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In Georgia, prosecutors have charged former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe with 11 counts — including felony murder — for the shooting death of 27-year-old Rayshard Brooks, who was shot twice in the back outside a Wendy’s restaurant on June 12. The charges carry a sentence of life in prison, or even the death penalty. A second officer involved in the killing, Devin Brosnan, will be charged with aggravated assault. Prosecutors said he has agreed to turn state’s witness and testify against Rolfe, but Brosnan’s lawyer disputes this claim.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard on Wednesday revealed a photo of Rolfe kicking Brooks as he lay bleeding on the pavement, saying both officers failed to give Brooks any medical attention for more than two minutes.
Paul Howard Jr.: “During the two minutes and 12 seconds, that Officer Rolfe actually kicked Mr. Brooks while he laid on the ground, while he was there fighting for his life. … From the videotape, we were able to see that the other officer, Officer Brosnan, actually stood on Mr. Brooks’s shoulders while he was there struggling for his life.”
The Guardian reports that officer Garrett Rolfe was previously accused of covering up a 2015 shooting along with two other officers. Rolfe and the other officers reportedly opened fire on a Black man named Jackie Jermaine Harris while chasing him for driving a stolen truck. The officers hit Harris once, puncturing his lung, but never reported the shooting.
On Wednesday night, a number of Atlanta police officers staged a “sick out” and refused to show up for their usual shifts to protest the criminal charges against the two officers.
New video has emerged of Rayshard Brooks speaking in his own words about his struggles with the criminal justice system. The experience of being locked up in prison, he says, left him deep in debt and struggling to pay court fees and restitution — even as employers turned him away due to his criminal record. Brooks spoke in February with the group Reconnect.
Rayshard Brooks: “I just feel like some of the system could look at us as individuals — we do have lives, you know, where it’s just a mistake we made — and, you know, not just do us as if we are animals.”
Protests against racism and police brutality continue across the United States — and continue to make political gains. Officials in East Lansing, Michigan; Duluth, Minnesota; Eugene, Oregon; Columbus, Ohio; and elsewhere are moving to ban police officers from schoolhouses.
Here in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has signed an executive order declaring Juneteenth — a day celebrating African Americans’ liberation from slavery — as a holiday for state employees.
Meanwhile, President Trump continued to demonize Black Lives Matter protesters, telling Fox News Wednesday their efforts were losing steam.
President Donald Trump: “The protesters and anarchists and terrorists and looters and all of the people that were marching on various locations over the last couple of weeks, that’s died down. They’ve lost some energy. That’s good, but — because many of them don’t even know what they’re protesting, frankly.”
Trump’s remarks came as Black Lives Matter protesters continue to be attacked by vigilantes and far-right counterprotesters. In Portland, Oregon, three protesters were injured after a driver plowed into a group marching peacefully downtown early Wednesday. In Taylor, Michigan, one person was injured Tuesday evening after a driver sped through a peaceful protest, crushing one demonstrator’s bicycle. And earlier this week, officials in Albuquerque, New Mexico, displayed assault rifles, handguns, knives and hundreds of rounds of ammunition seized from members of a far-right militia group that meanaced a peaceful protest on Monday. One protester was shot and hospitalized in critical condition.
In Geneva, the brother of George Floyd on Wednesday called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to set up a commission of inquiry into racism and police brutality in the United States. Philonise Floyd spoke by video link.
Philonise Floyd: “When people dared to raise their voice and protest for my brother, they were tear-gassed, run over with police vehicles. Several people lost eyes and suffered brain damage to rubber bullets. Peaceful protesters were shot and killed by police. Journalists were beaten and blinded when they tried to show the world the brutality happening at the protests. When people raise their voices to protest the treatment of Black people in America, they are silenced. They are shot and killed.”
There was no United States representative present as Philonise Floyd spoke, since the Trump administration withdrew the U.S. from the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2018.
Florida reported over 2,600 new cases on Wednesday, nearly matching a record high set a day earlier. Among the new cases were 16 friends who shared a night out at an Irish pub in Jacksonville on June 6. Seven employees of the restaurant also tested positive. Despite the record level of infections, the Republican National Committee is seeking hundreds of local businesses to sign up as vendors at its presidential nominating convention in Jacksonville in late August, which will be held in a 15,000-seat arena.
Florida has officially recorded over 3,000 COVID-19 deaths, and even as cases are skyrocketing, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis says he’s ruling out any new restrictions to slow the spread of the virus.
Gov. Ron DeSantis: “But in terms of, like — you know, the restaurants have been doing this for — what have they been doing it for? For six weeks? I mean, the idea that that all of a sudden is the reason, I’m not sure that that’s — that that’s the case. So, no, we’re not shutting down. You know, we’re going to go forward.”
In Oklahoma, Tulsa’s Republican Mayor G.T. Bynum said Wednesday he will not be attending President Trump’s first campaign rally since the start of the pandemic on Saturday, telling reporters, “I’m not positive that everything is safe.” Nineteen thousand people are expected to pack an arena for Trump’s rally, and city officials say they’re expecting up to 100,000 Trump supporters to descend on Tulsa for the president’s visit. While the Trump campaign is demanding that the attendees sign a waiver to absolve them of responsibility in case they get COVID-19, they are not requiring that attendees wear masks.
In Lima, Peru, police in riot gear used clubs and shields to beat back healthcare workers holding a protest to demand more personal protective equipment. Doctors and nurses at the protest said they feared leaving widows and orphans behind.
Milagros Tello: “Right now statistics show that we’re at the highest level of infection. We have lost many colleagues to COVID-19. We are asking and demanding that the government and the public healthcare system — and its CEO — provide adequate face masks, which they are only providing to some workers.”
Peru has recorded over 7,000 coronavirus deaths and a quarter-million confirmed cases.
Former national security adviser John Bolton has accused President Trump of personally asking Chinese President Xi Jinping to use his economic power to help him win the 2020 presidential election by purchasing more soybeans and wheat. Bolton makes the claim in his forthcoming memoir. The Justice Department has sued Bolton in an attempt to block publication of the book, but copies have already been obtained by journalists.
Bolton’s book comes just months after he declined to testify during President Trump’s impeachment trial. In the book, he faults Democrats for focusing on Trump’s dealings with Ukraine, saying Trump was willing to halt criminal investigations for “dictators he liked,” citing China and Turkey as two examples. Bolton also writes that Trump privately called for the execution of journalists who do not reveal their sources, reportedly saying, “These people should be executed. They are scumbags.”
Bolton also criticizes Trump for not being hawkish enough on foreign policy. He claims Trump’s decision not to attack Iran in 2019 following the downing of a U.S. drone was “the most irrational thing I ever witnessed any President do.” Bolton, who strongly advocated for the U.S. to overthrow the Venezuelan government, claims in the book that Trump said invading Venezuela would be “cool” and that it was “really part of the United States.”
Former national security adviser John Bolton claims President Trump told Xi Jinping during a private meeting at last year’s G20 in Japan that he supported China’s rationale for building massive concentration camps to hold Uyghur Muslims. Bolton writes, “According to our interpreter, Trump said that Xi should go ahead with building the camps, which Trump thought was exactly the right thing to do.”
This report made headlines on Wednesday on the same day President Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act that imposes sanctions on Chinese officials involved in the detention program.
Authorities are now probing the recent hangings of six people of color in four states. Officials have ruled every case to be a suicide, but many fear some of the deaths might be modern-day lynchings. On Wednesday, police found a 17-year-old African American boy hanging from a tree in an elementary school playground in Spring, Texas. On Monday, a Latino man was found hanged in Houston. Hangings have also been reported in New York City; and in the California cities of Victorville and Palmdale. Meanwhile, a hate crime probe has begun in Oakland, California, after five nooses were found hanging from trees in the city.
A number of food manufacturers have announced plans to remove racist imagery and names from products. PepsiCo is dropping the Aunt Jemima brand. Mars announced plans to change the brand identity of Uncle Ben’s rice. Conagra said it would overhaul the brand identity of Mrs. Butterworth’s pancake syrup.
A group of 50 human rights experts at the United Nations have condemned Israel’s plan to annex 30% of the occupied West Bank, describing it as a “vision of a 21st-century apartheid.” This comes just days after a group of more than 400 Jewish and Israel studies academics denounced the annexation. In a letter, the academics write, “Under these conditions, annexation of Palestinian territories will cement into place an anti-democratic system of separate and unequal law and systemic discrimination against the Palestinian population.”
MOVE 9 member Delbert Africa has died at the age of 74, just months after being released from prison after serving 42 years locked up. He was arrested in Philadelphia with eight others following a 1978 police raid on the house of MOVE, a radical, anti-police-brutality and largely African American organization. During his arrest, Philadelphia police officers were filmed repeatedly kicking him in the head as he lay on the ground. Video of the beating was aired across the country.