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

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

May 31, 2020 - 8:04 PM

Unrest overshadows peaceful US protests for another night

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across America again Sunday, with peaceful demonstrations against police killings of black people overshadowed by unrest that quickly ravaged parts of cities from Pennsylvania to California.

City and state officials had deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers, enacted strict curfews and shut down mass transit systems, but that did little to stop many cities from again erupting into unrest.

Protesters in Philadelphia hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, officials said, while masked crowds broke into upscale stores in a San Francisco suburb, fleeing with bags of merchandise. In Minneapolis, a truck driver drove into a massive crowd of demonstrators nearly a week after George Floyd died after pleading for air as an officer pressed a knee into his neck.

At least 4,100 people have been arrested over days of protests since Floyd's death Monday, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press. Arrests ranged from looting and blocking highways to breaking curfew.

In Salt Lake City, a leading anti-police brutality activist condemned the destruction of property but said broken buildings shouldn’t be mourned on the same level as black men like Floyd.

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The Latest: Protesters start fires near White House

The Latest on the 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:

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WASHINGTON — Protesters started fires near the White House as tensions with police mounted during a third straight night of demonstrations held in response to the death of George Floyd at police hands in Minnesota.

An hour before the 11 p.m. curfew, police fired a major barrage of tear gas stun grenades into the crowd of more than 1,000 people, largely clearing Lafayette Park across the street from the White House and scattering protesters into the street.

Protesters piled up road signs and plastic barriers and lit a raging fire in the middle of H Street. Some pulled an American flag from a nearby building and threw it into the blaze. Others added branches pulled from trees. A cinder block structure, on the north side of the park, that had bathrooms and a maintenance office, was engulfed in flames.

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Officials see extremist groups, disinformation in protests

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. officials sought to determine Sunday whether extremist groups had infiltrated police brutality protests across the country and deliberately tipped largely peaceful demonstrations toward violence — and if foreign adversaries were behind a burgeoning disinformation campaign on social media.

As demonstrations spread from Minneapolis to the White House, New York City and overseas, federal law enforcement officials insisted far-left groups were stoking violence. Meanwhile, experts who track extremist groups also reported seeing evidence of the far-right at work.

Investigators were also tracking online interference and looking into whether foreign agents were behind the effort. Officials have seen a surge of social media accounts with fewer than 200 followers created in the last month, a textbook sign of a disinformation effort.

The accounts have posted graphic images of the protests, material on police brutality and material on the coronavirus pandemic that appeared designed to inflame tensions across the political divide, according to three administration officials. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss investigations.

The investigations are an attempt to identify the network of forces behind some of the most widespread outbreak of civil unrest in the U.S. in decades. Protests erupted in dozens of cities in recent days, triggered by the death of George Floyd, who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer.

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Atlanta mayor: 2 officers fired in 'excessive force' arrests

ATLANTA (AP) — Two police officers have been fired and three others placed on desk duty over excessive use of force during a protest arrest incident involving two college students, Atlanta's mayor said Sunday.

Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said at a news conference that she and police Chief Erika Shields made the decision after reviewing body-camera footage of a Saturday night incident that first gained attention from video online and on local news.

“Use of excessive force is never acceptable," Bottoms told reporters. Shields called the footage “really shocking to watch.”

Police on Sunday night identified the fired officers as Investigator Ivory Streeter, who was hired in December 2003, and Investigator Mark Gardner, who was hired in August 1997.

The video, shown on TV as captured by local reporters, shows a group of police officers in riot gear and gas masks surround a car being driven by a man with a woman in the passenger seat. The officers appear to fire a stun gun at the woman and then pull her from the car. They then use a stun gun on the man. They use zip-tie handcuffs on the woman on the ground. The couple did not appear to be fighting police.

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DC mayor: We have to be concerned about virus rebound

MIAMI (AP) — In hindsight, Rosa Jimenez Cano realizes that attending a protest against police brutality was risky — and not just for the usual reasons.

“This can be kind of a tinderbox for COVID," the 39-year-old venture capitalist said after attending a demonstration in Florida, one of many around the country sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer.

As more beaches, churches, mosques, schools and businesses reopened worldwide, the sudden and mass civil unrest in the United States is raising fears of new virus outbreaks in a country that has more confirmed infections and deaths than any other. And it’s not just in the U.S. — London hosted a large anti-racism protest Sunday where demonstrators violated social distancing rules.

Rosa Jimenez Cano said she planned to self-quarantine for 14 days, worrying she was perhaps “irresponsible” when she attended Saturday night's protest in Miami, where she exposed herself to crowds of people.

Protests over Floyd's death — the latest in a series of killings of black men and women at the hands of police in America — have shaken the country from Minneapolis to New York, from Atlanta to Los Angeles. Some turned into riots and clashes with police, leaving stores in flames and torched cars in the streets.

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Unrest demonstrates Biden's challenge in breaking through

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump spent much of Sunday using Twitter as a bullhorn to urge “law and order” and tougher action by police against protesters around the country. Joe Biden quietly visited the site of protests in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, and talked to some of the demonstrators. Earlier, he wrote a post on Medium expressing empathy for those despairing about the killing of George Floyd.

That low-key, high-touch approach may be a sign of how the presumptive Democratic nominee presents himself in the five months before the presidential election, emphasizing calm and competence as a contrast to a mercurial president.

It is an approach that carries the risk of being drowned out by the much louder, more persistent voice of Trump. On one of the most profound weekends the nation has seen, with violence in dozens of cities, Biden was out of wide public view.

“He’s not in office, and he certainly does not have the megaphone like the person currently occupying the White House does, but I do think our people are looking for someone who can make them feel better during these extremely tough times,” said Rep. Val Demings of Florida, whom Biden is considering as a running mate. “America just needs to be reassured that there’s someone who’s understanding, someone who’s willing to say, ‘Yes, we do have some issues,’ and someone who’s willing to address it.”

Reassurance requires presence, though, and that has been a hurdle for the former vice-president, driven inside by the coronavirus pandemic, still working to adapt to the power of social media as a substitute and without the natural platform of a public office.

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SpaceX's historic encore: Astronauts arrive at space station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — SpaceX delivered two astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Sunday, following up a historic liftoff with an equally smooth docking in yet another first for Elon Musk’s company.

With test pilots Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken poised to take over manual control if necessary, the SpaceX Dragon capsule pulled up to the station and docked automatically, no assistance needed. The hatches swung open a few hours later, and the two Dragon riders floated into the orbiting lab and embraced the three station residents.

Unlike the SpaceX and NASA flight control rooms, where everyone was spaced well apart, there was no social distancing or masks needed in orbit since the new arrivals had been in quarantine for many weeks.

“The whole world saw this mission, and we are so, so proud of everything you have done for our country and, in fact, to inspire the world,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a call from Mission Control in Houston.

Hurley credited SpaceX and added, ““It's great to get the United States back in the crewed launch business.”

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History, right now: Echoes of 1968, and other American years

The streets were on fire as National Guard troops streamed into American cities. The shouts were soaked in anger and anguish: “We’re sick of it!”

There was dark talk of “radical agitators.” Violent outbursts and arrests piled up across the republic. The White House issued martial statements about law and order. On TV, footage of unrest and anger played on a continuous loop.

The voice from mission control was cool and calm as the rocket soared into the sky and towards space. “Stage One propulsion is nominal.”

It was the late 1960s. It is right now.

For Americans of a certain age — and for those mindful of the past — it is impossible to ignore the similarities between these past few days and some of the more unsettling moments from the 1960s. In particular 1968, a year marred by assassinations and violent social unrest.

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Faith leaders in dual roles guiding congregations and police

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — As an African American pastor who serves as a chaplain in the Minneapolis police precinct where the white officer charged with murdering George Floyd worked, the Rev. Charles Graham believes he is exactly where God intended.

“God is putting us where he wants us to be,” said Graham, pastor emeritus at Macedonia Baptist Church in Minneapolis and chaplain at the 3rd Precinct for six years. “I know it’s my job to show the hope. We might as well learn how to live together.”

Graham and other Twin Cities faith leaders who minister to communities historically ravaged by racial injustice know their neighbourhoods are also the most vulnerable to poverty and crime. Most of the worst looting and vandalism this week struck long-established Native American and African American areas that more recently became home to large groups of Hmong, Somali and Latino migrants.

Firm in their denunciation of brutality and racism, the religious leaders believe that using faith to build bridges between law enforcement and the communities they police will ultimately keep everyone safe.

“We’re better together,” said Joan Austin, a minister at New Creation Baptist Church in Minneapolis and a chaplain in the 5th Precinct, which was engulfed in violent protests the night after the third precinct was torched. “I lift (officers and congregants) up in prayer every single night.”

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Christo, artist known for massive, fleeting displays, dies

NEW YORK (AP) — Christo, known for massive, ephemeral public arts projects died Sunday at his home in New York. He was 84.

His death was announced on Twitter and the artist's web page. No cause was given.

Along with late wife Jeanne-Claude, the artists' careers were defined by their ambitious art projects that quickly disappeared soon after they were erectedthat andoften involved wrapping large structures in fabric. In 2005, he installed more than 7,500 saffron-colored vinyl gates in New York's Central Park. He wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric with an aluminum sheen in 1995. Their $26 million Umbrellas project erected1,340 blue umbrellas installed in Japan and 1,760 blue umbrellas in Southern California in 1991. They also wrapped the Pont Neuf in Paris, the Kunsthalle in Bern, Switzerland and a Roman wall in Italy.

The statement said the artist's next project, L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, is slated to appear in September in Paris as planned. An exhibition about Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s work is also scheduled to run from July through October at the Centre Georges Pompidou.

“Christo lived his life to the fullest, not only dreaming up what seemed impossible but realizing it,” his office said in a statement. “Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s artwork brought people together in shared experiences across the globe, and their work lives on in our hearts and memories.”

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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