A Georgia judge ruled that the former Atlanta officer accused of killing Rayshard Brooks will not have his bond revoked after Garrett Rolfe went on a vacation to Florida without first telling prosecutors.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick wrote that she could not revoke Rolfe’s bond without due process but admonished him for not recognizing the gravity of his situation.

“Defendant faces charges related to the killing of another human being, and whether he believes these charges are warranted, he was given the privilege of limited freedom while these charges pend,” she wrote in her order, according to the Associated Press.

Here are some significant developments:
  • The Fulton County district attorney who oversaw Brooks’s case was defeated in a runoff election Tuesday.
  • The news that Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) will join former vice president Joe Biden on the Democratic presidential ticket has sparked celebrations from India to Jamaica to Howard University in Washington, D.C.
  • Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron met with Breonna Taylor’s family amid increasing pressure to charge the officers who fatally shot her.
  • Robert F. Smith, the nation’s richest Black man, suggested in an interview that companies that profited off the slave trade should consider paying reparations.
  • The March on Washington scheduled for this month is being reconfigured to comply with coronavirus protocols.
August 12, 2020 at 7:59 PM EDT

Judge declines to revoke ex-officer’s bond over Florida vacation

By Brent Griffiths

A Georgia judge refused a prosecutor’s request on Wednesday to revoke bond for a former Atlanta police officer charged with shooting Rayshard Brooks, saying that the conditions of his bond do not permit him to vacation outside the state.

Garrett Rolfe, 27, was charged with felony murder, among other charges, in Brooks’s killing in June. He was granted bond June 30.

“Defendant faces charges related to the killing of another human being, and whether he believes these charges are warranted, he was given the privilege of limited freedom while these charges pend,” Fulton County Superior Court Judge Jane Barwick wrote in her order, according to the Associated Press. “Should he and his attorneys have any question as to the meaning of the conditions of his bond, they should seek clarification from the Court before acting, rather than hoping for continued release after acting.”

Prosecutors argued that Rolfe was supposed to remain at home in Georgia as a condition of his release that requires a nightly curfew from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m., with limited exceptions. They moved for his bond to be revoked after hearing from Rolfe’s lawyers a day after he left that he had gone on vacation in Florida.

Rolfe’s lawyers argued that the state never required him to remain in Georgia while he awaits trial. They further said that the law makes a distinction between various forms of release, such as home confinement with a curfew and house arrest, according to the AP.

Barwick said she could not revoke Rolfe’s bond without due process but admonished him for failing to recognize the severity of the charges he is facing.

Rolfe’s lawyers argued that he fears for his safety. Barwick on Wednesday wrote that the bond order did not specify the address where Rolfe would have to stay for his safety and said that she had anticipated he might have to move.

According to the amended bond order, Rolfe is required to “live and reside at one residence within the State of Georgia.”

August 12, 2020 at 7:58 PM EDT

Pennsylvania judge faces misconduct charges over alleged racist comments

By Jessica Wolfrom

The Pennsylvania Court of Judicial Discipline filed charges of misconduct against Allegheny County Judge Mark Tranquilli on Wednesday, alleging he made racist statements, including calling a Black juror “Aunt Jemima.”

The charges accuse Tranquilli, a White former prosecutor who has been a judge since 2014, of making statements that violate the state’s constitutional standards and rules set forth for a judge’s conduct.

The complaint cites multiple cases in which Tranquilli allegedly used inappropriate language and disparaged defendants on and off the bench.

The complaint alleges that in 2018, when speaking to a defendant about her family situation, Tranquilli said, “Are you familiar with the phrase, ‘If you lay down with dogs, you wake up with fleas?’ … Now you have laid down twice with dogs, but you have woken up with two lovely children, probably two lovely children I’m betting you probably were not planning on. And for the cost of three shiny quarters in any bathroom in any rest stop in Pennsylvania, you probably could have gone in a different direction.”

In January, when overseeing a drug case, Tranquilli allegedly referred to a Black juror who wore her hair in a kerchief as “Aunt Jemima,” the complaint alleges. He is also accused of speculating that the juror’s “baby daddy” was a drug dealer.

In February, after the “Aunt Jemima” allegation came to light, Tranquilli was barred from hearing cases and has since been reassigned to summary appeals, according to the Associated Press.

The AP reported that a representative of Tranquilli’s lawyer declined to comment on their behalf. Tranquilli’s lawyer could not be reached for comment by The Washington Post late Wednesday.

August 12, 2020 at 6:14 PM EDT

Reports highlight uptick in protests at homes of public officials

By Donna Owens

Incidents in which protesters have targeted the homes of law enforcement personnel and other officials have grown in recent weeks, according to local media reports, as demonstrations have continued across the country following the police killing of George Floyd in May.

On Tuesday, a crowd of protesters in South Florida gathered outside the Coconut Grove complex where longtime State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle resides, according to the Miami Herald. Demonstrators have increasingly set their focus on Fernandez Rundle, Miami-Dade County’s top prosecutor for 27 years, in the lead-up to the Aug. 18 primary election in which she is set to face off against reform candidate Melba Pearson. Both are Democrats.

Demonstrators also showed up earlier this month at the Snohomish County home of Carmen Best, Seattle’s first Black police chief. In a letter sent to members of the Seattle City Council, Best wrote: “I urge … the entire council to stand up for what is right. These direct actions against elected officials, and especially civil servants like myself, are out of line with and go against every democratic principle that guides our nation.”

The council moved Monday to reduce the police department’s budget by nearly $4 million, after which Best announced her retirement, effective in September.

In St. Louis, protesters on their way to Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house last month were confronted by lawyers Mark McCloskey, 61, and Patricia McCloskey, 63, who waved weapons at the crowd from the steps of their gated-community mansion. The McCloskeys were later charged with one felony count each for unlawful use of a weapon.

Mayors, too, have also faced demonstrations outside their homes. The Mercury News reported that in Oakland, Calif., an estimated 3,000 protesters gathered outside the home of Mayor Libby Schaaf in June, reportedly to demand the defunding of the city’s police department.

August 12, 2020 at 6:04 PM EDT

Robert Smith, the wealthiest Black man in America, says some companies should consider paying reparations

By Brent Griffiths

Financier Robert F. Smith said on Wednesday that companies that profited from the transatlantic slave trade should consider paying reparations.

Corporations that benefited from or did business involving slavery include some of Wall Street’s biggest names.

“I think that’s going to be a political decision that’s going to have to be made and decided upon. But I think corporations have to also think about, well, what is the right thing to do?” Smith said in an interview with Reuters.

Smith, who is chief executive of private equity firm Vista Equity Partners, was the first African American to sign Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates’s “Giving Pledge.” Forbes estimates his net worth is around $5 billion and says he is the wealthiest Black man in the United States.

Smith left graduates and their parents speechless last year when he deviated from his prepared remarks by promising to pay off student loans for every graduate in the class of 2019 from the historically Black Morehouse College. He later expanded his pledge to encompass loans their parents took out as well, a $34 million gift.

There are long-documented ties between major companies and their predecessors and the slave trade.

The original wall that inspired the name Wall Street was built by enslaved people. JPMorgan Chase, the nation’s largest bank, announced in 2005 that a historian hired by the company found a predecessor of the bank allowed citizens to use enslaved people as collateral for mortgages. Aetna, one of the nation’s largest health insurance companies, apologized five years before for previously selling policies that reimbursed enslavers for financial losses when the people they enslaved died. The BBC reported how Brooks Brothers, which filed for bankruptcy last month, used cotton produced by enslaved people, and Domino’s Sugar used sugar cane grown by enslaved people.

Smith is also pushing lawmakers to make more aid available to Black communities as talks over another coronavirus relief package remain stalled. Multiple reports have documented the difficulty that Black-owned businesses have had in securing relief programs such as the Paycheck Protection Program.

August 12, 2020 at 5:54 PM EDT

Tear gas at Portland protests raises concern about pollution

By Associated Press

The presence of U.S. agents has diminished in Portland, Ore., but city officials are still cleaning up tear gas residue from the streets, and possibly the storm drains, after police and federal officers used the chemical frequently during more than two months of often-violent protests over racial injustice.

The Portland Bureau of Environmental Services cleaned and took samples from six storm drains last week around the federal courthouse and a building with a police station and jail that have been targeted in nightly demonstrations. Environmental officials aimed to prevent pollutants from reaching the Willamette River — which runs through downtown and is popular with kayakers, canoeists and boaters — and determine the possible impact if contaminants did flow into the waterway.

“There is no American city, that I am aware of, that has endured the level of tear gas,” agency spokeswoman Diane Dulken said. “We are researching and looking through environmental literature. What are these materials and their toxicity?”

Officials said they’re testing for pollutants that are found in crowd control agents, such as the heavy metals zinc, lead, copper and chromium.

Dulken said there is no evidence yet of tear gas residue reaching the river, “but it’s also hard to say because there is so much unknown about the materials and so much unknown about the quantities.”

Read more here.

August 12, 2020 at 5:18 PM EDT

Fulton County, Ga., district attorney in Rayshard Brooks case unseated in runoff after 23 years in office

By Jessica Wolfrom

The Atlanta district attorney who oversaw prominent cases, including the Ray Lewis murder case and the recent police killing of Rayshard Brooks, during his decades-long tenure was defeated in a runoff this week as Fulton County’s top prosecutor.

Paul Howard was unseated by Fani Willis, a former employee who secured more than 73 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s election. Neither candidate won more than 50 percent of the vote in June’s primary, necessitating Tuesday’s race.

Howard conceded defeat Tuesday night and promised to help Willis transition into the new role. “What is important to me is protecting the people of this community, and I want to make sure that when her first day in office is a reality that she’s able to continue to protect the people who live in Fulton County,” he said.

Howard was the first African American district attorney elected in Georgia when he took office in 1997 and served in that position for 23 years. He expressed pride for the accomplishments he made during his tenure, including a significant drop in violent crime and a 50 percent reduction in the county jail population.

Howard’s defeat comes amid a flurry of scandals, including an ethics investigation regarding his failure to disclose his role as chief executive for two nonprofit groups, one of which paid Howard at least $140,000 in city grant money, Fox5 reported. Three women have also filed lawsuits against Howard alleging harassment and discrimination.

He made no mention of the accusations in his concession speech. “I came with pride and I’m leaving with pride,” he said.

Willis, a former municipal judge and deputy district attorney, will become Fulton County’s first female district attorney when she takes over next year.

“Y’all, we made herstory,” Willis said to a group of supporters Tuesday night.

August 12, 2020 at 4:24 PM EDT

Kentucky attorney general meets with Breonna Taylor’s family

By Associated Press

Kentucky’s attorney general, facing increasing pressure to charge police who fatally shot Breonna Taylor, met with the family Wednesday morning, according to his office, which released few details.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron met with Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, and other family members “to personally express his condolences,” according to a news release. The statement did not provide any other details of the meeting, which took place at a state office in Louisville, but added the investigation into the shooting is ongoing.

Cameron “seemed sincere and genuine, which I appreciated,” Palmer said in a written statement released to reporters, adding the attorney general was the one who asked for the meeting.

“We all deserve to know the whole truth behind what happened to my daughter,” Palmer said. “The attorney general committed to getting us the truth. We’re going to hold him up to that commitment.”

As for the findings of the investigation, Palmer said Cameron “didn’t say which direction he’s pointing to, and I could be wrong, but after meeting him today I’m more confident that the truth will come out and that justice will be served.”

Read more here.

August 12, 2020 at 4:02 PM EDT

Chicago mayor slams Trump after president repeats offer to deploy federal troops in the city

By Brent Griffiths

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot (D) scoffed at President Trump on Wednesday after he repeated his suggestion to deploy federal troops in her city just a day after shops on the “Magnificent Mile" were looted.

“Those are the words of somebody who doesn’t understand the first thing about local policing, the — doesn’t understand the first thing about building authentic relationships with members of the community,” Lightfoot said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe."

Lightfoot pointed to increased tensions in Portland, Ore., after federal agents deployed there as something she wants to avoid in Chicago. “It exacerbated problems," she said, "I’m not letting that happen in my city.”

Chicago restricted access to its downtown after the looting early Monday morning, but as of Wednesday the city was beginning to reopen broader access. Hundreds of people broke into shops in the city’s central downtown late Sunday night into Monday morning, which several looters previously told The Washington Post was in response to a police-involved shooting of a Black man earlier Sunday. Police said accounts of the shooting were inaccurate and that misinformation spread across social media, fueling the looting.

August 12, 2020 at 3:14 PM EDT

Small Georgia city votes to remove a slave market

By Jessica Wolfrom

Officials in a small rural city in Georgia voted Tuesday to remove a historic pavilion in downtown Louisville where enslaved people were once sold, the Associated Press reported.

In a 4-to-1 vote, Louisville’s City Council decided to move the rare 18th-century open-air gazebo, called the Market House or Old Market, from its downtown location, pending legal hurdles, City Administrator Richard Sapp said.

The structure, built between 1795 and 1798, served as the center of commerce and trade around the time Louisville was the state’s capital. It was nominated for the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

“This crossroads was a meeting place of slave traders going from the upcountry to the rice fields further south. Many enslaved people were sold here,” said documents from the Library of Congress.

Sapp said the city needs to ensure the removal does not violate historic-preservation rules, the AP reported. How to remove the pavilion and where to transport it also remains uncertain.

The City Council’s decision comes amid growing pressure from the community and at a moment where the nation is reckoning with the vestiges of its painful past. In the wake of George Floyd’s killing in May, many Confederate monuments have been quietly removed from public land or violently ripped from their pedestals.

“We believe that this evil monstrosity of a monument is not a teaching tool, but dark clouds of constant reminder of how black people were treated in the past,” James Ivery, a former Louisville resident who has pushed for the structure’s removal, wrote in a recent letter to the Augusta Chronicle.

August 12, 2020 at 2:35 PM EDT

White supremacists made Charlottesville a symbol of racism. Black residents say it still is.

By Ian Shapira

Her whole life, Dorenda Johnson has endured racism in Charlottesville. Growing up in a city built with the help of enslaved people, she attended integrated schools but often found herself assigned to segregated classes. She spent years working as an administrative assistant in a University of Virginia hospital wing that — until last year — was named after a notorious white supremacist.

So she was hardly surprised in 2017 when hundreds of white nationalists and neo-Nazis descended on the college town for a “Unite the Right” rally — an event that transformed Charlottesville into a national symbol of racism and anti-Semitism. But the 61-year-old hoped the violence that left a counterprotester dead and dozens injured would finally jolt local leaders into a commitment to address the city’s racial inequities.

For Johnson, now a member of the city’s new Police Civilian Review Board, that day has not arrived.

“I said after ‘Unite the Right,’ ‘Well, now, hopefully your eyes will be finally open.’ Not! I am very disappointed and plain old sick and tired of being sick and tired,” said Johnson, who lives with her two grown sons in the city’s predominantly Black neighborhood of Orangedale-Prospect. “I would really like my sons to leave the city. I don’t want them to get stuck in a rut here. There is very little that they can do to better themselves here.”

In interviews with The Washington Post, numerous other Black residents and activists echoed her frustration. They said they are still pressing for change even as racial justice protests grip the rest of the country after George Floyd’s death in the custody of Minneapolis police May 25.

August 12, 2020 at 1:11 PM EDT

Confidence in police reaches record low, with White and Black views diverging greatly, new poll finds

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux

Over the past year, Americans’ confidence in the police has dropped to a record low, with an increasing disparity between White and Black Americans, a new Gallup poll found.

Overall, confidence in the police declined five percentage points to 48 percent, the report found, the first time in the poll’s 27-year history that confidence levels fell below 50 percent.

But the lack of confidence is even greater among Black Americans. Just under 2 in 10, or 19 percent, of Black adults say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the police, the report found. Meanwhile, 56 percent of White Americans say they are confident in the police.

“White respondents have been much more confident than Black respondents in the police, but the current 37-point gap is larger than it has been historically,” the report found. It also is the largest racial gap among the 16 major U.S. institutions rated in Gallup’s annual Confidence in Institutions poll.

The racial gap has increased in the past decade. In 2013 — after George Zimmerman was acquitted of the shooting death of Trayvon Martin — there was a 25-point difference between White and Black Americans’ confidence in police, according to Gallup. But that increased to 30 percentage points in 2019, with Black Americans’ confidence in police inching down six points to an average of 30 percent.

Other surveys have found a clearer shift in some attitudes among White Americans. A July Post-ABC poll found 54 percent of White adults said recent killings of unarmed Black people by police are “a sign of broader problems” in police conduct, up from 35 percent who said this in 2014.

August 12, 2020 at 11:50 AM EDT

Police are investigating ‘malicious vandalism’ of Black Lives Matter signs in Mass. town

By Donna M. Owens

Police are investigating incidents of vandalism in which Black Lives Matter signs were defaced and, in some cases, Ku Klux Klan stickers affixed to them, in Arlington, Mass., a town about six miles outside Boston.

“Malicious vandalism” was reported Monday at the First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Calvary Church, and two private residences in East Arlington, according to the Arlington Police Department.

At the Unitarian church, a Black Lives Matter banner was altered to read “ALL Lives Matter.” At the Calvary Church, two ''Black Lives Matter” signs and one mural were destroyed.

At one private residence, a KKK sticker was affixed to a “Black Lives Matter” lawn sign and at another home, the same type of KKK sticker was stuck to a “Hate Has no Home Here” lawn sign. In both cases the sticker depicts a Klansman wearing a white robe and mask on a horse with a torch, officials said.

“We are thoroughly investigating these incidents,” said Arlington Chief of Police Julie Flaherty. “The hurtful messages far outweigh the physical damage done and underscore the work that needs to be done to make Arlington a truly supportive and welcoming town.”

Over the past few weeks, a number of Black Lives Matter signs have been stolen, egged, and vandalized, including the banner at a local high school, officials said.

“The Arlington Human Rights Commission is appalled at this pattern of racist destruction, defacement and vandalism,” said Sharon Grossman and Kristen Bauer, co-chairs of the Arlington Human Rights Commission. “The Commission has formed a working group to explore responses and ways to support the community.”

August 12, 2020 at 10:42 AM EDT

City council in southeastern Virginia votes to remove century-old Confederate monument

By Emily Wax-Thibodeaux and Associated Press

The Newport News City Council voted 6 to 1 Tuesday to remove a Confederate monument, which city workers had covered in tarp because of demonstrations in the city, news outlets reported.

The monument honors a Virginia Confederate infantry unit. It has stood in front of the 1884 Warwick County Courthouse since 1909.

More than 50 people protested in June at the monument to demand its removal. Confederate statues are a focal point during national protests against the country’s history of racism and police brutality. In Newport News, a petition asking for the monument’s removal was signed by 770 people.

The city will wait 30 days to consider possible offers from museums, battlefields or other organizations to take the memorial, the Virginian-Pilot newspaper reported.

Newport News is 69 miles southeast of Richmond. Dozens of other cities are taking down Confederate statues, following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis. While being arrested, Floyd was held down by a Minneapolis police officer’s knee.

His treatment was captured on video, sparking nationwide protests along with widespread debate over the country’s legacy of slavery and racism.

Confederate monuments have long been the subject of public debate. But the controversy was drawn into the limelight again when white nationalists marched in 2017 to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville. A counterprotester was killed in a car attack by a participant in the Unite the Right rally.

August 12, 2020 at 10:08 AM EDT

Many arrested at ongoing Portland protests will not face charges, prosecutor says

By Associated Press

People arrested in Portland since late May on nonviolent misdemeanor charges during the protests that have racked Oregon’s largest city for more than two months won’t be prosecuted.

The new policy announced Tuesday recognizes the outrage and frustration over a history of racial injustice that has led to the city’s often violent protests and the practical realities of the court system, Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt said.

It is running more than two months behind in processing cases because of the coronavirus. As a result, at least several hundred people arrested over the past few months will not face criminal prosecution, according to statistics provided by Schmidt’s office.

The same no-prosecution policy applies to those arrested on similar charges in future demonstrations, he said.