As the reckoning spurred by George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis police custody continues, an oversight board in Milwaukee voted to demote that city’s police chief over how police responded to protests there.

Here are some significant developments:
  • The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission unanimously voted Thursday night to demote Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, who the civilian board said poorly handled the police response to racial justice protests in the city.
  • Democrats in the Virginia Senate unveiled a wide-ranging bill Thursday to overhaul policing in the state ahead of a special session this month in which criminal justice issues will be one of the centerpieces of debate.
  • The district attorney for Colorado’s Judicial District 18 announced that his office would be investigating police officers who pointed guns at four Black girls in an incident in an Aurora, Colo., parking lot Aug. 2. Video of the scene, which the prosecutor described as concerning, went viral this week.
August 7, 2020 at 8:13 PM EDT

Nevada governor signs ban on police chokeholds

By Ben Guarino

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) signed into law on Friday a rule that bans the state’s police from using chokeholds.

Officers are prohibited from putting people under arrest in positions that compress their airways or restrict breathing, according to the ban, which requires other officers to intervene if their colleagues use unjustified physical force.

The rule, which Nevada legislators approved earlier this month, also affirms that people not under arrest may record police activity. The governor signed a second law Friday that strengthens the ability of law enforcement agencies to investigate officers in cases of misconduct. Officers under investigation can now be reassigned without their consent, and departments can more easily reopen such cases.

“These two pieces of legislation are a step in the right direction, recognizing that the conversations — and the work — must continue,” Sisolak said in a statement.

Since George Floyd’s killing in May sparked protests against police brutality, at least 26 of the largest 65 police forces in the country have restricted when officers can use chokeholds or banned them outright, a Washington Post analysis in July found.

In 2017, a Las Vegas police officer, Kenneth Lopera, was charged with manslaughter in the death of 40-year-old Tashii Brown; the officer shot the man with a stun gun and put him in a chokehold while trying to arrest Brown near a luxury hotel. Brown died of asphyxiation, according to the coroner’s report. A grand jury did not indict Lopera, and the charges against him were dropped in 2018. Last month, Brown’s family settled with the Las Vegas police department for $2.2 million.

August 7, 2020 at 6:10 PM EDT

Should police be in charge of traffic enforcement? In a suburb beset by racial inequities, lawmakers aren’t sure.

By Rebecca Tan

Black drivers were about seven times more likely than White drivers to be stopped by police in wealthy Bethesda, Md., in 2018, according to recently released data.

Across Montgomery County, police searched the vehicles of Black drivers more than twice as frequently as White drivers, and were more likely to cite “probable cause” if the drivers were Black.

These yawning disparities, which advocates say have dogged the liberal suburb for decades, are fueling renewed scrutiny over the dangers of what advocates call “driving while Black.” As communities nationwide confront calls to “defund” and “unbundle” the police in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, some in Montgomery are asking: Should police even be in charge of traffic enforcement?

Maybe not all of it, lawmakers say.

August 7, 2020 at 5:31 PM EDT

In a summer of racial protests, Alexandria remembers a young lynching victim

By Patricia Sullivan

Benjamin Thomas was just 16 when he was accused in 1899 of trying to assault an 8-year-old White girl who lived next door to him. Thrown in the basement jail of the Alexandria, Va., police station, he heard a crowd bashing through the wooden doors, overpowering the guards, breaking through the iron cell doors and calling his name.

The Black teenager hid, either in a fish barrel or a hole. But the mob found him. They threw a rope around his neck and arm and dragged him over rough cobblestones to a lamppost near City Hall.

Thomas was pelted with stones, bricks and pieces of iron and shot multiple times by bystanders, and then was hanged around midnight, crying out for his mother. He became the second of Alexandria’s two documented lynching victims.

August 7, 2020 at 5:13 PM EDT

To defend his voting plan, Md.’s governor accuses a Black county executive of voter suppression. She is not pleased.

By Rachel Chason

Add to the long list of dramas involving Maryland’s plan for the November election: Gov. Larry Hogan is accusing Prince George’s County Executive Angela D. Alsobrooks of voter suppression, and the leader of the majority African American county says that Hogan is not taking the health of her residents seriously.

Their spat follows Hogan’s announcement last month that Maryland would hold a “normal” election on Nov. 3, despite the coronavirus pandemic. The moderate Republican governor has said his strategy, which includes opening all polling sites while mailing applications for ballots to each voter, is intended to thin Election Day lines but ensure widespread access.

But there has been a revolt in Maryland among election judges, with thousands saying they will not serve this year because of concerns about the coronavirus and hundreds of private facilities saying they will not serve as polling sites. Among the most vocal critics of Hogan’s plan at the county level is Alsobrooks, a Democrat whose jurisdiction is the second-largest in Maryland and leads the state in coronavirus infections.

Read more here.

August 7, 2020 at 4:53 PM EDT

Colorado district attorney to investigate officers who handcuffed Black girls in viral video

By Ben Guarino

A Colorado district attorney announced Friday that his office will be investigating the Aug. 2 incident in Aurora, Colo., in which police officers restrained four Black girls and young women in a parking lot. The officers handcuffed two of the girls and pointed their guns at the group as they lay prone on the pavement.

The girls had gathered in an SUV for a family trip to suburban Denver where they planned to get their nails done, as The Post’s Teo Armus reported.

Police stopped them and ordered the group to the ground because, Aurora Police Chief Vanessa Wilson said in a statement, the officers mistook the car for a stolen vehicle, citing a mix-up with a license plate from another state.

A video what happened next went viral: “The Black girls, who range from 6 to 17 years old, broke down into tears and screams as a group of White police officers hovered over them,” as Armus wrote.

Colorado prosecutor George Brauchler, the district attorney for Colorado’s Judicial District 18, said in a statement he was very concerned by public accounts of the incident.

“Everyone is entitled to be treated equally under the law. No one is above the law,” Brauchler said. “If our investigation determines that the officers involved committed a crime, I will not hesitate to file charges and prosecute them.”

The Aurora police department is cooperating with the investigation, the district attorney’s office said. Wilson, the police chief, had already ordered an internal affairs investigation, but Brauchler said that remains separate from this new action.

August 7, 2020 at 4:26 PM EDT

Most VA workers see racism against colleagues and veterans, union survey finds

By Alex Horton

Nearly 80 percent of Veterans Affairs employees surveyed by their workers union in July said endemic racism within the federal government’s second-largest organization is a moderate or serious problem, with more than half reporting they have witnessed discrimination against the veterans whom the agency serves.

The independent nationwide survey of approximately 1,500 VA staff members was conducted by the American Federation of Government Employees. Its findings were disclosed to The Washington Post in advance of a planned public release Friday.

“VA leadership has to work with us and with their employees to change that culture and cultivate an environment where employees feel confident that when they report acts of racism and other types of discrimination, their claim will be taken seriously, prompt action will be taken to address the issue, and they will not be punished for speaking out,” Everett Kelley, the union’s president, said in a statement. He added that VA employees have faced retaliation for raising complaints.

Read more here.

August 7, 2020 at 3:06 PM EDT

Billboards from Oprah Winfrey’s magazine seek justice for Breonna Taylor

By Associated Press

LOUISVILLE — First, Oprah Winfrey put Breonna Taylor on the cover of O, the Oprah Magazine. Now the media mogul is spreading her message with billboards demanding justice for the Kentucky woman who was shot to death during a police raid.

Twenty-six billboards displaying a portrait of Taylor are going up across Louisville demanding that the police officers involved in her death be arrested and charged, according to social justice organization Until Freedom. That’s one billboard for every year of the Black woman’s life.

The billboards, funded by the magazine, show the cover dedicated to Taylor, the Courier Journal reported. Also displayed is a quote from Winfrey: “If you turn a blind eye to racism, you become an accomplice to it.”

August 7, 2020 at 2:42 PM EDT

Wisconsin demonstrators are walking 800 miles to D.C. for March on Washington anniversary

By Donna Owens

As a proud Wisconsin native, state Sen. Lena Taylor (D) can tick off stories connected with her state. They include ones about historical figures such as Joshua Glover, a fugitive enslaved person whose escape from Missouri in 1852 to Racine, Wis., inspired abolitionists and led to the state’s Supreme Court declaring the Fugitive Slave Act unconstitutional.

Taylor is equally well versed with the saga of Ezekiel Gillespie, a former enslaved person turned community leader who, in 1866, sued for the right to vote in Wisconsin and won.

Now, Taylor, who represents District 4, which encompasses portions of Milwaukee, and the communities of Shorewood, Glendale and Wauwatosa, says it’s time for Black people in Wisconsin “to reclaim our legacy.”

“Not everyone realizes there are even African Americans in Wisconsin, but we’ve been here for centuries and are trailblazers,” the state senator, 54, told The Washington Post in a phone interview. “Milwaukee is a majority Black and Brown city. We have been dealing with police stops and economic and social problems including mass incarceration. It’s left folks feeling stagnant for a long time. But this generation is bringing greater awareness to those injustices, and a lot of people are joining them.”

Taylor said that Milwaukee activists Frank “Nitty” Sensabaugh and advocate Tory Lowe are among those who have taken to the streets in recent weeks for protests following the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Now they and other residents are marching toward the nation’s capital, aiming to arrive in time for the 57th anniversary of the historic March on Washington on Aug. 28. Taylor was not involved in planning the nearly 800-mile trek, which kicked off Tuesday, but she fully supports it. Organizers did not return requests for comments.

“Frank and Tory, along with people like Vaun Mayes, Khalil Coleman have been doing all kinds of community work — gun violence interruption, helping people with evictions — prior to this,” Taylor said, noting that her office recently bestowed community service awards on some of the advocates.

The demonstrators are marching to raise awareness of police brutality and racial inequity, as USA Today reported.

In 1963, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have A Dream” speech. Rep. John Lewis, who died in July, also spoke. They were among the civil rights, labor and faith leaders who addressed a massive crowd on the Mall urging Americans to fight for jobs and justice.

For the 2020 commemoration, National Action Network founder, the Rev. Al Sharpton; Martin Luther King III; the NAACP; attorney Benjamin Crump; and the families of police brutality victims will lead a Commitment March with the rallying call of “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks.”

The National Action Network said its march was for criminal justice reform “in solidarity with those who have lost loved ones at the hands of the police,” according to a statement provided to The Post.

Organizers said that speakers will include the families of Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Eric Garner — all killed in separate police-involved incidents. Protesters and activists will gather at Lincoln Memorial Circle for a day of programming before marching to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial. Safety protocols will be observed in light of covid-19, organizers said.

August 7, 2020 at 12:57 PM EDT

Oakland A’s coach apologizes for ‘racist and horrible salute’ he says was unintentional

By Des Bieler

Oakland A’s bench coach Ryan Christenson apologized Thursday for making a gesture that many found offensive.

As A’s players were coming off the field following a home win over the Texas Rangers, a telecast showed Christenson holding his right arm up and straight away from his body in a pose that resembled a Nazi salute. The player he was greeting, closer Liam Hendriks, could be seen instructing Christenson to bend his arm and bump forearms, at which point Christenson laughed and made the gesture again.

Affirming that Christenson’s gesture “looked like a Nazi salute,” the A’s said in a statement provided to The Washington Post, “We do not support or condone this gesture or the racist sentiment behind it."

August 7, 2020 at 12:25 PM EDT

San Diego City Council denounces ‘unlawful’ federal response to demonstrators

By Mark Berman

The San Diego City Council on Thursday passed a resolution denouncing federal responses to protesters, a local effort to push back against the Trump administration’s recent actions in Portland, Ore., where federal officers repeatedly clashed with demonstrators.

The resolution, which passed by a 6-to-2 vote, also asked the San Diego city attorney to monitor federal activities in the city “and respond to violations of law,” according to the office of Georgette Gómez, the council’s president, who introduced the measure.

“Seeing an escalation of violence due to the presence of federal forces in places like Portland does not sit well with me or the majority of our City Council,” Gómez said in a statement.

The proposed resolution quoted President Trump’s comments about the unrest in Portland, which he said was “worse than Afghanistan,” and said his rhetoric “incorrectly and intentionally conflates peaceful, lawful protesters with opportunistic bad actors.”

The Trump administration has defended its response to protests in Portland. On Thursday, Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf appeared before Congress and said his agents were sent to Portland to protect federal buildings from attacks and had to defend a “besieged” courthouse.

Local officials had condemned the federal involvement, with Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) describing the officers as “an occupying force” who she said “brought violence and strife to our community.” Under a deal struck between state and federal officials, the Homeland Security forces largely withdrew from the area immediately around the federal courthouse, which had been the epicenter of nightly clashes.

The Trump administration has also sent out more federal forces to other cities, which officials said was an effort to fight rising crime there and stressed was distinct from the Portland response.

August 7, 2020 at 11:48 AM EDT

More violence at Portland protests, police officer hurt

By Associated Press

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland’s nightly protests turned violent again even after the city’s mayor pleaded for demonstrators to stay off the streets. A police officer hit by a rock early Friday suffered what was described as a serious injury.

The protesters who came out Thursday night clashed with officers near a police precinct station and also used metal bars to disable police vehicles, police said in a statement.

The nightly clashes this week have ratcheted up tensions in the city after an agreement was reached last week between state and federal officials for federal agents to pull back from their defense of a federal courthouse that was previously the focus of the protesters’ anger.

August 7, 2020 at 11:14 AM EDT

Michigan official defends using racist slur while refusing to wear a mask

By Katie Shepherd

A local road commission meeting in northern Michigan on Monday started with one commissioner asking another why he wasn’t wearing a mask amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The unmasked official responded with a racist slur and an angry rant against the Black Lives Matter movement.

“Well, this whole thing is because of them n-----s in Detroit,” Tom Eckerle, who was elected to his position on the Leelanau County Road Commission in 2018, told his colleague at the start of the public meeting.

The commission chairman, Bob Joyce, immediately rebuked his colleague, but Eckerle continued his diatribe.

“I can say anything I want,” Eckerle said at the meeting, which the public could listen to via a dial-in number, the Leelanau Enterprise first reported. “Black Lives Matter has everything to do with taking the country away from us.”

August 7, 2020 at 10:26 AM EDT

Milwaukee oversight board, critical of police response to protests, demotes police chief

By Ben Guarino

The Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission unanimously voted Thursday night to demote Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales, who the civilian board said poorly handled the police response to protests in the city sparked by George Floyd’s killing on Memorial Day.

Commissioners previously reprimanded Morales for the department’s use of tear gas against protesters, with one board member saying in June that using the cough- and tear-inducing gas during a viral pandemic was “unacceptable.”

The commission issued 11 directives to Morales in mid-July and warned the chief that if he did not adhere to the orders he could be fired or punished. Those directives required police to issue reports after officer-involved shootings, create a public report on the department’s tear-gas use and obtain the board’s approval on overtime and promotions, Milwaukee’s Fox 6 reported.

“It should be no surprise that we have issued directives,” Nelson Soler, a member of the commission, said Thursday night, “and it should be no surprise that I personally don’t feel you have worked with us as your oversight board.”

On Wednesday, in anticipation of the board’s decision, Morales told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that a vote in favor of his removal was “not going to be the end of it. … There’s an outpouring of support and at the end of the day, we’ll see what happens.” Morales has hired an attorney and said he was considering the possibility of legal action.

Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) told the Journal Sentinel earlier Thursday there was a “blood feud” between Morales and Steven DeVougas, the commission’s chairman.

“I think it’s all really bad for our city and they both should be embarrassed,” the mayor said.

DeVougas’s time chairing the commission ended shortly after Morales was demoted. Soler was named as DeVougas’s successor.

Morales, meanwhile, was demoted to captain, the rank he held before he was appointed as chief. Michael Brunson Sr. was named the new acting chief. In a statement released by the department, Brunson thanked Morales and said he looked “forward to continuing to serve the residents of this city.”

August 7, 2020 at 9:42 AM EDT

Two more people accused of attempting to burn Trenton police car during unrest

By Mark Berman

The Justice Department has announced that two New Jersey men are facing federal charges for trying to set a police car on fire during May protests in Trenton, making them the latest people charged in the incident.

Trenton had peaceful protests May 31 that later gave way to more violent unrest, which included a police car being set on fire, according to authorities and local media accounts.

Federal officials said this week that they arrested two men — Killian F. Melecio, 20, of Columbus and Kadeem A. Dockery, 29, of Trenton — on Wednesday and charged them with attempting to damage the police car with fire.

In a criminal complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, FBI Special Agent Kristin Bell wrote that Dockery was filmed by a street camera trying to light an explosive near the car and was identified by “his distinctive forearm tattoos.”

Melecio was also seen on a camera with Dockery, attempting to push Dockery’s shirt into the car’s gas tank and light it on fire, Bell wrote. He was also identifiable based on his tattoos, she wrote.

The two men were arrested by the FBI. They followed two others who were separately charged in June and also accused of trying to burn the police car. According to federal officials, after a hearing, Dockery was released while Melecio was kept in custody as he awaits a bail hearing.