with Brent D. Griffiths

Outside the Beltway

TEN DAYS: For ten days and nights, protesters have filled American streets, demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to the systemic racism they see infecting the country's police forces.

And there are now some signs they've had an impact, though it's still early and tackling long-standing issues like racism and police misconduct is not something that changes overnight. The biggest victory for activists was a move by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison (D) upgrading the charges against Derek Chauvin, who held his knee to Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes before he died, and charging the three other policeman who witnessed the killing of Floyd.

The heretofore radical call for “defunding the police” — meaning slashing funding for city and state police departments and moving it to education, health care and community social programs — is gaining steam, and already caused some local officials in Democratic-led cities to make significant changes. It remains to be seen whether they stick, and how widespread such changes become.

Earlier this week, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti (D) announced a $150 million budget cut for the Los Angeles Police Department in “a major shift for Los Angeles, though many of the details still are being worked out,” according to the Los Angeles Times's Richard Winton, David Zahniser, Emily Alpert Reyes, and Luke Money. 

  • “Garcetti said his administration would look for $250 million in cuts from city departments, including the LAPD, and steer the funds to investing in jobs programs, health initiatives and other services supporting the black community and other communities of color. As part of those reductions, the LAPD would see cuts of $100 million to $150 million, he said.” 
  • Counterpoint: “I remain steadfast in my belief that the continued funding of essential functions of our department equates to public safety,” LAPD chief Michel Moore responded. “The size of this budget reduction is significant, requiring a top-to-bottom assessment including how we go about our most basic operations.”

And in Minnesota, the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis Public Schools, museums, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, and other organizations severed long standing ties with the police department in the wake of Floyd's death. 

With local budgets already decimated by the coronavirus crisis, mayors around the country are now under even more pressure from activists to reallocate resources to things besides law enforcement as the protests continue.

  • New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer sent a letter to Mayor Bill de Blasio calling for a $1.1 billion cut from the New York City Police Department over the next four years, laying out a road map to reduce uniformed head count, cut overtime spending, etc. 
  • Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney's  (D) revised budget because of coronavirus “slashes initiatives focused on youth violence prevention, workforce development, and arts and culture. It lays off hundreds of workers who run programs at recreation centers and libraries,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Juliana Feliciano Reyes. “But the Philadelphia Police Department is slated to get $14 million more than what the mayor proposed in his initial budget.”
  • “The proposed $14 million increase, especially at the expense of other services, is not only going to impact poor communities’ ability to lift themselves out of the economic downturn, but it’s also going to criminalize us. Black neighborhoods, especially,” Devren Washington, an organizer at the Philadelphia chapter of Black Lives Matter, told Feliciano Reyes. “Because we know that the city will basically try to arrest its way out of its major problems.

There is some recent evidence that more police on the streets doesn't actually drive down crime. And a widening racial gap between police forces and the communities where they work “can hinder community relations and affect crime rates, according to our colleagues Dan Keating and Kevin Uhrmacher. 

  • “In a 2018 study, researchers at New York University found that ‘in a city of 100,000 people, each new nonprofit community organization [led] to a 1.2 percent drop in the homicide rate, a 1 percent decrease in violent crime rate, and a 0.7 percent reduction in property crime rate.’ Expanding social and economic programs for under-resourced communities leads to an overall decrease in crime. ” 
  • yes, a defunding of police looks like an investment in the community, and I think it is perfectly fine, and we have seen it before and we just need a lot more of it,” Opal Tometi, a community organizer who helped start the Black Lives Matter movement, told the New Yorker's Isaac Chotiner. And I think it is a slap in the face when local governments see what is happening with their police precincts and beyond and still say, ‘We are going to allocate even more money for this thing that is clearly not working.’”

More action:

In Kentucky, a measure was passed this week following the death of 26 year-old Breonna Taylor, a black woman killed in a raid on her apartment. The Metro Council Public Safety Committee unanimously passed a proposal to limit and monitor no-knock warrants in Louisville. And council members have attributed the momentum to pressure from activists and protesters:  

  • Council members, who voted 7-0 to advance the legislation, repeatedly pointed to calls for change from protesters demanding justice for Taylor as a reason to move forward, even as potential tweaks to the language were discussed,” according to the Courier Journal's Darcy Costello. 

Advocates for change like Stanford's Suzanne Luban, a clinical supervising attorney and lecturer at Stanford law school, argue that “these piecemeal reforms are too minimal to have a major impact. 

  • Statewide reforms being considered by state legislatures include a ban on chokeholds in Colorado, a bill aimed at minimizing the use of lethal force in Wisconsin, and repeal of California’s ban on affirmative action in public employee hiring,” Luban said, listing more substantive policy changes. “National outrage at Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, followed by those of 12-year-old Tamir Rice and Freddie Gray, have made an impact.
  • “We are hopeful that there will finally be national unity on the need for widespread police reform, retraining from the top down, and a nationwide ban on the lethal restraints that killed Eric Garner and George Floyd,” Ronald Tyler, a professor of law and director of the Criminal Defense Clinic at Stanford Law School, said.

At The White House

Fortress, White House: Fencing seemed to go up by the hour around the people's house as D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) continued to clash with the Trump administration over militarizing the nation's capital.

 Not on my watch: Bowser told reporters “she wants federal ‘troops from out of state’ kept out of the District. She also expressed concern that the Trump administration's move to extend security barriers beyond the White House perimeter to encircle Lafayette Square, closing it to the public, could become permanent,” David Nakamura and Fenit Nirappil report.

  • “During a news conference Thursday, Bowser said she was alarmed by the growing presence of federal security authorities in the city and declared she wants federal “troops from out of state” kept out of the District. She also expressed concern that the Trump administration's move to extend security barriers beyond the White House perimeter to encircle Lafayette Square, closing it to the public, could become permanent.
  • “'Keep in mind that’s the people’s house,' she said. ‘It’s a sad commentary that the [White] House and its inhabitants have to be walled off.’”

But signs outside the White House were ominous:

  • More fencing by the hour: “In the 72 hours since Monday’s melee at Lafayette Square, the White House has been transformed into a veritable fortress — the physical manifestation of President Trump’s vision of law-and-order “domination” over the millions of Americans who have taken to the streets to protest racial injustice,” write Philip Rucker, Ashley Parker, Matt Zapotosky and Josh Dawsey.
  • The White House is now so heavily fortified that it resembles the monarchical palaces or authoritarian compounds of regimes in faraway lands — strikingly incongruous with the historic role of the executive mansion at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, which since its cornerstone was laid in 1792 has been known as the People’s House and celebrated as an accessible symbol of American democracy,” they write.
  • “This week’s security measures follow nighttime demonstrations just outside the campus gates last weekend that turned violent. White House officials stressed that Trump was not involved in the decision to beef up security or to increase the fencing around the compound’s perimeter, with one senior administration official saying that the precautions are not unique to the Trump administration,” the add.

Barr not backing down: Attorney General William P. Barr, who personally ordered federal troops to clear the area in Lafayette Square before Trump's photo op at St. John's church, “vigorously defended the aggressive law enforcement response he has spearheaded in response to demonstrations,” he said at a news conference, according to Matt.

  • He said there was “no correlation” between clearing the area of protesters and Trump going to the church to hold up a Bible. “I don’t necessarily view that as a political act,” Barr said. “I think it was entirely appropriate for him to do.”
  • He added: “It is undeniable that many African Americans lack confidence in our American criminal justice system,” Barr said. “This must change.”
  • He added: “From Saturday to Thursday, he said, there had been 114 injuries to law enforcement and 22 hospitalizations — most of those for concussions or serious head injuries. Barr said that on Monday, Trump asked him to ‘coordinate the various federal law enforcement agencies’ — including those in the Department of Homeland Security, which is normally outside the Justice Department purview. ”

The People

AMERICA LAST NIGHT: Scenes and key developments from around the country.

Judge advances murder trial against the three suspects in Ahmaud Arbery's death: “A day-long hearing revealed the shooter allegedly uttered the words ‘f---ing n-----’ as the victim lay dying in the road,” Cleve R. Wootson Jr., Annie Gowen and Abigail Hauslohner report.

  • More details: “William ‘Roddie’ Bryan, who captured [Arbery’s] death on cellphone video, told investigators that Travis McMichael, 34, used the slur before police arrived at the scene, according to testimony by a Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent. In his closing statement, prosecutor Jesse Evans described a deadly game of cat-and-mouse as the defendants used their vehicles to corner Arbery before McMichael ‘gunned him down in broad daylight.’”

Two Buffalo officers have been suspended after shoving 75-year-old protester to the ground: The officers have been suspended without pay “after video surfaced showing them shoving [the protester] to the ground Thursday evening, causing him to hit his head on the sidewalk and suffer a serious head injury,” Meagan Flynn and Hannah Knowles report.

  • The viral video is yet another example of apparent police brutality … during a national outcry over police brutality: “The footage, shot by local NPR affiliate WBFO, shows the man walking up to uniformed officers in Buffalo’s Niagara Square during a demonstration against police brutality and over George Floyd’s death. The officers, who had begun enforcing curfew, yell what sounds like ‘move!’ and ‘push him back!’ One officer can be seen pushing the man with an outstretched arm, while another shoves a baton into him. A third officer appears to shove colleagues toward the man.”
  • The latest on his condition: “The man was transported to the hospital, where he is in ‘stable but serious condition,’ Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown said. Buffalo police spokesman Capt. Jeff Rinaldo said he believes the man’s injuries include a laceration and ‘possible concussion,’ while Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said it was a ‘serious head injury.'"

Law enforcement seized masks bound for protesters: “The Movement for Black Lives (M4BL) spent tens of thousands of dollars on the masks they had planned to send all over the country. The first four boxes, each containing 500 masks, were mailed from Oakland, California, and were destined for Washington, St. Louis, New York City and Minneapolis …,” HuffPost's Ryan J. Reilly reports.

  • But the items never left the state: It’s not entirely clear what law enforcement entity seized the masks or why."

SHARPTON DECRIES OPPRESSION AT FLOYD MEMORIAL: George Floyd’s memorial service here brought calls for sweeping change in America, as the Rev. Al Sharpton called Floyd’s death emblematic of oppression black people have faced since the nation’s founding and announced a new March on Washington evoking the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.,” Holly Bailey, Sheila Regan, Marisa Iati and Hannah Knowles report from Minneapolis. 

The eulogy: “The reason we could never be who we wanted and dreamed to be, is you kept your knee on our neck,” Sharpton said, adding later: “What happened to Floyd happens every day in this country — in education, in health services and in every area of American life. It’s time for us to stand up in George’s name and say, ’Get your knee off our necks.’”

  • On the new March on Washington on Aug. 28: "In one era, we had to fight slavery,” Sharpton said. “Another era we had to fight Jim Crow, another era we dealt with voting rights. This is the era to deal with policing and criminal justice. We need to go back to Washington and stand up — black, white, Latino, Arab — in the shadows of Lincoln and tell them this is the time to stop this.”
  • The scene: In the surrounding sanctuary, hundreds of politicians, civic leaders and celebrities gathered Thursday to support a grieving family and pay respects …,” the Star-Tribune's Pam Louwagie reports.

Former officers charged in Floyd's death cast blame on Chauvin: “Attorneys for two former rookie Minneapolis police officers … rejected accusations that their clients aided and abetted the killing of George Floyd, casting blame instead on a senior officer who allegedly ignored his younger counterparts,” the Star Tribune's Chao Xiong reports.

  • Initial court appearances rarely offer much news. This was not the case: "What was [former officer Thomas K. Lane] supposed to do … go up to Mr. Chauvin and grab him and throw him off?” said [Lane's attorney Earl Gray said], arguing that there was no evidence to charge his client. Similar arguments were made by former officer Alexander Kueng's attorney as well. But counsel for former officer Tou Thao, the most prominent cop in the video besides Chauvin, did not make similar arguments, the Tribune reports.

On The Hill

MATTIS DIVIDES REPUBLICANS: “Former defense secretary Jim Mattis’s strong rebuke of [Trump] forced Republicans to choose sides between a revered retired Marine Corps general and a leader with a near-stranglehold on the party and the voters critical to their election,” Paul Kane and John Wagner report.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) made the most forceful statement: “When I saw General Mattis’s comments yesterday, I felt like perhaps we’re getting to the point where we can be more honest with the concerns that we might hold internally and have the courage of our own convictions to speak up,” Murkowski, chair of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, said Thursday.

  • Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah) called Mattis's remarks “stunning and powerful.”
  • Trump blasted back late last night: Get any candidate ready, good or bad, I don’t care, I’m endorsing. If you have a pulse, I’m with you! the president wrote on Twitter, promising to campaign against Murkowski in two years when she faces reelection.

Another Republican has lost his patience with Trump in a different area: Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa) blocked two of [Trump’s] nominees in a rare move by a Republican senator to demand accountability from the president over his recent firings of several federal watchdogs,” Felicia Sonmez reports.

Uncomfortable: Trump’s actions in recent days have pushed the military into the most uncomfortable position in his presidency, prompting an outcry that continued to build on Thursday from retired generals, including his former defense secretary and three former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, who have expressed grave concerns about his willingness to wield the military as a club against American citizens,” write Missy Ryan and Paul Sonne.

  • Key quote: “It should worry people, and it does worry people, when you see a default to the military rather than trying more local or domestic organizations,” said Carrie A. Lee, an expert on civil-military affairs, told Missy and Paul.

The Policies

BLACK-WHITE WEALTH GAP PERSISTS AFTER MORE THAN 50 YEARS: “In many ways, the gap between the finances of blacks and whites is still as wide in 2020 as it was in 1968, when a run of landmark civil rights legislation culminated in the Fair Housing Act in response to centuries of unequal treatment of African Americans in nearly every part of society and business,” Heather Long and Andrew Van Dam report.

It could even be worse: “In 1968, a typical middle-class black household had $6,674 in wealth compared with $70,786 for the typical middle-class white household, according to data from the historical Survey of Consumer Finances that has been adjusted for inflation,” our colleagues write. “In 2016, the typical middle-class black household had $13,024 in wealth versus $149,703 for the median white household, an even larger gap in percentage terms.”

  • Staggering stat: “As of 2016, the most recent year for which data is available, you would have to combine the net worth of 11.5 black households to get the net worth of a typical white U.S. household.” 

Education does not do nearly as much as hoped:

In the Media

WHAT ELSE YOU NEED TO KNOW:

The New York Times now says Sen. Tom Cotton's (R-Ark.) op-ed “did not meet our standards”: “What began as an undercurrent of newsroom grumbling built into an unusual Twitter tidal wave of public outrage among journalists at the Times over their newspaper’s decision to publish an opinion column by Cotton (R-Ark.) calling for military intervention in U.S. cities wracked by protests over police violence,” Elahe Izadi, Paul Farhi and Sarah Ellison report.

  • The latest: “But after 24 hours of debate and acrimony — during which both the paper’s publisher and editorial page editor strongly defended the need to showcase diverse and controversial viewpoints — the paper late Thursday abruptly announced that Cotton’s op-ed was the result of a ‘rushed editorial process’ and ‘did not meet our standards.’"