Live Updates on George Floyd Protests: Cuomo Signs Police Misconduct Bills


In Minnesota, the state where Mr. Floyd died after an officer pressed his knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes, the State Legislature convened a special session to consider bills aimed at overhauling policing and redressing policies that have led to systemic economic inequality.

The bills include a ban on the use of chokeholds, creating community alternatives to policing and restoring voting rights for paroled prisoners. Some of the bills have been stalled for years, though Democratic lawmakers vowed they would push them through this time.

“Minnesota will change the way we do policing,” Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, said during a news conference on Thursday. “Minnesota will change what accountability looks like, and Minnesota will start to lift up those voices that for too long have felt they haven’t been heard.”

But Minnesota lawmakers emphasized that only they could ensure the reforms are passed into law. “It’s up to us in the Legislature to make transformative change,” said Jeffrey Hayden, a black state senator.

While Democrats control the State House, Republican lawmakers have a majority in the Senate, and it is unclear how many Democratic proposals they might support. On Friday, State Senator Paul Gazelka, the Republican majority leader, said that the video of Mr. Floyd’s arrest had “stirred something in my soul that I would call righteous anger.”

There could now be bipartisan support for measures such as banning chokeholds, but Republicans are more leery of other Democratic proposals, such as restoring voter rights to felons.

None of the reforms being offered go as far as defunding or dismantling police departments altogether — a key demand of some activists that is now being pursued by the Minneapolis City Council. But the package would encourage alternatives to current policing by giving money to groups that step into conflicts without calling law enforcement, or to pair up more social workers with officers on calls.

Also this week, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico said the State Legislature could require body cameras for all law enforcement agencies during an upcoming special session originally scheduled for budget matters. Gov. Mike DeWine of Ohio announced that he had directed a state task force to draw up new standards for how the police respond to mass protests. And Massachusetts lawmakers said they were working on legislation to ban chokeholds, enhance police oversight and obligate officers to intervene if a fellow officer is using inappropriate force.

After weeks of calls by protesters to defund police departments, cities and local lawmakers across the country are taking up the cause.

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh on Friday issued an executive order declaring racism to be a public health crisis, and said the city would transfer $3 million from the Police Department’s overtime budget to public health programs.

In New York City on Friday the City Council speaker, Corey Johnson, said the Council had identified $1 billion in cuts to the Police Department’s $6 billion budget, and would urge Mayor Bill de Blasio to agree in advance of the July 1 budget deadline.

Mayor Bill de Blasio rejected the proposal, while indicating that he was open to further negotiations over the size of the Police Department.

“The mayor has said we’re committed to reprioritizing funding and looking for savings, but he does not believe a $1 billion cut is the way to maintain safety,” said Freddi Goldstein, Mr. de Blasio’s press secretary.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti last week proposed cutting $100 million to $150 million from his city’s police department and on Thursday Mayor London Breed of San Francisco said she supported cuts from law enforcement budgets in favor of “programs and organizations that serve communities that have been systematically harmed by past city policies.”

In Texas this week, officials in Dallas and Austin said they were considering decreasing or reallocating police budgets. But Houston voted to increase its police budget, the Texas Tribune reported.

“Some think defunding the police is the answer,” Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo told lawmakers in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday.

“I’m here to tell you on behalf of our mayor and other mayors across the country and police chiefs across the country and the diverse communities that we serve, this is simply not the answer.”

Minneapolis City Council members moved toward replacing the Police Department on Friday, showing that they are serious about reducing the role of traditional police officers, but also signaling that a long, complicated process awaits to determine what will replace them.

Council members took the first step toward putting an initiative on the ballot in November that would ask voters to eliminate the minimum number of police officers required by the city’s charter, which would give Council members much more flexibility to make changes to public safety.

The ballot initiative would also include removing the Minneapolis Police Department from the charter — although not necessarily abolishing it altogether — and adding a new department “focused on cultivating public safety.”

The City Council also voted unanimously, at its virtual meeting, on a resolution to commit to a yearlong effort to research other models of public safety and listen to what residents say they would like to see. Andrea Jenkins, the vice president of the City Council, said the world was looking to Minneapolis to see how it would respond following the killing of George Floyd last month.

“People have marched all over the world, all over the City of Minneapolis, and what they’re saying to us is they want change,” Ms. Jenkins said. “Not ‘fix it,’ not reform, but change. So we must take these voices seriously.”

The resolution passed on Friday creates a “Future of Community Safety Work Group” that will soon begin listening to residents, interviewing experts and studying other models of public safety to determine how various city services could replace many of the Police Department’s current functions.

Alondra Cano, the chairwoman of the public safety committee, said in an interview after the vote that the engagement of city residents would be vital to determining the right solutions for public safety in Minneapolis.

“The future of this city will be decided by the people who live here,” she said.

Ms. Cano said the initiative to get rid of the City Charter’s requirement that the Police Department have .0017 employees per city resident would remove a large hurdle that stands in the way of replacing the department’s functions. If the initiative does get on the ballot in November, it would require a majority of voters to pass.

Early data shows a significant presence of white protesters at Floyd demonstrations.

As crowds have surged through American cities to protest the killing of George Floyd, one of the striking differences from years past has been the sheer number of white demonstrators.

And now, an early estimate of the demographics of the protests has found the crowds were overwhelmingly young and educated with large numbers of white people.

The researchers, Dana Fisher, a sociologist at the University of Maryland, and Michael Heaney, a political scientist at University of Michigan, used an established method for studying street protests. They said their numbers provided only rough estimates, but offer the first, more systematic look at who the protesters are.

White protesters made up 61 percent of those surveyed in New York over the weekend, according to the researchers, and 65 percent of protesters in Washington. On Sunday in Los Angeles, 53 percent of protesters were white.

More than three quarters of those surveyed were under the age of 34, and 82 percent of white protesters had a college degree, while 67 percent of black protesters had one.

President Trump also appeared to be a powerful driver. Forty-five percent of whites surveyed in Dr. Fisher’s work selected Mr. Trump as a motivation for joining the protests, compared with 32 percent of blacks. Whites were most likely to report having attended the 2017 Women’s March, but the second-least likely, after Asians, to report having attended the March for Racial Justice in 2017.

A number of factors have helped shape the demographics of the recent protests. The nine-minute video of a white police officer refusing to remove his knee from Mr. Floyd’s neck has horrified Americans as attitudes on race were already changing, particularly among white liberals. Another motivation is the opposition to Mr. Trump, who has drawn large crowds of protesters beginning the day after his election. Finally, there is the coronavirus pandemic, which has left millions of Americans — including college students — cooped up at home, craving human contact.

President Trump was asked about his position on police chokeholds during a Fox News interview on Thursday with the anchor Harris Faulkner. Here is what he said:

HARRIS FAULKNER: So what do you want to see? What is police reform to you?

PRESIDENT TRUMP: I want to see really compassionate but strong law enforcement, police force. But law enforcement.

FAULKNER: Say no to chokeholds?

TRUMP: Yeah. I don’t like chokeholds. I will say this, as somebody that, you know, you grow up and you wrestle and you fight and you were you see what happens sometimes if you’re alone and you’re fighting somebody who’s tough and you get somebody in a chokehold. What are you going to do, say, oh, and it’s a real bad person and you know that. And they do exist. I mean, we have some real bad people. You saw that during the last couple of weeks. You saw some very good people protesting. You saw some bad people also. And you get somebody in a chokehold. And what you going to do now? Let go and say, oh, let’s start all over again. I’m not allowed to have you in a chokehold. It’s a tough situation. Now, if you have two people in case we’re talking about — four people and two of them, I guess, just pretty much started. So it’s a very, very, very tricky situation. So the chokehold thing is good because to talk about, because off the cuff, it would sound like absolutely. But if you’re thinking about it, then you realize maybe there is a bad fight and the officer gets somebody in a position that’s a very tough position.

FAULKNER: So you’re saying it’s a sliding scale depending on what the circumstances are?

TRUMP: I think you have to probably say —

FAULKNER: Do you want to be in that conversation? Are you in that conversation?

TRUMP: I really am. And I think the concept of chokehold sounds so innocent, so perfect. And then you realize if it’s a one-on-one. Now if it’s two-on-one, that’s a little bit of a different story, depending on the toughness and strength. You know, we’re talking about toughness and strength. We are talking there’s a physical thing here also. But if a police officer is in a bad scuffle and he’s got somebody …

FAULKNER: Well, if it’s a one-on-one fight for the life. That’s what you’re saying.

TRUMP: And that does happen. And that does happen. So you have to be careful, with that being said, it would be, I think, a very good thing that, generally speaking, it should be ended.

FAULKNER: Do you want that to be a top down federal or should it be at the local level?

TRUMP: Well, it could be at the local level.

Seattle’s mayor mingles in city’s “autonomous zone.”

Mayor Jenny Durkan of Seattle visited with protesters in the city’s “autonomous zone” on Friday, even as President Trump repeated his demands that she take action to end the takeover of city streets.

Ms. Durkan said in an interview that she had no safety concerns for herself or the public during her visit to the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, where protesters have gathered across several barricaded blocks. She said she found people with a range of different views but with the overall goal of creating a better community.

“I grew up in Seattle, and Capitol Hill has always been a center for eclectic and robust expression,” Ms. Durkan said.

Police Chief Carmen Best, who has also visited the zone, has expressed concern about the decision to pull officers out of the police station there and said police response times to crimes in the overall region have increased. Ms. Durkan said she did not know of any reports of serious crimes in the zone, where demonstrators have established a co-op for food, a place for medics and a designated smoking area.

Last week, before the zone was established, the streets there had been an epicenter of clashes between police and protesters until officers shuttered their police station and left the area. Ms. Durkan said she didn’t know how long the protesters would remain.

“We broke that cycle,” Ms. Durkan said. “We don’t want to reintroduce that kind of conflict or escalate it unnecessarily.”

President Trump has repeatedly blasted the handling of the protesters, referring to them as terrorists who “burn and pillage our cities.” He said in Twitter message Friday that Ms. Durkan “Must end this Seattle takeover now!”

Ms. Durkan said the president should not be so fearful of democracy.

“He has a pattern of creating his own truth and sticking with it,” Ms. Durkan said. “But his truth does not mirror what the reality is.”

Meanwhile, a federal judge on Friday issued an order preventing the Seattle police from using tear gas, pepper spray, flash-bang grenades or other projectiles against peaceful protesters. The order allows those methods to respond to specific threats or property damage, with tear gas as a last resort.

The Police Department in Tulsa, Okla., said it was investigating one of its officers over remarks he made in a radio interview this week in which he spoke about police shootings of black Americans, amid nationwide protests against racism and ahead of President Trump’s visit next week.

The officer, Maj. Travis Yates, said in the interview that police officers were “shooting African-Americans about 24 percent less than we probably ought to be, based on the crimes being committed.”

In a telephone interview, Major Yates emphasized that he was “talking about the data” from others’ research. In a statement, he said, “To think that, beyond a discussion of comparative statistics, that I would suggest that the ‘police should actually be shooting’ anyone is simply outrageous.”

But his remarks were denounced by the mayor and the president of a black officers’ coalition. And the controversy brought the department under renewed scrutiny, as protests around the country have drawn attention to racial disparities in arrests and the use of force, and have called for greater police accountability. This week, the Tulsa police also announced an inquiry into the arrest of a black teenager who was accused of jaywalking and is shown in body camera footage being forced to the ground by officers.

In a statement on Wednesday, Mayor G.T. Bynum said, “I want to believe he didn’t intend to say what he did, but what he did say goes against everything we are trying to achieve in community policing.”

“If he didn’t mean to make the statement in the way it has been received,” he added, “he owes Tulsans a clarification and an apology.”

Starbucks said on Friday that employees would be allowed to wear Black Lives Matter shirts and pins, a sudden reversal of a company policy that had banned the slogan because it could “amplify divisiveness.”

Amid a social media backlash to the policy, the coffee chain also declared that it would provide 250,000 Starbucks-branded Black Lives Matter shirts for baristas and other employees who want them.

“Starbucks stands in solidarity with our Black partners, community and customers, and understands the desire to express themselves,” Starbucks said in a statement. “We continue to listen to our partners (employees) about how they want to take a stand for justice, while proudly wearing the green apron and standing united together.”

Calls to boycott Starbucks emerged after Starbucks posted a series of messages on social media that many employees considered to be hypocritical. On June 4, the company’s official Twitter account posted: “Black lives matter. We are committed to being a part of change.”

But employees who wanted to project a similar message by wearing shirts or pins on the job had learned in recent days that doing so was prohibited.

As BuzzFeed News reported on Wednesday, an internal Starbucks dress code memo stated that wearing Black Lives Matter clothing and accessories could be misunderstood and incite violence. The guidance was issued in response to inquiries from store managers about whether it was acceptable for employees to wear Black Lives Matter buttons, pins or shirts on the job, according to BuzzFeed.

The memo stated they should not be worn, as they violated the policy prohibiting personal or political clothing or accessories. Instead, Starbucks leadership urged employees to wear a “Black Partner Network’s Keep it Brewing shirt.”

How de Blasio lost support from black New Yorkers.

Bill de Blasio took helm of New York City as a white mayor who tied his fortunes to black constituents, with promises to overhaul the Police Department and reduce racial inequality.

But after a series of missteps amid the coronavirus pandemic and protests against police brutality, many of Mr. de Blasio’s black advisers and supporters have abandoned him — a blow that threatens to taint his legacy and erode his last and most faithful constituency.

Much of the anger stems from Mr. de Blasio’s handling of the mass protests that have unfolded across the city following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

When asked about a video of two police cruisers being deliberately driven into protesters, the mayor defended the officers involved. Other images of the police in violent clashes with protesters flooded social media, but Mr. de Blasio would typically say that he had not seen them. When images of looting circulated on the news, the mayor imposed a curfew that was aggressively enforced by the police, who arrested hundreds of protesters. Mr. de Blasio further alienated many demonstrators by praising the police for exercising restraint.

Former advisers publicly questioned the mayor’s commitment to overhauling the Police Department. Hundreds of current and former mayoral staff members demonstrated against him.

And even when Mr. de Blasio called for the officer involved in Mr. Floyd’s death in Minneapolis to be immediately charged, it only underscored how the mayor had steadfastly refused to fire the officer whose chokehold led to the death of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man, in 2014.

While Mr. de Blasio has had his share of accomplishments aimed at reducing income inequality, black leaders have questioned his commitment to overhauling criminal justice.

Under Mr. de Blasio, the Police Department fought in court to expand the interpretation of a 1970s-era law in the state’s civil code known as 50-a, so that it could shield the results of disciplinary hearings against individual officers. The State Legislature voted to repeal the law this week.

The mayor also questioned a bill that would criminalize the police use of chokeholds and was opposed to closing Rikers Island, stances that he eventually changed once it became obvious they would become state law.

After strongly resisting the idea of cutting the Police Department’s budget, the mayor suddenly announced that he would shift money from the police to youth and social services. The reversal in his stance came amid renewed efforts to salvage his relationship with black supporters.

Yet some black leaders say the changes the mayor has proposed so far don’t go far enough.

Seeking to right the wrongful conviction of an African-American man who was falsely accused of rape a century ago, the Minnesota Board of Pardons voted on Friday to unanimously issue a posthumous pardon, a first in the state.

“Mr. Max Mason’s pardon is granted,” said the three-member board, which is made up of Gov. Tim Walz, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Chief Justice Lorie Gildea. The governor struck the gavel during the board’s virtual meeting, which was streamed live.

Mr. Mason was an African-American who was employed by a traveling circus. Mr. Ellison noted on Friday that he “was wrongly convicted on a groundless charge of rape in the aftermath of the public lynchings of three of his African-American colleagues in Duluth” in 1920.

Mr. Mason’s was the first of many cases up for review during a daylong meeting that included more run-of-the-mill pardon requests, including a woman with a drunken-driving offense, who was also granted a pardon.

The vote in favor of the pardon came quickly after statements from Jerry Blackwell, the lawyer representing the applicant for Mr. Mason’s pardon, and Chief Mike Tusken of the Duluth Police, whose great-aunt alleged that six black members of a traveling circus troop had raped her.

Mr. Mason was one of several black men accused of rape by the woman, Irene Tusken. Initially, six men were arrested in the case and three of them — Isaac McGhie, Elmer Jackson and Elias Clayton — were lynched by a mob that pulled them out of jail where they were being held on June 15, 1920, according to state historical records.

Mr. Mason was arrested later and sentenced to 30 years of hard labor. He was released in 1925 under the provision that he not return to Minnesota for 16 years. He died in his 40s, Mr. Blackwell said.

“Thousands watched racist terrorism,” he said. “We’re talking about a history that does not go away until it is set right.”

He recounted racist comments of the police that are part of the record in Mr. Mason’s case. He described how a police officer also threatened Mr. Mason at gunpoint when he was arrested in Virginia, Minn. “If you don’t talk, I’ll kill you,” Mr. Blackwell said, reciting an officer’s words from the record.

Chief Tusken said the episode of history was his family’s and the State of Minnesota’s great shame. He said that although he had met his great-aunt, he did not learn of her story until after she died.

The board said Mr. Mason’s pardon review had been on the books for months before the killing of George Floyd and years in the making, but they stressed that the pardon would be a balm on the raw wounds not only in the long arc of history but for the pain of the last few weeks.

“There is not one inch of this country that doesn’t need to address this issue,” Mr. Ellison said at the hearing.

French police push back on reforms as policing in Europe and Canada receives fresh scrutiny.

The killing of George Floyd has resonated in Europe, drawing thousands of demonstrators into the streets of cities like Paris, London and Berlin. The message has been one of solidarity with protesters in the United States — but also a call to look at racism at home.

The protesters’ cries have brought to the surface a history of discrimination, especially regarding police tactics, which are now being vigorously challenged in several countries. So far, no matter where charges of systemic racism have been leveled, they have been met mostly with firm official denial.

“France, the national police, the gendarmerie, they are not racist,” the French prime minister, Édouard Philippe, insisted in Parliament on Tuesday.

Yet available statistics, and the experience of Europe’s minority populations, often tell a different story. In France, the problems are perhaps most acute. The French police, a largely white force, routinely target African and Arab youths for identity checks and have a long track record of abusive arrests as well as deaths in custody.

“The list is too long,” Assa Traoré told a crowd of demonstrators outside a Paris courthouse last week, reciting the names of those who died in encounters with the police.

The French police, furious at a popular backlash against them, pushed back against government attempts to change their practices and to discipline officers suspected of racism, with demonstrations of their own on Friday.

There were also signs on Friday that the government of President Emmanuel Macron might backtrack, as the interior minister met hurriedly all afternoon with police unions to quell the storm of anger.

The tens of thousands of French who turned out to demonstrate in solidarity with American protesters have also demanded that the government address a long history of policing that they say unfairly targets minorities, resulting in harassment, racial profiling, disproportionate arrests and unjustified deaths during confrontations and in detention.

The international ramifications of the recent protests against law enforcement tactics have reached to nations outside Europe.

Canadians were horrified at a police dash cam video released on Thursday showing an Indigenous chief being tackled to the ground by a police officer, punched in the head and put in a chokehold.

Allan Adam, chief of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in northern Alberta, was questioned by the police about an expired license plate. He ended up charged with assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest, according to the CBC. The video was presented as an exhibit in his court case.

“It is unacceptable,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, calling the video “shocking.”

Reporting was contributed by Emily Badger, Mike Baker, Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs, Jonah Engel Bromwich, Quoctrung Bui, Matt Furber, Dana Goldstein, Alisha Haridasani Gupta, Maggie Haberman, Amy Harmon, Jack Healy, Tiffany Hsu, Dan Levin, Megan Specia, Matt Stevens and Sabrina Tavernise.





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