Nine Minneapolis City Council members announced plans Sunday to disband the city’s police department. They did not offer a timeline or propose specific actions but said they are “taking intermediate steps toward ending” the force. The group represents a majority on the 12-person council.

Two weeks after George Floyd died in police custody in the city, protesters nationwide say their work is far from over. They continue to denounce entrenched bias in law enforcement and call for sweeping changes.

In stark contrast, two top Trump administration officials said Sunday they do not believe there is “systemic racism” in the country’s police forces. Attorney General William P. Barr suggested he is reluctant to investigate potential deeper policing problems in Minneapolis, where the national firestorm began.

Here are some significant developments:

  • President Trump said Sunday he is ordering National Guard troops to begin withdrawing from the nation’s capital. D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) and others had criticized the use of heavily armed federal officers as security during largely peaceful demonstrations.
  • The New York Times announced the resignation of its editorial page editor James Bennet, days after the publication of a controversial op-ed from Sen. Tom Cotton (R.-Ark.) that called for military intervention in U.S. cities where protests over police brutality have ignited violence.
  • The concept of defunding the police has become a growing topic of interest as protests continue nationwide. Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have called for the action as one step toward combating what they view as institutionalized racism within police departments.
  • Philonise Floyd is scheduled to testify before Congress on Wednesday, the first congressional hearing on law enforcement reform since his brother’s killing in police custody on Memorial Day.
  • Former president Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama addressed the unrest sparked by Floyd’s death and the coronavirus pandemic in their commencement speeches to the Class of 2020 on Sunday, telling graduates that they, too, are anxious about the events that have unfolded in recent months. “It’s fair to say that your generation is graduating into a world that faces more profound challenges than any generation in decades,” Barack Obama said.
  • The Denver Police Department changed its rules Sunday to ban all uses of chokeholds as part of a wider effort to address the use of force by its officers amid ongoing protests over Floyd’s death.
June 8, 2020 at 6:06 AM EDT

D.C.’s ‘Black Lives Matter’ street art inspires similar giant slogans in cities nationwide

The sun had been up for only about an hour Sunday morning when Charman Driver and about a dozen other people convened on a street in downtown Raleigh, N.C., for another day of protesting racism. But instead of signs and banners, the group showed up with a different means of spreading their message: paint.

Within hours, three giant words written out in marigold yellow block lettering stretched the length of a city block near the Contemporary Art Museum of Raleigh. “End Racism Now.”

“This is what I’m doing for my child,” Driver, a community activist and local business owner, told WRAL. “Her and her friends need to know the real truth about this country that we live in.”

Read more here.

By Allyson Chiu
June 8, 2020 at 5:32 AM EDT

The nexus between coronavirus and protests: ‘The virus was the kindling. Police brutality lit the fire.’

In the middle of the night, as some of the first protests raged in Louisville, Shae Smith and her husband, Walt, decided to break out of their pandemic quarantine and take to the streets.

“We were actually in bed and I finally woke Walt up and said, ‘Babe, I think you need to go down there,’ ” Shae recalled. “‘You need to see what’s going on, we need to be a part of this.’”

At 2:15 a.m., Walt went downtown to see, to make a statement. The Smiths had talked and talked about the virus: They knew joining the protests against police brutality meant a higher risk of being infected. They took the risk to give their 10-year-old son a chance at a future in which he is not “walking around with the spirit of fear,” Shae said. They took the risk because after dealing with the pandemic “we still have to do whatever it takes.”

Read more here.

By Marc Fisher, Peter Jamison and Ava Wallace
June 8, 2020 at 5:15 AM EDT

Seattle police fire tear gas at protesters, days after city announces temporary ban

Seattle police cracked down on a large protest early Monday by firing stun grenades and tear gas, days after the city announced a temporary ban on the chemical irritant.

The protesters resisted orders to disperse that had been issued at midnight, regrouping at the site of a vigil for George Floyd where, several hours earlier, a man drove through a barrier and into the crowd, shot a protester in the arm and then approached the police line to be taken into custody.

Police on Twitter said officers asked the crowd to move back after a glass bottle struck a Washington National Guardsman in the head. Minutes later, police said protesters were throwing fireworks, rocks and bottles at officers. They responded with pepper spray and “blast balls,” or bullets filled with a pepper-spray-like substance.

Shortly afterward, police said officers spotted a person with a gun and authorized the use of CS gas, more commonly known as tear gas. Seattle’s mayor and police chief had agreed Friday to temporarily ban the use of tear gas for 30 days.

Although officials suspended the use of tear gas for crowd-control purposes, the city’s SWAT team retained the ability to use the riot-control agent during “lifesaving circumstances,” the police chief told the Seattle Times.

Video of the tense interactions between protesters and police show officers fired explosive rounds and gas into the crowd, which refused to move. Some protesters lobbed canisters releasing smoke back at the police line. One protester was hit directly with a munition that appeared to explode as it struck. The injured person collapsed before being carried away by other protesters.

The Seattle Police Department did not immediately respond to questions about whether Monday morning’s use of tear gas was in compliance with the temporary ban.

By Katie Shepherd
June 8, 2020 at 4:45 AM EDT

John Oliver slams the ‘absolutely unforgivable’ systemic racism of policing black people

As the number of times police have used tear gas, batons and pepper spray during the nationwide protests over George Floyd’s death flashed across the screen, John Oliver reflected on how such incidents have long been present in American culture.

“It didn’t start this week or with this president,” he said on his Sunday-night show. “It always disproportionately falls on black communities.”

To mark the two weeks that have passed since Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Oliver spent the entirety of “Last Week Tonight” unpacking the history of the systemic racism in policing that has some critics pushing to defund police departments.

“This clearly isn’t about individual officers,” he said. “It’s about a structure built on systemic racism that this country created intentionally and now needs to dismantle intentionally and replace with one that takes into account the needs of the people that it actually serves.”

Oliver, who also slammed President Trump for invoking Floyd’s name when announcing the job numbers on Friday, noted that while images of police officers kneeling in solidarity with the protesters was a start, much more change was needed.

“We need so much more than that because ours is a firmly entrenched system in which the roots of white supremacy run deep, and it is critical that we all grab a f------ shovel,” he said. “To do anything less would be absolutely unforgivable.”

He ended the show playing a clip of author Kimberly Jones talking about the protests.

“There’s a social contract that we all have that if you steal or if I steal, then the person who is the authority, they come in and fix the situation. But the person who fixes the situation is killing us,” she said. “So the social contract is broken.”

She added, “You broke the contract when you killed us in the streets and didn’t give a f---.”

(Note: The video below contains explicit language.)

By Timothy Bella
June 8, 2020 at 4:15 AM EDT

‘Defund the police’ gains traction as cities seek to respond to demands for a major law enforcement shift

A movement to slash funding for police departments or to disband them entirely has surged in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis police custody last month, with activists, local leaders and elected officials calling to drastically reshape public safety amid nationwide protests of police brutality.

Demonstrators have chanted “defund the police” at rallies outside the homes of mayors, and they have printed the slogan on face masks and spray-painted it on walls in numerous cities. In Washington, D.C., the phrase now appears in huge yellow letters on the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza on 16th Street near the White House.

Though long a concept floated among left-leaning activists and academics, officials from Washington to Los Angeles are now seriously considering ways to scale back their police departments and redirect funding to social programs. The moves would be a strong show of solidarity with protesters, who are clamoring for social justice and to strike back at what they see as an oppressive force across the country.

Read more here.

By Derek Hawkins, Katie Mettler and Perry Stein
June 8, 2020 at 3:45 AM EDT

Jeff Bezos says he’s ‘happy to lose’ customers upset by Black Lives Matter support

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos publicly supported the Black Lives Matter movement last week, pledging $10 million to support racial justice and adding a banner to the top of the online retailer’s homepage declaring that “Amazon stands in solidarity with the Black community.”

The move swiftly drew criticism from some shoppers who personally emailed Bezos, who also owns The Washington Post. Bezos responded on Sunday by posting two of those letters on Instagram, sharing messages peppered with racial slurs and cries that “all lives matter.”

He called the angry and racist responses “sickening, but not surprising” and responded to one writer who threatened to boycott Amazon: “Dave, you’re the kind of customer I’m happy to lose.”

“This sort of hate shouldn’t be allowed to hide in the shadows,” Bezos wrote in response to one email he made public. “It’s important to make it visible. This is just one example of the problem.”

Amazon joined a large cohort of American companies declaring support for the Black Lives Matter protests that have been unfolding across the U.S. Facebook, Intel, Apple, and Alphabet have also pledged donations to support organizations dedicated to racial justice and supporting black communities.

Some critics have suggested such corporate declarations do no go far enough, are motivated by profit and are undermined by labor practices.

By Katie Shepherd
June 8, 2020 at 3:15 AM EDT

Photos from protests today around the nation, and the world, following the death of George Floyd

See more photos from Sunday’s protests around the country and world here.

By Dee Swann
June 8, 2020 at 2:45 AM EDT

George Floyd’s last public memorial and private funeral service set for Monday and Tuesday in Houston

The final public memorial for George Floyd will take place Monday, between noon and 6 p.m. at the Fountain of Praise church in Houston.

Because of social distancing recommendations, only 15 people will be allowed inside the church at a time for about 10 minutes to remember Floyd, whose death in police custody in Minneapolis has sparked nationwide protests. The church is asking guests to wear masks and take measures, like washing or sanitizing hands, to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus during the services.

On Monday evening, Houston’s Jack Yates Senior High School, where Floyd graduated in 1993, will hold a candlelight vigil starting at 7:30 p.m. on the football field. The alumni association also asked participants to honor social distancing recommendations and wear masks.

A final private service will take place on Tuesday, followed by Floyd’s burial at Houston Memorial Gardens cemetery. The Fountain of Praise church will stream the memorial services online.

By Katie Shepherd
June 8, 2020 at 2:15 AM EDT

Trump bashes Colin Powell, questions NFL in late-night tweets over George Floyd protests

As large demonstrations against police brutality again gripped the nation on Sunday, President Trump took to Twitter late in the day to lash out at former secretary of state Colin Powell — his latest GOP critic — and to question whether NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will condone players kneeling during the national anthem.

Powell drew Trump’s ire after an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper, where the retired general joined the chorus of former military officials who have bashed the president’s threats to use the armed forces to quell protests.

“We have a Constitution. And we have to follow that Constitution. And the president has drifted away from it,” Powell said.

In his tweet, Trump called Powell “weak” and “pathetic,” citing his discredited testimony in the lead-up to the Iraq War claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Goodell, meanwhile, apologized Friday for the league’s past handling of protests for racial equality and encouraged players to speak out. The league responded to those protests by sending quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who knelt during the national anthem to protest racism, into a virtual exile over his stance.

Trump, on Twitter, questioned whether Goodell’s statement meant “it would now be O.K. for players to KNEEL” during the anthem. Trump again claimed the protests were “disrespecting to our Country & Flag,” though Kaepernick and others have been clear their intention is to demand changes to policing.

By Tim Elfrink
June 8, 2020 at 1:45 AM EDT

‘That’s the snapshot. That’s America.’: Sherrilyn Ifill says Floyd’s death reflects the soul of the country

For Sherrilyn Ifill, the image of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on the neck of George Floyd for several minutes until he died in police custody was a snapshot of the soul of the country.

Speaking to “60 Minutes” on Sunday, Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, said the visuals surrounding Floyd’s death last month served as a reminder of where the United States is in its history.

“There are moments in this country when there are photographs that are snapshots of the soul of this country. They almost hold up a mirror to this country,” she said. “And when we see this picture of the nonchalance with which America will put its knee on the neck of black people and make itself deaf to our suffering, deaf to our cries, deaf to our desperation — that’s the snapshot. That’s America.”

Ifill’s comments come as cities nationwide continue to protest two weeks after Floyd’s death.

She also criticized President Trump for allowing Attorney General William P. Barr to authorize federal officers and armed troops to use chemical agents and less lethal rounds on protesters in Washington to clear the streets.

“It is not strong to [tear] gas people and to stand in front of a building with a Bible,” said Ifill. “That’s not strength; that is a performance.”

By Timothy Bella
June 8, 2020 at 1:15 AM EDT

Man charged with leaving molotov cocktails in downtown Pittsburgh amid protests

A Pennsylvania man was arrested after he allegedly left a backpack of molotov cocktails in downtown Pittsburgh amid the ongoing protests prompted by George Floyd’s death, authorities announced this weekend.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania said that Matthew Michanowicz, 52, faces federal charges for illegal possession of an unregistered destructive device.

The charges stem from a June 1 incident, when Pittsburgh police responded to a suspicious bag left at a bike rack downtown, according to a criminal complaint. When police found the “military, green backpack,” they noticed a foul odor and three devices, which were later confirmed by a bomb squad to be suspected “homemade molotov cocktails.”

Surveillance footage allegedly captured Michanowicz placing the backpack under some trees. According to the complaint, he told investigators that he had ridden his bike to the area to observe the “aftermath” of the protests last week.

He denied possessing any destructive devices, police say. But when authorities searched Michanowicz’s home, they say, they found 10 additional camouflage backpacks in his garage, along with equipment such as fuses, latex gloves, spray foam insulation and ignitable liquid.

Scott Brady, the U.S. attorney overseeing the case, said Michanowicz was only present at the protests to “incite and destroy.”

“Once again, we see that certain participants in the protests in Pittsburgh were only present to serve as agitators and to incite violence,” Brady said. “Let’s call them what they are: criminals.”

He added, “I hope that any organizers or protesters who are participating consistent with the First Amendment will help identify and stop agitators who seek to manipulate their protest for violent ends.”

By Timothy Bella
June 8, 2020 at 12:41 AM EDT

One shot in Seattle after armed man drives into crowd of protesters

A man is in custody in Seattle after driving into a crowd of protesters with a gun and shooting one person, according to police.

In a scene captured on video Sunday night, Seattle protesters appeared to try to block a vehicle heading erratically toward the crowd. One man appears to be reaching into the driver’s side window when a shot rings out.

The man jolts backward from the vehicle, video footage from the Seattle Times shows. Bystanders rush to help, another Times reporter’s video shows.

As the driver gets out of the vehicle, the people surrounding the car start to run.

“He has a gun,” a person behind the camera says.

The driver walks around the back of the vehicle, brandishing the gun and heading straight for a larger crowd of peaceful protesters.

Stuck, some put their hands up as the man approaches, video footage by a reporter at the Stranger shows. The man starts running through the crowd toward the police line.

Seattle police took the man into custody and recovered a gun, the department said on Twitter.

The Seattle Fire Department said the shooting victim was transported to a hospital, where he is in stable condition.

Video by photojournalist and reporter Alex Garland shows the victim walking with medics, one of whom is holding his bleeding arm as he explains what happened.

“I see a car run down Pine [Street]. … I catch him. I punch him in the face. I hear the gunshot go off — my arm — and I move right in time,” he says. “My whole thing was to protect those people.”

By Meagan Flynn
June 8, 2020 at 12:26 AM EDT

Seattle mayor will require police to turn on body cameras during protests

Seattle Mayor Jenny A. Durkan (D) announced Sunday night that she will issue an executive order requiring Seattle Police Department officers to turn on their body cameras during demonstrations as tense clashes between law enforcement and protesters continue in the city.

Durkan’s announcement comes as she and Police Chief Carmen Best have faced pressure to de-escalate police tactics and hold officers accountable for using force against demonstrators.

Earlier Sunday, more than two dozen local leaders, including Seattle City Council members, King County Council members and state lawmakers, sent a letter to Durkan and Best expressing concern that “the response of the Seattle Police Department is escalating the conflict in the streets of Seattle … with their inappropriate use of force.” Over the weekend, at least one Seattle City Council member called for Durkan to resign, the Seattle Times reported.

“SPD must be a department that leads with de-escalation and does not use force unless it is absolutely necessary,” Durkan said during a news conference Sunday night. “At the city, both Chief Best and I are listening and acting to the tens of thousands of our community members who have taken to the streets to call for a better city and a better country.”

Beyond Durkan’s executive order, which will be issued Monday, Best said the police department would make other changes to promote de-escalation. The number of officers will be “significantly reduced” in areas where many protesters have gathered, such as the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, she said. Best added that officers at the scenes also would not be wearing as much riot gear.

“The Seattle Police Department is committed to protecting people’s First Amendment right to free speech,” Best said. “Our goal is to have absolutely no conflicts and unfortunately we were not able to meet this goal, we haven’t been able to meet it on several occasions this week.”

By Allyson Chiu
June 8, 2020 at 12:02 AM EDT

Mural removed of former Philadelphia mayor Frank Rizzo, widely seen as a symbol of police brutality

Workers on Sunday painted over a large mural in South Philadelphia depicting former mayor and police commissioner Frank Rizzo, who has been seen as a symbol of police brutality and racial discrimination by many in the city for decades.

With the permission of the building’s owner, Mural Arts Philadelphia said, it painted over the mural of Rizzo and is considering new artwork that better reflects the community.

“We know that the removal of this mural does not erase painful memories and are deeply apologetic for the amount of grief it has caused,” Mural Arts Philadelphia tweeted Sunday. “We believe this is a step in the right direction and hope to aid in healing our city through the power of thoughtful and inclusive public art.”

The mural’s erasure comes days after a statue of Rizzo was removed from the city’s downtown civic center.

Rizzo served as police commissioner from 1968 to 1971 and then as mayor from 1972 to 1980, building a reputation as the “the toughest cop in America” after using aggressive policing tactics, especially against the LGBT community and communities of color, in the 1960s and 1970s. He infamously urged Philadelphia residents to reelect him for a third term by asking them to “Vote White.” He died in 1991.

In recent years, the statue and mural have been repeated targets for vandalism. Campaigns to remove them gained increasing support, and recent protests over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis sped the city’s decision to get rid of them.

By Katie Shepherd