Protests have erupted in Minnesota after a police officer shot and killed a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, during a traffic stop Sunday in the Minneapolis suburb of Brooklyn Center. Wright’s mother said her son called her as he was being pulled over — allegedly because an air freshener was obscuring his rearview mirror — but the call was disconnected. Katie Wright recounted the harrowing moment she learned of her son’s death.
Katie Wright: “A minute later, I called, and his girlfriend answered, which was the passenger in the car, and said that he had been shot.”
The Minnesota ACLU called for an investigation by an independent agency, as well as the release of bodycam footage and the identities of the officers involved. The shooting took place just miles from where the murder trial of former police officer Derek Chauvin is entering its third week.
On Friday, the chief medical examiner who ruled George Floyd’s May 25, 2020, death a homicide testified that Chauvin and other officers’ restraint of Floyd was the primary cause of death.
Dr. Andrew Baker: “My opinion remains unchanged. It’s what I put on the death certificate last June. That’s cardiopulmonary arrest complicating law enforcement’s subdual, restraint and neck compression.”
Jerry Blackwell: “And in terms of manner of death, you found then, and do you stand by today, that the manner of death for Mr. Floyd was, as you would call it, homicide?”
Dr. Andrew Baker: “Yes, I would still classify it as a homicide today.”
A lieutenant in the Army Medical Corps is suing two Virginia police officers who pepper-sprayed him, pushed him to the ground and pointed their guns at him during a traffic stop at a gas station last December. Video of the attack in the town of Windsor circulated over the weekend.
Joe Gutierrez: “Get out the car!”
Daniel Crocker: “Get out now!”
Lt. Caron Nazario: “I have not committed any crime.”
Joe Gutierrez: “You’re being stopped for a traffic violation. You’re not cooperating. At this point right now you’re under arrest for” —
Lt. Caron Nazario: “For a traffic” —
Joe Gutierrez: “You’re being detained, OK? You’re being detained for obstruction of justice.”
Lt. Caron Nazario: “For a traffic violation, I do not have to be out the vehicle.”
Joe Gutierrez: “Really?”
Lt. Caron Nazario: “You haven’t even told me why I’m being stopped. … I’m actively serving this country, and this is how you’re going to treat me? I didn’t do anything. Whoa! Hold on! What’s going — hold on.”
Caron Nazario, a Black and Latino man, was pepper-sprayed in the face right after the exchange. He was wearing his Army uniform. Nazario says he drove to the gas station to avoid pulling over on a dark road after he noticed a police car flashing its lights at him, so that he could be somewhere public and well lit while he interacted with the officers. One officer has been fired, and Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said he is directing Virginia State Police to conduct an investigation.
Maryland enacted major police reforms Saturday, becoming the first state to repeal the police bill of rights and establishing new standards for use of force and how police are investigated and disciplined. Majority Democratic lawmakers overrode vetoes by Republican Governor Larry Hogan to pass the new measures, which also require officers to use body cameras, restrict no-knock warrants and allow for public involvement in matters of police discipline and misconduct.
In labor news, the months-long campaign to create the first-ever union at a U.S. Amazon warehouse ended with the majority of workers voting “no.” Seven hundred thirty-eight workers at Amazon’s Bessemer, Alabama, warehouse voted to unionize, while more than twice that number voted against. But the battle isn’t over. The Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union that led the drive says Amazon illegally interfered in the vote, and it plans to file unfair labor practice charges with the National Labor Relations Board. Activists and progressive leaders, including Senator Bernie Sanders, praised the organizers, who they say will inspire similar actions at workplaces across the country.
Coronavirus cases continue to soar across much of the globe. India has overtaken Brazil as the country with the second-highest number of confirmed infections, after reporting a record 169,000 positive tests on Monday. India’s total cases are now at 13.5 million, second only to the U.S. In Brazil, a new report finds that 19 million people have gone hungry during the pandemic, with nearly 117 million — over half the population — facing some level of food insecurity. Hospitals in Germany are filling up as the country fights to contain a major surge. Elsewhere in Europe, the U.K. is further easing restrictions as its aggressive vaccine rollout has helped stall new cases. Meanwhile, dozens of poorer nations are likely to face major delays to their vaccination campaigns after COVAX, the international effort to provide those countries with vaccines, said deliveries have all but halted. The World Health Organization again lambasted the “shocking imbalance” in vaccine access.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus: “On average, in high-income countries, almost one in four people has received a vaccine. In low-income countries, it’s one in more than 500.”
COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are on the rise in the U.S. for the third straight week, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Upper Midwest remains particularly hard hit. Michigan hospitals saw a 30% hike in admissions over the past week. Health workers say the current surge is marked by a larger proportion of young and seemingly healthy patients. Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer says she will not order new restrictions but urged high schools to move learning online and for residents to voluntarily refrain from group activities and indoor dining. She also called on the federal government to send more vaccines to Michigan.
In Burma, more than 80 people were killed Friday when soldiers opened fire on a crowd of protesters demanding a reversal to the military coup that ousted Burma’s democratically elected government. Survivors said soldiers used grenades and other heavy weapons to fire at anything that moved. The massacre took place in the town of Bago, northeast of the capital Rangoon. Elsewhere, an alliance of fighters from ethnic minority groups attacked a police station in eastern Burma on Saturday. At least 10 officers were reportedly killed in the attack.
Iran says it will “take revenge” for what it called “nuclear terrorism” after an attack triggered a blackout at the Natanz nuclear facility Sunday. Iran blamed Israel for the attack, which came amid new efforts by Iran to speed up its enrichment of uranium. Reports appear to support Israel’s involvement, which Israel has not denied. This comes as Iran, the U.S. and other parties are negotiating in Vienna over a possible relaunch of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, from which former President Trump unilaterally withdrew in 2018.
In Ecuador, conservative ex-banker Guillermo Lasso has won Sunday’s presidential election. Leftist economist Andrés Arauz conceded to Lasso Sunday night. Lasso is backed by the country’s business sector, favors neoliberal policies and has vowed to increase foreign investment in Ecuador. Arauz had the support of former President Rafael Correa, who led the country from 2007 to 2017 and has been credited with lifting over a million Ecuadorians out of poverty. Lasso will assume office on May 24.
In Peru, as the country faced its deadliest week since the pandemic began, people took to the polls to elect a new president and Congress in what analysts are calling Peru’s most fragmented election in history. Leftist candidate Pedro Castillo is leading in the polls, followed by liberal economist Hernando de Soto and conservative Keiko Fujimori — the daughter of former President Alberto Fujimori, convicted in 2009 of crimes against humanity. There were 18 presidential candidates on the ballot. The top two candidates will advance to a runoff election in June.
In the Caribbean, a heavy ash fall has blanketed Saint Vincent and the Grenadines after a long-dormant volcano suddenly began erupting on Friday.
Robertson Henry: “People looked up, and there is this huge plume of ash hanging in the sky, silent, deadly, dreadful, ominous.”
The eruption sparked outages of water and power across Saint Vincent, and more than 16,000 people evacuated their homes. There have been no reports of deaths or injuries, but geologists warn the volcano could still trigger deadly “pyroclastic flows” of lava, ash and volcanic gases.
Back in the U.S., President Biden released his $1.5 trillion budget request for 2022 on Friday, calling for major increases in spending for education, healthcare, housing and the climate. Biden is requesting $715 billion for the military — a much less significant increase than other areas, though progressives have been demanding a cut in Pentagon spending. Meanwhile, Biden is holding bipartisan talks today on his separate $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan.
President Biden has ordered a study into expanding the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Biden’s commission will also look into term limits and offer other recommendations for reform. Former President Trump appointed three justices, giving the court a 6-3 conservative majority.
A Texas man has been charged with plotting to blow up an Amazon data center in Virginia. Seth Aaron Pendley said he was aiming to destroy web servers used by federal intelligence agencies. He was arrested after an undercover FBI agent gave him fake explosive devices. Authorities tracked Pendley down after a visitor on the website MyMilitia.com reported alarming comments by Pendley. According to a Facebook post, Pendley was at the January 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection.
An off-duty Pentagon police officer was charged with murder Friday for the fatal shooting of two men in Maryland last week. David Hall Dixon claimed he witnessed a car break-in and shot at the men as they tried to flee, but investigators say his account was inconsistent and he was not facing any danger when he fired his gun. Police say Dixon will also face charges related to a 2020 incident in which he pointed a shotgun at a woman’s face.
Antiwar activist Mark Colville was sentenced Friday to 21 months in federal prison for his role in a peaceful protest against U.S. nuclear weapons. He was the last of the so-called Kings Bay Plowshares 7 to be sentenced. In 2018, Colville and six other Plowshares activists broke into the Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia with an indictment charging the U.S. government with crimes against humanity.
Former top Justice Department official and anti-imperialist activist Ramsey Clark has died at the age of 93. Clark served as attorney general under President Lyndon Johnson from 1967 to 1969. During his time at the Justice Department, he played key roles in drafting the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Civil Rights Act of 1968. After retiring from public service, Clark became a fierce opponent of corporate capitalism and U.S.-led wars overseas. He founded the International Action Center in 1992, leading campaigns against sanctions on Iraq, the U.S.-led bombing of Yugoslavia in 1999 and the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. Clark defended not only controversial world leaders like Slobodan Milosevic, Saddam Hussein and Charles Taylor, but also prominent activists, including Lori Berenson and Father Philip Berrigan.
In North Dakota, Standing Rock Sioux tribal historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard has died of brain cancer at the age of 64. Allard co-founded the Sacred Stone Camp on her own land in April 2016 to resist the Dakota Access pipeline. People from around the world traveled to the Standing Rock Reservation in what became one of the largest gatherings of Indigenous peoples in a century. In September of 2016, Democracy Now! spoke to Allard at the Sacred Stone Camp, just hours before the Dakota Access pipeline company unleashed dogs and pepper spray on Native land and water defenders seeking to protect a sacred tribal burial site from destruction.
LaDonna Brave Bull Allard: “We say mni wiconi, water of life. Every time we drink water, we say mni wiconi, water of life. We cannot live without water. So I don’t understand why America doesn’t understand how important water is. So we have no choice. We have to stand. No matter what happens, we have to stand to save the water.”