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

June 04, 2020 - 8:04 PM

`Get your knee off our necks!': Floyd mourned in Minneapolis

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Celebrities, musicians and political leaders gathered in front of George Floyd's golden casket Thursday for a fiery memorial service for the man whose death at the hands of police sparked global protests, with a civil rights leader declaring it is time for black people to demand, “Get your knee off our necks!”

The service — the first in a series of memorials set for three cities over six days — unfolded in Minneapolis at a sanctuary at North Central University as a judge a few blocks away set bail at $750,000 each for the three fired police officers charged with aiding and abetting murder in Floyd's death.

“George Floyd’s story has been the story of black folks. Because ever since 401 years ago, the reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be is you kept your knee on our neck,” the Rev. Al Sharpton said in a fierce eulogy. “It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ‘Get your knee off our necks!’”

Floyd, a 46-year-old out-of-work bouncer, died May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, put his knee on Floyd's neck for several minutes as he lay handcuffed on the pavement, gasping that he couldn't breathe. Chauvin has been charged with murder, and he and the others could get up to 40 years in prison.

From coast to coast, and from Paris and London to Sydney and Rio de Janeiro, the chilling cellphone video of Floyd's slow death has set off turbulent and sometimes violent demonstrations against police brutality, racism and inequality. Some protests continued Thursday.

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The Latest: Protesters take to NYC streets after curfew

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:

— Protesters take to New York City streets after curfew, again.

— Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms tells protesters they “matter,” urges COVID-19 tests.

— Heavy rain brings an end to Washington protests before dark.

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Testimony: Shooter used racist slur as Arbery lay dying

BRUNSWICK, Ga. (AP) — A state investigator testified Thursday that a white man was heard saying a racist slur as he stood over Ahmaud Arbery's body, moments after fatally shooting the black man with a pump-action shotgun.

The inflammatory revelation came amid a week of angry nationwide protests over law enforcement biases against black victims that erupted after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

In a hearing to determine whether there was enough evidence to proceed with a murder trial, the lead Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent in the case testified that Travis and Greg McMichael and a third man in another pickup, William “Roddie” Bryan, used their trucks to chase down and box in Arbery, who repeatedly reversed directions and ran into a ditch while trying to escape.

Travis McMichael then got out of his truck and confronted Arbery, later telling police he shot him in self-defence after Arbery refused his order to get on the ground, GBI agent Richard Dial said. He said a close examination of the video of the shooting shows the first shot was to Arbery's chest, the second was to his hand, and the third hit his chest again before he collapsed in the road in a subdivision in the port town of Brunswick.

“Mr. Bryan said that after the shooting took place before police arrival, while Mr. Arbery was on the ground, that he heard Travis McMichael make the statement, ‘f - - - ing n - - - er,’” Dial said.

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Analysis: Trump emulates strongman tactics, tests his limits

WASHINGTON (AP) — A phalanx of law enforcement officers and soldiers is positioned on the streets of the nation’s capital to keep protesters at bay. Helicopters circle overhead, sometimes dipping low to buzz the crowd. The country’s leader warns that he’s willing to go further to “dominate” the streets.

In words and in actions, President Donald Trump is increasingly emulating the strongman leaders he has long admired as he seeks to tamp down protests over police brutality that are roiling the United States. In doing so, he is stretching the powers of the American presidency in ways rarely seen, and testing the willingness of the Pentagon to follow along.

His actions have forced a public reckoning among both current and former military leaders, as well as a handful of Republican politicians. Some of their concerns centre not only on the actions Trump has already taken, but also on how far he may be willing to go in an election year, particularly if the political winds appear to be moving against him.

“Perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a moderate Republican from Alaska. She added that she was unsure whether she could continue to support the president in November.

The president’s face-off against Democrat Joe Biden will be the ultimate inflection point, a moment when the nation decides whether to shift course or press forward with Trump at the helm for four more years.

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ACLU sues over police force on protesters near White House

WASHINGTON (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Trump administration Thursday, alleging officials violated the civil rights of protesters who were forcefully removed from a park near the White House by police using chemical agents before President Donald Trump walked to a nearby church to take a photo.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court on Washington, comes as Attorney General William Barr defended the decision to forcefully remove the peaceful protesters, saying it was necessary to protect officers and federal property.

The suit argues that Trump, Barr and other officials “unlawfully conspired to violate” the protesters’ rights when clearing Lafayette Park on Monday. Law enforcement officers aggressively forced the protesters back, firing smoke bombs and pepper balls into the crowd to disperse them from the park.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the group Black Lives Matter D.C. and individual protesters who were present. It is filed by the ACLU of DC, Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs, Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the law firm of Arnold & Porter.

Barr said he had met with other law enforcement officials earlier Monday and decided they needed to extend a security perimeter around the White House to protect federal agents “who could be reached by projectiles from the street.” He expected the perimeter to be moved in the early afternoon, but when he arrived in the evening, shortly before Trump was set to speak at a news conference, he learned it wasn’t done and ordered law enforcement officials to take action.

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Following Mattis: More in the GOP frown on Trump's tone

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump’s inability to unify the nation at a time of grave unrest is testing his uneasy alliance with mainstream Republicans, some emboldened by Gen. James Mattis’ plea for a leader who lives up to the U.S. ideals of a more perfect union.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Thursday called the rebuke by Trump's first Pentagon chief “necessary and overdue."

“Perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally, and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” Murkowski said.

Murkowski's remarks reflected the choice Republicans are forced to make about whether, and for how long, to support Trump when his words and actions so often conflict with their values and goals. Trump has responded to violence accompanying some protests following George Floyd's killing in Minneapolis by calling for more “law and order” to “dominate” even peaceful demonstrations. He has been slower and less forceful in addressing racial injustice and questions of police brutality that lie at the heart of the unrest.

Asked whether she can still support Trump, Murkowski replied: “I am struggling with it. I have struggled with it for a long time.”

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'Strategic' well-orchestrated heists seen amid protest chaos

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Police in a small San Francisco Bay Area community were about to help authorities in neighbouring Oakland keep the peace during a protest when a more pressing crisis hit home: groups of thieves were pillaging malls, setting fire to a Walmart and storming a car dealership.

By the time San Leandro officers arrived at the Dodge dealership, dozens of cars were gone and thieves were peeling out of the lot in $100,000 Challenger Hellcat muscle cars. Nearly 75 vehicles were stolen Sunday, including models driven through glass showroom doors to escape.

“It was very strategic,” Sgt. Ray Kelly of the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office said about the auto thefts and other recent heists.

The brazen heist, carried out by well-co-ordinated criminals, was one of many thefts nationwide in the last week at big box electronics stores, jewelry shops and luxury designers. Many of the smash-and-grab thefts have happened during or following protests over the death of George Floyd, who struggled to breathe as his neck was pinned down by a white Minneapolis police officer's knee.

Caravans of burglars have capitalized on chaos, communicating with each other via messaging apps during heists and using both the protests and other tactics to throw police off their trail. While opportunists have sometimes joined the frenzy, police and experts say there is a sophistication that suggests a level of planning that goes beyond spontaneous acts.

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Emotions run high as anti-lynching bill stalls in Senate

WASHINGTON (AP) — A Senate impasse over a widely backed bill to designate lynching as a federal hate crime boiled over on Thursday in an emotional debate cast against a backdrop of widespread protests over police treatment of African Americans.

Raw feelings were evident as Sen. Rand Paul — who is single-handedly holding up the bill despite letting it pass last year — sought changes to the legislation as a condition of allowing it to pass.

But the Senate's two black Democrats, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California, protested, saying the measure should pass as is. The debate occurred as a memorial service was taking place for George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes, sparking the protests that have convulsed the nation.

The legislative effort to make lynching a federal hate crime punishable by up to life in prison comes 65 years after 14-year-old Emmett Till was lynched in Mississippi, and follows dozens of failed attempts to pass anti-lynching legislation.

The Senate unanimously passed virtually identical legislation last year. The House then passed it by a sweeping 410-4 vote in February but renamed the legislation for Till — the sole change that returned the measure to the Senate.

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UK vaccine summit calls for freely available virus vaccine

LONDON (AP) — A vaccine summit has raised billions of dollars to immunize children in developing countries as experts wrestled with how any potential vaccine against the coronavirus might be distributed globally — and fairly.

The United Nations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement have urged that “a people’s vaccine” be developed for COVID-19 that would be freely available to everyone, calling it a “moral imperative.”

Thursday's event hosted by Britain raised $8.8 billion, exceeding its target, for the vaccines alliance GAVI, which says the funds will be used to vaccinate about 300 million children in dozens of countries against diseases like malaria, pneumonia and HPV.

GAVI also announced a new “advance market commitment” mechanism to enable developing countries to get any effective COVID-19 vaccine when available. It hopes to raise an additional $2 billion for that effort, to immunize health care workers as well as high-risk individuals and create a buffer of doses to be used where needed most.

But experts pointed out that the unprecedented pandemic — where arguably every country will be clamouring for a vaccine — may make efforts at fair distribution extremely messy.

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Pandemic and racial unrest test black clergy on dual fronts

For black clergy across the United States, the past 10 days have been a tumultuous test of their stamina and their skills.

For weeks, they had been striving to comfort their congregations amid a pandemic taking a disproportionately heavy toll on African-Americans. Then came a coast-to-coast upsurge of racial tension and unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd, the Minneapolis black man who died after a white police officer pressed his knee into his neck as he pleaded for air.

“We’ve got a coronavirus and a racism virus,” said the Rev. Dwight McKissic, pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas.

Here’s a look at what McKissic and three other black clergymen have been doing and how they’ve been coping:

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News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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