Hong Kong protesters denounce police ahead of flashpoint weekend

By Jessie Pang and Felix Tam

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Thousands of Hong Kong protesters rallied at the harbor side on Friday, chanting slogans accusing the police of brutality and setting the stage for a weekend of demonstrations leading up to the 70th anniversary of the People’s Republic of China.

The downtown rally was one of a series of protests that have united activists denouncing Chinese rule, calling for democracy and even for independence from Beijing, often resulting in violent clashes with police in the former British colony.

Activists have targeted police over more than three months with petrol bombs, rocks and laser shone in their eyes, furious at social media footage of random beatings, especially one night against protesters cowering on the floor of a subway train.

Police have responded with teargas, water cannon, rubber bullets and occasional live rounds fired into the air.

The protesters gathered at a park on reclaimed land in front of central government offices on Friday night calling for an investigation into the remote San Uk Ling camp near the Chinese border where they say detained protesters were abused, a claim police deny.

“It’s obvious that there’s a problem of police brutality,” said 19-year-old university student Peter Sin. “They now arrest people randomly and there’s much inhumane treatment during prosecution and detention.”

Police said the camp was no longer being used to hold protesters.

“Its setting and facilities are all in line with police policies and regulations,” they said in a statement. “We will stop using San Uk Ling Holding Centre for holding arrested people in this operation. The reason is to avoid any further public speculation and unnecessary remarks accusing the police.”

One officer told reporters last week that some officers had overstepped the line when dealing with protesters.

“You are talking about a prolonged situation, chaos, violent encounters,” he said. “We have established procedures to deal with allegations of abuse of force. Every day, with every chance we have, we remind our officers not to succumb to emotions.

“We’ve gone through multiple situations where lethal force would have been justified, but our officers chose not to use it.”

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, in the first “open dialogue” session with the people on Thursday, said she would not accede to protesters’ demands for an independent inquiry into police action. She did not explain why.

PROTESTS ON REPUBLIC’S ANNIVERSARY

This weekend, the Asian financial hub marks the fifth anniversary of the start of the “Umbrella” protests, a series of student-led pro-democracy demonstrations in 2014 that failed to wrest concessions from Beijing.

One of the most prominent leaders of those protests, the bespectacled Joshua Wong, then just 17, is expected to announce on Saturday that he will run for local district council elections in November, his supporters said.

He is on bail after being charged with inciting and participating in an unauthorized assembly outside police headquarters on June 21.

Thousands of people are expected to rally in the city center on Saturday evening. Protests are also expected on Sunday to mark Global Anti-Totalitarianism Day, with solidarity events planned in cities across the world, including Paris, Berlin, Taipei, New York, Kiev and London.

But the biggest protests are likely to be on Oct. 1, marking the anniversary of the proclamation of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, with protesters saying they plan to use the holiday to propel calls for greater democracy.

Activists plan a mass rally from Victoria Park in the bustling Causeway Bay district to Chater Garden near government headquarters.

Official festivities for National Day have been scaled back, with authorities keen to avoid embarrassing Beijing at a time when President Xi Jinping is seeking to project an image of national strength and unity.

Pro-Beijing rallies are also planned in the city, raising the prospect of clashes.

The protests were sparked in June by a bill, since withdrawn, that would have allowed the extradition of suspected criminals to mainland China but have since expanded into a broader pro-democracy movement.

Protesters are angry about what they see as creeping Chinese interference in Hong Kong, which returned to China in 1997 under a “one country, two systems” formula intended to guarantee freedoms that are not enjoyed on the mainland.

China denies meddling. It has accused foreign governments, including the United States and Britain, of inciting the unrest.

(Additional reporting by Donny Kwok, Anne Marie Roantree, Twinnie Siu and Marius Zaharia; Writing by Poppy McPherson and Nick Macfie; Editing by Pravin Char)

Three arrested at Trump inauguration sue DC over ‘police abuse’

File Photo - Protesters demonstrating against U.S. President Donald Trump take cover as they are hit by pepper spray by police on the sidelines of the inauguration in Washington, DC, U.S. on January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif/File Photo

(Reuters) – The American Civil Liberties Union sued police in the nation’s capital on Wednesday on behalf of three people detained during the U.S. presidential inauguration, claiming they were subjected to unconstitutional arrests, excessive force and police abuse.

More than 200 people were arrested in Washington in January after some black-clad activists among those protesting Donald Trump’s swearing-in clashed with police a few blocks from the White House, in an outburst of violence rare for an inauguration.

The lawsuit against the Metropolitan Police Department, the District of Columbia and individual officers claims the plaintiffs broke no laws at the protests and endured abuses including being pepper-sprayed and denied food and water for hours.

The plaintiffs include two individuals who came to the District of Columbia to express their views concerning the inauguration and a photojournalist who covered the demonstrations.

“The MPD’s extreme tactics against members of the public, including journalists, demonstrators, and observers, were unjustifiable and unconstitutional,” Scott Michelman, senior staff attorney for the ACLU-DC, said in a statement.

Since Trump’s election win, a number of demonstrations in U.S. cities have highlighted strong discontent over his comments and policy positions toward a wide range of groups, including Mexican immigrants, Muslims, the disabled and environmentalists.

Washington’s police department said in a statement “all instances of use of force by officers and allegations of misconduct at the inauguration will be fully investigated,” and that it will support the legal process.

It added officers worked diligently to protect the rights of thousands who came to the inauguration to peacefully express their views.

“Unfortunately, there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers. These individuals were ultimately arrested for their criminal actions,” it said.

The lawsuit says photojournalist Shay Horse was pepper-sprayed while taking photographs and subjected to unjustified, invasive body probes.

It also said demonstrator Elizabeth Lagesse was peacefully protesting when she was arrested and handcuffed so tightly that her wrists bled.

(This story corrects number of people suing Washington D.C. in headline and paragraphs 1 and 4.)

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Matthew Lewis)

Protests grow tense after police slaying of black man in California

Protests in California after black man was shot

By Dan Whitcomb and Marty Graham

EL CAJON, Calif. (Reuters) – A second night of mostly peaceful protests over the fatal police shooting in Southern California of an unarmed black man said to be mentally ill climaxed on Wednesday as protesters confronted officers in riot gear who retreated as tensions rose.

Protesters earlier in the day shouted “murder” and demanded a federal investigation of Tuesday’s shooting in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, which came just as racially charged anger over similar incidents in two other U.S. cities during the past two weeks had begun to subside.

The Tuesday mid-afternoon shooting unfolded after two El Cajon police officers responded to several calls about a mentally unstable person walking in traffic, then confronted the man behind a restaurant.

One policeman opened fire with his service pistol and his partner simultaneously fired a Taser stun gun when the man pulled an object from his pocket and took aim at them in a “shooting stance,” according to police.

No weapon from the man, however, was recovered at the scene, police said. The object he was said to be carrying was not specified.

The next day, Mayor Bill Wells confirmed the victim’s identity as Alfred Olango, a 38-year-old Ugandan immigrant with a U.S. felony record of convictions for drug and weapon offenses, according to federal court records.

Friends and activists said Olango was mentally ill and may have been suffering a seizure in the moments before his death.

Police said they obtained cellphone video of the shooting from a bystander, but authorities released only a still frame showing two officers pointing weapons at a man who was aiming an object at them.

In a separate video clip taken moments after the shooting and posted on social media, a woman who refers to herself as the victim’s sister is heard crying in anguish, “Oh my God. You killed my brother. I just called for help and … you killed him.”

Wells told a news conference on Wednesday that he had seen the footage obtained by police. He described it as “certainly enlightening,” adding, “I don’t believe that this is going to be a tremendously complicated process for people to figure out what happened.”

“I saw a man who was distraught, a man who was acting in ways that looked like he was in great pain, and I saw him get gunned down and killed, and it broke my heart. If it was my son I would be devastated,” Wells said.

Wells said all 120 officers on El Cajon’s police force receive training from San Diego County’s Psychiatric Emergency Response Teams, or PERT, program, though no PERT-assigned officer was available for dispatch to Tuesday’s call.

CRIES FOR ‘JUSTICE’

Two other black men were killed days earlier by police in questionable circumstances in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Tulsa, Oklahoma, igniting demonstrations decrying racial bias by U.S. law enforcement. Authorities imposed a state of emergency and a curfew to quell unrest in Charlotte.

Olango’s slaying in California likewise immediately sparked hours of angry protests near the shooting scene.

Speaking to reporters the next day, El Cajon Police Chief Jeff Davis appealed for calm and urged against rushing to judgment. The predominantly white city is home to some 100,000 people, including many residents who are immigrants from the Middle East and Africa.

Civil rights activists and several hundred protesters returned to the streets on Wednesday, gathering first outside the police department to chant “murder,” “justice for Alfred Olango” and “black lives matter.”

“We are not going to stop until we get justice,” the Reverend Shane Harris, president of the National Action Network’s San Diego chapter, said at the rally.

Protests continued after dark with hundreds of people marching from the shooting scene to City Hall and back, shouting Olango’s name, taunting police and periodically blocking traffic.

The crowd later staged a boisterous but peaceful rally near the site of Olango’s death that turned tense when police officers, who initially kept a low profile, made a renewed show of force in riot gear.

A standoff appeared on the verge of escalation as some protesters hurled water bottles at police, who stood their ground before pulling back in what seemed to be a tactical retreat.

Demonstrators milled about the streets afterward, but the mood grew more relaxed and the crowds gradually diminished with no immediate signs of further lawlessness.

The San Diego County District Attorney was investigating the shooting, and police said the bystander’s video would be released once that probe was complete. Wells said the FBI also was probing the incident.

(Additional reporting by Norma Galeana and Alan Devall in El Cajon, Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, Laila Kearney in New York and Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Writing by Steve Gorman; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Jeffrey Benkoe and Bernard Orr)

Charlotte, N.C. in state of emergency after second night of violence

People running from flash bang grenades at Charlotte riot

By Greg Lacour and Andy Sullivan

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Residents of Charlotte, North Carolina, woke to a state of emergency on Thursday with National Guard troops deployed on the streets after a second night of violent protests over the fatal police shooting of a black man.

One person was on life support after being shot by a civilian late Wednesday as riot police used tear gas, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades to try to disperse demonstrators who looted stores and threw rocks, bottles and fireworks.

Four police officers suffered non-life threatening injuries, city officials said.

The latest trouble erupted after a peaceful rally earlier in the evening by protesters who reject the official account of how Keith Scott, 43, was gunned down by a black police officer in the parking lot of an apartment complex on Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities say Scott was wielding a handgun and was shot after refusing commands to drop it. His family and a witness say he was holding a book, not a firearm, when he was killed.

A spokesman for the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police told CNN on Thursday he had seen video from the scene showing Scott holding a gun.

Scott’s wife, Rakeyia Scott, said on Wednesday evening that her family was “devastated” and had “more questions than answers” about her husband’s death.

She said she respected the rights of those who wanted to demonstrate, and asked that they do so peacefully.

But the pleas appeared to go mostly unheeded. Overnight, protesters smashed windows and glass doors at a downtown Hyatt hotel and punched two employees, the hotel’s manager told Reuters. The slogan “Black Lives Matter” was spray-painted on windows.

Looters were seen smashing windows and grabbed items from a convenience store as well as a shop that sells athletic wear for the National Basketball Association’s Charlotte Hornets. Protesters also set fire to trash cans.

It was the second night of unrest in North Carolina’s largest city and one of the biggest U.S. financial centers. Sixteen police officers and several protesters were injured on Tuesday night and in the early hours of Wednesday.

‘VIOLENCE NOT TOLERATED’

Governor Pat McCrory declared a state of emergency late Wednesday night and began the process of deploying the National Guard and state highway patrol officers to the city to help restore peace.

“Any violence directed toward our citizens or police officers or destruction of property should not be tolerated,” McCrory said in a statement.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts was considering a curfew and Bank of America Corp <BAC.N>, which is headquartered in Charlotte, told employees not to report to work at its uptown offices, local media reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union has called on the police in Charlotte to release camera footage of the incident. Authorities have said the officer who shot Scott, Brentley Vinson, was in plainclothes and not wearing a body camera. But according to officials, video was recorded by other officers and by cameras mounted on patrol cars.

Todd Walther, the Charlotte Fraternal Order of Police official, said the plainclothes officers were wearing vests marked “police” and that he saw them do nothing wrong. Releasing the video would satisfy some people, but not everyone, he added, and people will have to wait for the investigation to conclude.

“The clear facts will come out and the truth will come out. It’s unfortunate to say that we have to be patient, but that’s the way it’s going to have to be,” Walter said.Mayor Roberts said she planned to view the footage on Thursday, but did not indicate if or when it would be made public.

The killing of Scott came just days after a fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was recorded on video. Protesters have held peaceful rallies demanding the arrest of the female officer involved.

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke by telephone on Wednesday with the mayors of Charlotte and Tulsa, a White House official said.

The two deaths were the latest in a series of police shootings over the last couple of years that have raised questions about racial bias in U.S. law enforcement. They have also made policing and community relations a major topic ahead of the presidential election in November.

William Barber, president of North Carolina’s chapter of the NAACP, called for the “full release of all facts available,” and said NAACP officials planned to meet with city officials and members of Scott’s family on Thursday.

(Additional reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt and Jeffrey Benkoe)

Protest erupts after police kill black man in North Carolina

Protesters in Charlotte over the death of a black man

By Greg Lacour

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) – Protesters blocked a highway and clashed with police in Charlotte, North Carolina, early on Wednesday morning after officers fatally shot a black man they said had a gun when they approached him in a parking lot.

About a dozen officers and several protesters suffered non-life threatening injuries during an hours-long demonstration near where Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was shot by a policeman on Tuesday afternoon, police and local media said on social media.

Early Wednesday morning, protesters blocked Interstate 85, where they stole boxes from trucks and started fires before police used flash grenades in an attempt to disperse the angry crowd, an ABC affiliate in Charlotte reported.

A group of protesters then tried to break into a Walmart store before police arrived and began guarding its front entryway, video footage by local media showed.

Earlier in the evening, police in riot gear reportedly used tear gas on protesters who threw rocks and water bottles at them as they wielded large sticks and blocked traffic. One officer was sent to the hospital after being struck in the head by a rock, police said.

Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts urged for calm.

“The community deserves answers and (a) full investigation will ensue,” she said on Twitter, adding in a subsequent post, “I want answers too.”

Scott was shot by officer Brentley Vinson earlier in the day, according to Charlotte-Mecklenburg police. The shooting occurred when officers were at an apartment complex searching for a suspect with an outstanding warrant and they saw Scott get out of his vehicle with a firearm, the department said.

Vinson fired his weapon and struck Scott, who “posed an imminent deadly threat to the officers,” the department said in a statement.

Vinson, who joined the Charlotte police force in July 2014, is black, according to the department. He has been placed on paid administrative leave.

NATIONAL DEBATE

The fatal shooting came amid an intense national debate over the use of deadly force by police, particularly against black men.

Police did not immediately say if Scott was the suspect they had originally sought at the apartment complex. WSOC-TV, a local television station, reported that he was not.

Detectives recovered the gun Scott was holding at the time of the shooting and were interviewing witnesses, police said.

Protesters and Scott’s family disputed that the dead man was armed. Some family members told reporters that Scott had been holding a book and was waiting for his son to be dropped off from school.

Shakeala Baker, who lives in a neighboring apartment complex, said she had seen Scott in the parking lot on previous afternoons waiting for his child. But on Tuesday, she watched as medics tended to Scott after he was shot, she said.

“This is just sad,” said Baker, 31. “I get tired of seeing another black person shot every time I turn on the television. But (police are) scared for their own lives. So if they’re scared for their lives, how are they going to protect us?”

About 200 people gathered earlier Tuesday night for a peaceful protest in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a white officer killed an unarmed black man last week in an incident captured on police videos.

Lawyers for the family of Terence Crutcher, 40, disputed that he posed any threat before he was shot by Tulsa Officer Betty Shelby after his sport utility vehicle broke down on Friday.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

Curbs on excessive force proposed for Cleveland police

Police officer at Republican convention

By Kim Palmer

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Cleveland police would face new limits on the use of force under proposals issued on Thursday by a group charged with monitoring the city’s police department, after a U.S. Justice Department report highlighted abuses by some of its officers.

The report came just weeks after Tamir Rice, aged 12, was shot and killed by a rookie Cleveland police officer in November 2014, triggering national outrage over another case involving a young African-American who died at the hands of police.

Rice was shot after a 911 caller reported someone waving a gun outside a city recreation center. Investigators later determined he had been in possession of a replica-type gun that shot pellets, not bullets.

Changes proposed by the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team – a group of 17 national experts and community activists – include a requirement that officers use de-escalation tactics before resorting to force, such as creating distance from the threat involved.

Officers would also be required to provide medical aid, rather than just request aid, for anyone injured after the use of force. Cleveland officers were roundly criticized for waiting eight minutes before providing first aid to the wounded Rice, who died a day after he was shot.

Cleveland police did not carry first-aid kits at the time of Rice’s death, a policy that has changed since then.

Officers would also be barred from using chokeholds or force against suspects already handcuffed under the monitoring team’s proposals, and prohibited from putting themselves in harm’s way in a manner that might then require the use of deadly force.

A Cleveland police officer who was in the path of an oncoming vehicle, after a high-speed car chase in 2013, shot the first in a barrage of 137 rounds fired by 13 officers that killed the man and woman in the car.

The proposals from the Cleveland Police Monitoring Team are still subject to public comment this month. If approved by a judge and federal officials, they would take effect sometime early next year, according to Matthew Barge, the oversight consent decree monitor.

(Reporting by Kim Palmer; Editing by Ben Klayman and Tom Brown)

Teen shot by Chicago police suffered gunshot wound to his back

Police placing handcuffs

CHICAGO (Reuters) – A teenager who was shot and killed by Chicago police officers last month suffered a single gunshot wound to his back, according to an autopsy by the Cook County medical examiner’s office made public on Wednesday.

Toxicology reports also found 18-year-old Paul O’Neal did not have drugs in his system. His death has been ruled a homicide, the autopsy report said.

“We knew he (O’Neal) didn’t have any drugs in his system,” said Michael Oppenheimer, a lawyer for O’Neal’s family. “We’re pleased for that.”

O’Neal, who was not armed, was fatally wounded by police officers on July 28 after he crashed a stolen Jaguar into a police car and then fled into a backyard where he was shot.

During the foot chase shots were fired by unidentified officers at the scene. An officer “believing the shots being fired were coming from O’Neal fired his Glock 9mm handgun five times in an attempt to stop the threat,” the autopsy said.

The shooting death of O’Neal adds to list of fatal encounters between police and black men and women in U.S. cities that have fueled protests over the past two years and stoked a national debate on race and police tactics.

The Chicago Police Department is currently facing a federal probe of allegations of racism and abuse against minorities. Protests rocked the city last year after dashboard video showed another black 17-year-old teenager being shot by a white cop as he jogged away from police officers during an October 2014 encounter.

Authorities released videos that captured the moments before and after police shot O’Neal, but not the shooting itself because a police officer’s body camera was not recording. No firearms were found on O’Neal.

Three Chicago police officers have been stripped of their law enforcement authority, a more severe step than a mere suspension, for their roles in the shooting.

(Reporting by Justin Madden; Editing by Bernard Orr)

Mexican security forces committed crimes against humanity

File photo of a police detective standing guard at a crime scene in Monterrey

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexican security forces have committed crimes against humanity, with mass disappearances and extrajudicial killings rife during the country’s decade-long drug war, according to a report released by rights groups on Monday.

The 232-page report, published by the Open Society Justice Initiative and five other human rights organizations, warned that the International Criminal Court could eventually take up a case against Mexico’s security forces unless crimes were prosecuted domestically.

“We have concluded that there are reasonable grounds to believe there are both state and non-state actors who have committed crimes against humanity in Mexico,” the report said.

Mexico’s drug war has resulted in the most violent period in the country’s modern history, with more than 150,000 people killed since 2006.

Consistent human rights abuses — including those committed by members of the Zetas drug cartel— satisfied the definition of crimes against humanity, the report said.

The authors recommended that Mexico accept an international commission to investigate human rights abuses.

A series of shootings of suspected drug cartel members by security forces, with unusually high and one-sided casualty rates, have tarnished Mexico’s human rights record.

“Resorting to criminal actions in the fight against crime continues to be a contradiction, one that tragically undermines the rule of law,” the report stated.

The unresolved 2014 kidnapping and apparent killing of 43 students from the Ayotzinapa teacher-training college was one of the most high-profile cases to have damaged Mexico’s reputation.

The report was based on documents and interviews over a nine-year period from 2006 to 2015.

It cited mass graves and thousands of disappearances, in addition to killings such as the shooting by the army of 22 suspected gang members in Tlatlaya in central Mexico, and similar incidents, as evidence of criminality in the government’s war against the country’s drug cartels.

Eric Witte, one of the report’s authors, recommended that the government look at the U.N. Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) as an example for inviting an international investigative commission to bring cases in Mexican courts.

Evidence gathered by CICIG against former Guatemalan President Otto Perez played a key role in his resignation and eventual arrest last year.

The report criticised Mexico’s weak justice system. If atrocities continued without measures being taken to end impunity, the International Criminal Court could step in, said Witte, a former advisor at the Hague-based court.

“Unfortunately, Mexico might be one atrocity away from an international commission becoming politically viable,” Witte, who leads national trials of grave crimes for the Open Society Justice Initiative, told Reuters.

(Reporting by Natalie Schachar, Lizbeth Diaz and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

Mississippi Court Rejects Injunction Over Police Harassment of Christians

A federal judge in Mississippi has denied a request against the Jackson, Mississippi police department, which has been harassing pro-life Christians.

Police have been targeting Christians who are protesting outside the state’s last abortion facility for harassment.

“[Our] request that pro-life advocates receive injunctive relief from harassment by the City of Jackson, Mississippi Police Department was denied by the United States District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi Jackson Division,” wrote Tom Ciesielka of the Life Legal Defense Foundation. “Despite hours of supportive testimony and a long and well documented history of police misconduct, Judge Carlton Reeves denied a preliminary injunction prohibiting the city police from further persecution of peaceful pro-life protesters.”

The police have been arresting the Christians for the most minor of accusations.  For example, Christians have been arrested if a sign they were carrying touched the ground, with the police claiming that because it touched the ground they were “obstructing a public sidewalk.”

“We are very concerned about the potential for police mistreatment of our clients as this case awaits its day in court,” added Life Legal Defense Foundation Executive Director and President Dana Cody in response to the court’s denial of a preliminary injunction. “It is very disappointing that the district court did not acknowledge that a police department that is already behaving with impunity might perceive this as an opportunity to continue illegal harassment of private citizens exercising their constitutionally protected freedoms.”