Protests intensified in Atlanta after a white police officer shot dead an unarmed 27-year-old African American man named Rayshard Brooks in the parking lot of a Wendy’s fast-food restaurant on Friday. The encounter was caught on surveillance camera and by a witness. A warning to our listeners and viewers: We are about to play graphic video of police violence. Police approached Brooks after he had fallen asleep in his car. The police questioned Brooks, patted him down and gave him a breathalyzer test. During a scuffle, he grabbed one of the officers’ stun guns and attempted to run away. Another officer then shot Brooks in the back two times. The officer, Garrett Rolfe, can then be heard on a bodycam video saying, “I got him.” The Fulton County medical examiner has ruled Brooks’s death a homicide. Less than 24 hours after the shooting, Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields resigned. The officer involved in the shooting was fired.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said, “[Brooks] did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable.” This is Chris Stewart, a lawyer for the Brooks family.
Chris Stewart: “That’s the case law here, that Tasers are not deadly weapons. So, before we even hear from their lawyers, who are going to say the same old thing they always say, you cannot have it both ways. You can’t say he ran off with a weapon that could kill somebody, when you say it’s not deadly.”
Protests continued in Atlanta throughout the weekend. On Saturday night, the Wendy’s fast-food restaurant was burned down.
In Palmdale, California, calls are mounting for an independent investigation into the death of 24-year-old Robert Fuller, a Black man who was found dead hanging from a tree in a park Wednesday. City officials initially said he died by suicide, suggesting the cause was due to “mental anguish” related to the coronavirus pandemic. But Fuller’s loved ones believe he was lynched, and the community has been holding protests calling for justice. A number of politicians, including California Senator Kamala Harris, have joined the call for an investigation.
Fuller’s death came 10 days after another Black man, 38-year-old Malcolm Harsch, was found dead and hanging from a tree about 50 miles away, in Victorville, California, on May 31. Malcolm Harsch’s family says they are awaiting the results of a coroner’s report, but they are doubtful he would have killed himself.
Two more Black trans women were killed over the past week. In Ohio, 25-year-old Riah Milton was shot and killed last Tuesday during a robbery in Liberty Township, according to local authorities. Two people have been arrested and charged with her murder. Milton worked as a home health aide and attended the University of Cincinnati. One day earlier, Dominique “Rem’mie” Fells was found killed in Philadelphia. An investigation is underway. Friends remember her as a “social butterfly.” Fells was a dancer and artist who hoped to become a fashion designer.
As the trans community mourned the recent deaths, the Trump administration reversed health protections for transgender people under the Affordable Care Act. The move was announced Friday, the fourth anniversary of the Pulse massacre that claimed 49 lives at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida.
Here in New York City, an estimated 12,000 people turned out Sunday for a rally and silent march in solidarity with the Black trans community. This is journalist and activist Raquel Willis addressing a sea of people in front of the Brooklyn Museum.
Raquel Willis: “I believe in my power.”
Crowd: “I believe in my power.”
Raquel Willis: “I believe in your power.”
Crowd: “I believe in your power.”
Raquel Willis: “I believe in our power.”
Crowd: “I believe in our power.”
Raquel Willis: “I believe in Black trans power.”
Crowd: “I believe in Black trans power.”
More protests in support of Black lives and against police brutality continued across New York, the rest of the country and around the world over the weekend. In San Francisco, demonstrators blocked several lanes of traffic on the Bay Bridge Sunday. In Little Rock, Arkansas, Black Lives Matter protesters rallied at four Walmart stores and a Sam’s Club on Sunday, temporarily shutting down the big-box stores as they chanted “Defund the police!” and “Defund Walmart!”
Meanwhile, in Frankfort, Kentucky, city workers removed a statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis from the state Capitol building on Friday. The Kentucky Historic Properties Advisory Commission voted to remove the monument after protesters across the U.S. toppled statues to Confederate leaders and 15th century colonizer Christopher Columbus.
Elsewhere around the globe, an estimated 15,000 people defied a protest ban in Paris, France, on Sunday. Police in riot gear were seen charging crowds with clubs and firing volleys of tear gas. In Britain, thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters gathered for peaceful marches in London, Leeds and other cities throughout the weekend. In London, over 100 far-right counterprotesters were arrested after they attacked police.
As the mass uprising shows no signs of abating, more policy changes are taking shape around the country. San Francisco announced last week that trained, unarmed professionals will respond to noncriminal calls instead of police. On Saturday, Colorado lawmakers passed a bill to introduce sweeping police changes, including banning chokeholds and requiring officers to intervene if they see excessive force being used. Governor Jared Polis is expected to sign the bill into law.
Meanwhile, counties and cities across the country, including Cleveland, Denver and Indianapolis, are declaring racism a public health crisis. On Friday, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said he will reallocate $3 million from the police department’s budget toward public health initiatives.
The Minneapolis City Council on Friday unanimously passed a resolution to replace the police department with a community-led public safety system — 18 days after George Floyd was killed by Derek Chauvin. Minneapolis Councilmember Alondra Cano said, “We acknowledge that the current system is not reformable, that we would like to end the current policing system as we know it.”
In Seattle, socialist City Councilmember Kshama Sawant is calling for a section of downtown known as the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone to remain permanently in community control. Protesters took over several city blocks last week after the Seattle Police Department abandoned its Capitol Hill precinct and stopped trying to violently disperse marches.
The Seattle City Council is set to debate two bills on police accountability: One would ban chokeholds; the other would ban the purchase of tear gas and other so-called less lethal crowd control weapons.
In Brazil, the coronavirus death toll has topped 43,000. It now has the second-highest number of COVID-19 deaths and cases in the world behind the United States.
Meanwhile, China reported its highest number of daily infections in months on Sunday, raising fears over a second wave of the outbreak. In Beijing, authorities have reimposed lockdown measures after a new cluster of cases emerged last week.
The World Health Organization says the pandemic is accelerating in Africa, with the most affected countries being South Africa, Algeria, Nigeria, Egypt and Sudan.
In Yemen, medical authorities warn deaths linked to the pandemic could exceed war-related fatalities in the port city of Aden.
Meanwhile, European countries continue to open up. French President Emmanuel Macron announced Sunday he is accelerating the lifting of restrictions, including allowing cafes and restaurants nationwide to fully reopen starting today. In Britain, retail stores reopened today.
In Tulsa, Oklahoma, new video has emerged showing a white police officer kicking a Black teenager as he sat handcuffed in a patrol car, then pulling the child from the vehicle and throwing him violently against the pavement. The boy was one of two African American teens detained by police on June 4 for allegedly “improperly walking along the roadway” along a quiet residential street with no sidewalk.
A Tulsa police major is coming under fire after denying systemic racism in the police force and saying African Americans probably should be shot more. Listen carefully: This is Major Travis Yates in an interview with KFAQ.
Maj. Travis Yates: “All of the research says we’re shooting African Americans about 24% less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.”
President Trump has rescheduled his first campaign rally since the pandemic started, following widespread criticism after he announced last week he would hold it in Tulsa, Oklahoma, this Friday, on Juneteenth, a celebration of African Americans’ liberation from slavery. He pushed it back one day, to Saturday. Tulsa’s Health Department director said he wished the rally would be pushed back even further, as new coronavirus cases have recently spiked in Oklahoma and in Tulsa County. There are no other events scheduled for arena in Jacksonville through July due to the pandemic. The Trump campaign is requiring participants to sign a waiver absolving them of liability if they contract COVID-19, but they are not requiring them to wear masks.
The Republican National Convention has been relocated to Jacksonville, Florida, after Trump pulled the event from North Carolina over Governor Roy Cooper’s refusal to allow for a packed arena during the pandemic. Republican Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said they are planning on a full arena, although questions remain over how the city will accommodate the influx of visitors during the RNC. In 2005, cruise ships were brought in to house visitors when Jacksonville hosted the Super Bowl.
Trump will accept the Republican nomination on August 27, which will be the 60th anniversary of one of darkest days in Jacksonville’s history. On August 27, 1960, the Ku Klux Klan organized a white mob — many carrying ax handles — to attack Black civil rights protesters attempting to desegregate a white-only lunch counter. The day became known as Ax Handle Saturday. Last week, under cover of night, the city quietly removed a Confederate statue from the square where an observance will be held — one mile away from the convention.
In the Philippines, a court convicted award-winning journalist Maria Ressa earlier today in a cyberlibel case that’s widely seen as politically motivated. Ressa, founder of the independent news site Rappler, has been a vocal critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his deadly drug war, which has killed thousands. Ressa and Rappler employee Reynaldo Santos could face up to six years behind bars. This is Maria Ressa speaking to reporters after the verdict was announced.
Maria Ressa: “You shut down ABS-CBN. That would have been unthinkable before this time. It has happened. And then an anti-terror bill that will take away, codify, institutionalize these abuses of power, it means that you can be called a terrorist, and without a warrant of arrest, you could be arrested for writing something.”