.5 million U.S. residents filed for state unemployment benefits last week. More than 44 million people have now applied for jobless benefits since mid-March. Meanwhile, the Dow dropped nearly 7% on Thursday in its biggest fall since March, as many states are reporting a surge in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations.
In news from Minnesota, CNN is reporting former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin could receive more than $1 million in pension benefits even if he is convicted of killing George Floyd. In some states, public employees convicted of felony crimes related to their work lose their pensions, but that is not the case in Minnesota. Meanwhile, Thomas Lane, one of the other officers arrested in connection with Floyd’s killing, has been released on $750,000 bond. All four officers are scheduled to be next in court on June 29.
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo has announced the department is withdrawing from contract negotiations with the police union, which has a long history of blocking reform efforts within the department. This comes as calls are growing for Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll to resign. Kroll has long been accused of holding racist views and for shielding officers accused of abuse. Last week, he described George Floyd as a “violent criminal.” He once described Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization. In October, he spoke at a Trump rally in Minnesota wearing a “Cops for Trump” shirt.
A warning to listeners and viewers: The following stories contain graphic images and sounds of police violence. In Austin, Texas, city councilors voted unanimously Thursday to ban the use of tear gas and to restrict the use of rubber-coated bullets, bean bag rounds and pepper spray. The vote came after councilmembers heard two days of harrowing public testimony about recent police attacks on protesters that left 31 people hospitalized — two of them with serious head injuries. The Austin City Council also voted Thursday to reinvest some police department funds in other agencies and to limit the use of police deadly force.
Thursday’s council meeting opened with a moment of silence for 42-year-old Michael Ramos, a Black and Latinx man who was killed by Austin police on April 24 after a 911 caller falsely reported he had a gun. Video of Ramos’s final moments shows him holding his hands up and shouting that he was unarmed, when a rookie officer shot him with a bean bag round. Ramos retreated to his car and tried to drive away, when another officer opened fire with a rifle, hitting Ramos three times. He was pronounced dead at a local hospital that evening. The Travis County district attorney has promised a grand jury investigation.
Authorities in Kentucky have revealed a member of the National Guard fired the bullet that killed the owner of a popular BBQ stand in Louisville on June 1. The state says David McAtee was hit in the chest by a military-grade round fired from an M4 assault rifle used by the guard. An attorney for McAtee’s family said it was absurd that the government is “unleashing your own soldiers on your citizens with weapons of war.” Local police also fired at McAtee, who was a beloved figure in the community who regularly gave police officers free meals.
In other news from Louisville, the Metro Council has unanimously passed a bill called Breonna’s Law to ban no-knock warrants. The bill is named after Breonna Taylor, the 26-year-old African American emergency room technician who was shot to death by Louisville police inside her own apartment in March. The officers still have not been charged. In more news from Kentucky, Democratic Governor Andy Beshear has vowed to extend healthcare coverage to all Black residents in the state. His promise comes as part of a statewide proposal aimed at addressing systemic racism in healthcare, education and law enforcement agencies.
Here in New York, protests and marches against racism and police brutality continued for a 17th straight day Thursday. In the Bronx, 16-year-old Jahmel Leach says NYPD officers shot him in the face with a Taser and slammed him into the ground at a recent Black Lives Matter protest, leaving him hospitalized with broken teeth and facial lacerations. Leach also says officers forced him to walk around naked at the 52nd Precinct. The website theGrio interviewed the teenager by email, since his jaw is still wired shut from his injuries. Meanwhile, the National Lawyers Guild says NYPD officers intentionally targeted legal observers for harassment, assault and arrest at recent protests. Official NYPD policy acknowledges the right of legal observers — who wear signature fluorescent green hats at demonstrations — to monitor police activity and to record the names of those arrested.
In Oklahoma City, newly released police bodycam footage shows the violent arrest of 42-year-old Derrick Scott, who died in May 2019 after three Oklahoma City police officers pinned him to the ground with their hands and knees for 13 minutes — even after he became nonresponsive. The graphic video shows Scott pleading for his life, repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe,” to which one of the officers replies, “I don’t care.”
Derrick Scott: “I can’t breathe!”
Police officer 1: “Stop resisting!”
Derrick Scott: “I can’t breathe! Please! Ma’am, please!”
Police officer 1: “Give me your hand!”
Derrick Scott: “I can’t breathe easy. I got asthma!”
Police officer 2: “Put that here.”
Derrick Scott: “I can’t breathe!”
Police officer 2: “I don’t care!”
A coroner reported the cause of Scott’s death was a collapsed lung. Derrick Scott’s mother, Vickey Scott, says the release of the video has reopened old wounds.
Vickey Scott: “Just reliving this all over again is like reliving his death all over again, and then watching George Floyd. There’s a lot of George Floyds, and my son was one of them.”
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, newly released bodycam footage shows two officers pressing a 13-year-old African American teenager face first against a curb and handcuffing him, after he allegedly jaywalked in a quiet street with no sidewalk on June 4.
Teenager: “Why are you arresting him? Why are you putting handcuffs on him?”
Police officer: “Because!”
Teenager: “Why are you putting handcuffs on my friend? He doesn’t have anything on him, sir.”
Police officer: “All he — all he was doing was jaywalking. We just want to talk with him.”
In the video, the teenager calls officers racist and says, “You want to see me in jail or dead.” Tulsa police say the incident is “under investigation.”
The Trump campaign will require attendees at the president’s first rally since the start of the coronavirus pandemic to sign liability waivers acknowledging the risks of COVID-19 and promising not to sue if they contract the disease at the event. Trump scheduled the Oklahoma rally on June 19 despite CDC guidelines warning against large events and mass gatherings. The rally will take place on Juneteenth — a celebration of African Americans’ liberation from slavery — in the city of Tulsa, where 99 years ago a white mob killed as many as 300 people, most of them Black. California Senator Kamala Harris tweeted in response, “This isn’t just a wink to white supremacists — he’s throwing them a welcome home party.”
While calls are growing for cities to defund the police, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, is calling for an increase in police funding. In an op-ed in USA Today, Biden called for police departments to receive an additional $300 million to “reinvigorate community policing in our country.” On Wednesday night, Biden discussed police funding on “The Daily Show.”
Joe Biden: “I don’t believe police should be defunded, but I think the conditions should be placed upon them where departments are having to take significant reforms relating to that. We should set up a national use-of-force standard.”
The top U.S. military official said Thursday he regrets joining President Trump in a photo op on June 1, after National Guard troops and riot police fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flashbangs to disperse peaceful protesters near the White House so Trump could pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church. General Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, apologized in a prerecorded commencement speech for the National Defense University.
Gen. Mark Milley: “I should not have been there. My presence in that moment and in that environment created a perception of the military involved in domestic politics. As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake, that I have learned from.”
Video surveillance has been released showing as many as 13 Chicago police officers broke into Congressmember Bobby Rush’s campaign office on May 31. In the video, the officers can be seen making popcorn and coffee and taking naps. Rush criticized the officers for lounging in his office while nearby businesses were being broken into.
In Lebanon, protesters took to the streets Thursday as anger mounted over the country’s catastrophic economic crisis, with Lebanon’s currency plummeting to its lowest value on record. From Tripoli to Beirut, people marched through the night denouncing the country’s corrupt political elite, blocking major roads and setting buildings on fire, including several banks. Thursday’s demonstrations were among the largest and most widespread since a coronavirus lockdown was imposed in March.
In immigration news, a newly published Government Accountability Office report says Customs and Border Protection used portions of a $112 million emergency humanitarian fund — meant to buy food, medical supplies and hygiene products for immigrants in their custody — to purchase all-terrain vehicles, dirt bikes, boats, dog food and even riot helmets. The findings come after Congress urged the GAO to examine CBP’s books to determine how the agency had spent emergency funds allocated in 2019 after a surge of asylum seekers arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border and after reports of people being held in overcrowded, squalid CBP processing cells.
The Trump administration announced sanctions Thursday against investigators with the International Criminal Court amid reports the ICC has evidence of rape, torture and other war crimes committed by American forces in Afghanistan. Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, responded, “President Trump is grossly abusing emergency powers to block one of the only avenues left for justice to victims of terrible American human rights violations. He has repeatedly bullied international organizations, and is now playing directly into the hands of authoritarian regimes by intimidating judges and prosecutors committed to holding countries accountable for war crimes.”
Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo on Thursday reiterated his support for monuments to Christopher Columbus, after protesters in Minnesota, Massachusetts and Virginia took direct action to tear down or decapitate statues honoring the 15th century Italian mercenary.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “The statue was — has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York. So, on that, for that reason, I support it.”
Cuomo’s remark came as thousands of people signed a petition calling for Manhattan’s Columbus Circle to be renamed and its monument removed. It reads in part, “Christopher Columbus was a white colonist who slaughtered thousands of Native Americans on their own soil. Honoring him is honoring those murders.”
In Birmingham, Alabama, comedian Jermaine Johnson is pleading not guilty to charges of “inciting a riot” after he urged protesters at a May 31 rally to march on a statue of Charles Linn, a former officer in the Confederate Navy.
Jermaine Johnson: “Three blocks over, in Linn Park, we’ve got a Confederate statue sitting in the middle of our city to remind us to stay in your damn place.”
Protesters went on to topple the Charles Linn statue, while vandalizing the nearby Confederate Sailors and Soldiers Monument. Birmingham officials later removed the monuments, erected fences around downtown parks and ordered a ban on protests — including nearby Kelly Ingram Park in the Birmingham Civil Rights District. The park is adjacent to the 16th Street Baptist Church, where four African American girls were killed by a white supremacist bomber in September of 1963.