U.S. civil rights groups protest ‘out-of-touch’ Justice Department police commission

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Prominent U.S. civil rights groups are refusing to appear before a Justice Department law enforcement commission set up to recommend ways to increase respect for police and reduce crime, calling it out of touch with public anger over policing.

The Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement and the Administration of Justice was established in January, before the latest wave of mass protests over police use of force against Black Americans set off by the May killing of George Floyd.

Its mission statement did not mention racial disparities in criminal justice or address excessive use of force by police, and unlike a similar Obama administration commission, its members represent only federal, state and local law enforcement, with no civil rights advocates, defense attorneys or even big-city police departments taking part.

Civil rights leaders told Reuters they only received invitations to testify after the NAACP Legal Defense Fund sued the commission in April, contending it was violating federal open-meeting laws and lacked diverse viewpoints. That case is pending, and the Justice Department has asked a federal judge to have it dismissed.

“It is so completely out of touch with what is happening,” said Kanya Bennett, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union.

After the protests over Floyd’s death began, the commission held some hearings about the excessive use of force and community policing, but they were announced with little advanced warning and were closed to the public. President Donald Trump has struck a strict “law-and-order” tone in his response to the protests.

A Justice Department spokeswoman said the commission would be addressing the issues outlined in a police reform executive order signed by Trump in June including “accreditation and how to assist law enforcement and communities in their response to homelessness, addiction and mental health.”

The commission is expected to release a report in October offering recommendations for decreasing crime, addressing mental health and homelessness issues, and promoting respect for police officers.

‘SHAM COMMISSION’

U.S. civil rights groups including the ACLU have refused to attend the hearings, submitting only written testimony.

“The ACLU is not going to participate in a sham commission that was formed for the sole purpose of promoting a ‘blue lives matter’ narrative,” Bennett said.

Commission Chairman Phil Keith said at a June meeting that of the nearly 30 civil rights and other advocacy groups invited to testify, only a handful accepted, including the North Carolina-based Racial Equity Institute and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

Deena Hayes-Greene, a co-founder of the Racial Equity Institute, said she learned other groups had declined invitations at the meeting she attended. Norman Reimer, executive director of the NACDL, said he was cynical about the commission but thought it was important to express his group’s views.

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund said it had not received an invitation to participate.

The commission “fails to consider … the long and fraught history of police community relations, especially in Black and brown communities and the nexus between unconstitutional policing and the violations of civil rights,” said Sakira Cook, director of the justice reform program with the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Peter Cooney)

Ex-officers in George Floyd case may seek venue change, raising questions of bias

By Tom Hals

(Reuters) – The former Minneapolis police officers charged in the death of George Floyd will likely seek to relocate their trials in hopes of finding sympathetic jurors, but legal experts said doing so could reinforce claims of systemic racism in the justice system.

While trials are rarely moved in Minnesota, legal experts said the Floyd cases might be exceptions because the Minneapolis police chief and other officials spoke publicly about the episode and called Floyd’s death a murder, a departure from norms that defendants may argue prejudiced jurors.

A video of the May arrest and death of Floyd, who was Black, showed officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he went lifeless, sparking protests globally and igniting a national discussion on race.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, and the three other former officers, who are white, Black and Asian American, are charged with aiding Chauvin.

In addition, while it might be hard to find jurors anywhere who have not seen the video, demonstrations in Minneapolis against police brutality could arguably intimidate local jurors, experts said.

In a Minneapolis court on Monday, Hennepin County District Court Judge Peter Cahill said he might consider in September arguments to move the case, which goes to trial in March. If the cases were moved, the new venue would be another Minnesota county as the charges are under state law.

In several high-profile, racially charged cases in the past juries were more lenient with defendants of the same race as the majority of jurors.

“If you go to a less diverse place, what that would mean for the diversity of the jury pool and the question of bias?” asked Justin Hansford, director of the Thurgood Marshall Civil Rights Center and professor at Howard University School of Law.

When defense attorneys have convinced judges to move trials from the jurisdictions of the crimes, those rare cases usually were marked by frenzied media coverage that judges agreed made finding an impartial local jury impossible.

Former football star O.J. Simpson, who is Black, was acquitted on double murder charges in 1995 by a downtown Los Angeles jury, comprised of nine Blacks, two whites, and one Hispanic person, after the case was moved from nearby Santa Monica, where the crime occurred and the population is majority white.

“The (OJ) Simpson case teaches us that venue can be the difference between an acquittal and a conviction,” said defense attorney Brian McMonagle, who defended comedian Bill Cosby in his first sexual assault trial.

Earl Gray, a lawyer for Thomas Lane, one of the former officers charged in Floyd’s death, told Reuters that if Minneapolis officials continued to describe the case as a murder he expected the judge to move the trial.

Lawyers for the other officers and the Minnesota attorney general who is prosecuting the case declined to comment or did not respond to a request for comment.

“They have got to get this moved,” said Paul Applebaum, a Minnesota attorney, referring to the defense team. He said if they get a jury with mostly minority jurors, “they are cooked.”

While ordering a new venue may be necessary to protect the defendants’ rights of due process and impartial jury, moving trials involving police defendants to less diverse areas has stirred allegations of injustice in the past.

Four white New York City police officers were charged in the 1999 death of Amadou Diallo, a Black man. The shooting touched off days of protests.

The trial was moved to Albany County, New York by an appellate court that ruled Bronx jurors would be “under enormous pressure to reach the verdict demanded by public opinion.”

The officers were acquitted by a jury of four Blacks and eight whites. Albany County is almost three-quarters white while whites and Blacks are about equal in Bronx County, both around 44% of the population.

The 1992 trial of four Los Angeles police officers accused of using excessive force in the arrest of Black motorist Rodney King, which like Floyd’s arrest was caught on video, was moved to suburban Ventura County from Los Angeles.

None were found guilty by the mostly white jury, sparking widespread protests.

(Reporting by Tom Hals in Wilmington, Delaware; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death to appear in court

(Reuters) – The former Minneapolis police officer charged with the May 25 killing of George Floyd, and three other former officers charged in the case are expected to appear in court on Monday.

Derek Chauvin, 44, was arrested on May 29, four days after he pinned his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, causing his death. He is facing a second-degree murder charge.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane, have been charged with aiding and abetting in the case. None of the officers have entered a plea.

Bail for Chauvin was set at $1.25 million or $1 million under certain conditions, while bail for the other three officers was set at $1 million each or $750,000 under certain conditions.

Chauvin and Thao, 34, remain in custody, while Kueng, 26, and Lane, 37, have been released on conditional bond, according to jail records.

Monday’s court proceedings in Minneapolis will not be broadcast following a judge’s ruling on Friday. Chauvin will attend the hearing remotely via a video link, while the other three defendants will appear in person, according to the court’s website.

The death of Floyd, 46, sparked nationwide protests calling for racial justice and police reform.

Earlier this month, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to pursue a community-led public safety system to replace the police department.

The move came days after a veto-proof majority of the council voted to disband the police department in the wake of Floyd’s death.

The movement to “defund the police,” as some advocates have termed it, predates the current protests but it has won new support after a spate of recent killings of African Americans by white police officers that were caught on video.

In Atlanta, a white former police officer is in custody after he was charged with the murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man.

One of three officers involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in a hail of gunfire when drug investigators burst into her home in Louisville, Kentucky, three months ago was dismissed from the police department last week.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut,; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

U.S. Senate heads for showdown over Republican police reform bill

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate headed for a showdown on Wednesday over a Republican police reform bill that Democrats have rejected as too limited to rein in police misconduct, as public protests continue over George Floyd’s death.

The bill, crafted by the Senate’s only Black Republican, Senator Tim Scott, must garner 60 votes to move forward in the 100-seat chamber. But Republicans control only 53 votes, and Democrats have vowed to oppose the measure while urging talks on a new bipartisan measure.

“It will never get 60 votes,” Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer vowed on Tuesday. “We need a bipartisan bill and a process to get there. That’s when we will move a bill.”

The Congressional Black Caucus, which represents more than 50 African-American lawmakers, called on senators to oppose the Republican measure, calling it “a completely watered-down fake reform bill.”

A vote is expected around midday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has pledged to take steps to allow additional votes on the measure. But Republicans warn that a failed vote could mean a political stalemate.

“This is more about campaign rhetoric and presidential elections,” Scott said of Democrats’ opposition.

Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, sparked weeks of protests and stirred strong U.S. public sentiment for stopping excessive force by police, especially against African Americans.

But a month later, Republicans and Democrats in Congress are pursuing partisan bills with little chance of winning approval from the Senate and the House of Representatives and being signed into law by President Donald Trump.

As the Senate moves to vote on the Republican bill, a House committee on Wednesday will debate rules for a Thursday vote on more sweeping Democratic legislation that Republicans warn would undermine American law enforcement.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

Protesters fail to bring down Andrew Jackson statue near White House

By Tom Brenner

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Protesters tried tearing down a statue of Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States, in a park near the White House on Monday, scrawling “killer scum” on its pedestal and pulling on the monument with ropes before police intervened.

The confrontation unfolded in Lafayette Square, where crowds peacefully protesting the death of George Floyd under the knee of a police officer were forcibly displaced three weeks ago to make way for staged photos of President Trump holding up a bible in front of a nearby church.

The thwarted effort to topple the famed bronze likeness of Jackson astride a rearing horse was the latest bid, in protests fuelled by Floyd’s death, to destroy monuments of historical figures considered racist or divisive.

President Donald Trump took to Twitter saying that many people were arrested for the “disgraceful vandalism” in Lafayette Park and also for defacing the exterior of St. John’s Church.

“Ten years in prison under the Veteran’s Memorial Preservation Act. Beware!” he warned.

Monday’s incident began around dusk with scores of protesters, most wearing masks against coronavirus infection, breaking through a 6-foot-tall fence erected in recent days around the statute at the center of the park.

Protesters then climbed onto the monument, fastening ropes and cords around the sculpted heads of both Jackson and his horse and dousing the marble pedestal with yellow paint before the crowd began trying to yank the statute from its base.

Dozens of law enforcement officers, led by U.S. Park Police, stormed into the square, swinging batons and firing chemical agents to scatter protesters. By dark, police had taken control and outnumbered demonstrators in the immediate area.

Jackson, a former U.S. Army general nicknamed “Old Hickory,” served two terms in the White House, from 1829 to 1837, espousing a populist political style that has sometimes been compared with that of Trump.

Native American activists have long criticized Jackson, a Democrat, for signing the 1830 Indian Removal Act, which led to thousands of Native Americans being driven from their lands by the U.S. government and forced to march west, in what became known as the “Trail of Tears.” Many perished before arriving.

(Reporting by Tom Brenner in Washington; Additional reporting by Whitcomb in Los Angeles and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Gerry Doyle and Clarence Fernandez)

Trump opposed to removing Theodore Roosevelt’s statue from outside Museum of Natural History

By Kanishka Singh

(Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Monday he opposed removing the towering statue of Theodore Roosevelt from outside New York City’s American Museum of Natural History.

The move was announced by the museum on Sunday and comes amid anti-racism protests across the United States and the world after the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in police custody on May 25 in the United States.

The statue shows Roosevelt on a horse, with a Native American man and an African man by his side. It stands prominently on a plinth outside the museum’s main entrance, overlooking Central Park.

Roosevelt, a Republican like Trump, was U.S. president from 1901-1909. Known for his exuberant and daring manner, he carried out antitrust, conservationist and “Square Deal” reforms, and, critics said, took an interventionist approach to foreign policy, including projecting U.S. naval power around the world.

Many critics have said the Roosevelt statue symbolizes racial discrimination and colonial expansion.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday that the city was in favor of the request from the museum to remove the statue because it “depicts black and indigenous people as subjugated and racially inferior.”

“Ridiculous, don’t do it,” Trump said in a tweet on Monday.

In the ongoing ant-racism demonstrations, protesters across the United States and around the world have demanded that authorities take down monuments honoring pro-slavery Confederate figures and the architects of Europe’s colonies.

“Simply put, the time has come to move it,” the museum’s president, Ellen Futter, told the New York Times.

She said the museum’s decision was based on the statue itself, along with its “hierarchical composition”, and not on Roosevelt. Futter said the museum continues to honor Roosevelt as “a pioneering conservationist”.

Roosevelt’s face is also one of the four presidents – along with George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln – whose faces are cast in 60-foot-high granite sculptures at the Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota.

Trump has blasted the anti-racism protests, saying demonstrators have behaved badly.

“The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments – our beautiful monuments – tear down our statues and punish, cancel and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We’re not conforming”, the U.S. president told supporters at a rally last week.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru Editing by Gerry Doyle, Toby Chopra and Mark Heinrich)

Juneteenth observance arrives amid U.S. reckoning with racism

By Rich McKay and Brad Brooks

Atlanta (Reuters) – With most formal Juneteenth events canceled due to coronavirus concerns, street marches and “car caravans” were planned on Friday across the United States to demand racial justice on the day commemorating the end of slavery a century and a half ago.

Despite the limitations, the occasion holds particular significance this year, organizers say, coming at a time of national soul-searching over America’s troubled racial history triggered by the death of George Floyd under the knee of a white Minneapolis police officer.

Weeks of mounting demands to end police brutality and racial injustice are sure to animate rallies expected in cities coast to coast, including New York, Washington, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago and Los Angeles.

In Texas, where Juneteenth originated, Lucy Bremond oversees what is believed to be the oldest public celebration of the occasion each year in Houston’s Emancipation Park, located in the Third Ward area where Floyd spent most of his life.

This year a gathering that typically draws some 6,000 people to the park, purchased by freed slaves in 1872 to hold a Juneteenth celebration, will be replaced with a virtual observance.

“There are a lot of people who did not even know Juneteenth existed until these past few weeks,” Bremond said.

Juneteenth, a blend of June and 19th, commemorates the U.S. abolition of slavery under President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation, belatedly announced by a Union army in Galveston, Texas, on June 19, 1865, after the Civil War ended.

Texas officially made it a holiday in 1980, and 45 more states and the District of Columbia have since followed suit. This year, a number of a major companies declared June 19, also known as Emancipation Day or Freedom Day, a paid holiday for employees.

Juneteenth takes on raw emotion this year in Atlanta, where a black man last week was fatally shot in the back by a white policeman in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant. The policeman was terminated by the department and charged with murder.

Instead of an annual Juneteenth parade and music festival, Atlantans will mark the occasion with a march to Centennial Olympic Park that organizers say will have a spiritual, rather than celebratory, tone.

“Join us in decrying racism in every form, and declaring unity from the church across lines of race, class, denomination, and culture,” OneRace, an ecumenical group that organized the march, said in a statement.

Dozens of protests and marches marking Juneteenth and calling for an end to racial injustice were scheduled to take place across New York City’s five boroughs on Friday.

On the West Coast, union dockworkers at nearly 30 ports planned to mark the occasion by staging a one-day strike.

But much of the focus of the 155th annual observance will take place on social media, with online lectures, discussion groups and virtual breakfasts, to help safeguard minority communities especially hard hit by the pandemic.

“We have been training our staff on how to use technology to present their events virtually and online,” said Steve Williams, president of the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation.

Many chapters have also planned “car caravans”: slow-speed processions of motorists honking horns and waving their arms as they wend their way through neighborhoods, Williams said.

A focal point of Juneteenth observances this year is likely to be Tulsa. President Donald Trump is traveling to the Oklahoma city’s first campaign rally in three months, originally scheduled for Friday but moved to Saturday after an outcry.

Critics said staging the rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa, the scene of a notorious massacre of African Americans by white mobs in 1921, showed a profound lack of sensitivity to the city’s history, not to mention disregard for public health concerns. Tens of thousands of supporters will jam into a sports arena for the event despite the risk of spreading the coronavirus.

Juneteenth organizers were planning an outdoor event expected to draw tens of thousands on Friday, local media reported.

Byron Miller, Juneteenth commissioner for San Antonio, Texas, said he has long felt compelled to make the celebration “palatable” to white people by emphasizing advances in racial harmony, rather than dwelling on centuries of abuses endured by African Americans.

But Floyd’s death has left him newly embittered.

“The times we’re living now have forced many of us to acknowledge that maybe slavery has never ended, in some fashion or another,” he said.

Bremond saw the potential for the holiday as a balm for racial wounds, saying, “I’m hopeful that Juneteenth will serve as a stabilizing influence for the chaos that we’ve been seeing in the streets.”

(Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Maria Caspani in New York; Additional reporting and writing and by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump signs order on police reform after weeks of protests about racial injustice

By Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump, facing criticism that his policies and inflammatory rhetoric have aggravated a racial divide in the United States, signed an order on Tuesday that he said would reform police practices even as he pressed for “law and order” nationwide.

After weeks of protests against racism and police brutality prompted by the death of George Floyd, a black man killed on May 25 in police custody in Minneapolis, Trump sought to offer a policy response to rising concerns about racial injustice going into the Nov. 3 election, in which he is seeking a second term.

Trump, a Republican, opened his remarks by expressing sympathy to the families of victims of police violence, pledging to fight for justice and promising them their loved ones will not have died in vain. But he quickly pivoted to a defense of law enforcement officers and a threat of penalties to looters.

“Americans want law and order, they demand law and order,” Trump said at a ceremony at the White House, reiterating a call that has angered protesters who have poured onto streets from New York to Los Angeles.

“Americans know the truth: Without police there is chaos, without law there is anarchy, and without safety there is catastrophe,” he said.

In his public comments and on Twitter, Trump has called for crackdowns on protesters and emphasized a forceful and militarized response to the social unrest sparked by the death of Floyd and others. Despite issuing a call for unity, he used his Rose Garden address on Tuesday to criticize former President Barack Obama, the first black U.S. president, for his record on police reforms. Opinion polls show widespread concerns among Americans about police brutality.

Tuesday’s order encourages police departments to employ the latest standards for use of force, improve information sharing so that officers with poor records are not hired without their backgrounds being known, and add social workers to law enforcement responses to non-violent cases involving drug addiction and homelessness, officials said.

Trump’s proposal would steer federal money toward police departments that get certification by outside bodies and would ban chokeholds unless an officer’s life was in danger. It also would encourage them to use less-lethal weapons such as stun guns.

Civil-rights groups and top Democrats, including former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, said the order was insufficient.

Trump reiterated that he opposes calls to “defund the police” by reimagining or dismantling police departments. Leading Democrats, including Biden, have not embraced such calls, but Republicans have jumped on the issue.

The Democratic-led House of Representatives is expected to vote later this month on sweeping legislation put forward by the Congressional Black Caucus to rein in police misconduct.

Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their own legislation on Wednesday that concentrates more on data collection than on policy changes in areas involving lethal force. Trump urged Congress to act.

Democrats want to allow victims of misconduct and their families to sue police. Republicans are pushing to reduce job protections for members of law enforcement unions.

Trump’s decision to ban chokeholds appears similar to the ban included in the Democratic legislation.

Republican lawmakers are divided on that issue.

Inimai Chettiar of the Justice Action Network said the use of grant money to influence police department policies could be an effective way to get results, but she noted that Trump’s Justice Department has resisted other reform efforts.

“I have a lot of skepticism in terms of how rigorously this is going to be implemented,” she said. Other civil-rights groups said Trump’s order did not go far enough.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; additional reporting by Doina Chiacu, David Morgan and Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Andy Sullivan, Sonya Hepinstall, Cynthia Osterman and Jonathan Oatis)

U.S. ‘not above scrutiny’, urges other states to be open on racism: statement

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United States is grappling with racial discrimination and implementing police reforms after the killing of George Floyd, but other countries should show the same level of openness, a U.S. envoy said on Wednesday ahead of a U.N. debate on racism.

Andrew Bremberg, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, issued a statement hours before the Human Rights Council (HRC) was to open an urgent debate at the request of African countries on racism and “police brutality” against protesters.

Activists said that U.S. officials were heavily lobbying African countries to tone down a draft resolution being considered so that it would not name the United States or set up a U.N. commission of inquiry, but rather a fact-finding mission.

African countries had lobbied to set up a U.N. inquiry into “systemic racism” and “police brutality” in the United States and elsewhere, aiming to defend the rights of people of African descent, the initial draft resolution showed.

“As the world’s leading advocate for human rights, we call upon all governments to demonstrate the same level of transparency and accountability that the U.S. and our democratic partners’ practice,” Bremberg said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has condemned the actions of police officers in Minneapolis, he said, referring to the city where Floyd died last month after being held under the knee of an officer, launching protests across the nation and the world.

Trump, facing criticism that his policies and inflammatory rhetoric have aggravated a racial divide in the United States, signed an order on Tuesday that he said would reform police practices even as he pressed for “law and order” nationwide.

“We are not above scrutiny; however, any HRC resolution on this topic that calls out countries by name should be inclusive, noting the many countries where racism is a problem,” Bremberg said.

Bremberg, in a thinly veiled reference to ethnic Muslim Uighurs in China’s Xinjiang province, said that another member state stood “accused of running concentration camps directed at an ethnic minority”. In an apparent reference to Iran, he said that another state had murdered more than 1,500 peaceful protesters. Reuters reported in December that about 1,500 were killed in Iran during less than two weeks of unrest last year.

(Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; Editing by William Maclean)

Militia at violent New Mexico protest linked to white supremacy, domestic terror: mayor

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – Members of a heavily armed New Mexico militia blamed for sparking violence at a protest where a demonstrator was shot are trying to “prop up” white supremacy and may be connected to domestic terrorism, Albuquerque’s mayor said on Tuesday.

The peaceful protest calling for the removal of an Albuquerque statue of a Spanish conquistador turned violent on Monday after members of the New Mexico Civil Guard militia tried to keep demonstrators away from it, Albuquerque Police Commander Art Sanchez told a news briefing.

Among counter-protestors defending the statue was Steven Baca, 31, caught on video throwing a woman to the ground. Protesters then pursued him before he pulled out a handgun and shot a man, Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller told the briefing.

Baca was not immediately available for comment and police declined to say whether he was part of the militia.

But Keller said vigilantes, militias and other armed civilians had for weeks menaced local protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis. Protesters are demanding the removal of statues of New Mexico’s Spanish colonial rulers who killed and enslaved indigenous people.

“They have been there for quite some time attempting to prop up white supremacy, trying to intimidate those speaking out and they are armed with weapons,” Keller said of the groups, adding he was working with the FBI on their possible links to “domestic terrorism in our city.”

Keller said the sculpture of Juan de Oñate was removed on Tuesday for “public safety” after another statue of the colonial governor was taken down Monday in Alcalde, New Mexico.

Baca, a former city council candidate, was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon for shooting Scott Williams, who was in critical condition, police said.

He won less than 6% of the votes in last year’s city council elections on a platform to encourage citizens to protect themselves with firearms, renegotiate federal restrictions on law enforcement and end sanctuary city policies.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay in Taos, New Mexico; Editing by Peter Cooney and Christopher Cushing)