Protests against racism and police violence continued over the weekend. In Louisville, Kentucky, a gunman fired more than a dozen rounds into a crowd of protesters late Saturday, killing one person, injuring another and sending scores diving for cover. Twenty-seven-year-old photographer Tyler Gerth, a vocal supporter of the protests, died at the scene. Police arrested 23-year-old Steven Nelson Lopez and charged him with murder and wanton endangerment. After the shooting, authorities ordered an end to a protest encampment which is demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old African American emergency medic who was shot to death by Louisville police inside her own apartment in March. No officers have been charged in her killing.
In Aurora, Colorado, police used pepper spray on crowds Saturday as thousands took to the streets, shutting down an interstate, as they called for justice for Elijah McClain, who was killed by police last year. McClain, a 23-year-old African American man, was tackled by police as he headed home from a local convenience store, placed in a chokehold and then injected with ketamine by paramedics. Also at Saturday’s protest for McClain, a group of violinists held a vigil, playing their violins — an instrument Elijah McClain also played — in his honor. Colorado Governor Jared Polis announced Thursday a special prosecutor would reopen a probe into the police killing of Elijah McClain.
In New York, a protest occupation outside City Hall continues for a sixth straight day, with activists demanding at least a billion dollars in cuts to the police department’s $6 billion budget. The encampment is set to continue until the city budget is submitted by a midnight deadline Tuesday.
In Philadelphia, medical workers briefly took over the shuttered Hahnemann hospital Saturday under the banner “Care Not Cops,” administering free healthcare before the occupation was scuttled by police in riot gear. Hahnemann hospital was closed last September after a private equity executive launched a plan to turn the property into luxury condominiums.
In Seattle, hundreds of protesters marched on the home of Mayor Jenny Durkan Sunday, rejecting her proposal to cut 5% from the Seattle Police Department. The protesters are demanding the city slash the police budget in half, reinvesting the funds in community programs.
In Minnesota, the Minneapolis City Council continued its move to disband its police force Friday as it unanimously voted for a charter amendment that would replace the police with a department of community safety and violence prevention.
The popular uprising is forcing cities and major institutions around the country to reckon with its symbols of racism and colonialism. The Mississippi House and Senate voted Sunday to remove the Confederate battle emblem from its state flag following mounting pressure. The National Collegiate Athletic Association said earlier this month it would not hold championship events in the state because of the flag, and Mississippi State star running back Kylin Hill said he would no longer represent his state unless the racist symbol was removed.
Princeton University said it will remove Woodrow Wilson’s name from its public policy school and one of its residential colleges. “Wilson’s racism was significant and consequential even by the standards of his own time,” said Princeton’s president. As president, Wilson oversaw the segregation of federal agencies. New Jersey’s Monmouth University also said it would remove Wilson’s name from one of its buildings.
In New York, city councilmembers are calling for the removal of the statue of slave owner President Thomas Jefferson from the council chambers. And Newark, New Jersey, has taken down a statue of Christopher Columbus. Newark Mayor Ras Baraka also recently signed a bill to create the Office of Violence Prevention, which will be funded with 5% of the city’s police budget. Meanwhile, four men have been charged for trying to topple President Andrew Jackson’s statue in Lafayette Square, near the White House.
In Boston, Kevin Peterson, founder of the New Democracy Coalition, ended a one-week protest fast Sunday. He has been standing outside the famed Faneuil Hall, calling on city officials to rename the building and address systemic racism in Boston.
Kevin Peterson: “We call Mayor Walsh again to the table to address the issue of white supremacy in the city by addressing the issue of renaming Faneuil Hall. We cannot feel comfortable or at ease as citizens in this nation and in this city when the name of a slave owner sits up atop a public building.”
President Trump approvingly retweeted a video Sunday of a man in The Villages retirement community in Florida shouting “white power” at antiracist protesters.
Trump supporter: “White power! White power!”
Protester: “There you go: 'white power.'”
Trump shared the video Sunday morning with the caption, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages. The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats will Fall in the Fall.” The man who shouted “white power” was driving a golf cart with a “Trump 2020” sign on its windshield. The video was removed from Trump’s Twitter feed about three hours later. A White House spokesperson said Trump “did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters.”
Facebook said Friday it will start labeling posts that are newsworthy but violate the company’s policies, and would remove content that incites violence or suppresses voting rights, even if it originates from politicians. The announcement comes after CEO Mark Zuckerberg faced mounting pressure for refusing to take action against posts by President Trump, including one threatening violence against protesters. Facebook’s market value dropped dramatically Friday after Unilever announced it was temporarily pulling ads from the platform due to concerns over hate speech. Other major brands, including Coca-Cola, Honda, Hershey and JanSport, also joined over 100 other companies boycotting Facebook.
Georgia’s hate crimes law will go into effect later this week, after it was signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp Friday. Georgia was one of only four states without a hate crimes law. However, the NAACP and others are calling out a police protection measure that was also approved by Georgia lawmakers last week, which some say will further endanger Black people.
In immigration news, a federal judge said Friday Trump does not have the authority to divert Pentagon funds without congressional approval to construct parts of his border wall. The Trump administration circumvented Congress after declaring a national emergency on the U.S.-Mexico border last year. However, the fate of the wall remains uncertain since the ruling is in opposition to a Supreme Court decision last year that granted Trump the right to use the defense funds. The ACLU said it would return to the Supreme Court, if necessary, to stop construction of the wall.
The New York Times has published a report claiming a Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants for killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. The Washington Post reports the bounties are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. servicemembers. The reports in the Times and the Post are based entirely on unnamed sources. Russia and the Taliban have denied the allegation. President Trump says he was never briefed on the claim because U.S. intelligence agencies “did not find this info credible.” A spokesperson for the National Security Council said that “the veracity of the underlying allegations continue to be evaluated.” The reports come as peace talks are about to begin between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
Pakistan’s Stock Exchange came under attack today when four gunmen tried to storm the building in Karachi. At least seven died in a firefight — the four gunmen, as well as three security officers. The Balochistan Liberation Army, a separatist group, claimed responsibility for the attack.
In Colombia, outrage has erupted after seven soldiers confessed to gang-raping a 13-year-old Indigenous girl. The girl is from the Emberá Tribe. The soldiers face up to 30 years in prison. Women’s rights activists and Indigenous groups in Colombia say they hope this case will be a turning point in punishing rampant gender-based violence and crimes against Indigenous peoples.
In Mexico, more than two dozen gunmen, armed with grenades and sniper rifles, attacked the police chief of Mexico City Friday morning, leaving him hospitalized and three others dead — two of his bodyguards and a female bystander. The police chief blamed members of the powerful Jalisco New Generation Cartel for the brazen attack, which took place in what is considered one of the most secure areas of Mexico City. Mexican police have arrested 19 suspects after carrying out a number of raids. Meanwhile, authorities in Mexico have arrested two people in connection with the recent assassination of a federal judge and his wife inside their home in Colima state.
In the United States, 17 employees at Rikers Island will face disciplinary action for the death of Layleen Polanco, a transgender Afro-Latinx woman who was found dead in her jail cell in June last year. Four officers were suspended without pay.
In New York, thousands took to the streets Sunday for the second annual Queer Liberation March. Protesters carried signs that read “Black Trans Lives Matter” and “Defund the Police,” and held banners with the names of transgender people who have been killed. The march made its way through the streets of Lower Manhattan to the legendary Stonewall Inn, gathering near Washington Square Park, where police officers descended on the crowds, unleashing pepper spray and arresting at least four people. This weekend marked the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall riots, led by Black and Brown trans women, which sparked the modern-day LGBTQ movement. The Queer Liberation March emerged last year as an alternative to the corporate-sponsored LGBTQ Pride Parade, which was held virtually this year due to the pandemic.