Myanmar police fire to disperse protest, four hurt, one critical

(Reuters) – Police and protesters clashed in Myanmar on Tuesday, with injuries on both sides on the most violent day so far of demonstrations against the military coup that overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi, and a doctor said one woman was unlikely to survive a gun wound in the head.

Three other people were being treated for wounds from suspected rubber bullets after police fired guns, mostly into the air, and used a water cannon to try to clear protesters in the capital Naypyitaw.

State television reported injuries to police during their attempts to disperse protesters – its first acknowledgement of the demonstrations taking place in the country.

The incidents marked the first bloodshed since the military led by army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing overthrew Suu Kyi’s newly elected government on Feb. 1 and detained her and other politicians from her National League for Democracy (NLD).

The military claimed that the NLD won by fraud – an accusation dismissed by the election committee and Western governments.

Late on Tuesday, police in Myanmar raided the NLD’s headquarters in Yangon, two elected NLD lawmakers said.

The raid was carried out by about a dozen police personnel, who forced their way into the building in the commercial capital after dark, they said.

“DISPROPORTIONATE FORCE”

The protests are the largest in Myanmar for more than a decade, reviving memories of almost half a century of direct army rule and spasms of bloody uprisings until the military began a process of withdrawing from civilian politics in 2011.

The United Nations expressed concern about the use of force against demonstrators.

“I call on the Security Forces to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression,” Ola Almgren, the UN representative in Myanmar, said.

“The use of disproportionate force against demonstrators is unacceptable.”

According to reports from Naypyitaw, Mandalay and other cities, numerous demonstrators have been injured, some of them seriously, by security forces.

A doctor in the Naypyitaw hospital said the shot woman had suffered what was most likely to be a fatal head wound.

“She hasn’t passed away yet, she’s in the emergency unit, but it’s 100% certain the injury is fatal,” said the doctor, who declined to be identified. “According to the X-ray, it’s a live bullet.”

Neither police nor the hospital responded to a request for comment.

A man had a chest wound but was not in critical condition. It was not clear if he was hit with a bullet or rubber bullet, the doctor said.

State-run MRTV news said a police truck had been destroyed at a demonstration in Mandalay, Myanmar’s second biggest city. It showed footage of the aftermath, including injured police.

MRTV described the protests as being orchestrated by people who wanted to harm the nation’s stability and had acted aggressively. It made no mention of the coup or other demonstrations across the country.

Earlier, witnesses said police fired into the air in Naypyitaw as a crowd refused to disperse. They then blasted them with water cannon while the protesters responded with stones, a witness said.

Footage posted on social media apparently of the woman who was shot showed her with other protesters by what appeared to be a bus-stop shelter some distance from a row of riot police as a water cannon sprayed and several shots could be heard.

The woman, wearing a motorbike helmet, suddenly collapsed. Pictures of her helmet showed what appeared to be a bullet hole. Reuters was not able to verify the video footage or photographs.

Video from the central town of Bago showed police confronting a crowd and firing water cannon. Police arrested at least 27 demonstrators in Mandalay, domestic media reported.

The situation nationwide was quiet by nightfall. Orders banning gatherings of more than four people and a curfew from 8 p.m. to 4 a.m. have been imposed on Yangon and Mandalay.

PROMISES

Suu Kyi’s party had won a 2015 election but Myanmar’s transition to democracy was brought to a halt by the Feb. 1 coup staged as her government was due to start a second term.

Promises on Monday from Min Aung Hlaing to eventually hold a new election drew scorn. He said the junta would form a “true and disciplined democracy,” different to previous eras of military rule, which brought years of isolation and poverty.

He gave no time frame but the junta has said a state of emergency would last one year.

A civil disobedience movement affecting hospitals, schools and government offices shows no sign of ending but the crowds in Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and commercial hub, appeared smaller on Tuesday than the previous day.

“The main thing is we don’t want a coup,” said a 24-year-old woman protester in Yangon. “If we young people don’t come out, who will?”

Activists are also seeking the abolition of a 2008 constitution drawn up under military supervision that gave the generals a veto in parliament and control of several ministries, and for a federal system in ethnically diverse Myanmar.

Western governments have widely condemned the coup, although there has been little concrete action to press the generals.

The U.N. Security Council has called for the release of SuuKyi and others. The U.N. Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Friday to discuss the crisis.

Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991 for campaigning for democracy and spent nearly 15 years under house arrest.

The 75-year-old faces charges of illegally importing six walkie-talkies and is being held in detention until Feb. 15. Her lawyer said he has not been allowed to see her.

Suu Kyi remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of the Muslim Rohingya minority.

(Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Matthew Tostevin, Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel; Editing by Richard Pullin, Angus MacSwan)

Shops boarded up as Dutch brace for fourth night of coronavirus riots

By Anthony Deutsch

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Netherlands braced on Tuesday for a fourth consecutive night of coronavirus anti-lockdown riots, with some shops boarding their windows and sending staff home early for safety.

Dutch police detained more than 180 people on Monday night, where roaming groups set fires, threw rocks and looted stores in several cities.

The Netherlands’ first curfew since World War Two was imposed on Saturday despite weeks of falling infections, after the National Institute for Health (RIVM) said a faster-spreading variant first found in England was causing a third of cases.

A hospital in Rotterdam warned visitors of patients to stay away, after rioters tried to attack hospitals in various cities in the past days.

“We have had riots in the past, but it’s rare to have this for several nights across the entire country,” said National Police spokeswoman Suzanne van de Graaf. “It’s not only in known problem areas, but much more widespread.”

Riot police with shields and batons were called out in more than 10 cities, many of which had issued emergency decrees to provide officers with greater powers to conduct searches.

Police had scuffled with rioters in several cities late into the night, chasing them down narrow streets with vans or on foot as helicopters hovered overhead.

In Amsterdam on Monday, groups of youths threw fireworks, broke store windows and attacked a police truck, but were broken up by a massive police presence.

Ten police officers were injured in Rotterdam, where 60 rioters were detained overnight after widespread looting and destruction in the city center, a police spokeswoman said. Supermarkets in the port city were emptied, while rubbish bins and vehicles were set ablaze.

Two photographers were hurt after being targeted by rock-throwing gangs, one in Amsterdam and another in the nearby town of Haarlem, police said.

Coronavirus infections have been falling in recent weeks, with the number of new cases down by 8% over the past week. A little under 4,000 new infections were reported on Tuesday, the smallest daily increase since Nov 24.

But the RIVM said the situation in the Netherlands was still very serious as a result of the more contagious variant that has caused a massive surge in cases in Britain.

Van de Graaf said much of the aggression during the three days of unrest had been targeted at police officers. More than 470 people have been arrested, with riot police deploying water cannon and officers on horseback in several places.

Schools and non-essential shops across the Netherlands have been shut since mid-December. Bars and restaurants were closed two months earlier. The country’s death toll stands at 13,664, with 956,867 infections to date.

(Reporting by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Clarence Fernandez, Catherine Evans and Peter Graff)

Netherlands proposes first curfew since World War Two, flight bans

By Bart H. Meijer

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – The Dutch government on Wednesday proposed the first nationwide curfew since World War Two and a ban on flights from South Africa and Britain in its toughest moves yet to limit the spread of coronavirus in the Netherlands.

Prime Minister Mark Rutte said the curfew, which is largely intended to target new, more infectious variants of the disease, must be approved by parliament, which is set to debate measures against the coronavirus on Thursday.

The flight ban, which Rutte said also will apply to all South American countries, will begin on Saturday. The curfew was expected to take effect this weekend, he said.

“This is a very tough measure, but we are at a crossroads,” Rutte said in a televised news conference. “The British variant doesn’t leave us with an alternative.”

The curfew would allow only people with pressing needs to leave their homes between 8:30 p.m. and 4:30 a.m. local time, Rutte said.

Exceptions include medical emergencies, people who need to be outdoors to carry out essential jobs and walking of pets on a leash. Violators can be fined 95 euros ($115).

The government said it will also require all international travelers arriving by airplane or boat to provide proof of a second negative COVID-19 rapid test, taken just before departure. It had already required a negative test taken within 72 hours of travel.

KLM, the Dutch subsidiary of Air France KLM, said that in response to the requirement it will halt 270 weekly long-haul flights and an undetermined number of European flights to the Netherlands from Friday.

“Based on the information we have this will also count for crew members,” said KLM spokeswoman Gerrie Brand. “We cannot take the risk that crew members get stuck abroad, so we have decided to halt all long-haul flights.”

Schools and non-essential shops have already been shut since mid-December, following the closure of bars and restaurants two months earlier. They will remain shut until at least Feb. 9.

Infections in the Netherlands have decreased steadily in the past three weeks, but health authorities say the new variants will lead to a new surge by next month if social distancing measures are not tightened.

The government currently has a caretaker status, as Rutte last Friday handed his resignation to King Willem-Alexander following a damning report on his cabinet’s handling of childcare subsidies.

Rutte has said he will remain to take decisions on COVID-19 policies until a new government is formed after the March 17 elections, seeking broad support for measures from both coalition and opposition parties.

($1 = 0.8264 euros)

(Reporting by Bart Meijer; Additional reporting by Toby Sterling; Writing by Anthony Deutsch; Editing by Giles Elgood, Angus MacSwan, William Maclean)

Ontario declares emergency amid surging COVID-19 cases as Canada buys more vaccines

By Moira Warburton and David Ljunggren

TORONTO/OTTAWA (Reuters) – Ontario declared an emergency on Tuesday after latest modelling put Canada’s most populous province on track to have more than 20,000 new COVID-19 cases per day by the middle of February, a nearly ten-fold increase from the current count.

Ontario, which is battling a coronavirus surge that has swamped its hospitals and triggered a province-wide lockdown, could also see roughly 1,500 more deaths in its long-term care homes through mid-February under a worst-case scenario, according to modeling from experts advising the government.

New restrictions that take effect on Jan. 14 mandate that residents must stay at home except for essential activity, while outdoor gatherings will be limited to five people, and non-essential construction work will be restricted.

“I know the stay at home order is a drastic measure, one we don’t take lightly. Everyone must stay home to stay lives,” said Ontario Premier Doug Ford at a media briefing. “Enforcement and inspections will increase.”

Canada began targeted vaccinations in December, with current efforts focused on healthcare workers and residents of long-term care homes.

The federal government ordered an additional 20 million doses of the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday. That would take the total number of doses to be delivered this year in Canada to 80 million.

Ontario, the country’s economic engine, has been under lockdown since Dec. 26, with non-essential businesses shuttered and schools closed for in-person learning.

Yet the daily number of COVID-19 cases has spiked above 3,500 on average over the past seven days, government data showed. On Tuesday, Ontario reported 2,903 new COVID-19 cases.

Under the worst-case scenario with 7% case growth, there would be 40,000 new cases daily by mid-February, while the best-case scenario with 1% growth would result in 5,000 new cases every day, Ontario’s data showed. Case growth has recently been over 7% on the worst days, the data showed.

In five of the hardest hit areas of Ontario – including the Toronto area, nearby Hamilton, and Windsor-Essex across the border from Detroit – schools will remain closed until at least Feb. 10. Childcare for children who are too young for school will remain open, along with emergency childcare for some school-age children.

“We will have to confront choices that no doctor ever wants to make and no family ever wants to hear,” Dr. Steini Brown, head of Ontario’s case modeling, said at a briefing on Tuesday. “People will die from the virus itself and from the overloaded health system that is unable to respond to their needs.”

Brown warned that the new COVID-19 variant from Britain was already in Ontario and could decrease the doubling time of cases – or how long it takes for case counts to double, currently 30 to 40 days – to 10 days.

Last week Quebec, Canada’s worst-affected province from COVID-19, became the first in the country to introduce a curfew to limit the spread.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Toronto and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto; Editing by Denny Thomas, Paul Simao and Rosalba O’Brien)

France promises 1 billion euros for curfew-hit companies

PARIS (Reuters) – Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire promised 1 billion euros ($1.17 billion) of additional support to help French companies cushion the impact of a nightly curfew in Paris and eight other big cities where the coronavirus is running rampant.

Le Maire also said that companies in the beleaguered hospitality industry would be exempt from social charges if their revenues crashed by more than 50% as a result of the curfews.

The curfews are President Emmanuel Macron’s response to a dilemma facing countries across Europe: how to keep the economy running and protect jobs while slowing the spread of infections and taking pressure off the creaking healthcare systems.

“The new measures will cost about 1 billion euros over the duration of the curfew,” Le Maire told a news conference.

Le Maire also said he was asking banks to delay interest payments on state-guaranteed loans to struggling companies in the hotel, restaurant and events industries.

The French banking lobby, FBF, said in emailed comment to Reuters that “banks share the idea that flexibility should be the rule”.

French banks have given out more than 120 billion euros in state-backed loans so far this year. FBF added that a permanent dialogue between companies and their bankers was essential in order to find the best solution for reimbursement of the loans.

“Banks are confident in their ability to act, as they did during the deployment of PGE (state-backed loans), in a perfect coordination with public authorities and businesses,” FBF said.

Prime Minister Jean Castex said people could break the curfew to travel to and from work, catch a train or plane, seek medical attention and even walk a dog – but an interior ministry exemption document would be needed in case of a police check.

France’s interior minister said 12,000 police would enforce the curfews in Paris, Toulouse, Marseille, Montpellier, Grenoble, Rouen, Lille, Lyon and Saint-Etienne. In all, the curfew order covers about 20 million people, almost a third of France’s population.

Anyone breaking the curfew will be fined 135 euros

(Reporting by Geert de Clercq; Writing by Benoit Van Overstraeten; Editing by John Stonestreet and Tomasz Janowski and Kirsten Donovan)

Protesters sue Kenosha claiming arrests, curfew violate U.S. Constitution

By Keith Coffman

(Reuters) – Four people arrested for curfew violations while protesting the shooting of a Black man by a white policeman in Kenosha, Wisconsin sued the city and county governments on Tuesday, claiming they were denied free speech rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

The plaintiffs argue that more than 150 people protesting the shooting have been taken into custody while pro-police demonstrators have been allowed to freely take to the streets, according to the lawsuit filed in federal court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin.

“In Kenosha, there are two sets of laws – one that applies to those who protest police brutality and racism, and another for those who support the police,” the plaintiffs argue in their complaint, which seeks a temporary restraining order until the litigation can be heard in court.

Reuters could not reach city and county officials for comment after business hours.

Kenosha has been the scene of sometimes violent protests after video footage surfaced showing a police officer shooting Jacob Blake, 29, multiple times in the back.

Blake was left paralyzed from the waist down and the officer, Rusten Sheskey, was placed on administrative leave during an investigation.

The protesters claim in their lawsuit that police were using the curfew to prevent them from taking part in constitutionally protected activity.

The plaintiffs also say police are selectively enforcing the curfew by not arresting pro-police demonstrators, a violation of equal protection under the law guaranteed by the constitution.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified monetary damages, was filed on the same day that U.S. President Donald Trump visited Kenosha over the objections of some local officials.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Stephen Coates)

Gaza man dies of coronavirus as lockdown imposed to curb first outbreak

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Gaza reported one coronavirus death and at least 10 new cases of infection on Wednesday as the blockaded Palestinian enclave sought to control its first public outbreak of the disease.

Hamas-controlled security forces enforced a lockdown in all cities in the coastal territory, warning people to stay at home or to wear face masks if they had to go out for emergencies.

Health officials said the 61-year-old man who died had pre-existing conditions and had been on a respirator.

Ten more cases were reported on Wednesday, six of them in Maghazi refugee camp where the first four infections were discovered on Monday, and another four in Gaza City and the northern area of the enclave of 2 million people.

The new infections added to concerns among local and international health organizations about Gaza’s potentially disastrous combination of poverty, densely populated refugee camps and limited hospital capacity.

Until Monday the 360 square-kilometre (139 square-mile) coastal strip had reported no infections outside border quarantine facilities for new arrivals.

Facing for the first time a situation that the rest of the world has been dealing with for months, Gazans have been going online to share experiences and voice their concerns.

“We are now alone with Corona, with the blazing sun and the power supply being cut off. Corona came to empty pockets and homes on the brink of sadness and anger,” wrote one Gaza resident on Twitter.

The 40 kilometre-long territory is sealed off from the outside world by Israeli walls, watchtowers and gunboats along 90% of its border and coastline, and by Egypt along a narrow strip to the south.

Both countries impose tight restrictions on movement in and out of Gaza, citing security concerns over Hamas, which is regarded as a terrorist organization by Israel and the United States.

The blockade is thought to be one reason why Gaza remained relatively virus-free, with many of its residents comparing their situation to a permanent lockdown.

The United Nations agency dealing with Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said it was considering alternative plans to continue under lockdown the health, education and food services it provides to more than half Gaza’s population.

UNRWA spokesman Adnan Abu Hasna said clinics remained open but staffers were providing medical consultations over the phone, and some medication was being delivered to homes.

(Additional reporting by Zainah El-Haroun in Ramallah; Writing by Stephen Farrell and Dan Williams; Editing by William Maclean and Hugh Lawson)

Two dead as gunfire erupts at Wisconsin protests over shooting of Black man

By Brendan McDermid and Stephen Maturen

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Two people died and a third was wounded after street protests over the police shooting of a Black man erupted into gun violence late Tuesday and early Wednesday in Kenosha, Wisconsin, police said.

The Lake Michigan city of about 100,000 has been rocked by civil unrest since Sunday, when police shot Jacob Blake, 29, in the back at point-blank range. The incident, captured on video, has reignited protests over racism and police use of force in the United States.

The third straight night of protests, which coincided with the second night of the Republican National Convention, had appeared to turn calm after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters who defied a curfew.

But with a combustible mix of demonstrators still roaming the streets – including self-appointed militias armed with rifles – tensions boiled over shortly before midnight, leading to chaotic scenes of people running and screaming amid a volley of gunfire and others tending to gunshot wounds.

It remained uncertain what prompted the initial gunfire, though it involved a white man with a rifle who wrangled with and fired on other civilians, then walked past several police cars without being arrested, video on social media showed.

The Kenosha protests have drawn mostly peaceful demonstrators under the Black Lives Matter banner, but a range of white and Black people have caused trouble late at night, setting fires, vandalizing public property and bashing vehicles with baseball bats.

The Kenosha Guard, a group identifying itself as a local militia on Facebook, posted a message warning authorities ahead of time they would be present on city streets.

“We are unaware if the armed citizen was answering the Kenosha Guard Militia’s call to arms,” the group later posted on Facebook. “Just like with the shooting of Jacob Blake, we need all the facts and evidence to come out before we make a judgement. God Bless and stay safe Kenosha!”

Democratic Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers deployed 250 members the National Guard to help restore order after the first night of unrest. But U.S. Representative Bryan Steil, a Republican whose district includes Kenosha, said more force was needed.

Republican President Donald Trump had offered to deploy federal law enforcement officers, Steil said.

“Last night the situation went from bad to worse,” Steil said in a statement. “The violence must be stopped.”

Anti-racism protesters also clashed with police in Portland, Oregon, and Louisville, Kentucky, on Tuesday night, part of a wave of national protests that have continued since the May 25 death of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck.

CHAOS ON VIDEO

Social media videos show crowds in Kenosha chasing the gunman down the street after they believed he had shot another man. The gunman falls to the ground where he comes under attack, but he fires a number of rounds, appearing to hit a man in the torso who falls to the ground and seriously wounding another man in the arm.

As the crowd disperses around him, the man walks freely down the street with his hands in the air and rifle hanging in front of him.

Several police vehicles, apparently responding to the mayhem, drive past the man without stopping him. There have been no reports of an arrest.

Kenosha police said in a statement that two people died and a third gunshot victim was taken to a hospital with serious injuries, though he was expected to live. They pleaded for witnesses to come forward, asking for additional video or photos beyond those posted on social media.

Other videos showed a white man who appeared to be shot in the head as several people rushed to his aid, frantically trying to treat his wound and keep him alive.

Yet another video showed a white man with a severe arm wound sitting on the ground and being aided by an armed man as police approached.

BLAKE ‘FIGHTING FOR LIFE’

The protests began in Kenosha, located between Milwaukee and Chicago, on Sunday after video of Jacob Blake’s shooting that afternoon went viral.

After struggling with police, Blake broke free and walked around his SUV to the driver’s side, where he was shot in the back after opening the door. Three of his young sons were in the car, witnesses said.

Blake was hit by four of the seven shots fired and left paralyzed and “fighting for his life,” his family and lawyers said on Tuesday, hours before the latest round of civil unrest broke out in Kenosha.

Blake underwent another round of lengthy surgery on Tuesday to stabilize his spine with rods and screws, and it may take days or weeks to determine the extent of the damage, Patrick Salvi Sr., a lawyer for Blake’s family, told CNN on Wednesday.

Salvi also said Kenosha officials have been “tight-lipped” about their investigation into the shooting, depriving the family of the police officers’ version of what happened.

“Anyone watching that video cannot understand why in God’s name the officer starts shooting at point-blank range at Jacob,” Salvi said. “We’re going to find out.”

The Wisconsin Department of Justice is leading the investigation and has yet to comment.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Trotta, Nathan Layne, Peter Szekely, Susan Heavey, Kanishka Singh and Ann Maria Shibu; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Nick Macfie and Jonathan Oatis)

Wisconsin city center burns amid protests over police shooting of Black man

KENOSHA, Wis. (Reuters) – Arsonists set buildings ablaze and torched much of the Black business district in Kenosha, Wisconsin, during a second night of unrest sparked by the wounding of a Black man shot in the back by police as his three young sons looked on.

Kenosha County Board of Supervisors member Zach Rodriguez said the board would hold an emergency meeting on Tuesday on seeking federal help, such as U.S. Marshals Service officers, to quell the unrest after some 300 rioters set fire to buildings overnight.

“Essentially, our city was burned to the ground, building by building,” he told Reuters. “Enough is enough.”

Smoke billowed over central Kenosha after police in riot gear clashed with protesters as they defied a dusk-to-dawn curfew on Monday night and Tuesday morning, near where police gunned down Jacob Blake on Sunday.

Blake, 29, remained in intensive care following surgery and would require more operations, civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who represents the Blake family, told ABC News on Tuesday. Blake’s father told the Chicago Sun-Times his son was paralyzed from the waist down.

Video shows Blake walking toward the driver’s side door of his car, away from two officers who were pointing guns to his back. After he opens the door, seven shots ring out with one of the officers tugging at his shirt. It remains unknown what the officers may have seen inside Blake’s car.

But the incident, the latest in a litany of cases to focus attention on police treatment of African Americans, unleashed outrage in the lakefront city of Kenosha, located north of Chicago and south of Milwaukee.

The shooting occurred three months after the death of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who was pinned to the street under the knee of a white police officer, sparking nationwide protests against police brutality and racism.

Unrest flared again elsewhere in the United States with overnight clashes reported in Portland, Seattle and Minneapolis, while in New York City a group of marchers swarmed the Brooklyn Bridge, social media video showed.

Portland, Oregon, has been the scene of weeks of protests following Floyd’s death that have sometimes turned violent. Police there once again declared a riot late on Monday and arrested several demonstrators after fires were lit at the offices of a police union.

Seattle police said demonstrators set multiple buildings on fire, resulting in at least one arrest and one officer injured.

In Minneapolis, protesters including one man armed with a long gun stopped an armored police vehicle in the street until officers cleared the way with tear gas.

Basketball star LeBron James, who has emerged as a national leader on issues of race, lent his voice to the protests, telling reporters covering the NBA playoffs that “we are scared as Black people in America. … We are terrified.”

“Why does it always have to get to a point where we see the guns firing,” said James, adding he believed police had ample opportunity to subdue Blake.

FIRES, BASEBALL BATS

Black Lives Matter activists are demanding the immediate firing or arrest of the Kenosha officers, who have been placed on administrative leave.

Hours into the curfew, the mostly peaceful demonstration turned violent with some protesters setting off fireworks in front of police. Commercial and government buildings were set ablaze, along with vehicles in car dealership lots.

Local police who had support from National Guard troops fired tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs to disperse the crowd, which grew to several hundred, according to protester Porche Bennett, 31, of Kenosha.

Fires destroyed much of the Black business district, Bennett said, adding that the instigators she saw were white.

“It’s people from out of town doing this. We’ve been shopping there since we were kids and they set it on fire,” Bennett said.

Social media images showed both white and Black agitators. Black men swinging baseball bats broke traffic signals and street lamps. White and Black men with bats bashed in the headlights and windshields of a row of cars.

One white man riding a skateboard doused a government truck with an accelerant and set it on fire. Heavily armed white civilians stood guard in front of one business to protect it from vandals.

Kenosha, a city of 100,000 people, is nearly 12 percent Black and about 67 percent white, according to U.S. Census data.

At least one man was injured, shown on social media bleeding from the head as civilians administered aid.

(Reporting by Stephen Maturen in Kenosha, Wis.; Additional reporting by Nathan Layne, Daniel Trotta, Kanishka Singh and Trevor Hunnicutt; Writing by Steve Gorman and Daniel Trotta; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Chizu Nomiyama)

Global coronavirus cases hit 20 million: Reuters tally

By Gayle Issa

(Reuters) – Global coronavirus cases pushed past 20 million on Monday, according to a Reuters tally, with the United States, Brazil and India accounting for more than half of all known infections.

The respiratory disease has infected at least four times the average number of people struck down with severe influenza illnesses annually, according to the World Health Organization.

The death toll from COVID-19, meanwhile, at more than 728,000 has outpaced the upper range of annual deaths from the flu.

The Reuters tally, which is based on government reports, shows the disease is accelerating. It took almost six months to reach 10 million cases after the first infection was reported in Wuhan, China, in early January. It took just 43 days to double that tally to 20 million.

Experts believe the official data likely under counts both infections and deaths, particularly in countries with limited testing capacity.

The United States is responsible for around 5 million cases, Brazil 3 million and India 2 million. Russia and South Africa round out the top ten.

The pandemic is accelerating fastest in Latin America which accounts for almost 28% of the world’s cases and more than 30% of deaths, according to the Reuters tally.

With the first wave of the virus yet to peak in some countries and a resurgence of cases in others, governments are still divided in their responses. Some countries are reintroducing strict public health measures, while others continue to relax restrictions.

Health experts expect dilemmas about how to proceed with school, work and social life to last – and restrictions to fluctuate – until a vaccine is available.

The vaccine race has more than 150 candidates being developed and tested around the world with 25 in human clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization.

In the United States, children began returning to their classrooms last week, even as controversy over school safety swirled.

Britain has added both Spain and Belgium to a list of countries from which returning travelers must quarantine at home for 14 days because of fresh upticks in some European locations.

In Asia, China continues to squash surges using strict, local lockdowns, bringing its daily numbers down into the low double digits on the mainland.

Australia has introduced a strict lockdown and night curfew in the city of Melbourne, aiming to stifle an outbreak there. Neighboring New Zealand, where life has largely returned to normal, on the weekend recorded 100 days with no new cases of local transmission.

(Reporting by Gayle Issa; editing by Jane Wardell)