In Minnesota, the former police supervisor of Derek Chauvin testified Thursday there was no justification for the ex-Minneapolis officer to keep his knee on the neck of George Floyd for over nine minutes. Sergeant David Ploeger was called by the prosecution in Chauvin’s murder trial.
Steve Schleicher: “Sir, based on your review of the body-worn camera footage, do you have an opinion as to when the restraint of Mr. Floyd should have ended in this encounter?”
David Ploeger: “Yes.”
Steve Schleicher: “What is it?”
David Ploeger: “When Mr. Floyd was no longer offering up any resistance to the officers, they could have ended their restraint.”
Steve Schleicher: “And that was after he was handcuffed and on the ground and no longer resisting?”
David Ploeger: “Correct.”
Prosecutors played a recording of a phone call Chauvin made to Sergeant Ploeger after Floyd’s death, in which Chauvin made no mention of pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes. Paramedic Derek Smith testified that George Floyd appeared to be dead when he arrived on the scene — with officers still pressing Floyd to the pavement. Smith’s partner testified that he had to signal Chauvin to get off of George Floyd’s neck so the paramedics could check Floyd’s vitals when they arrived.
Also testifying Thursday was George Floyd’s girlfriend Courteney Ross, who described how the pair fell in love in 2017 after they met at a Salvation Army shelter, where Floyd worked as a security guard. Ross described their shared struggle with opioid addiction. Chauvin’s defense is focusing on Floyd’s past drug use in a bid to imply he died of an overdose, not from Derek Chauvin’s knee. Floyd family attorney Benjamin Crump responded, “Tens of thousands of Americans struggle with self-medication and opioid abuse and are treated with dignity, respect and support, not brutality. We fully expected the defense to put George’s character and struggles with addiction on trial because that is the go-to tactic when the facts are not on your side.”
Texas’s state Senate has passed a voter suppression bill banning drive-thru voting, limiting extended early voting hours and making it illegal for local election officials to send vote-by-mail applications to voters, even if they qualify. The legislation now heads to Texas’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, religious leaders in Georgia are calling for a boycott of corporations that refused to speak out against the state’s sweeping new voter suppression law, which was signed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp last week.
A U.N. official is warning Burma could be headed toward civil war, and appealed to the Security Council to take action to avoid an imminent “bloodbath.” At least 543 people have been killed, including dozens of children, in the brutal crackdown on protests following the February 1 military coup. On Thursday, the military junta cut all wireless internet in Burma and charged deposed leader Aung San Suu Kyi with violating the Official Secrets Act. A representative of the ousted civilian government said foreign military intervention was needed. The shadow government has also called for a “revolution” to counter the military junta and said it would work on forming a unity government and drafting a new constitution. On Thursday, protesters burned copies of the 2008 military constitution on the streets of Rangoon.
Protester: “I agree 100% with what the committee representing Burma’s government in exile is doing right now, as we hope to become a federal army. And as a member of the youth, I would like to join that army.”
In Taiwan, a high-speed train carrying nearly 500 people derailed and crashed in a tunnel, killing at least 51 people and injuring dozens more. Many of the passengers were traveling to visit family over this weekend’s public holiday. It’s Taiwan’s worst rail disaster in decades.
In Arizona, a new investigation has revealed staff at the privately run immigration jail La Palma Correctional Center violated multiple pandemic protocols, verbally assaulted prisoners, and attacked prisoners with pepper spray during a peaceful protest. The report by the Homeland Security Department’s Office of the Inspector General says staff at La Palma failed to enforce mask and social distancing protocols, contributing to a massive spread of COVID-19 cases. The report also found staff often refused to provide medical attention to prisoners, and in many cases didn’t refill their prescriptions, including for a cancer patient who ran out of leukemia medication.
In California, Border Patrol agents deported a Honduran asylum seeker to Mexico after she went into labor while in custody. The woman had recently crossed into the U.S. with her partner. She was eventually taken to a hospital south of Tijuana, where she gave birth.
President Biden held his first Cabinet meeting Thursday and named the heads of five departments — Transportation, Housing, Commerce, Labor and Energy — to lead the charge on his recently unveiled $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan. Meanwhile, progressives continue to call for an even greater investment in infrastructure projects. This is New York Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaking on MSNBC.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez: “We’re talking about, realistically, $10 trillion over 10 years. And I know that may be an eye-popping figure for some people, but we need to understand that we are in a devastating economic moment. Millions of people in the United States are unemployed. We have a truly crippled healthcare system and a planetary crisis on our hands. And we’re the wealthiest nation in the history of the world.”
Another 719,000 U.S. residents applied for unemployment benefits last week, an increase of 61,000 claims over the previous week. Recent unemployment numbers are at least three times higher than pre-pandemic levels, but economists say they are trending downward as more businesses reopen and more people receive vaccines.
Former U.S. intelligence analyst Daniel Hale has pleaded guilty to leaking classified documents about the secretive U.S. drone program. Hale will be sentenced on July 13 for violating one count of the World War I-era Espionage Act. He faces up to 10 years in prison. Hale was enlisted in the Air Force from 2009 to 2013, during which he worked with the National Security Agency and the Joint Special Operations Task Force at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he helped identify targets for assassination. Hale is accused of disclosing 11 top-secret or secret documents to a reporter. The indictment does not name the reporter, but unnamed government sources have told media outlets that the reporter is investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill of The Intercept.
New Mexico’s Legislature has passed a bill that would legalize recreational marijuana and expunge the criminal records of some individuals convicted of marijuana possession. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham has promised to sign the bill, which would make New Mexico the 16th U.S. state to legalize recreational cannabis.
This follows New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signing Wednesday of a similar bill. In Virginia, Governor Ralph Northam is urging the state’s General Assembly to legalize recreational marijuana by July 1 instead of waiting until 2024.
Virginia’s Supreme Court ruled Thursday the city of Charlottesville can take down two statues of Confederate generals, after some residents sued to stop their removal. The statues are of Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson and Robert E. Lee. Lee’s statue was at the center of the deadly, white supremacist “Unite the Right” rally in 2017.
More scandals are emerging around Florida Republican Congressmember Matt Gaetz. CNN is reporting Gaetz was known by other lawmakers to regularly boast of his sexual exploits and show nude photos and videos of women he said he slept with, sometimes showing them on the House floor. Gaetz is currently facing a Justice Department sex trafficking investigation, which includes whether he had sex with a 17-year old and whether he used drugs and cash payments as part of sexual transactions with women and girls.
Over 30 LGBTQ students are suing the U.S. Education Department for discrimination they faced while attending federally funded Christian colleges. Students describe homophobic harassment, including being forced into so-called conversion therapy. Scott McSwain, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, spoke to Democracy Now! earlier this week about his experience at the private Union University in Tennessee.
Scott McSwain: “Three staff members, including the dean, told me to go to conversion therapy, told me I would be kicked out if I didn’t. … I am hoping that all of this educates people that this sort of thing is still happening today in America. And, you know, schools shouldn’t be allowed to accept federal money and openly discriminate based off of their specific narrow view of a religious text.”