Teenager charged with killing two in Kenosha to fight extradition, lawyer says

By Nathan Layne

(Reuters) – Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager charged with killing two protesters and injuring another during demonstrations about race and justice in Kenosha, Wisconsin, will fight his requested extradition from Illinois, his lawyer told a court hearing on Friday.

Rittenhouse, 17, has been charged by Kenosha County’s district attorney with six crimes for shooting three people who tried to subdue or disarm him during protests on Aug. 25, killing 36-year-old Joseph Rosenbaum and Anthony Huber, 26.

Rittenhouse participated in the hearing at the Lake County Circuit Court in Illinois via video link from the detention facility where he is being held. He was wearing a black sweatshirt and a gray mask covered his face.

“Good morning, your honor,” he addressed the judge in his only remarks in the hearing, which lasted just a few minutes.

John Pierce, one of Rittenhouse’s lawyers, said he planned to fight the request by Kenosha prosecutors that he be transferred to Wisconsin to face the charges.

“We intend to challenge extradition by writ of habeas corpus,” Pierce said. “And so we would ask that the procedures be put in place whereby extradition documents are in fact sent from Wisconsin so we can review them.”

The teenager had traveled to Kenosha on Aug. 25 from his home in nearby Antioch, Illinois, in a self-appointed role to protect the streets of Kenosha where the police shooting of Jacob Blake had sparked unrest during protests against police brutality and racism.

Rittenhouse’s legal team have said that he feared for his life when he fired his semi-automatic rifle and was acting in self-defense. Cellphone videos from the night show chaotic scenes, including one where Rittenhouse is chased and falls down before his encounter with Huber and another man, Gaige Grosskreutz.

Huber appeared to hit Rittenhouse in the shoulder with a skateboard and tried to grab his rifle before being shot, according to the criminal complaint. Rittenhouse then pointed the rifle at Grosskreutz, who had a hand gun. Grosskreutz was shot but survived.

Rittenhouse’s lawyers have also sought to portray the case as a referendum on the right to bear arms following a summer of sometimes violent protests in major U.S. cities.

“A 17-year-old American citizen is being sacrificed by politicians, but it’s not Kyle Rittenhouse they are after,” the narrator says in a video released this week by a group tied to his legal team. “Their end game is to strip away the constitutional right of all citizens to defend our communities.”

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Leslie Adler and Alistair Bell)

Emotional Louisville braces for more unrest after Breonna Taylor ruling

By Bryan Woolston

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) – Louisville braced for a second night of protests on Thursday after two police officers were shot during demonstrations over a decision by a grand jury not to file homicide charges against police in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor.

Protests erupted in the Kentucky city on Wednesday after the state attorney general announced that a grand jury did not bring any charges for the six police bullets that struck Taylor, a Black woman, but instead lesser charges against one of the white policemen for stray shots that hit the neighboring apartment.

Civil rights activists decried the outcome as a miscarriage of justice and part of a nationwide pattern of unwarranted police violence against minorities.

The demonstration started peacefully and emotionally on Wednesday night, with many protesters in tears after they had mourned Taylor for months, demanding the arrest of the officers involved.

Louisville turned violent after dark when the two officers were shot and wounded. Police arrested 127 people in Louisville, including Larynzo Johnson, 26, who was charged with two counts of assault in the first degree and 14 counts of wanton endangerment in connection with the wounding of the two officers.

“We are extremely fortunate these two officers will recover,” interim Louisville Metropolitan Police Chief Robert Schroeder said.

“For all of us it is a very tense and emotional time,” he added.

The Louisville protest was the latest in a wave to grip the country following the killings of African Americans by police, including the May 25 death of George Floyd when a Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck.

Demonstrators led by the Black Lives Matter movement have demanded an end to racial injustice and excessive police force.

With people already casting ballots in early voting for the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election, the demonstrations have drawn not only peaceful anti-racism protests but also a volatile mix of armed, right-wing militias and anarchists.

On Wednesday, protests also flared in New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, Oakland, Philadelphia, Denver, Portland and Seattle, where police said 13 were arrested for property destruction, resisting arrest, failure to disperse and assault on an officer.

In Buffalo, New York, a pickup truck sped into a group of demonstrators, injuring one person, video on social media showed.

GIRDING FOR UNREST

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer declared a state of emergency ahead of the grand jury announcement, ordering much of the center of town barricaded and setting a 9 p.m. curfew that remained in effect on Thursday.

National Guard units gathered in a central Louisville parking garage and a heavy vehicle known as a wrecker was seen driving into town, social media images showed.

“Tonight I expect more people to hit the streets. I expect the police to continue to antagonize and provoke. Hopefully and prayerfully, no one gets hurt tonight,” said Timothy Findley Jr., 41, a leader of the Justice & Freedom Coalition and a pastor with the Kingdom Fellowship Christian Life Center in Louisville.

Police said some protesters damaged businesses, jumped on a police vehicle, vandalized public works trucks serving as barricades, set garbage cans on fire and defied orders to disperse from what police determined were unlawful assemblies.

At least three stores were looted, police said.

Taylor’s death on March 13 drew little national attention at first but was thrust into prominence after Floyd’s death and with the help of celebrities such as Hollywood stars and basketball great LeBron James.

Demonstrations under the banner “Say her name!” have been held in Louisville for months.

Taylor, 26, an emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse, was killed in front of her armed boyfriend after the three officers forced their way into her home with a search warrant in a drug-trafficking investigation.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the panel declined to bring any charges against two of the three policemen who fired into Taylor’s apartment because their actions were found to have been justified under Kentucky law as they returned fire after Taylor’s boyfriend shot at them, wounding one.

Police fired a total of 32 shots after the one round from Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who said he fired a warning shot because he feared a criminal intrusion and did not hear police identify themselves.

(Reporting by Bryan Woolston in Louisville; Additional reporting by Peter Szekely, Nathan Layne, Maria Caspani and Daniel Trotta; Writing by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Alistair Bell and Cynthia Osterman)

Two police officers shot amid Louisville protests over Breonna Taylor ruling

By Bryan Woolston and Jonathan Allen

LOUISVILLE, Kentucky (Reuters) – Two police officers were shot and wounded late on Wednesday in Louisville, Kentucky, during protests of a grand jury ruling decried by civil rights activists as a miscarriage of justice in the fatal police shooting of Breonna Taylor in March.

The grand jury decided that none of the three white officers involved in the deadly police raid on Taylor’s apartment would be charged for causing her death, though one officer was indicted on charges of endangering her neighbors.

The indictment came more than six months after Taylor, 26, a Black emergency medical technician and aspiring nurse, was killed in front of her armed boyfriend after the three officers forced their way into her home with a search warrant in a drug trafficking investigation.

Her death became a symbol, and her image a familiar sight, during months of daily protests against racial injustice and police brutality in cities across the United States. Last month media mogul Oprah Winfrey featured Taylor on the cover of her magazine calling for prosecution of the officers involved in her slaying.

Following the grand jury announcement, protesters immediately took to the streets of Kentucky’s largest city and marched for hours chanting, “No lives matter until Black lives matter,” amid sporadic clashes with police in riot gear.

The demonstrations remained mostly peaceful until several gunshots rang out as heavily armed police closed in on a throng of protesters at nightfall, ordering the crowd to disperse about a half hour before a 9 p.m. curfew was due to go into effect.

A Reuters journalist on the scene heard gunfire erupt from the crowd moments after police had fired chemical irritants and “flash-bang” rounds.

Two officers were shot and wounded, interim Louisville Metropolitan Police chief Robert Schroeder told reporters.

One suspect was arrested, and the two wounded officers were in stable condition – one undergoing surgery – with non-life-threatening injuries, Schroeder said. He gave no further details.

Earlier in the day about a dozen people were arrested in a skirmish between hundreds of demonstrators and a group of law enforcement officers in the Highlands neighborhood just outside downtown Louisville. Some windows of nearby businesses were also broken. The crowds largely dissipated after Wednesday night’s shooting. Police said at least 46 arrests were made in all.

Sympathy protests of varying sizes also were held in several other cities on Wednesday, including New York, Washington, Atlanta, and Chicago.

‘GUT-WRENCHING’ CASE

In announcing the grand jury’s conclusions, Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron said the panel had declined to bring any charges whatsoever against two of the three white policemen who fired into Taylor’s apartment on March 13.

The two officers, Sergeant Jonathan Mattingly and Detective Myles Cosgrove, were found to have been justified under Kentucky law in returning fire after Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, shot at them, wounding Mattingly in the thigh, Cameron said.

Walker has contended he believed intruders were breaking into Taylor’s home and that the couple did not hear police announce their arrival, contrary to the account of the officers and a neighbor.

The third officer, former Detective Brett Hankison, was indicted on three counts of wanton endangerment in the first degree, an offense that ranks at the lowest level of felony crimes in Kentucky and carries a prison sentence of up to five years.

Cameron said those three counts stem from the fact that some of the rounds Hankison fired – 10 in all – traveled through Taylor’s apartment into an adjacent unit where a man, a pregnant woman and a child were at home.

Cameron, however, said there was “no conclusive” evidence that any of Hankison’s bullets struck Taylor.

Six bullets struck Taylor, he said, and ballistics investigators found only one shot, fired by Cosgrove, was fatal, Cameron said.

“There is no doubt that this is a gut-wrenching, emotional case,” Cameron, a Black Republican, said at a news conference.

Benjamin Crump, a prominent civil rights lawyer representing the Taylor family, denounced the outcome of the grand jury probe, saying it was “outrageous” that none of the three officers involved in the raid was criminally charged with causing Taylor’s death.

Governor Andy Beshear called on Cameron to release all evidence from the investigation to benefit the public’s understanding of the case. “Those feeling frustration, hurt – they deserve to know more,” he said.

Addressing a separate news conference, Mayor Greg Fischer said the U.S. Justice Department was still investigating whether federal laws were broken in connection with Taylor’s death, including possible civil rights violations, while a broader police inquiry remained under way.

“It’s clear that there are policies and procedures that needed to be changed, because Breonna Taylor should still be alive,” he said. “Let’s turn to each other, not on each other, at this moment of opportunity.”

The police chief fired Hankison in June, finding he had “displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life” when he “wantonly and blindly fired” into Taylor’s home. Mattingly and Cosgrove were reassigned to administrative duties.

Louisville has agreed to pay $12 million to Taylor’s family to settle a wrongful-death lawsuit, Fischer announced earlier this month. He said the settlement was intended to “begin the healing process.”

“We do not need to wait for the final judgment of that investigation to do more to deliver justice for Breonna,” he added.

(Reporting by Bryan Woolston in Louisville, Rich McKay in Atlanta, Nathan Layne in Westport, Connecticut, Makini Brice in Washington, Brendan O’Brien in Chicago, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas; Writing by Jonathan Allen and Steve Gorman; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry)

A ghostly downtown Louisville braces for Breonna Taylor grand jury decision

By Bryan Woolston and Jonathan Allen

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Reuters) – The police department in Louisville, Kentucky, was restricting vehicle access downtown on Tuesday ahead of an expected decision by a grand jury on whether to indict the police officers involved in killing Breonna Taylor, a Black medical worker, in a botched raid.

Although the timing of any decision remains unclear, on Tuesday morning courthouses, offices and restaurants were already boarded up in the mostly deserted blocks around the city’s Jefferson Square Park, the site of regular demonstrations by people protesting police brutality against Black people.

Concrete barriers ringed the area, with a handful of checkpoints manned by police who would only allow people with essential business to drive downtown. Pedestrians were free to walk the streets, but few did.

Taylor, 26, was killed shortly after midnight on March 13 when three plainclothes officers used a battering ram to force their way in to her Louisville home with a so-called no knock warrant. Fearing intruders, her boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, fired a gun. The three officers fired their guns, striking Taylor five times.

Taylor’s death, alongside that of George Floyd, a Black man who died in May after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck, helped spark a nationwide wave of protests demanding racial justice and an end to the use of excessive force by law enforcement.

The Louisville Metro Police Department on Tuesday declared a state of emergency for its staff, cancelling days off and suspending some overtime pay agreements, according to a memo by Robert Schroeder, the interim police chief, published by local media.

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, a Black Republican, has said his investigation into Taylor’s death is ongoing, but has declined to confirm media reports that he is convening a grand jury to vote on whether to bring criminal charges against the officers.

Mayor Greg Fischer, a white Democrat, said his office does not know when a decision will come down or what it will be, but said in a statement on Tuesday the traffic restrictions were to “keep everyone safe.”

“Our goal with these steps is ensuring space and opportunity for potential protesters to gather and express their First Amendment rights,” his statement said.

The city’s main federal courthouse has also been closed all week in an order by Chief Judge Greg Stivers of the Western District of Kentucky.

(Reporting by Bryan Woolston in Louisville, Ky., and Jonathan Allen in New York; Editing by Matthew Lewis)

Portland police arrest 11 after overnight protests

(Reuters) – Police arrested 11 people in Portland as protests continued to take place after 100 days of demonstrations in the Oregon city against racism and police brutality.

Tuesday night, a group began gathering at the site of the Saturday Market and marched in the street to the area of Transit Police Department offices, the police said in a statement.

As the crowd arrived, some stood on the train rails, which interfered with trains getting through the area. Other members of the group stood in the street, blocking vehicular traffic, the police added.

The police said they ordered the demonstrators to disperse. Some adhered while others continued to march around in the streets and threw projectiles such as eggs and water bottles toward officers.

Portland police said they used some munitions to control the crowd but no CS gas, the main component of tear gas.

The police did not mention any injuries but said they made 11 arrests on charges such as interfering with a peace officer, disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and attempting escape.

Portland has seen nightly protests for over three months that have at times turned into violent clashes between demonstrators and officers, as well as between right- and left-wing groups.

Demonstrations erupted around the United States following the death in May of George Floyd, a Black man, after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

(Reporting by Rama Venkat in Bengaluru; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

Man shot in New Mexico protest over conquistador sculpture

(Reuters) – A man was shot and wounded on Monday during a protest near a museum in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico, police said, where demonstrators were reported to be trying to tear down a sculpture of a 16th-century Spanish conquistador.

“The victim is reported to be in critical but stable condition,” the Albuquerque Police Department (APD) said in a tweet, adding that the incident had ended.

The Albuquerque Journal newspaper reported that the shooting erupted during a clash between protesters trying to pull down a statue of Juan de Onate and several heavily armed members of a civilian militia group called the New Mexico Civil Guard.

Police chief of Albuquerque, Michael Geier, said in a statement that police were receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating the violence.

The confrontation occurred outside the Albuquerque Museum in the heart of the city’s Old Town district.

According to the Journal’s account, one man involved in a physical altercation with the protesters appeared to draw a gun and fire five shots after he was pushed onto the street, sending members of the crowd scurrying for cover as one person yelled, “Somebody got shot.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is currently assisting APD violent crime investigators as they interview individuals who were involved in the shooting, the tweet said.

“Police used chemical irritants and flash bangs to protect officers and detain individuals involved in the shooting. The individuals were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning.”

Video footage posted to social media from the scene appeared to show one man lying on the ground as several other people tried to render assistance. A separate clip showed three men lying face down and spread eagle on the pavement as police in riot gear stood over them, apparently making arrests. Another officer appeared to be on the ground as well.

Anti-racism protesters venting anger over last month’s death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis, have taken to destroying statutes honoring the U.S. Civil War’s Confederacy, as well as sculptures of imperialists, conquistadors and other historical figures associated with the subjugation of indigenous populations around the world.

The statue at the center of Monday’s protest in Albuquerque is part of a controversial sculpture called “La Jornada,” which depicts Onate, known for the 1599 massacre of a pueblo tribe, leading a group of Spanish settlers into what is now New Mexico.

(Reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Additonal reporting by Aishwarya Nair in Bengaluru; Editing by Michael Perry)

George Floyd to be buried Tuesday as global anti-racism protests spread

By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) – George Floyd will be buried in Houston on Tuesday two weeks after his death while being held by police in a Minneapolis street, and more anti-racism rallies inspired by his treatment were set to take place in the United States and in Europe.

Thousands of mourners paid their respects on Monday, filing past his open coffin at the Fountain of Praise Church in Houston, Texas, where Floyd grew up.

Some mourners bowed their heads, others made the sign of the cross or raised a fist. Many wore face masks to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in a service that lasted more than six hours. The funeral will be a private ceremony and he will buried next to his mother’s grave.

“I’m glad he got the send-off he deserved,” Marcus Williams, a 46-year-old black resident of Houston, said outside. “I want the police killings to stop. I want them to reform the process to achieve justice, and stop the killing.”

Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died on May 25 after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Unarmed and handcuffed, he lay face down in the street, gasping for air and groaning for help before falling silent, footage filmed by a bystander showed.

His death unleashed a surge of protests across the U.S. cities against racism and the systematic mistreatment of black people.

Though mostly peaceful, there have been episodes of arson, looting and clashes with police, whose often heavy-handed tactics have fueled the rage.

The case also thrust President Donald Trump into a political crisis. He has repeatedly threatened to order the military on to the streets to restore order and has struggled to unite the nation.

People stand in front of a makeshift memorial as protesters rally against racial inequality and the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Seattle, Washington, U.S. June 8, 2020. REUTERS/Jason Redmond

The demonstrations have reinvigorated the Black Lives Matter movement and raised demands for racial justice and police reforms to the top of the political agenda ahead of the Nov. 3 presidential election.

“I’m here to protest the mistreatment of our black bodies. It’s not going to stop unless we keep protesting,” said Erica Corley, 34, one of the hundreds attending a gathering in the Washington suburb of Silver Spring, Maryland.

AROUND THE WORLD

Floyd’s death triggered protests across the globe, particularly in countries with a history of colonialism and involvement in the slave trade.

In Britain, thousands of people of all races rallied in several cities over the weekend. In the port city of Bristol, the statue of Edward Colston, who made a fortune in the 17th century from trading African slaves, was pulled down and dumped in the harbor.

A protest is scheduled for Tuesday night at Oxford University to demand the removal of a statue of Cecil Rhodes, a 19th-century businessman in southern Africa long accused of imperialist exploitation.

Mayor Sadiq Khan ordered a review of London statues and street names which largely reflect Britain’s empire in the reign of Queen Victoria.

“It is an uncomfortable truth that our nation and city owes a large part of its wealth to its role in the slave trade and while this is reflected in our public realm, the contribution of many of our communities to life in our capital has been wilfully ignored,” Khan said.

The British parliament held a minute’s silence at 11 a.m. to mark Floyd’s death.

In France, the family of a black Frenchman who died in police custody called for a nationwide protest on Saturday and spurned a government offer of talks.

Adama Traore died in July 2016 after three police officers used their weight to restrain him. His family and supporters have demanded that the officers involved be held to account. No one has been charged.

Thousands of people marched in Paris last Saturday to mark Traore’s death and in solidarity with the U.S. protesters.

MURDER CHARGE

Derek Chauvin, 44, the policeman who knelt on Floyd’s neck and is charged with second-degree murder, made his first court appearance in Minneapolis by video link on Monday. A judge ordered his bail raised from $1 million to $1.25 million.

Chauvin’s co-defendants, three fellow officers, are accused of aiding and abetting Floyd’s murder. All four were dismissed from the police department the day after Floyd’s death.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden met with Floyd’s relatives for more than an hour in Houston on Monday.

“He listened, heard their pain and shared in their woe,” family lawyer Benjamin Crump said. “That compassion meant the world to this grieving family.”

In Washington, Democrats in Congress announced legislation to make lynching a federal hate crime and to allow victims of police misconduct and their families to sue law enforcement for damages in civil court, ending a legal doctrine known as qualified immunity.

Trump resisted calls to defund police departments, saying 99% of police were “great, great people”.

In Richmond, Virginia, a judge issued a 10-day injunction blocking plans by the state governor to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba and Gary McWilliams in Houston, David Morgan and Susan Heavey in Washington, Andrea Shalal in Silver Spring, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Brad Brooks in Austin, Guy Faulconbridge in London, and Lucine Libert in Paris, Writing by Angus MacSwan; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Minneapolis city council pledges to disband police

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Minneapolis city council members pledged to abolish the police force whose officer knelt on the neck of a dying George Floyd, as the biggest civil rights protests in more than 50 years demanded a transformation of U.S. criminal justice.

Demonstrations have swept a country slowly emerging from the coronavirus lockdown in the two weeks since Floyd, an unarmed black man, 46, died after choking out the words “I can’t breathe” under the knee of a white police officer.

Trump said on Twitter he ordered the National Guard to start withdrawing from Washington D.C. “now that everything is under perfect control”.

Though there was violence in the early days, the protests have lately been overwhelmingly peaceful. They have deepened a political crisis for President Donald Trump, who repeatedly threatened to order active-duty troops onto the streets.

Huge weekend crowds gathered across the country and in Europe. The high-spirited atmosphere was marred late on Sunday when a man drove a car into a rally in Seattle and then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him.

“I have cops in my family, I do believe in a police presence,” said Nikky Williams, a black Air Force veteran who marched in Washington on Sunday. “But I do think that reform has got to happen.”

The prospect that Minneapolis could abolish its police force altogether would have seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago. Nine members of the 13-person city council pledged on Sunday to do away with the police department in favor of a community-led safety model, though they provided little detail.

“A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we’re going to end the current policing system,” Alondra Cano, a member of the Minneapolis council, said on Twitter.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters he would shift some funds out of the city’s vast police budget and reallocate it to youth and social services. He said he would take enforcement of rules on street vending out of the hands of police, accused of using the regulations to harass minorities.

Curfews were removed in New York and other major cities including Philadelphia and Chicago.

 

In the nation’s capital, a large and diverse gathering of protesters had packed streets near the White House, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” and “I can’t breathe.”

A newly-erected fence around the White House was decorated by protesters with signs, including some that read: “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.”

The “Black Lives Matter” protest slogan was also embraced on Sunday by Trump’s predecessor as Republican candidate for president, Senator Mitt Romney, who marched alongside evangelical Christians in Washington.

Romney told the Washington Post that he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter”.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama also addressed the protests in a YouTube speech for 2020 high school and college graduates. The demonstrations “speak to decades of inaction over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system,” Obama said.

“You don’t have to accept what was considered normal before,” he told the graduates. “You don’t have to accept the world as it is. You can make it the world as it should be.”

 

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Andrea Shalal, Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, and Jonathan Allen and Sinead Carew in New York, and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Writing by Peter Graff, Brad Brooks and Lincoln Feast; Editing by Frank McGurty, Peter Cooney, Raju Gopalakrishnan and Nick Tattersall)

Emboldened protesters march again, demanding police reforms after Floyd killing

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A mounting wave of protests demanding police reform after the killing of a black man in Minneapolis swept across the United States on Sunday, building on the momentum of huge demonstrations across the country the day before.

In response, a majority of city council members in Minneapolis pledged to abolish the police department, though how they would navigate that long, complex undertaking was not yet known.

In some of the largest protests yet seen across the United States, a near-festive tone prevailed over the weekend. Most unfolded with no major violence, in sharp contrast to heated clashes between marchers and police in previous days.

The outpouring of protests followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after being pinned by the neck for nine minutes by a white officer’s knee. A bystander’s cellphone captured the scene as Floyd pleaded with the officer, choking out the words “I can’t breathe.”

“I have cops in my family, I do believe in a police presence,” said Nikky Williams, a black Air Force veteran who marched in Washington on Sunday. “But I do think that reform has got to happen.”

The change in the tenor of the demonstrations this weekend may reflect a sense that the demands of protesters for sweeping police reform were resonating in many strata of American society.

Nine members of the 13-person Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to do away with the police department in favor of a community-led safety model, a step that would have seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago.

“A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we’re going to end the current policing system,” Alondra Cano, a member of the Minneapolis council, said on Twitter.

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender told CNN “the idea of having no police department is certainly not in the short term.”

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a series of reforms he said were designed to build trust between city residents and the police department.

De Blasio told reporters he would shift an unspecified amount of money out of the police budget and reallocate it to youth and social services in communities of color.

He said he would also take enforcement of rules on street vending out of the hands of police, who have been accused of using the regulations to harass minority communities.

Curfews were removed in New York and other major cities including Philadelphia and Chicago.

TALKING REFORM

In the nation’s capital, a large and diverse gathering of protesters packed streets near the White House, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” and “I can’t breathe.”

A newly erected fence around the White House was decorated by protesters with signs, including some that read: “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.”

Republican Senator Mitt Romney marched alongside evangelical Christians in Washington on Sunday, telling the Washington Post that he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”

A common theme of weekend rallies was a determination to transform outrage over Floyd’s death last month into a broader movement seeking far-reaching reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system and its treatment of minorities.

The intensity of protests over the past week began to ebb on Wednesday after prosecutors in Minneapolis arrested all four police officers implicated in Floyd’s death. Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneed Floyd, was charged with second-degree murder.

Demonstrators raise their fists as they take a knee for 8 minutes 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd was held down with a knee on his neck by a Minneapolis Police officer, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Still, anger in Minneapolis remained intense. The city’s mayor ran a gauntlet of jeering protesters on Saturday after telling them he opposed their demands for defunding the city police department.

The renewed calls for racial equality are breaking out across the country as the United States reopens after weeks of unprecedented lockdowns for the coronavirus pandemic and just five months before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

U.S. Democrats have largely embraced the activists packing into streets to decry the killings of black men and women by law enforcement, but have so far expressed wariness at protesters’ calls to defund the police.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama said in a YouTube commencement address for 2020 graduates that the protests roiling America right now “speak to decades of inaction over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system.”

For a graphic on Floyd’s death sparks worldwide protests:

 

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Andrea Shalal, Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, and Jonathan Allen and Sinead Carew in New York, and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Frank McGurty, Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast)

Three white men to face Georgia judge in death of black jogger

By Rich McKay

ATLANTA (Reuters) – Three white men charged with the murder of an unarmed black man in Georgia will face a judge Thursday morning in a case that caused a national outcry after cellphone video of the shooting was leaked on social media.

Protests are expected outside the courthouse after more than a week of demonstrations across the United States over the death of George Floyd, a black American who was pinned down to the ground by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

In the case in Georgia, the three men were not charged until more than two months after Ahmaud Arbery, 25, was shot dead while running on Feb. 23.

State police stepped in to investigate after the video was widely seen and Glynn County police took no action, and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) pressed charges.

A former police officer is accused of involvement in Arbery’s death in the coastal community of Brunswick, and state officials have called in the National Guard to assist with the crowds expected outside the courthouse.

Glynn County Magistrate Judge Wallace Harrell who will review whether or not the GBI had probable cause to bring the charges.

Former police officer Gregory McMichael, 64, and his son Travis McMichael, 34, are charged with murder and aggravated assault.

William “Roddie” Bryan, a neighbor of the McMichaels who took the cellphone video, was charged with felony murder and attempt to illegally detain and confine.

Police say Gregory McMichael saw Arbery running in his neighborhood just outside Brunswick and believed he looked like a burglary suspect. The elder McMichael called his son and the two armed themselves and gave chase in a pickup truck, police said.

Bryan’s video footage appears to show the McMichaels confronting Arbery before Arbery was shot with a shotgun.

The U.S. Department of Justice is also investigating the case as a possible federal hate crime. The GBI is investigating the police department and two local district attorneys offices over the handling of the case.

If convicted, the three men face life in prison or the death penalty.

(Reporting by Rich McKay; Editing by Timothy Heritage)