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AP News in Brief at 11:04 p.m. EDT

June 03, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Prosecutors charge 3 more officers in George Floyd's death

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Prosecutors charged three more police officers Wednesday in the death of George Floyd and filed a new, tougher charge against the officer at the centre of the case, delivering a victory to protesters who have filled the streets from coast to coast to fight police brutality and racial injustice.

The most serious charge was filed against Derek Chauvin, who was caught on video pressing his knee to Floyd’s neck and now must defend himself against an accusation of second-degree murder. The three other officers at the scene were charged for the first time with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

All four were fired last week. If convicted, they could be sentenced to up to four decades in prison.

Chauvin was initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Those charges still stand.

The new second-degree murder charge alleges that Chauvin caused Floyd’s death without intent while committing another felony, namely third-degree assault. It carries a maximum penalty of 40 years in prison, compared with a maximum of 25 years for third-degree murder.

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Ex-defence chief Mattis rips Trump for dividing Americans

WASHINGTON (AP) — In an extraordinary rebuke, former defence secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday denounced President Donald Trump's heavy-handed use of military force to quell protests near the White House and said his former boss was setting up a “false conflict" between the military and civilian society.

“I have watched this week's unfolding events, angry and appalled,” Mattis wrote.

The criticism was all the more remarkable because Mattis has generally kept a low profile since retiring as defence secretary in December 2018 to protest Trump's Syria policy. He had declined to speak out against Trump, saying he owed the nation public silence while his former boss remained in office.

But he’s speaking out after this past week’s protests in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody.

Trump responded on Twitter Wednesday evening by calling Mattis “the world’s most overrated General.”

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The Latest: Floyd tested positive for COVID-19 in April

The Latest on the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck:

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Autopsy shows George Floyd tested positive for COVID-19 in April.

— Show of force from federal law enforcement agencies in Washington.

— Police department in Charlotte under criticism.

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Pentagon-Trump clash breaks open over military and protests

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s Pentagon chief shot down his idea of using troops to quell protests across the United States Wednesday, then reversed course on pulling part of the 82nd Airborne Division off standby in an extraordinary clash between the U.S. military and its commander in chief.

Both Trump and Defence Secretary Mark Esper also drew stinging, rare public criticism from Trump's first defence secretary, Jim Mattis, in the most public pushback of Trump's presidency from the men he put at the helm of the world's most powerful military.

Mattis' rebuke followed Trump's threats to use the military to “dominate” the streets where Americans are demonstrating following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died when a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes. The president had urged governors to call out the National Guard to contain protests that turned violent and warned that he could send in active duty military forces if they did not.

Esper angered Trump early Wednesday when he said he opposed using military troops for law enforcement, seemingly taking the teeth out of the president’s threat to use the Insurrection Act. Esper said the 1807 law should be invoked in the United States “only in the most urgent and dire of situations.” He added, “We are not in one of those situations now.”

After his subsequent visit to the White House, the Pentagon abruptly overturned an earlier decision to send a couple hundred active-duty soldiers home from the Washington, D.C., region, a public sign of the growing tensions with the White House amid mounting criticism that the Pentagon was being politicized in response to the protests.

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Autopsy report shows Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — A full autopsy of George Floyd, the handcuffed black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police, was released Wednesday and provides several clinical details, including that Floyd had previously tested positive for COVID-19.

The 20-page report released by the Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office came with the family's permission and after the coroner's office released summary findings Monday that Floyd had a heart attack while being restrained by officers, and classified his May 25 death as a homicide.

Bystander video showing Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressing his knee on Floyd's neck, ignoring Floyd's “I can't breathe” cries until he eventually stopped moving, has sparked nationwide protests, some violent.

The report by Chief Medical Examiner Andrew Baker spelled out clinical details, including that Floyd had tested positive for COVID-19 on April 3 but appeared asymptomatic. The report also noted Floyd's lungs appeared healthy but he had some narrowing of arteries in the heart.

The county's earlier summary report had listed fentanyl intoxication and recent methamphetamine use under “other significant conditions” but not under “cause of death.” The full report’s footnotes noted that signs of fentanyl toxicity can include “severe respiratory depression” and seizures.

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Tiananmen anniversary marked by crackdown, HK vigil ban

BEIJING (AP) — China tightened controls over dissidents while pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong and elsewhere sought ways to mark the 31st anniversary Thursday of the crushing of the pro-democracy movement centred on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

That came after authorities in Hong Kong took the extraordinary move of cancelling an annual candlelight vigil in the semi-autonomous Chinese territory for the first time in 30 years.

Authorities cited the need for social distancing amid the coronavirus outbreak, despite the recent reopening of schools, beaches, bars and beauty parlours. Hong Kong has had relatively few cases of the virus and life has largely returned to normal in the city of 7.4 million.

However, China has long detested the vigil, the only such activity allowed on Chinese territory to commemorate victims of the crackdown, which remains a taboo subject on the mainland. Hundreds, possibly thousands of people were killed when tanks and troops assaulted the centre of Beijing to break up weeks of student-led protests seen as posing a threat to authoritarian Communist Party rule.

The cancellation also comes amid a tightening of Beijing’s grip over Hong Kong, with the National People’s Congress, China’s ceremonial parliament, moving to pass national security legislation that circumvents Hong Kong’s local legislature and could severely limit free speech and opposition political activity.

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AP FACT CHECK: Trump denies tear gas use despite evidence

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump and some of his supporters are claiming authorities did not use tear gas against people in a crackdown outside the White House this week. There's evidence they did.

Law enforcement officials shy away from describing crowd-dispersing chemical tools as tear gas; it evokes police gassing citizens or the horrors of war. But giving those tools a more antiseptic name does not change the reality on the ground.

Federal institutions such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defence have listed tear gas as the common term for riot-control agents. Whether the common or formal term is used, the effects on people are the same.

Those effects were well documented when authorities forcefully cleared a crowd from outside the White House before Trump walked to St. John's Church across Lafayette Park on Monday to be photographed holding a Bible.

“They didn’t use tear gas,” Trump said Wednesday on Fox News Radio. The U.S. Park Police denied using tear gas, yet acknowledged deploying a pepper compound, which the CDC and other scientific organizations list as one form of tear gas.

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Obama steps out as nation confronts confluence of crises

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former President Barack Obama is taking on an increasingly public role as the nation confronts a confluence of historic crises that has exposed deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities in America and reshaped the November election.

In doing so, Obama is signalling a willingness to sharply critique his successor, President Donald Trump, and fill what many Democrats see as a national leadership void. On Wednesday, he held a virtual town hall event with young people to discuss policing and the civil unrest that has followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Obama rejected a debate he said he'd seen come up in “a little bit of chatter on the internet" about “voting versus protests, politics and participation versus civil disobedience and direct action.”

“This is not an either-or. This is a both and to bring about real change,” he said during the town hall hosted by his foundation's My Brother's Keeper Alliance, which supports young men of colour. “We both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that could be implemented and monitored and make sure we’re following up on.”

Obama called for turning the protests over Floyd’s death into policy change to ensure safer policing and increased trust between communities and law enforcement. He urged “every mayor in the country to review your use of force policies” with their communities and “commit to report on planned reforms” before prioritizing their implementation.

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Tourist towns balance fear, survival in make-or-break summer

CANNON BEACH, Ore. (AP) — As the coronavirus raced across America, this quaint seaside town did what would normally be unthinkable for a tourist destination.

Spooked by a deluge of visitors, the tiny Oregon community shooed people from its expansive beaches and shut down hundreds of hotels and vacation rentals overnight. Signs went up announcing that the vacation getaway 80 miles (129 kilometres) from Portland known for towering coastal rock formations was closed to tourists — no exceptions.

“It was unprecedented,” said Patrick Nofield, whose hospitality company Escape Lodging owns four hotels in Cannon Beach and abruptly laid off more than 400 employees in March. “We really went into survival mode.”

Now, with summer looming and coronavirus restrictions lifting, the choices facing Cannon Beach are emblematic of those confronting thousands of other small, tourist-dependent towns nationwide that are struggling to balance their residents' fears of contagion with economic survival. It's a make-or-break summer in these vacation spots — and the future is still terrifyingly unclear.

“How do you regulate people inundating your town on a day-to-day basis?” Nofield said. “One of the great things about Oregon is our beaches are free to all. We don’t want to take away people’s rights, but how do we manage it and still stay safe? That’s the thing.”

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Brees' anthem comments draw backlash from teammates, others

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Drew Brees was sharply criticized by fellow high-profile athletes, including some of his own teammates, on Wednesday after the Saints quarterback reiterated his opposition to kneeling during the national anthem.

In an interview with Yahoo, Brees was asked to revisit former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's 2016 protest of police brutality against minorities, in which Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem before games.

“I will never agree with anybody disrespecting the flag of the United States,” Brees began, adding that the national anthem reminds him of his grandfathers, who served in the armed forces during World War II. “In many cases, it brings me to tears thinking about all that has been sacrificed, and not just in the military, but for that matter, those throughout the civil rights movements of the '60s, and all that has been endured by so many people up until this point.”

Critical responses to Brees' statements appeared on social media from a couple major professional athletes, including the Los Angeles Lakers' LeBron James and Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins was Brees' teammate when the Saints won the Super Bowl in the 2009 season, but spent the past six seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles before returning to New Orleans this off-season.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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