As a historic uprising against police violence continues across the United States, President Trump Monday threatened to send heavily armed soldiers into the country’s streets.
President Donald Trump: “Mayors and governors must establish an overwhelming law enforcement presence until the violence has been quelled. If a city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
As Trump spoke from the Rose Garden, blasts could be heard from nearby Lafayette Park as the National Guard and police officers fired tear gas, rubber bullets and flashbangs to disperse a peaceful protest against police brutality. Many officers wore riot gear; some were on horseback. Moments later, Trump walked through the now-cleared park to have his photo taken with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, which was boarded up. Trump was accompanied by Attorney General William Barr, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley and Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
The president’s actions were widely denounced. D.C. Episcopal Bishop Mariann Edgar Budde criticized Trump for using the church as a “backdrop for a message antithetical to the teachings of Jesus.” The chief of police in Arlington, Virginia, pulled his officers from D.C. after they were used to clear the park, saying their safety and the safety of others was endangered for a photo op. Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon wrote on Twitter, “The fascist speech Donald Trump just delivered verged on a declaration of war against American citizens.”
Protests against police violence continue to rage across the country. Thousands have been arrested, including 2,000 people in Los Angeles alone. Cities across the country have imposed curfews. Twenty-three states have called in the National Guard. Protests have also spread across the globe, reaching France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand, among many other countries. The European Union’s top diplomat said the EU is “shocked and appalled” by George Floyd’s killing, calling it “an abuse of power” by police. The protests began a week ago, after a white police officer in Minneapolis pinned African American George Floyd to the ground by his neck for eight minutes while Floyd gasped for air, repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe.”
Two separate autopsies Monday confirmed Floyd’s death was a homicide. The officer, Derrick Chauvin, was charged Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers who were also at the scene have been fired but not charged. George Floyd’s memorial service is planned for Thursday in Minneapolis, and his funeral is scheduled for next Tuesday in Houston. Meanwhile, NBC News reports that Minneapolis police records show officers used neck restraints over 230 times over the last five years and made at least 44 people unconscious.
In other news, Louisville, Kentucky, Police Chief Steve Conrad has been fired after it emerged two officers who were at the scene of a fatal shooting early Monday morning did not have their body cameras activated — a violation of police department policy. Both police and the National Guard fired shots at a crowd on Monday, which killed David McAtee, whose body then reportedly lay in the streets of Louisville for over 12 hours. David McAtee owned a local barbecue business and was a beloved figure in the community who regularly gave police officers free meals. Louisville Police Chief Steve Conrad had already announced his plan to retire this month in the wake of the Louisville police killing of Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American woman. She was shot to death by police inside her own apartment in March. Taylor was an EMT and emergency room technician, as well as an aspiring nurse.
Here in New York City, protests continued into the night in defiance of an 11 p.m. curfew imposed Monday — the city’s first curfew since 1943. Earlier in the day, protesters held a die-in in Times Square.
In Oakland, California, an estimated 15,000 people attended a massive youth march against police brutality. This is organizer Akil Riley addressing a sea of students, educators and parents outside Oakland Technical High School.
Akil Riley: “It lives off poor people in this capitalist society. People need to be oppressed for America to work. So don’t believe that [bleep] that police are fighting crime. They’re brainwashed. They’re merely an arm of oppression. Why would the system of government work to combat crime? No, they work to make money. If America was really against crime, they would give people access to healthcare and housing and education.”
Shortly before the countywide 8 p.m. curfew began, police began shooting tear gas, flashbang grenades and rubber bullets at demonstrators in front of Oakland Police Department headquarters. Shortly after 8 p.m., police kettled protesters and made several group arrests, many of them for curfew violations.
Meanwhile, public health experts and government officials are warning that protests could lead to new surges of COVID-19 infections. The coronavirus has already killed Black people in America at a disproportionately high rate.
Activists are calling for justice for James Scurlock, a 22-year-old Black man who was fatally shot Saturday night by a white bar owner in Omaha, Nebraska, during anti-police-brutality protests. Prosecutors said Monday bar owner Jake Gardner will not face charges because he appeared to act in self-defense in surveillance footage of the shooting. But others say James Scurlock was attempting to deescalate a scuffle outside the bar which started after Gardner and his father provoked a crowd and Gardner fired his gun. A Facebook post by Jake Gardner, a 38-year-old ex-marine, just hours before the killing, reads, “Just when you think, 'what else could 2020 throw at me?' Then you have to pull 48 hours of military style firewatch.” Gardner has been arrested on criminal charges at least four times, including once for third-degree assault. He has also faced accusations of discriminating against Black patrons and making transphobic comments.
Facebook employees staged a virtual “walkout” Monday, in solidarity with the nationwide demonstrations and to protest Facebook’s handling of Trump posts that “incite violence.” Last week Twitter placed a warning on a Trump post that included the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” saying it violated rules about glorifying violence. But Facebook and CEO Mark Zuckerberg declined to take any action on the same post, despite concerns voiced by a growing number of its staff.
An Iranian scientist who contracted COVID-19 while imprisoned in a U.S. immigration jail is being deported today. Sirous Asgari was imprisoned for years despite being acquitted in a trade secrets case. Before becoming infected, Asgari pleaded for his freedom and called out the unsanitary and inhumane conditions inside the Winn Correctional Center in Louisiana, where he was being held.
As global coronavirus cases top 6.2 million and deaths surpass 375,000, countries around the world continue to ease restrictions, even as the World Health Organization warns that premature reopenings could cause a new wave of infections.
In Bangladesh, the first Rohingya refugee has died of COVID-19. The 71-year-old had been living in Cox’s Bazar, the world’s largest refugee camp, home to 1 million Rohingya. This comes as Bangladesh reported over 2,900 new cases nationwide in the past day — the highest daily number yet.
In India, more than two months after it imposed the world’s largest lockdown, many businesses and services reopened Monday. This comes despite the registered increase in coronavirus cases. Hotels, restaurants, shopping malls and places of worship may also reopen as of next week.
In Britain, many grade schools started holding in-person classes again this week, as Boris Johnson’s government also eases other restrictions, including allowing small gatherings outdoors. Some are objecting to what they say is a rush to end the lockdown, with many parents opting to hold back their kids from attending. Infections are trending downward, but the country still reports around 4,000 new cases every day and has registered close to 40,000 COVID deaths.
This comes as teacher unions in South Africa are urging staff to defy government orders to reopen schools this week, saying schools do not have enough personal protective equipment or resources to keep educators and students safe. South Africa has reported 35,000 coronavirus cases, while the African continent has surpassed 150,000 infections.
The Environmental Protection Agency gutted parts of the Clean Water Act Monday when it finalized a rule restricting the ability of states and tribes to block federal energy projects, such as pipelines or industrial plants, that could pollute rivers and drinking water. Lisa Feldt of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation said, “This rule is an egregious assault on states’ longstanding authority to safeguard the quality of their own waters. Despite the Trump administration’s professed respect for 'cooperative federalism,' it is clearly willing to steamroll states’ rights and greenlight major construction projects with no regard for how they might damage state waters.”
In climate news, Siberia is experiencing a record-breaking heat wave. Some parts of the region registered temperatures more than 20 degrees higher than the historical average for this time of year. Wildfires are expected to intensify into the summer as scientists warn the mounting temperatures are speeding the thawing of the permafrost, which releases carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, causing temperatures to further rise.