The protests against police brutality, sparked by the killing of George Floyd in May, have continued into their third month, spurring elected officials to reexamine policing and department budgets.

Here are some significant developments:

  • President Trump vowed that additional federal agents will be sent to Chicago and Albuquerque as part of a law enforcement surge called “Operation Legend.” In an afternoon speech, he attacked the idea of diverting funds from police departments to other services, and blamed increases in violence in cities on the movement that supports defunding police. About 200 federal agents, drawn from across the Justice Department, are planned to be deployed in Chicago.
  • The House of Representatives is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to remove Confederate statues from the Capitol. The bill under consideration would also replace the bust of Supreme Court justice Roger B. Taney, who delivered the majority opinion in the 1857 case that declared that Americans of African descent could not be citizens, with a bust of the court’s first black justice, Thurgood Marshall.
  • A coalition of former and current prosecutors have banded together to defend St. Louis city prosecutor Kim Gardner, who is facing intense criticism for filing weapons charges against two Missouri lawyers who brandished guns at protesters in June.
July 22, 2020 at 9:45 PM EDT

Trump administration, Portland police department are sued over alleged attacks on street medics at protests

PORTLAND, Ore. — The American Civil Liberties Union sued the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Marshals Service and the city of Portland on Wednesday, accusing the law enforcement agencies of shooting volunteer street medics with rubber bullets, tear-gassing them, beating them with batons and firing flash bangs as the medics attempted to care for injured demonstrators.

Civil rights lawyers with the ACLU of Oregon will ask a judge to issue an injunction against local and federal law enforcement agencies to prevent officers from attacking medics as protests continue — actions lawyers described as a violation of the medics’ First and Fourth Amendment rights.

The lawsuit is the latest legal battle to come out of ongoing unrest in the streets of Portland, where federal agents continue to square off with protesters outside the federal courthouse.

City and state officials across the country are preparing for similar legal battles as President Trump plans to deploy federal agents to other cities, starting with Chicago and Albuquerque.

“It’s pretty clear that Donald Trump is not interested in law and order and he’s not sending his agents in to protect the people, but to sow division,” said ACLU spokesman Abdullah Hasan. The surge in federal forces “is meant to send a message, and the ACLU is sending one right back.”

In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday that any move at Trump’s behest to move federal forces into the city to police protests would be met with a lawsuit. De Blasio said he has written a letter to Attorney General William P. Barr and the acting secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf, that makes clear that additional federal forces “are not welcome here.”

Philadelphia’s top prosecutor issued a statement Tuesday saying that if federal agents were to enter the city and attempt to enforce the law as they have in Portland — using less-lethal munitions like tear gas and rubber bullets or pulling protesters off city streets and bringing them in for questioning in unmarked vehicles, allegedly without a warrant — the district attorney’s office would charge them with crimes.

Street medics, an organized collective of volunteers with medical training who attend protests and administer medical help to anyone who needs it, have been attending protests around the country since demonstrations broke out in late May in response to the police killing of George Floyd.

In Portland, they regularly wash out the eyes of protesters hit with tear gas and pepper spray. Sometimes they patch wounds and carry demonstrators to safety if they cannot walk or see.

“Volunteer medics should be celebrated, not attacked or arrested,” Jann Carson, interim executive director of the ACLU of Oregon, said in a statement. “Our clients are volunteering day and night to provide aid to the injured and to create a safer environment for protesters and bystanders. These attacks are unconscionable as well as unconstitutional. This lawlessness must end.”

Savannah Guest, 22, and her partner, Chris “Kit” Durkee, have for the past two and a half months traveled around Oregon to volunteer at protests as medics. The pair was captured on video earlier this month as they stopped to help a nonresponsive man lying sprawled out on the sidewalk as a line of armed federal officers advanced toward them. Guest said she and Durkee decided to try to explain the situation to the officers and see if they could call an ambulance or offer help for the man. But the officers didn’t respond, she said. They repeatedly told the pair to move and threatened tear gas if they remained.

“This man had no form of protection,” she said. “We decided it might do more harm than good for us to stay.”

As they walked away, ahead of the line of federal agents, Guest said, she and Durkee were pushed from behind and repeatedly beaten with batons.

“Medics, we will argue and believe, are engaging in the right to free speech whenever they’re giving medical aid,” said Rian Peck, an attorney at Perkins Coie, which joined the ACLU in its filing. “Their message is, ‘We see your violence and we will not tolerate it or let it prevent protesters from participating.’ ”

Earlier this month, the Oregon attorney general filed a similar lawsuit against the Trump administration accusing federal officials of violating Oregonians’ civil rights by seizing and detaining them without probable cause during protests against police brutality.

By Marissa Lang
July 22, 2020 at 6:11 PM EDT

Ex-officer accused in killing of George Floyd also charged with tax crimes

MINNEAPOLIS — The former Minneapolis police officer accused of killing George Floyd, and the former officer’s wife, were charged with felony tax crimes, including filing false tax returns that did not include more than $95,000 he made working as an off-duty security guard.

Derek Chauvin and his wife, Kellie, were each charged by summons in Washington County District Court on Wednesday with nine counts of felony tax evasion. The complaint, filed by the Washington County attorney, accuses the couple, who filed taxes jointly, of underreporting and underpaying Minnesota taxes dating to 2014. The complaint also accuses the couple of not filing taxes at all for the tax years 2016 to 2019.

The complaint accuses the couple of underreporting more than $464,000 in joint income between 2014 and 2019 and says the couple owes the state nearly $38,000 in back taxes, penalties and interest.

Chauvin, 46, was arrested May 29 and charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in Floyd’s May 25 death during a fatal encounter with police in South Minneapolis. Chauvin was filmed with his knee on Floyd’s neck for about nine minutes, according to police body camera video, as Floyd complained that he couldn’t breathe and ultimately stopped moving. Chauvin is being held on a minimum $1 million bond at a state prison.

Kellie Chauvin, a real estate agent, filed for divorce May 29. Her attorney did not respond to a request for comment.

By Holly Bailey
July 22, 2020 at 6:04 PM EDT

Trump declares he will surge federal law enforcement in U.S. cities

President Trump announced Wednesday that he plans to surge federal law enforcement in Chicago and Albuquerque to help fight crime there, and he lambasted politicians who support defunding police — exacerbating the tension between his administration and local officials wary of militarized federal officers roving their streets.

Appearing at an event with top federal law enforcement officials and the family members of crime victims, Trump delivered a fiery speech that took direct aim at the movement to redirect funding from law enforcement to other endeavors. He blamed that movement for recent increases in violence in some cities, and said he planned to increase federal law enforcement’s presence to quell the uptick.

“In recent weeks, there’s been a radical movement to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments. Extreme politicians have joined this anti-police crusade and relentlessly vilified our law enforcement heroes,” Trump said. “To look at it from any standpoint, the effort to shut down policing in their own communities has led to a shocking explosion of shootings, killings, murders and heinous crimes of violence.”

The increase, at least at first, will be focused in Chicago and Albuquerque, where Attorney General William P. Barr said the Justice Department will roll out a program it launched earlier this month in Kansas City, Mo., to surge the presence of agents from the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The program was named “Operation Legend” to honor 4-year-old LeGend Taliferro, who was shot and killed in Kansas City last month.

“Our goal is to help save lives,” Barr said.

Barr said more cities could be added in the coming weeks. He said the federal government had sent more than 200 agents to Kansas City, Chicago would get a similar number, and more than 35 agents would be sent to Albuquerque. They will be added to existing anti-violent crime task forces, Barr said. Acting homeland security secretary Chad Wolf said that while the operation will be led by the Justice Department, Homeland Security investigators will contribute.

Local officials often welcome federal help and resources to fight violent crime. Police officers and FBI agents frequently work together with those from the FBI, DEA and ATF on task forces focused on terrorism, drugs or gangs, and state officials have often given their federal counterparts authority to help with local law enforcement.

But in large part because of the Trump administration’s aggressive, militarized response to quell civil unrest over racism and police brutality, that normally cooperative relationship has been strained. The tension became particularly acute in recent days after Border Patrol agents were caught on camera clubbing protesters and stuffing them into unmarked vehicles in Portland, and Trump threatened to send federal law enforcement agencies into Democrat-run cities, including New York and Chicago.

By Matt Zapotosky
July 22, 2020 at 4:24 PM EDT

House to vote on removal of Confederate statues from the Capitol

The House was poised to vote Wednesday on legislation to remove statues of Confederate leaders from the Capitol and replace the bust of Roger B. Taney, the U.S. chief justice who wrote the Supreme Court decision that said people of African descent are not U.S. citizens.

The bill, introduced by House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) and Rep. David Trone (D-Md.) in March, would replace the bust of Taney, which sits outside the old Supreme Court chamber on the first floor of the Capitol, with a bust of Thurgood Marshall, the first black member of the Supreme Court.

The legislation also would direct the Architect of the Capitol “to remove all statues of individuals who voluntarily served the Confederate States of America.” It specifically mentioned three men who backed slavery — Charles B. Aycock, John C. Calhoun and James P. Clarke.

Read more here.

By Felicia Sonmez and Donna Cassata
July 22, 2020 at 4:22 PM EDT

Seattle police release body camera footage from clash with protesters

Seattle police released body camera footage from a Sunday clash with demonstrators that the agency said damaged property and injured multiple officers.

“We are releasing this video in an attempt to be transparent and will continue to release videos of significant incidents,” the police department said on its website.

The video shows a man holding an umbrella over a security camera outside the closed garage doors of the department’s West Precinct, blocking its view. Officers approach and stand in front of the garage doors, facing a group of yelling protesters.

Three water bottles are thrown from the crowd toward the police, followed by a traffic cone that appears to hit an officer’s bike.

Police fire pepper spray “to stop the assault from the crowd,” the department said. Seconds later, fireworks are tossed at the officers. They explode on the ground, sending sparks into the air and officers ducking for cover.

“Watch out, watch out!” shouts a uniformed man inside the precinct, opening the door for the officers. “Get in here!”

The police department said in its statement that an officer was hospitalized after being “struck in the neck and injured by fragmentation from one of the explosions.” Two others were cut, and another suffered burns on his neck.

“Blast balls and pepper spray were used to stop the assault on officers,” the department’s statement said.

Two protesters were arrested, one for assault and the other for theft of a police bike.

The president of the Seattle police union, Mike Solan, pointed to the video in demonstrating the department’s need for outside assistance. He told local television station KING-TV, “I would ask for any type of help from any government entity with protecting the facilities, with protecting our community.”

By Brittany Shammas
July 22, 2020 at 4:20 PM EDT

Calls for justice for Breonna Taylor grow, including a black militia rally

An armed black militia is planning to march in Louisville on Saturday, part of a growing grass-roots effort demanding justice for the killing of Breonna Taylor by police.

John Fitzgerald “Jay” Johnson has organized the event and has called for marchers to don black clothes, boots and firearms, the Courier-Journal reported.

“Understand the seriousness of this situation,” Johnson, who goes by “Grandmaster Jay,” said in a video Sunday. “Breonna Taylor was murdered in her home. … We gotta go in on this one.”

Taylor was fatally shot by Louisville police in her bed in March after officers entered her home with a search warrant. Her death has resonated alongside that of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police in May, and her name has echoed in protest chants demanding justice and police accountability.

A Change.org petition demanding charges for the officers and changes to police procedures has surpassed 10.1 million signatures, the second-biggest effort ever on the site, NBC News reported.

A few Louisville residents began a hunger strike after calling for the officers involved to be charged. The residents are live-streaming their strike, which entered a third day Wednesday.

By Alex Horton
July 22, 2020 at 3:06 PM EDT

Environmental group Sierra Club reckons with white-supremacist history

No one is more important to the history of environmental conservation than John Muir — the “wilderness prophet,” “patron saint of the American wilderness” and “father of the national forests” who founded the nation’s oldest conservation organization, the Sierra Club.

But on Wednesday, citing the current racial reckoning, the group announced that it will end its blind reverence to a figure who was also racist.

As Confederate statues fall across the country, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in an early morning post on the group’s website, “it’s time to take down some of our own monuments, starting with some truth-telling about the Sierra Club’s early history.” Muir, who fought to preserve Yosemite Valley and Sequoia National Forest, once referred to African Americans as lazy “Sambos,” a racist pejorative that many black people consider to be even more offensive than the n-word.

The Sierra Club isn’t the only organization that is shaking its foundations. Leaders of predominantly white, liberal and progressive groups throughout the field of conservation say they are taking a hard look within their organizations and don’t like what they see.

By Darryl Fears and Steven Mufson
July 22, 2020 at 3:00 PM EDT

A ‘Wall of Moms’ faces off with federal officers on Portland streets

PORTLAND, Ore. — A thick wall of tear gas crept closer to the wall of moms in yellow shirts chanting, “Don’t shoot your mother,” as they faced off with federal agents during another night of nonstop protests.

As the gas enveloped the group late Tuesday, some began to cough. One mom ripped off her goggles in frustration — they didn’t seal around her eyes and the burning gas had seeped in. She rubbed her face and let out a groan, but she didn’t leave. Neither did hundreds of other self-identified moms who showed up at the latest round of protests to stand, arms linked, between armed federal agents and demonstrators.

In front of the federal courthouse, federal agents in tactical gear used batons to push back the moms in bike helmets. Dozens were tear-gassed. Some were hit with less-lethal rounds fired into the crowd.

Still, they stayed.

The fledgling collective, formed less than a week ago, has dubbed itself the Wall of Moms — and new chapters have already formed in cities around the country from St. Louis to New York, Chicago to Philadelphia and even in the nation’s capital. The groups have organized in anticipation of a national deployment of federal law enforcement personnel to Democratic-led cities — a nascent plan President Trump announced he was putting into action earlier this week.

By Marissa Lang
July 22, 2020 at 2:46 PM EDT

Calls grow for federal officers to shed military-style uniforms

As authorities crack down on protests in Portland, Ore., military leaders, lawmakers and former government officials have intensified calls for federal officers to shed the camouflage and return to wearing uniforms that clearly identify them as law enforcement.

The public has at times mistaken police for soldiers since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May triggered demonstrations and civil unrest. Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper was concerned about that conflation during protests in Washington, D.C., last month, his chief spokesman, Jonathan Hoffman, said Tuesday.

Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.), a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies should not allow their officers to wear camouflage.

“They need to stop this charade and stop pretending they’re the military. They need to put their ICE uniforms and CBP uniforms back on,” he told The Post, referring to federal immigration officers and Customs and Border Protection.

By Alex Horton
July 22, 2020 at 2:42 PM EDT

House Democrat demands to know more about Homeland Security’s collection of information on protesters

A top House Democrat is demanding information about a new policy that lets Department of Homeland Security personnel collect information about protesters who may threaten monuments and statues, including those not on federal property, in what experts have called a significant and troubling expansion of the department’s traditional counterterrorism mission.

Rep. Adam B. Schiff (D-Calif.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, asked Homeland Security leaders in writing Tuesday for a detailed explanation of what he called “unprecedented, ‘expanded’ intelligence and related activities — in support of a policy that exceeds the Department’s historical mission, and contrary to constitutionally-protected rights of speech, assembly, and peaceful protests.”

Schiff cited news accounts, including in The Washington Post, about a “job aid” sent to personnel explaining how to implement an executive order that President Trump issued last month, targeting protesters who threatened to remove statues honoring Confederates and other people they consider racist.

Schiff also cited the administration’s “unilateral deployment” of federal officers, including from DHS, to respond to protests in Portland, Ore., over the objections of officials in the state.

“So far as this Committee is aware, never before has the Department sought to so aggressively counter potential threats of graffiti, vandalism, or other minor damage” to monuments and federal buildings “in the same fashion as it would seek to counter acknowledged threats to U.S. homeland security,” including terrorism and cyberattacks, Schiff wrote to Chad Wolf, the acting homeland security secretary, and Brian Murphy, the acting undersecretary for intelligence and analysis, whose office issued the new guidance.

Schiff requested that the department brief committee members and provide copies of documents and other materials about how it is supporting Trump’s executive order, including through collecting information on protesters. Schiff also wants to see any intelligence reports or other products the department has created pursuant to the new guidelines.

By Shane Harris
July 22, 2020 at 2:38 PM EDT

67 current, former prosecutors defend St. Louis official amid Republican attacks in McCloskey gun case

A group of more than 60 current and former state and federal prosecutors signed a letter Monday defending St. Louis city prosecutor Kim Gardner, who filed felony weapons charges against a couple who brandished guns toward protesters in their neighborhood last month.

The group denounced political interference in the case after Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R) filed an amicus brief asking for the charges to be dismissed. The attorney general in Missouri has no jurisdiction in criminal cases, and no motion to dismiss has been filed, but Schmitt has criticized Gardner and her handling of the case.

Schmitt has been joined by President Trump and other Missouri Republicans in lambasting Gardner since she announced that she would investigate lawyers Mark and Patricia McCloskey for pointing guns at marchers outside their home on June 28. She filed felony counts of unlawful use of a weapon against both McCloskeys on Monday.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said Tuesday that the president thought that the charges against the McCloskeys were “absolutely absurd” and “an extreme abuse of power by the prosecutor.”

On Wednesday, a group of state and federal prosecutors, including Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, former Los Angeles district attorney Gil Garcetti, and prosecutors in Chicago, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas and elsewhere, issued a joint statement condemning the “shameful, aggressive and blatantly political attacks on Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner.”

Barbara McQuade, the former U.S. attorney for eastern Michigan, told The Washington Post: “President Trump needs to realize he’s no longer a loudmouth at the country club. He’s the president, he’s using a bully pulpit to have influence on public opinion, and it’s improper influence that can put a heavy thumb on the scales of justice.”

“The political and personal attacks by state and federal politicians against Circuit Attorney Kim Gardner,” said Channing Phillips, the former acting U.S. attorney for D.C., “threaten the ability of every prosecutor in this country to do the job they were elected to do.”

By Tom Jackman
July 22, 2020 at 2:21 PM EDT

New York police clear protesters’ encampment near city hall

NEW YORK — A graffiti-marked encampment at City Hall Park was cleared early Wednesday morning by New York police, weeks after the public site of regular protests turned into an outdoor living area for a transient crowd.

The park became a site for anti-police demonstrations after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25. On Wednesday, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the abrupt clearing — which was reminiscent of the predawn raid of the Occupy Wall Street base in nearby Zuccotti Park in 2011.

Officers arrived at the camp of makeshift and pop-up tents around 4 a.m. Seven arrests were made but charges were not immediately available, a city police official said.

De Blasio said at a news conference that the presence of people at the park became “less and less about protests, more and more became an area where homeless folks were gathering.”

He cited “growing concerns about health and safety” at the outdoor shelters that overlook the park. The stone tiles on the ground there were cluttered with tags, and historic buildings in the Lower Manhattan courts and municipal district have also been subjected to heavy graffiti such as anti-police messages, some vulgar.

Passersby have noticed the filthy conditions at the site, which borders the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge, has a busy subway entrance and a large Citi Bike bike-share docking station. Pre-pandemic, the area was packed with tourists, city employees, and staff and visitors to the state and federal courthouses.

People who had been living in the camp were responsible for a Brooklyn Bridge attack on police officers in the past week, officials said. Some people living at the camp — that has been dubbed “Occupy City Hall” — charged the bridge in opposition to a peaceful protest that was crossing over from Brooklyn.

On the bridge, they clashed with police and injured several officers, including Chief Terence A. Monahan, the highest-ranking uniformed officer in the department. A bike patrol lieutenant suffered a broken orbital bone. Several arrests were made.

The mayor said cleanup of the heavy graffiti in the area is underway. The sanitation department was seen at the site by 7 a.m.

By Shayna Jacobs
July 22, 2020 at 2:19 PM EDT

Oakland City Council prevents additional cuts from slimmer police budget

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — The Oakland City Council stopped short Tuesday of further cuts to an already pared-down police budget, slowing but not stopping efforts by a number of California’s largest cities to reshape law enforcement agencies amid public demonstrations demanding action.

The council spent much of the day debating the measure, which would have cut an additional $10.4 million from the police department’s budget, by far the largest of any city agency at roughly $300 million annually.

The council had already agreed to cut $14.6 million from the department budget less than a month after the May 25 police killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis, whose videotaped death set off national demonstrations that continue sporadically in some cities. The money and any additional cuts would be distributed to city social service agencies, among others, as part of a council goal to reduce the police budget by as much as 50 percent over the next year.

But council members voted 4 to 2 against the more recent measure. The vote, which appeared to have political support several weeks ago, came just days after President Trump threatened to send federal law enforcement officers into Oakland, a city controlled by a Democratic mayor whom he has clashed with before. Trump called the city “a mess,” although most demonstrations have been peaceful since they began two months ago.

Even in opposition, though, council members appeared to suggest the overall goal of a much smaller city police department is one they support. Oakland’s department, troubled over the years, now numbers 732 officers. But like other public agencies in Oakland and across the state, the department is bracing for cuts that will come as the result of deep holes blown in the budget from the economic calamity caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“When it comes to rethinking public safety, I’m completely in line with the fact that we need to be there,” said council member Loren Taylor, who opposed the plan Tuesday, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. “If the dollars aren’t there, I can’t support what’s going to be listed.”

Oakland has been at the forefront in California of what has been called the “defund the police” movement. But many cities have trimmed back law enforcement budgets amid demonstrations calling on state and city leaders to end policing policies called racist and ineffective in controlling crime.

Public officials have called for a rethinking of what kinds of services police departments should be providing, as still-modest plans begin to shift money from law enforcement agencies to social services.

Neighboring and much smaller Berkeley passed measures earlier this month that would eventually cut the police budget by $36 million — roughly in half — and end the department’s role in traffic stops. Although passed unanimously, the measure sets no timeline for city officials to carry out the changes.

In Los Angeles, county supervisors and the school board have approved deep cuts to the sheriff’s department budget and to the school system’s police agency. The City Council voted earlier this month to cut $150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department’s nearly $2 billion annual operating budget, shifting the money to programs for poor neighborhoods.

But the fiscal crisis ahead has slowed the effort.

In Oakland, Mayor Libby Schaaf initially supported the proposed larger reduction to the police department budget. But Schaaf has turned against the proposal in recent weeks, and before the council vote on Tuesday, she sent an email message to constituents that called it “dangerous and irresponsible.”

The shift has angered some of the mayor’s supporters. Overnight Tuesday, protesters shot off fireworks at the mayor’s home and spray-painted the sidewalk and parts of her house with graffiti. Among the messages were “Wake Up Libby,” “Defund OPD,” and “Blood on Your hands.”

Oakland presents a particular challenge to supporters of a smaller department. Amid rising crime, Oakland voters approved a measure in 2014 that allows the city to collect a property tax to fund the police department, as long as the number of officers remains at 678 or above.

Maintaining that threshold is in jeopardy now, according to city officials. Last week, Oakland’s interim police chief, Susan Manheimer, told reporters the department has more than 60 openings now after employing furloughs, layoffs and other measures to meet budget restrictions.

“We have basically … been defunded over the last decade or so,” she told reporters, according to the Chronicle.

By Scott Wilson