In the United States, dozens of Secret Service agents who worked security at President Trump’s campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last weekend have been ordered to self-isolate, after two of their colleagues tested positive for COVID-19. This comes as Tulsa County recorded 259 new coronavirus cases Wednesday, a record daily toll. Meanwhile, White House counselor Kellyanne Conway on Wednesday defended President Trump’s use of the racist term “kung flu” to describe COVID-19 at rallies in Tulsa and Phoenix this week.
Kellyanne Conway: “My reaction is that the president has made very clear he wants everybody to understand — and I think many Americans do understand — that the virus originated in China, and had China been more transparent and honest with the United States and the world, we wouldn’t have all the death and destruction that unfortunately we’ve suffered.”
Kellyanne Conway’s statement contrasts sharply with her remarks three months ago, when she called the term “kung flu” highly offensive and attacked Asian American reporter Weijia Jiang for not naming a White House official who reportedly used the slur.
Kellyanne Conway: “And that’s highly offensive, so you should tell us all who it is. I’d like to know who it is. I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals. I’m married to an Asian. I mean, I’m not engaging in hypothetical. My kids are.”
One month after George Floyd was killed by Minneapolis police officers, protests in support of Black lives and against police brutality continue across the U.S. Here in New York, activists have set up a 24-hour protest encampment outside City Hall, demanding $1 billion in cuts to the city’s $6 billion police budget, with the money reinvested in healthcare, housing and social services.
In Seattle, protesters have largely ended their occupation of a six-block “autonomous zone” known as the Capitol Hill Occupied Protest. In a statement, protest leaders wrote, “We successfully built a self-governing community and convinced city leaders to enact meaningful police reform, including substantial budget cuts to the [Seattle Police Department].”
In Oakland, California, the school board voted unanimously Wednesday to eliminate its police force. Meanwhile, Chicago’s school board voted 4 to 3 to keep police in public schools.
On Capitol Hill, Senate Democrats blocked debate on a Republican police reform bill Wednesday, saying the legislation failed to limit the use of no-knock warrants while allowing federal law enforcement officers to continue using chokeholds. The stalemate means it’s unlikely Congress will pass any new measures limiting police use of force until after November’s election.
A warning to our audience: The following stories contain graphic images of police violence.
Calls are growing for the city of Aurora, Colorado, to conduct a new investigation into the death last year of Elijah McClain. He was a 23-year-old African American massage therapist who died after being tackled by police and placed in a chokehold and then being injected with ketamine by paramedics. McClain was stopped by three police officers on August 24, 2019, as he was walking home from picking up an iced tea for his brother at a convenience store. Police claimed he was acting suspicious. He died on August 30 after days on life support. On Wednesday, Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced the state would review the case.
In New York City, police officers responding to a 911 call used Tasers to electrocute a Queens man to death inside his own home late Sunday, after a neighbor falsely reported he had a gun. Another neighbor said 29-year-old George Zapantis, who had a history of mental illness, had been playing with a sword dressed as a gladiator in his own basement when police arrived on the scene. A lawyer for the family disputed a police account that Zapantis threatened officers, and has demanded the NYPD turn over bodycam footage.
NBC reports an NYPD officer who was filmed using a banned chokehold on an African American man last Sunday will face second-degree strangulation charges. Officer David Afanador previously faced criminal charges after he repeatedly pistol-whipped a 16-year-old boy during a marijuana bust, sending the boy to the hospital with two broken teeth.
The police chief in Tucson, Arizona, has offered to resign following the death of a man in police custody. Twenty-seven-year-old Carlos Ingram Lopez died on April 21 after police pinned him face-down to the ground for 12 minutes at his grandmother’s house. His family had called the police because the man was drunk and running around the house naked. When police arrived, they wrestled Lopez to the ground and cuffed his hands behind his back. They then threatened to tase him after ordering him to calm down and relax. In police bodycam video, Carlos Ingram Lopez can be heard asking for water and his grandmother. At one point he says, “I can’t breathe.” The Pima County Attorney’s Office is now conducting a criminal investigation of the actions of the officers, who have all resigned.
In Wisconsin, a 19-year-old Black woman facing life in prison on charges of killing her alleged sex trafficker was freed from jail on bail Monday. Chrystul Kizer had been imprisoned for two years while awaiting trial. She was allegedly trafficked beginning at the age of 16 by Randall Volar, a 34-year-old white man. Court records show Volar had a history of sexually abusing underage Black girls but remained free. Kizer says she shot and killed Volar in self-defense in 2018, after he drugged her and tried to rape her. Advocates have pointed to the striking similarities between Kizer’s case and that of Cyntoia Brown, who was freed from prison last year after being granted clemency while serving a life sentence for killing a man who bought her for sex when she was just 16 years old.
In Georgia, a grand jury has indicted three white men on murder charges for killing Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was chased down and shot to death on February 23. Retired police officer Greg McMichael and his son Travis, along with their friend William Bryan, walked free for months after Arbery’s killing and were only arrested after a video of the killing filmed by Bryan went viral on social media. The three men remain in a Glynn County jail and have not yet been arraigned.
In Georgia, a Republican-controlled committee of state lawmakers has advanced a bill that would bar election officials from mailing absentee ballot applications to millions of active registered voters ahead of November’s election. Under Senate Bill 463, voters who want to cast ballots by mail would have to initiate the process themselves.
Rhode Island’s governor has signed an executive order to shorten the state’s name on official documents from “The State of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations” to just “The State of Rhode Island.” State Senator Harold Metts, who is African American, said he will also push to officially change the state’s name, too. Metts said, “The word 'plantations' conjures extremely painful images for many Rhode Islanders.”
In Wisconsin, Democratic state Senator Tim Carpenter was hospitalized after he was assaulted on Tuesday during a chaotic night in Madison. Carpenter said he was punched multiple times and kicked in the head after he took a brief video of protesters on his phone. On the same night, a group of people took down two statues in the city — one for the abolitionist Union Army Colonel Hans Christian Heg and another known as the “Forward” Statue that has come to represent women’s rights. Several historians questioned why these statues were targeted, but one activist said the prominent display of those statues creates a “false representation of what this city is.”
Israel is facing increasing international condemnation over its plan to annex parts of the Occupied West Bank. On Wednesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres called on Israel to abandon its plan.
Secretary-General António Guterres: “If implemented, annexation would constitute the most serious violation of international law, grievously harm the prospect of a two-state solution and undercut the possibilities of a renewal of negotiations. I call on the Israeli government to abandon its annexation plans.”
Meanwhile, seven European nations have issued a joint statement saying annexation would violate international law and weaken efforts to advance regional peace. Belgium, Britain, Estonia, France, Germany, Ireland and Norway signed the statement.
In a major win for progressive Democrats, Jamaal Bowman has claimed victory in Tuesday’s primary election over 16-term New York Congressmember Eliot Engel, the powerful chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Bowman tweeted, “I’m a Black man raised by a single mother in a housing project. That story doesn’t usually end in Congress. But today, that 11-year-old boy beaten by police is about to be your Representative. I can’t wait to get to DC and cause problems for those maintaining the status quo.” While Bowman leads by over 25 percentage points, many absentee ballots have not been counted yet.
The Democratic National Committee has announced plans to hold its national convention almost entirely online to slow community spread of the coronavirus. Joe Biden is expected to accept the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination at an in-person event in Milwaukee on August 20, but delegates are being asked not to travel to Wisconsin for the convention as initially planned.
A federal appeals court has ordered a lower court to dismiss the criminal case against Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn, even though Flynn twice pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his communications with the Russian ambassador.
The ruling is a major victory for the Justice Department, which has sought to drop the case against Flynn. The ruling came as the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the politicization of the Justice Department. Former Deputy Attorney General Donald Ayer, who served under George H.W. Bush, said William Barr poses “the greatest threat in my lifetime to our rule of law.”
Donald Ayer: “I think we’re on the way to something far worse than Watergate, where you had a problem of public distrust, because it’s becoming very transparent that many things are being done, essentially, for reasons that are completely unrelated to the merits of the case.
In the Caribbean, a massive dust plume from the Sahara Desert has darkened skies and forced residents with respiratory illness to shelter indoors. Models show haze will soon settle over much of the United States, bringing hazardous air quality to states as far north as Michigan. Saharan dust storms are common, but meteorologists say this one is unprecedented in at least a half-century.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has filed suit against ExxonMobil, Koch Industries and the American Petroleum Institute, accusing the fossil fuel organizations of defrauding consumers by covering up the effects of climate change. Minnesota joins at least 15 other plaintiffs, including attorneys general in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island, who have brought similar lawsuits. Ellison was joined at a news conference Wednesday by Juwaria Jama, a 16-year-old leader with the Minnesota Youth Climate Strike.
Juwaria Jama: “These corporations knew the impacts of climate change long before. They could have sounded the alarm and began working toward solutions. Instead, they decided to deceive the public. They knew exactly what was happening, and instead of making choices to repair our planet, they covered up the damage. Instead of allowing experts to craft solutions, they hid the problem. I am here today because these corporations have gone far too long without ever being held accountable for the damages they have caused to our globe and our future.”