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

June 14, 2020 - 8:05 PM

`Stop fighting!' Atlanta sobriety test quickly turned deadly

ATLANTA (AP) — One minute, Rayshard Brooks was chatting co-operatively with Atlanta police, saying he'd had a couple of drinks to celebrate his daughter's birthday and agreeing to a breath test. The next, they were wrestling on the ground and grappling over a Taser before Brooks took the weapon and ran.

Seconds later, three gunshots sounded and Brooks fell mortally wounded.

Atlanta police video released Sunday showing a seemingly routine sobriety check outside a Wendy's restaurant that quickly spun out of control, ending in gunfire. The killing of the 27-year-old black man in an encounter with two white officers late Friday rekindled fiery protests in Atlanta and prompted the police chief's resignation.

Police said Sunday the department terminated Officer Garrett Rolfe, who fired the fatal shots, and officer Devin Brosnan was placed on administrative duty. Rolfe had worked for the department since October 2013, and Brosnan since September 2018.

Meanwhile, authorities announced a $10,000 reward for information finding those responsible for setting fire to the Wendy's restaurant at the shooting scene. Flames gutted the restaurant late Saturday after demonstrations grew turbulent. The protests prompted 36 arrests.

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Experts hail swift moves in wake of Atlanta police shooting

Atlanta police on Sunday quickly released body-camera and other footage that captured the shooting death of a black man by a white officer who was swiftly fired — moves that policing experts said could help defuse anti-racism protests that were reignited by the shooting.

Atlanta police announced that an officer, Garrett Rolfe, had been fired after he fatally shot Rayshard Brooks, 27, on Friday night, and another officer, Devin Brosnan, had been placed on administrative duty. On Saturday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms had called for the immediate firing of the officer who opened fire on Brooks and announced that she had accepted the resignation of Police Chief Erika Shields.

“I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force,” Bottoms said.

Roughly 150 protesters marched Saturday night around the Wendy's restaurant outside where Brooks was shot, reigniting demonstrations that had largely simmered in the Georgia capital nearly three weeks after George Floyd, another black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee to his neck. Both Rolfe and Brosnan are white.

The firing of Rolfe and the quick release of the video to the public could go a long way toward easing tensions in the city, said Andy Harvey, a veteran law enforcement officer who is now a police chief in Ennis, Texas, and the author of books and training curriculum on community policing.

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Trump rally called ‘dangerous move’ in age of coronavirus

WASHINGTON (AP) — After months away from the campaign trail, President Donald Trump plans to rally his supporters next Saturday for the first time since most of the country was shuttered by the coronavirus. But health experts are questioning that decision.

Trump will head to Tulsa, Oklahoma — a state that has seen relatively few COVID-19 cases. Yet the Tulsa City-County Health Department’s director told the Tulsa World over the weekend that he wished the Trump campaign would move the date back because of a “significant increase in our case trends.”

“I’m concerned about our ability to protect anyone who attends a large, indoor event, and I’m also concerned about our ability to ensure the president stays safe as well," Dr. Bruce Dart told the newspaper.

Other health experts also cite the danger of infection spreading among the crowd and sparking outbreaks when people return to their homes. The Trump campaign itself acknowledges the risk in a waiver attendees must agree to absolving them of any responsibility should people get sick.

WHAT MAKES THE RALLY HIGH RISK?

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Philippine journalist convicted of libel, given 6-year term

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — An award-winning journalist critical of the Philippine president was convicted of libel and sentenced to jail Monday in a decision called a major blow to press freedom in an Asian bastion of democracy.

The Manila court found Maria Ressa, her online news site Rappler Inc. and former reporter Reynaldo Santos Jr. guilty of libeling a wealthy businessman. The Rappler's story on May 29, 2012, cited an unspecified intelligence report linking him to a murder, drug dealing, human trafficking and smuggling. The site's lawyers disputed any malice and said the time limit for filing the libel complaint had passed.

“The decision for me is devastating because it says that Rappler is wrong," Ressa said in a news conference after the ruling. Her voice cracking, she appealed to journalists and Filipinos to continue fighting for their rights “and hold power to account."

Ressa was sentenced to up to six years but was not immediately taken into custody. She posted bail for the case last year, and her lawyer said they will appeal the verdict.

“The verdict against Maria Ressa highlights the ability of the Philippines’ abusive leader to manipulate the laws to go after critical, well-respected media voices whatever the ultimate cost to the country,” said Phil Robertson of Human Rights Watch, adding the verdict was “a frontal assault on freedom of the press that is critical to protect and preserve Philippines democracy.”

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Tenants behind on rent in pandemic face harassment, eviction

BALTIMORE (AP) — Jeremy Rooks works the evening shift at a Georgia fast-food restaurant these days to avoid being on the street past dusk. He needs somewhere to go at night: He and his wife are homeless after the extended-stay motel where they had lived since Thanksgiving evicted them in April when they couldn’t pay their rent.

They should have been protected because the state's Supreme Court has effectively halted evictions due to the coronavirus pandemic. But Rooks said the owner still sent a man posing as a sheriff’s deputy, armed with a gun, to throw the couple out a few days after rent was due.

The pandemic has shut housing courts and prompted most states and federal authorities to initiate policies protecting renters from eviction. But not everyone is covered and a number of landlords -- some desperate to pay their mortgages themselves -- are turning to threats and harassment to force tenants out.

“Every day, they tried to basically get us out of there. It was basically like a game to them,” said Rooks, who wasn’t able to make his rent at the Marietta, Georgia, motel after his employer paid him late and his wife was laid off in the pandemic. “One of us had to stay in a room at all times because they wouldn’t redo the keys for us.”

The evictions threaten to exacerbate a problem that has plagued people of colour like Rooks long before the pandemic, when landlords across the U.S. were filing about 300,000 eviction requests every month.

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French leader rejects racism but colonial statues to remain

PARIS (AP) — French President Emmanuel Macron has vowed Sunday to stand firm against racism but also praised police and insisted that France wouldn't take down statues of controversial, colonial-era figures, as he addressed the issues for the first time since George Floyd's death in the U.S.

In a televised address to the nation on Sunday evening, Macron called for the nation's “unity” at a key moment when the country is trying to put the coronavirus crisis behind while being shaken by a series of protests against racial injustice and police brutality.

Echoing American protesters, demonstrators in France have expressed anger at discrimination within French society, particularly toward minorities from the country's former colonies in Africa.

Unusually for a French leader, Macron acknowledged that someone’s “address, name, colour of skin” can reduce their chances at succeeding in French society, and called for a fight to ensure that everyone can “find their place” regardless of ethnic origin or religion. He promised to be “uncompromising in the face of racism, anti-Semitism and discrimination.”

However, he insisted that France will not take down statues of controversial, colonial-era figures as has happened in some other countries in recent weeks.

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Trump moved Tulsa rally date after learning about Juneteenth

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump didn't know the significance to black Americans of the date and location he chose for his first campaign rally since the coronavirus pandemic more than three months ago, key Republican supporters of the president in Congress said Sunday.

Trump had scheduled the rally for June 19, known as Juneteenth because it marks the end of slavery in the United States. Tulsa, Oklahoma, the location for the rally, was the scene in 1921 of one of the most severe white-on-black attacks in American history.

Black community and political leaders denounced the move and called on Trump to reschedule. He resisted until late Friday when, in a rare turnabout, Trump tweeted that he had moved the rally to this Saturday, June 20, out of respect for the view of supporters and others who had asked him to.

“There's special sensitivities there in Tulsa, but Juneteenth is a very significant day, so my encouragement to the president was to be able to pick a day around it,” Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., said Sunday. Lankford said he was among several people who had spoken with Trump.

Lankford said he had called Trump on an unrelated matter and that Trump broached the issue. He said Trump told him he was thinking about rescheduling and asked Lankford's opinion.

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The Latest: Hong Kong Disneyland will re-open June 18

HONG KONG — Hong Kong Disneyland will re-open June 18, as the city looks to gradually restart its economy amid a dwindling of coronavirus infections.

Hong Kong Disneyland, which has been closed since January due to the coronavirus pandemic, will reopen with limited visitor capacity. It will also introduce social distancing measures in restaurants, rides and other facilities, while suspending activities that require close interaction such as photo sessions with Disney characters, the park said in a press release Monday.

Visitors to the park will also be asked to wear masks, as well as fill out health declaration forms and have their temperature taken upon arrival.

It is the second Disney-branded theme park to re-open globally, following Shanghai Disneyland which opened its doors to guests last month.

Hong Kong’s social distancing measures, which prohibits gatherings of more than eight individuals and limits the capacity of restaurants and eateries, are currently in place until June 18. The city has reported 1,110 cases of coronavirus infections so far, with four deaths.

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Mexico desperate to reopen 11 million-job tourism industry

MEXICO CITY (AP) — An irony of the coronavirus pandemic is that the idyllic beach vacation in Mexico in the brochures really does exist now: The white sand beaches are sparkling çlean and empty on the Caribbean coast, the water is clear on the Pacific coast and the waters around the resort of Los Cabos are teeming with fish after 10 weeks with no boats going out. There are two-for-one deals and very eager staff.

It’s all only an airline flight — and a taxi ride, and a reception desk — away, and that’s the problem.

There are a number of ways to think about it: Might it be safer to travel than stay home? How much is mental health worth, and, if people are going to socially distance anyway, why not do it in a beautiful, isolated place?

On the other hand, despite the pandemic, flights are often crowded, even hotels in Mexico that bend over backward to disinfect everything have little capacity to actually test their employees, and while fellow guests are likely to be few and far between, they also probably won't be wearing masks.

It was all on display as the first excited tourists arrived at the Moon Palace beach resort near Cancun last week, to the sound of mariachis and welcoming employees lined up — at a safe distance — to greet them.

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AP PHOTOS: Ambulance driver in India rushes to save lives

MUMBAI, India (AP) — The first thing noticeable about Izhaar Hussain Shaikh is the fatigue marking his youthful face. The second thing is that his phone constantly buzzes.

The 30-year-old ambulance driver works for HelpNow, an initiative started by three engineering students in 2019 to help the stretched services of first responders in the Indian coastal city of Mumbai. It charges patients, but services are free for the city’s administrators, police force, medicos and the poor.

In a city with a history of ambulance shortages and where the coronavirus pandemic has claimed nearly 1,300 lives, putting the health care system under immense strain, every bit of help counts. And it is people like Shaikh — working tirelessly, dodging health risks — who are helping to ease that burden.

“My family, neighbours, everyone is scared. I am frightened too," said Shaikh. "But I keep telling them and myself that its our way of helping people during this time."

It’s a grueling job, with Shaikh's daily shifts sometimes stretching 16 hours. Responding to an urgent call demands that his ambulance makes its way through Mumbai's notoriously heavy traffic and narrow streets.

News from © The Associated Press, 2020
The Associated Press

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