In Texas, at least five members of a choir and orchestra at a Dallas megachurch visited by Mike Pence last weekend tested positive for COVID-19 ahead of the vice president’s trip. That’s according to BuzzFeed News, which reported that church officials failed to quarantine performers after their exposure to infected people — and instead continued holding rehearsals for the rest of the month. Over 2,000 people attended Sunday’s event, where Pence sat in the front row while the choir of over 100 people performed unmasked in front of a largely unmasked audience.
At least 20 people held at San Quentin State Prison in California launched a hunger strike Monday to protest inhumane conditions inside. Over 1,100 men have tested positive for COVID-19 — that’s a third of San Quentin’s population. One person has died. Among those testing positive is incarcerated journalist Juan Moreno Haines. He appeared on Democracy Now! in March warning about the likelihood of a COVID outbreak at San Quentin.
Juan Moreno Haines: “So, we live in such close proximity, that in the 13 years that I’ve been in San Quentin, if I see somebody with the flu or sick, I’m going to get it. I already know this. I’m going to get it. There’s no avoiding it.”
In Seattle, heavily armed police officers have cleared a large protest encampment that grew over the past three weeks after the Seattle police abandoned one of its police precincts. At least 44 people were arrested on Wednesday. The area was known as the Capitol Hill Organized Protest (CHOP) or the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (CHAZ). Authorities cracked down on the encampment following four shootings that left two people dead.
In California, the Los Angeles City Council voted overwhelmingly Wednesday to cut the L.A. Police Department’s budget by $150 million while cutting back on hiring new officers. The move, which comes amid widespread protests demanding even deeper cuts to the LAPD’s budget, would reduce L.A.’s police force to fewer than 10,000 officers — the lowest level since 2008.
President Trump has called Black Lives Matter a “symbol of hate.” He made the charge in a tweet attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to paint “Black Lives Matter” in large letters on Fifth Avenue near Trump Tower. The president said the city’s plan is “denigrating this luxury Avenue.”
The mayor of Richmond, Virginia, on Wednesday ordered the immediate removal of a monument to Confederate General Stonewall Jackson from city grounds. Mayor Levar Stoney said Confederate statues pose an immediate and growing threat to public safety.
Mayor Levar Stoney: “Since the end of Richmond’s official tenure as the capital of the Confederacy 155 years ago, we have been burdened with that legacy. The great weight of that burden has fallen on our residents of color, but it’s also placed a weight on all of our brothers and sisters who saw the unmet potential for Richmond to become an international example of a diverse, compassionate and inclusive community.”
In Massachusetts, the Boston Art Commission voted Tuesday to remove a copy of the “Emancipation Memorial” sculpture from public display. The statue portrays an enslaved man kneeling at the feet of Abraham Lincoln.
In San Antonio, Texas, officials removed a statue of Christopher Columbus Wednesday. A similar statue was removed from outside City Hall in Ohio’s capital city, Columbus, named after the 15th century Italian mercenary.
In Georgetown, Delaware, city officials have removed an eight-foot-high whipping post from outside the Sussex County Courthouse. Delaware was the last U.S. state to carry out public floggings — as recently as 1952 — with a highly disproportionate number of African Americans receiving the punishment.
Meanwhile, President Trump threatened this week to veto the National Defense Authorization Act if it includes a provision to rename Fort Bragg, Fort Lee and other military bases named after Confederate leaders. On Wednesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it has set up a task force aimed at protecting monuments, memorials, statues and federal facilities.
In Baltimore, an appeals court has reinstated $38 million in damages to the family of Korryn Gaines, a 23-year-old Black woman who was killed by Baltimore County police in 2016. In a ruling late Wednesday, the appeals court said a Baltimore County judge was wrong to overturn a jury’s decision to award the Gaines family millions in damages and that the lower court had abused its discretion. Gaines was killed in August 2016 by police gunfire, after a SWAT team broke down her door and stormed her home in order to serve a warrant related to a traffic violation. Her 5-year-old son Kodi was injured by police gunfire, but he survived. No criminal charges were filed against the police officer who shot Gaines.
In California, the family of Andrés Guardado, an 18-year-old Salvadoran teen shot to death in June by a sheriff’s deputy in the city of Gardena, is demanding his autopsy report be immediately released. Last week, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department placed a so-called security hold on Guardado’s autopsy, barring public release of its findings. Guardado was 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 says he was shot in the back and that a handgun recovered by officers didn’t belong to him.
In Sacramento, family and friends of victims of police violence rallied at the California state Capitol Wednesday, demanding lawmakers launch probes into the recent killings of their loved ones. Among them was the family of 22-year-old Sean Monterrosa, who was shot outside a Walgreens by police in the city of Vallejo during a Black Lives Matter protest. And the family of Erik Salgado is demanding a probe into why California Highway Patrol officers fired 40 rounds indiscriminately at Salgado’s vehicle during a traffic stop in Oakland. Salgado was killed, and his pregnant girlfriend Brianna Colombo was badly injured. Both passengers were unarmed. This is Erik Salgado’s sister, Amanda Majail-Blanco.
Amanda Majail-Blanco: ”CHP [California Highway Patrol] put out a report that he this and he that, and he did this and he did that. And it’s like, that’s not the point. So, he a criminal? OK, so that justified y’all had to shoot him and his unborn child? His baby’s mama was in the car. Y’all had to shoot her, too? He didn’t even have a weapon, y’all. He didn’t have a gun. He didn’t even get out the car. They shot him in the car, in his own neighborhood.”
The family of Vanessa Guillén, the missing 20-year-old Fort Hood soldier, said Wednesday her remains were likely found in a shallow grave near the Texas Army base, ending a painful search that began months earlier, when Guillén first went missing April 22. The Army said Wednesday that one suspect was in custody in connection with Guillén’s disappearance. A second suspect in the case — a soldier who has not yet been named — took his own life in Killeen, Texas, as officers approached him on Tuesday. We’ll have more on Vanessa Guillén’s case later in the show.
In Honduras, a TV reporter and videographer were shot to death Wednesday in the northern city of La Ceiba. German Vallecillo and Jorge Posas were reportedly working when two gunmen inside a vehicle stopped and opened fire on them. Five suspects have reportedly been arrested. The Honduran Association of Journalists says 86 journalists have been killed in Honduras since 2001, and only seven of those killings have resulted in prosecutions. Violence against social leaders and journalists in Honduras has skyrocketed since the U.S.-backed 2009 coup.
Election officials in Russia say 78% of voters have backed a change in Russia’s constitution that could keep President Vladimir Putin in power for another 16 years. Voting took place over the last week. The election monitoring organization Golos — which has received funding from the United States — described the vote as rigged.
In Brazil, new government data show fires in the Amazon region jumped by 20% in June to a 13-year high for the month. Campaigners say most of the fires were deliberately set by illegal miners and cattle ranchers, with the encouragement of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. Environmentalist Carlos Souza Jr. says smoke from the fires could compound respiratory problems for Brazilians who are already suffering from one of the world’s worst outbreaks of COVID-19.
Carlos Souza Jr.: “The clearing of land already represented a serious health problem. If we have land clearing and COVID-19 together, this could bring catastrophic consequences for the residents of the region.”