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

June 05, 2020 - 8:05 PM

Demonstrators vow to sustain momentum until change happens

WASHINGTON (AP) — Protesters stirred by the death of George Floyd vowed Friday to turn an extraordinary outpouring of grief into a sustained movement as demonstrations shifted to a calmer, but no less determined focus on addressing racial injustice.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd died in police custody, the city agreed to ban police chokeholds and require officers to intervene any time they see unauthorized force by another officer. The changes are part of a stipulation between the city and state officials who launched a civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death. The City Council was expected to approve the agreement, which will be enforceable in court.

The country’s most significant demonstrations in a half-century — rivaling those during the civil rights and Vietnam War eras — resumed for an 11th day nationwide with continued momentum as the mood largely shifted from explosive anger to more peaceful calls for change. Formal and impromptu memorials to Floyd stretched from Minneapolis to North Carolina, where family members will gather Saturday to mourn him, and beyond.

Josiah Roebuck, a university student who used social media to help gather 100 people to demonstrate Friday in an Atlanta suburb, is confident the momentum will last.

“Once you start, you’re going to see this every day,” said Roebuck, who has attended multiple protests. “I just want minorities to be represented properly.”

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Barr says he didn’t give tactical order to clear protesters

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr says law enforcement officers were already moving to push back protesters from a park in front of the White House when he arrived there Monday evening, and he says he did not give a command to disperse the crowd, though he supported the decision.

Barr’s comments in an interview with The Associated Press on Friday were his most detailed explanation yet of what unfolded outside the White House earlier this week. They come after the White House and others said repeatedly that the attorney general ordered officers to clear the park. Shortly after officers aggressively pushed back demonstrators, President Donald Trump — accompanied by Barr, Pentagon leaders and other top advisers — walked through Lafayette Park to pose for a photo at a nearby church that had been damaged during the protests.

The episode played out on live television and prompted an outcry from some Republicans and former military leaders, including Gen. Jim Mattis, Trump's first defence secretary. Barr told the AP that much of the criticism was unwarranted and that Mattis' rebuke was “borne of ignorance of the facts.”

Still, administration officials have spent much of the week trying to explain how the situation escalated and why smoke bombs, pepper balls and police on horseback were needed to clear the largely peaceful crowd.

Earlier in the week, White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany told reporters it was Barr who made the decision to push back the security perimeter outside the White House on Monday morning. McEnany said that when Barr arrived at Lafayette Park later that day to survey the security situation, he was surprised to see that action had not yet been taken.

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Biden formally clinches Democratic presidential nomination

WASHINGTON (AP) — Joe Biden formally clinched the Democratic presidential nomination Friday, setting him up for a bruising challenge to President Donald Trump that will play out against the unprecedented backdrop of a pandemic, economic collapse and civil unrest.

“It was an honour to compete alongside one of the most talented groups of candidates the Democratic party has ever fielded," Biden said in a statement Friday night, ”and I am proud to say that we are going into this general election a united party."

The former vice-president has effectively been his party's leader since his last challenger in the Democratic primary, Bernie Sanders, ended his campaign in April. But Biden pulled together the 1,991 delegates needed to become the nominee after seven states and the District of Columbia held presidential primaries Tuesday.

Biden reached the threshold three days after the primaries because several states, overwhelmed by huge increases in mail ballots, took days to tabulate results. Teams of analysts at The Associated Press then parsed the votes into individual congressional districts. Democrats award most delegates to the party’s national convention based on results in individual congressional districts.

Biden now has 1,993 delegates, with contests still to come in eight states and three U.S. territories.

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Goodell says NFL was wrong for not listening to players

NEW YORK (AP) — NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league was wrong for not listening to players fighting for racial equality and encouraged them to peacefully protest.

One day after 2018 NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes and several of his peers released a video demanding the league condemn racism, Goodell made his strongest statement on the issues many players passionately support.

George Floyd’s death has ignited nationwide protests over racial injustice and police brutality, issues former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began speaking out against in 2016 when he started taking a knee during the national anthem.

“It has been a difficult time for our country. In particular, black people in our country,” Goodell said in a video released Friday. “First, my condolences to the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and all the families who have endured police brutality. We, the National Football League, condemn racism and the systematic oppression of black people. We, the National Football League, admit we were wrong for not listening to NFL players earlier and encourage all to speak out and peacefully protest. We, the National Football League, believe Black Lives Matter. I personally protest with you and want to be part of the much needed change in this country.

“Without black players, there would be no National Football League. And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of black players, coaches, fans and staff. We are listening. I am listening, and I will be reaching out to players who have raised their voices and others on how we can improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family.”

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US unemployment drops unexpectedly to 13.3% amid outbreak

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. unemployment dropped unexpectedly in May to 13.3% as reopened businesses began recalling millions of workers faster than economists had predicted, triggering a big rally Friday on Wall Street and giving President Donald Trump something to boast about in his reelection bid.

The jobless rate is still on par with what the nation witnessed during the Great Depression. And for the second straight month, the Labor Department acknowledged making errors in counting the unemployed during the coronavirus outbreak, saying the real figure is worse than the numbers indicate.

Still, after weeks of dire predictions by economists that unemployment in May could hit 20% or more, the news that the economy added a surprising 2.5 million jobs last month is evidence that the employment collapse most likely bottomed out in April, when the rate reached 14.7%.

Most economists had expected rehiring to kick in this summer as lockdowns were increasingly lifted and people gradually resumed shopping and eating out.

“The surprising thing here is the timing and that it happened as quickly as it did,” said Adam Kamins, senior regional economist at Moody’s Analytics.

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Black cops feel pain of Floyd's death, duty to their uniform

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Black police officers find themselves torn between two worlds: They feel the pain of seeing yet another black man killed at the hands of fellow officers, yet they must also try to keep the peace during angry protests fueled by that death.

Those feelings, familiar to many blacks in law enforcement for years, have never been more intense than in the days since the death of George Floyd. The 46-year-old black man died in Minneapolis after a white officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air as other officers watched.

“My emotion, my fervour is no less than those people on the streets," said New York City police Detective Felicia Richards, who is black. “I stand in this uniform, and I understand what my obligation is to this uniform, but I can’t compromise my humanity.”

Richards, president of the NYPD Guardians Association, a fraternal organization, said she was horrified by the video that captured Floyd's arrest and final moments. She struggled to understand what could possibly have warranted such “brute force.”

Floyd, who was laid off from his job as a bouncer when Minnesota shut down restaurants as part of a stay-at-home order during the coronavirus pandemic, was being arrested May 25. A convenience store worker had accused him of using counterfeit money. Floyd was handcuffed and did not appear to be resisting the officers.

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Trump jabs Maine's Democratic governor; she hits back

GUILFORD, Maine (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday laced into Maine's Democratic governor for not moving quickly enough to reopen the state's economy and urged his supporters to help him win the rest of the state in November if they want to see the country rebound from the coronavirus shutdown.

Referring to Maine's electoral votes, Trump said: “Get that other half to go with Trump.” He spoke in the small town of Guilford, home to Puritan Medical Products, one of only two major companies producing a special type of swab needed to ramp up coronavirus testing.

At stops in Guilford and Bangor, Trump used his first visit to the state as president to lob jabs at Gov. Janet Mills for not reopening businesses more quickly. Trump won just one of Maine's four electoral votes in 2016.

“When are you going to open the state up?” Trump demanded as he spoke at Puritan Medical Products. “What's she doing?"

Earlier in Bangor, Trump compared Mills to a “dictator” and said she was preventing her state from reaping money from Maine's busy summer tourist season.

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Trump evokes Floyd after hailing strong jobs report

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump on Friday declared it was “a great day” for George Floyd as he discussed a strong jobs report for the country and efforts to bring about racial equality. Joe Biden, the likely Democratic presidential nominee, said Trump’s comments about Floyd were “despicable.”

Trump's comments about Floyd came as he shifted from discussing a drop in the unemployment rate to say everyone deserved “equal treatment in every encounter with law enforcement, regardless of race, colour, gender or creed.”

“We all saw what happened last week. We can’t let that happen,” Trump said. “Hopefully George is looking down right now and saying this is a great thing that’s happening for our country."

He added: “This is a great day for him. It’s a great day for everybody. This is a great day for everybody. This is a great, great day in terms of equality.”

Floyd, who was black, died after a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes, ignoring Floyd’s cries that he couldn't breathe and bystander shouts. Floyd's death set off protests around the world, including outside the White House.

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AP Explains: Key takeaways from a surprising jobs report

BALTIMORE (AP) — No one saw it coming — 2.5 million job gains in May and a lower unemployment rate.

Economists, political aides and business leaders had been bracing for another horrific month of job cuts and swelling unemployment. In April, the coronavirus shutdown had caused 20 million-plus job losses. Mounting applications for unemployment benefits had suggested that the misery continued through May.

It didn't. The gap between what was expected and what happened when the Labor Department issued the jobs report Friday morning was so vast that it raised some doubts about its accuracy. But as analysts dug into the numbers, they found the numbers to be correct and suggested that the pessimistic forecasts might have mainly reflected how hard it is to gauge economic performance during a pandemic.

Here are five major takeaways from a jobs report that showed the economy faring better than believed, even if the overall picture remains bleak, with many millions still jobless and unemployment well into double digits.

IS THE UNEMPLOYMENT RATE REALLY 13.3%?

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AP PHOTOS: Images of calm emerge after days of protests

Amid the anger, violence and grief evident in the massive protests shaking the country after the death of George Floyd, images of calm are beginning to emerge as the mood shifts to more peaceful calls for change.

The country’s most significant demonstrations in a half-century were initially marred by the setting of fires and smashing of windows, but Friday marked the third day of more subdued demonstrations.

In New York, a health care professional riding a bus leans out a window to greet protesters as they break curfew and march along 34th Street. In San Antonio, some protesters lie on their stomachs with their hands behind their backs, like Floyd in his last moments. In Austin, Texas, two police officers hold up their hands in support during a Black Lives Matter rally. And in Portland, Maine, demonstrators gather at a rally to peacefully protest and demand an end to institutional racism and police brutality,

Floyd, who was black, died last week after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and saying he could not breathe. The shocking scene was caught on video and seen around the world, sparking the protests and calls for change.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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