In Minneapolis, lawyers for the defense and prosecution made opening arguments Monday in the trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who faces murder and manslaughter charges for killing George Floyd last May. Floyd was a 46-year-old Black man and a father who was originally from Houston, Texas. His death sparked international protests calling for racial justice. As the trial kicked off Monday, civil rights leader Al Sharpton knelt outside the Hennepin County Courthouse with members of Floyd’s family and supporters for nine minutes — marking the amount of time Derek Chauvin was filmed kneeling on George Floyd’s neck. This is Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump.
Benjamin Crump: “We needed to pray for this family. But also we needed to pray for America, because this is a seminal moment, a landmark moment, in American history.”
In Georgia, voting rights groups have filed a second lawsuit seeking to block a sweeping voter suppression law signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp last week. The law grants broad power to state officials to take control of election management from local and county election boards, adds new voter ID requirements and even makes it a crime to hand out food or water to voters waiting in line at polling places.
Meanwhile, the children of prominent civil rights leaders have condemned Georgia’s business leaders for their silence on Republican-led voter suppression efforts. In a joint letter, they write, “The failure of corporate leaders across our state to live up to their racial equity commitments made in the last year disregards and disrespects our fathers’ tireless work and jeopardizes the soul of Georgia and the promise of democracy.” The letter was signed by Bernice King, daughter of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.; Al Vivian, son of Reverend C.T. Vivian; and John-Miles Lewis, son of the late Congressmember John Lewis.
The World Health Organization has wrapped up its investigation into the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, concluding in a new report that it’s “very likely” the novel coronavirus passed from a bat to an intermediate animal host before emerging in humans in late 2019, with China’s wildlife trade the most likely pathway. The WHO also found that it’s possible, though less likely, that the virus passed directly from bats to humans, and that it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus emerged from a laboratory.
Globally, confirmed cases of COVID-19 have topped 127 million, with nearly 2.8 million deaths.
In France, doctors warn ICUs in Paris and elsewhere could soon be overwhelmed as authorities rush to speed up the rollout of vaccines amid an ongoing wave of cases. This is an intensive care doctor in the northern town of Cambrai.
Caroline Tesse: “We can describe the situation as catastrophic at the moment. We weren’t really expecting a resurgence of this epidemic as fast and intense as this, because right now we’re submerged in severe cases, people who are younger than the last time.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has extended a federal moratorium on evictions to June 30 due to continuing community spread of the coronavirus. The moratorium had been set to expire on Wednesday. Housing Secretary Marcia Fudge has suggested she wants to keep the federal ban on evictions in place even longer.
A new report finds the wealthiest Americans are hiding 20% of their earnings from the IRS. The National Bureau of Economic Research report also found the wealthiest 1% of U.S. residents account for about one-third of all unpaid U.S. taxes. Last week, Vermont independent Senator Bernie Sanders unveiled legislation that would restore the U.S. corporate tax rate to 35%, levy new taxes on the estates of extremely wealthy people and prohibit companies from shifting profits offshore to avoid U.S. taxes.
In Mexico, protests have erupted over the police killing of Victoria Salazar, a 36-year-old Salvadoran mother of two who had been living in Mexico with a humanitarian visa.
Four police officers from the coastal city of Tulúm have been charged with femicide after an autopsy concluded Salazar’s neck had been broken while she was being arrested. In videos published by Mexican media this weekend, one of the four officers is seen kneeling on Salazar’s back. She’s pinned against the pavement as she cries. Salazar lies on the pavement face down, handcuffed and unconscious, while three other officers watch. Eventually they pick up Salazar’s motionless body and put her in the back of a police vehicle before driving away. This is Salazar’s mother, Rosibel Arriaza, speaking from El Salvador.
Rosibel Arriaza: “I feel indignation. I feel so powerless and angry. … Justice for my daughter.”
In Egypt, salvage teams cleared a massive container ship from the Suez Canal Monday, after it ran aground on March 23 and halted traffic through one of the world’s busiest waterways for nearly a week. The ship was the size of the Empire State Building on its side. The Suez Canal Authority expects it will take days to clear a backlog of hundreds of stranded ships.
In California, over 60 unaccompanied migrant children being held at the San Diego Convention Center have tested positive for COVID-19. The convention center is currently holding over 700 children, according to local media.
Meanwhile, The Wall Street Journal is reporting Border Patrol facilities across the Texas-Mexico border are so overcrowded that border agents recently started holding hundreds of asylum seekers under a bridge near McAllen, where they were forced to sleep on the dirt. Border agents have also been dropping off hundreds of asylum seekers at bus stations and even hotels. This comes as a record number of asylum seekers are arriving to the southern border, fleeing extreme poverty, violence and climate change in their home countries.
The Arkansas Senate has passed a bill that would ban gender-affirming care to transgender minors — including hormones and puberty blockers. If Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson signs the bill, Arkansas would become the first U.S. state to ban gender-affirming care to trans youth. Chase Strangio, deputy director for transgender justice at the ACLU’s LGBT & HIV Project, denounced the bill as “the single most extreme anti-trans law to ever pass through a state legislature.”
Here in New York, a 10th woman has accused Governor Andrew Cuomo of sexual misconduct. Sherry Vill says Cuomo made unwanted physical advances toward her while the two interacted in 2017. Vill met Cuomo while he toured her neighborhood in Rochester after a flood. Vill says Cuomo approached her at her home, took her hand and pulled her to him. Cuomo then leaned down over her and kissed both her cheeks. Vill described their interaction as “overtly sexual” and disrespectful to her husband and son, who were both present. Vill shared her experience during a virtual press conference yesterday.
Sherry Vill: “I felt he was acting in a highly flirtatious and inappropriate manner, especially in front of my family and neighbors. He is almost six feet tall. I’m approximately five feet tall. He towered over me. There was nothing I could do.”
In more news from New York, Ghislaine Maxwell — the British socialite who is accused of luring girls to be sexually abused by convicted predator and sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein — has been indicted on two more sex trafficking charges, including trafficking a minor. The indictment says Maxwell met the girl, who was about 14 at the time, at Epstein’s Florida home around 2001, and that the girl had been “recruited to provide Epstein with sexualized massages.” The indictment also extends the timeframe Maxwell collaborated with Epstein by several years, starting in 1994 to 2004.
In South Dakota, two Indigenous activists face criminal charges over their roles in opposing construction of the Keystone XL pipeline — which President Biden halted on his first day in office. The pair are among a small number of water and land defenders who’ve vowed to maintain an encampment on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation near the pipeline route until all pipeline infrastructure is removed. Jasilyn Charger faces up to a year in prison for an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. And Oscar High Elk faces up to 22 years in prison for what his supporters say are trumped-up charges, including aggravated assault on law enforcement. This is Oscar High Elk’s aunt speaking from the courthouse last week.
Vivian High Elk: “The ability to bring charges against citizens has always been abused and overused when it comes to Indigenous response to the protection of our relatives and their habitats and their drinking sources, which includes all four-legged, all two-legged, all plantlife, all watersheds and all Indigenous unceded territories.”