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HeadlinesJune 22, 2020

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AG Barr Under Fire as Dems Launch Investigation into Firing of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman

Jun 22, 2020

The House Judiciary Committee is launching an investigation into President Trump’s firing this weekend of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, who has overseen prosecutions and probes of several associates of President Trump. On Friday night, Attorney General William Barr issued a press release claiming Berman was “stepping down” as head of the Southern District of New York, but then Berman announced he was not resigning and had no intention to resign. This led to a dramatic showdown that resulted in Barr sending Berman a letter on Saturday stating that President Trump had fired him. But then Trump distanced himself from the move, saying, “I’m not involved.” Barr initially tried to install his own pick to head the SDNY, but by Saturday it was announced that Berman’s deputy, Audrey Strauss, would temporarily take over.

As U.S. attorney, Berman had led the investigations of Trump’s former personal attorney Michael Cohen and Trump’s current attorney Rudy Giuliani. Berman also led the prosecution of the Turkish bank Halkbank, which had ties to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Coronavirus Cases Surging in U.S. and Around the World

Jun 22, 2020

The World Health Organization warned that “the world is in a new and dangerous phase” of the coronavirus pandemic. Over 183,000 new cases were reported around the world on Sunday in the biggest single-day increase to date. Brazil, which recently surged past 1 million coronavirus cases, had the highest daily total, followed by the United States, then India.

Here in the U.S., confirmed coronavirus cases have topped 2.25 million with 120,000 reported deaths. Cases are surging in at least 18 states, with young people now seen as driving recent spikes. California reported over 4,500 new cases on Sunday, the highest one-day increase since the pandemic started. Eleven other states also recently reported records in new daily cases. The White House said Sunday it is preparing for a possible new wave in the fall. Echoing the Trump administration’s messaging, the Republican governors of Florida and Texas are blaming spikes in COVID-19 cases on increased testing. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, though, admits there is a surge among young people under 37 and that the age is going down, and also blamed migrant worker communities.

In Northern California, rights groups and the families of prisoners at San Quentin State Prison are sounding the alarm after cases there tripled since the start of the month. Activists who are organizing under the hashtag #StopSanQuentinOutbreak say a May 30 transfer of prisoners from a facility in Chino is likely the reason for the outbreak and that prison staff did not isolate themselves even though prisoners are being quarantined.

In other coronavirus news, China has suspended Tyson chicken imports due to COVID-19 infections among workers.

Antiracism Uprising Continues as Demonstrators Celebrate Juneteenth

Jun 22, 2020

Protests against racism and police brutality continue in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world. In New York City, an estimated 10,000 cyclists rode in a 20-mile procession through Manhattan Saturday demanding justice for victims of police violence. The protest came a day after throngs filled the Brooklyn Bridge on a march marking Juneteenth — the day celebrating African Americans’ liberation from slavery. In San Francisco, protesters painted “Defund the Police” in giant yellow letters outside City Hall, demanding Mayor London Breed divert police funding to community programs. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union brought shipping traffic to a halt at 29 ports along the West Coast Friday, as dock workers marked Juneteenth with a one-day strike. In Washington, D.C., thousands marked Juneteenth with rallies, marches, and a protest on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Protester: “Black people do not have freedom, justice or equality. We are slaves to the system. The system is founded by the U.S. government. I, as a Black man, and all Black people, we have options based off obedience.”

Meanwhile, in Geneva, Switzerland, the U.N. Human Rights Council agreed to commission a report on systemic racism and discrimination against Black people, though it stopped short of singling out the United States.

Dept. of Homeland Security Spied on Protesters in 15+ U.S. Cities

Jun 22, 2020

The New York Times reports the Department of Homeland Security deployed helicopters, airplanes and drones over 15 U.S. cities to spy on protests after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection show federal agents recorded at least 270 hours of aerial surveillance footage.

More Confederate and Racist Statues Fall Across the Country

Jun 22, 2020

Statues to Confederates, colonizers and other racist historical figures continue to fall. In Raleigh, North Carolina, protesters used ropes to pull two statues from a monument to Confederate soldiers outside of the state Capitol building Friday. In San Francisco, protesters tore down monuments to Francis Scott Key, who composed the U.S. national anthem, and Junípero Serra, an 18th century Spanish priest who oversaw a mission that enslaved, tortured and murdered Indigenous people. They also toppled a statue of Union army general and U.S. President Ulysses S. Grant, who once held a person in slavery. In Washington, D.C., protesters toppled a statue of Confederate General Albert Pike and set it on fire. And here in New York, the Museum of Natural History says it’s removing a statue of President Theodore Roosevelt, who is depicted riding on a horse above an Indigenous person and enslaved person on either side of him.

Protesters Call for Justice After Fatal Shooting of 18-Year-Old Andres Guardado in Gardena, CA

Jun 22, 2020

In Los Angeles, hundreds of protesters marched on the Compton Sheriff’s Station Sunday demanding justice for Andres Guardado, after the 18-year-old was shot and killed Thursday by a sheriff’s deputy. Guardado was reportedly working as a security guard at an auto body shop when two officers approached him. One of his co-workers says Guardado became scared and ran after an officer drew a gun. Police claim Guardado brandished an illegal firearm; his family claims he was shot in the back and that a handgun recovered by officers didn’t belong to him. Southern California Congressmembers Nanette Diaz Barragán and Maxine Waters are calling on California’s attorney general to launch an independent investigation into the teen’s killing by police.

Louisville Police Chief Moves to Fire Officer Who Shot and Killed Breonna Taylor

Jun 22, 2020

In Kentucky, Louisville’s police chief said Friday he will fire Detective Brett Hankison — more than three months after he shot Breonna Taylor to death inside her own apartment in March. Officers Jon Mattingly and Myles Cosgrove were also involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing and have remained on the force, as well. Before killing Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, Brett Hankison was accused of multiple sexual assaults. In at least two cases, he preyed on young women after they had been drinking, offering to give them rides home before allegedly assaulting them.

19-Year-Old Killed in Shooting in Seattle’s Autonomous “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” Zone

Jun 22, 2020

In Seattle, a 19-year-old was killed, and another person critically injured, early Saturday during a shooting in a part of the city occupied by protesters. A separate shooting late Sunday left another person hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Both shootings took place in the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone — a several-block area of Seattle taken over by activists earlier this month after police abandoned their militarized response to protests demanding an end to racism and police brutality.

Noose Found in Stall of African American NASCAR Driver Bubba Wallace

Jun 22, 2020

In sports news, a noose was found in the garage stall of Bubba Wallace, the only African American driver in NASCAR’s elite Cup Series. Wallace recently led a successful campaign to get NASCAR to ban displays of Confederate flags from its events. Bubba Wallace’s car is black with the words “Black Lives Matter.” He wears a T-shirt that says “I can’t breathe.”

Trump’s Tulsa Rally Turnout Just Over 6,000 After Campaign Predicted Massive Crowds Amid Pandemic

Jun 22, 2020

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Saturday, President Trump held his first campaign rally since the start of the pandemic. Despite predicting a turnout of tens of thousands of supporters, the Tulsa Fire Department says attendance was about 6,200 — less than a third of the capacity of the 19,000-seat arena. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence canceled a planned address to an overflow crowd because there was no one there.

Part of the reason for the low turnout may be attributable to TikTok users and K-pop fans, who said they flooded the Trump campaign with ticket reservations prior to the event, with no plans of attending.

During his speech, Trump again referred to COVID-19 with the racist terms “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu.” He also lamented that he doesn’t get credit for “sav[ing] hundreds of thousands of lives.” At another point, he said a million lives. This is Trump speaking about the issue of testing.

President Donald Trump: “They call me. They say, 'The job you're doing’ — here’s the bad part. When you test a — when you do testing to that extent, you’re going to find more people, you’re going to find more cases. So I said to my people, 'Slow the testing down, please.'”

Prior to the rally, six Trump campaign staffers working on the event tested positive for the coronavirus.

Protesters demonstrated outside the event. One demonstrator, a 62-year-old art teacher and grandmother named Sheila Buck, was handcuffed and arrested at the request of the Trump campaign, even though she had reserved a ticket. Buck, who says she was inspired to protest after years of witnessing her Black students suffer from racism, says she plans to sue the city, the police department and the Trump campaign. President Trump’s son Eric Trump also spoke at the event, where he referred to Black Lives Matter protesters as “animals.”

The family of late singer Tom Petty issued a cease-and-desist letter after his hit song “I Won’t Back Down” played at the Tulsa rally. “Tom Petty would never want a song of his used for a campaign of hate. He liked to bring people together,” the family said in a statement.

Trump is planning to go ahead with a rally Tuesday at a megachurch in Phoenix, Arizona, despite a request from the city’s mayor to reconsider due to the state’s surge in coronavirus cases. Phoenix has just begun requiring residents to wear face masks in public spaces, but the city’s mayor says the policy will not be enforced at Trump’s indoor rally.

White Security Guard Charged with Manslaughter for Shooting Black Guest at Tulsa Motel

Jun 22, 2020

In Tulsa, a white security guard faces charges of manslaughter for the fatal shooting of a Black man, Carlos Carson, in a motel parking lot earlier this month. New video emerged Friday showing Christopher Straight — a former sheriff’s sergeant — pepper-spraying, then shooting 36-year-old Carson in the head. Carlos Carson was a father of three. The killing has put the private security industry in the spotlight amid nationwide calls to defund and hold the police accountable for killing Black people.

NYPD Suspends Officer Who Used Banned Chokehold

Jun 22, 2020

The New York City Police Department has suspended an officer who was filmed on Sunday using a banned chokehold on an African American man named Ricky Bellevue. Video has gone viral showing four officers on top of the man as bystanders screamed, “Quit choking him!” Bellevue, who has a history of mental illness, lost consciousness during the arrest. Mayor Bill de Blasio praised the suspension of the officer, tweeting this was “the fastest I have EVER seen the NYPD act to discipline an officer.”

Kentucky Slashes 95% of Polling Places Ahead of Primary Election

Jun 22, 2020

In Kentucky, voting rights advocates are sounding the alarm ahead of Tuesday’s primary, after the state reduced the number of polling places from 3,700 to fewer than 200 — a 95% reduction. The most closely watched race is the Democratic primary to pick a candidate to challenge Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in November. Progressive candidate Kentucky state Representative Charles Booker has recently seen a major boost in polling and received high-profile endorsements from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, as well as Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Booker, who is Black, has been attending Black Lives Matter protests and was tear-gassed by police at a recent event. He is running against former Marine fighter pilot Amy McGrath.

Louisiana Activist Blasts School Board Member Who Defended Confederate General Robert E. Lee

Jun 22, 2020

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, a video of a community activist calling out members of the school board for their racism has gone viral. The board was meeting to discuss a resolution form a committee to change the name of Lee High School, named after Confederate General Robert E. Lee. This is Gary Chambers Jr. addressing board member Connie Bernard after he noticed she was online shopping during the meeting.

Gary Chambers Jr.: “Robert E. Lee was a brutal slave master. Not only did, when he whooped the slaves, he say, 'Lay it on ’em hard,' after he said, 'Lay it on ’em hard,' he said, 'Put brine on them,' so to burn them. That’s what Robert E. Lee did. And you sit your arrogant self in here and sit on there shopping, while the pain and the hurt of the people of this community is on display, because you don’t give a damn, and you should resign!”

Just days before the meeting, Bernard defended the name of the high school — and Robert E. Lee — telling community members to look into his history. On Thursday, the board voted unanimously, after a lengthy debate, to form a special committee to come up with alternative names for the 61-year-old high school. It was a striking reversal for the school board, which in 2016 voted to keep the school named Lee High, but excised the “Robert E.” part of the name.

Tennessee Lawmakers Approve Near-Total Ban on Abortions

Jun 22, 2020

In reproductive rights news, Tennessee lawmakers passed a bill Friday banning abortion as early as six weeks of pregnancy — before most people even know they are pregnant. The bill, which Republican Governor Bill Lee is expected to sign, would criminalize abortion providers, who could face up to 15 years in jail and a $10,000 fine. Several groups, including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU, immediately challenged the move.

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Judge Refuses to Block Publication of John Bolton’s Book on Trump Presidency

Jun 22, 2020

A federal judge denied a request Saturday by the Trump administration to block the publication of former national security adviser John Bolton’s forthcoming book, in which he alleges Trump directly asked for China’s help getting reelected.

On World Refugee Day, Nearly 80 Million Remain Forcibly Displaced

Jun 22, 2020

Saturday marked World Refugee Day. The U.N. reports nearly 80 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced, amounting to around 1% of humanity. The U.N. reports refugee numbers have doubled in the last decade, with Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar being some of the hardest-hit countries.

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