In Minnesota, mourners gathered Thursday for a memorial service honoring the life of George Floyd, the African American man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police sparked a nationwide uprising against racism and police brutality. During the tribute, mourners stood in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for his life. Reverend Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy.
Rev. Al Sharpton: “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country, in education, in health services and in every area of American life. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, 'Get your knee off our necks!'”
In Minneapolis, the three officers charged with aiding and abetting George Floyd’s murder were arraigned in a Hennepin County courtroom Thursday, with bail set at $750,000 each. Defense lawyers told the court the two officers who pinned George Floyd to the pavement — as officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck — were rookies barely off probation. But records show officers Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane joined the department in February 2019 as probationary officers, and they became full officers last December.
Meanwhile, a longtime friend of George Floyd who witnessed the killing told Minnesota state investigators that at no point did George Floyd resist arrest before his death.
There are new developments in the case of Ahmaud Arbery, the 25-year-old Black man who was shot dead after being chased and ambushed by a group of white men in Georgia. After a hearing on Thursday, a state judge concluded there is enough evidence to support the murder charges against the three men. During the hearing, special agent Richard Dial of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified one of the men used a racial slur after Arbery was chased, hunted down and executed.
Richard Dial: “Mr. Bryan said that after the shooting took place, before police arrival, while Mr. Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make the statement: '[bleep bleep].'”
Those last two words were the F-word and the N-word. Arbery’s family is calling for all three men arrested to face federal hate crime charges. We will have more on the Ahmaud Arbery case later in the show.
Massive protests against racism and police brutality continued in cities across the United States for a 10th straight day, with more demonstrations planned throughout the weekend. Here in New York, police used clubs to beat back crowds of peaceful protesters Thursday as they marched in the Bronx past an 8 p.m. curfew. The NYPD says it arrested 170 protesters citywide. They face the prospect of a lengthy stay in crowded and unsanitary jails, after a Manhattan judge ruled the city could hold protesters beyond the state-mandated limit of 24 hours from arrest to arraignment.
On Thursday, over 10,000 people packed a downtown Brooklyn plaza as Terrence Floyd led a memorial service for his older brother George Floyd. The crowd erupted in boos and jeers as Mayor Bill de Blasio took the microphone.
Protesters: “De Blasio, go home! De Blasio, go home! De Blasio, go home!”
Mayor Bill de Blasio: “George Floyd cannot have been allowed to die in vain. We have to make a change in this city and this country.”
Protesters: “Resign! Resign! Resign! Resign! Resign! Resign!”
As Mayor de Blasio left the stage, many of the protesters turned their backs and chanted for him to resign. Speaking a short time later, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called on the mayor to address protesters’ “pain and anger” rather than responding with more police and curfews.
Jumaane Williams: “I hear the mayor and the governor say we have to do what we have to do to protect property. I want to say this as a citywide elected official: We must protect property. We must make sure people feel safe. But where is the same energy for Black lives?”
In California, police in the city of Vallejo fatally shot an unarmed 22-year-old Tuesday who was kneeling and had his hands up outside a Walgreens, after officers responded to a call about alleged looting during protests against the police killing of George Floyd. Police said they believed Sean Monterrosa had a gun, but later said he only had a hammer in his pocket. Witnesses say when police arrived, Monterrosa quickly dropped to his knees and surrendered, when a police officer in an unmarked car shot him five times through the windshield. Monterrosa grew up in San Francisco and had previously worked at a Boys & Girls Club.
In Buffalo, New York, two police officers have been suspended without pay after videos showed them assaulting a 75-year-old protester, sending him to the hospital in serious condition. In the videos, the elderly man, whose name has not been released, stands peacefully in front of a line of advancing riot police. Two of the officers violently shove him backwards, and he falls to the sidewalk, striking his head. One of the officers motions as if to administer aid but is pushed away by a third officer. About two dozen riot police look on as the man is left motionless on the ground, bleeding profusely from a head wound. The Buffalo Police Department initially told a local radio station “one person was injured when he tripped and fell.” Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said in a statement he was “deeply disturbed” by the videos.
In Washington, D.C., thousands of demonstrators held a youth-led protest at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Thursday, kneeling on the hot pavement for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee pressed to George Floyd’s neck.
Across the Mall, federal workers fortified a security perimeter around the White House complex, erecting a tall black metal fence and adding new concrete barriers. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary Mark Esper has ordered several hundred active-duty troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to leave D.C. He first made the order on Wednesday but then reversed himself, facing White House pressure.
The Washington, D.C., chapter of Black Lives Matter and a group of protesters have sued President Trump, Attorney General William Barr and other top officials for violently clearing out peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Square outside the White House so the president could have a photo op on Monday. On Thursday, Barr defended the administration’s actions and blamed extremist groups for instigating violence over the past week.
Attorney General William Barr: “We have evidence that antifa and other similar extremist groups, as well as actors of a variety of different political persuasions, have been involved in instigating and participating in the violent activity.”
While Barr singled out the anti-fascist movement known as antifa, he provided no evidence of wrongdoing by anti-fascist activists. This comes as The Nation magazine has obtained an internal FBI document that shows the agency had “no intelligence indicating Antifa involvement/presence” at protests in Washington last Sunday. But the document did cite the presence of “far-right provocateurs.”
In related news, federal prosecutors in Las Vegas have charged three men connected to the far-right extremist “boogaloo” movement with inciting violence during the recent protests and conspiracy to commit terrorism. The three men all had experience in the U.S. military.
Meanwhile, in Salisbury, North Carolina, police have arrested Jeffrey Alan Long, a 49-year-old with ties to neo-Confederate hate groups. He’s charged with firing a weapon near protesters on Sunday.
On Capitol Hill, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky proposed an amendment Thursday that would weaken a bill making lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison. A day earlier, Senator Paul single-handedly held up the legislation by denying its passage on unanimous consent. The bill is co-sponsored by the Senate’s three African Americans — Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina and Democrats Kamala Harris of California and Cory Booker of New Jersey.
Sen. Cory Booker: “But I am so raw today, of all days that we’re doing this. … I do not need my colleague, the senator from Kentucky, to tell me about one lynching in this country. I’ve stood in the museum in Montgomery, Alabama, and watched African American families weeping at the stories of pregnant women lynched in this country and their babies ripped out of them.”
International press freedom groups are expressing alarm over the rampant mistreatment of journalists covering the protests over the past 10 days. Reporters have been shot with rubber bullets and pepper spray, arrested live on air and assaulted with riot shields. The Committee to Protect Journalists has compiled a list of 250 cases of press freedom violations. The ACLU of Minnesota has filed a class-action lawsuit over the targeting of journalists.
Journalists at two major papers are criticizing how their own outlets have dealt with the recent protests. On Thursday, more than 30 journalists of color at The Philadelphia Inquirer called out sick after the paper ran an article titled “Buildings Matter, Too.”
And at The New York Times, more than 800 staff members signed a letter protesting the publication of an opinion piece by Republican Senator Tom Cotton titled “Send in the Troops.” Many Times reporters tweeted out a message saying, “Running this puts black @NYTimes staff in danger.”
The Huffington Post is reporting law enforcement agents have seized hundreds of cloth face masks that read “Stop killing Black people” and “Defund police.” The Movement for Black Lives made the masks to help protect protesters during the pandemic. Boxes of masks were mailed from Oakland, but they were seized in the mail by law enforcement.
President Trump has taken new steps to gut the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Citing the economic crisis caused by the COVID outbreak, Trump has signed an executive order to remove the environmental review process for major projects, including new mines, highways and pipelines.
Meanwhile, a federal appeals court in San Francisco has overturned the EPA’s approval of a popular herbicide made by Monsanto. The court found the EPA had substantially understated the risk caused by the product.
Russia has declared a state of emergency in northern Siberia after more than 20,000 tons of diesel fuel spilled into a river near the Arctic Ocean. Following record heat linked to climate change, the permafrost beneath a fuel reservoir reportedly collapsed, leaking diesel across miles of Russian wilderness. Climate activists say the incident is the biggest oil spill in Russia’s modern history.
A shocking new report by the United Nations says tens of thousands of people in the Philippines may have been killed since mid-2016 as President Rodrigo Duterte unleashed a “war on drugs,” giving police the power to arrest people and use lethal force with near impunity. The U.N. report points to top government officials as instigators of extreme violence, and a pattern among police of planting evidence in dozens of murders to suggest officers were acting in self-defense. Among the dead are over 70 children; the youngest victim was just 5 months old.
In Richmond, Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam on Thursday ordered the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from the state capital after it was vandalized during recent mass protests. Richmond’s African American Mayor Levar Stoney welcomed the move.
Mayor Levar Stoney: “We have two pandemics in this country: COVID-19 and racism. One is 6 months old, the other 400 years old. And as the events of the last months and the last two weeks have made painfully clear, both are lethal, especially for Black and Brown people.”