A friend of George Floyd who was in his car when he was killed in a confrontation with police says Floyd did not resist arrest, but the Minnesota attorney general warns that winning convictions against the officers will be difficult.
J. Alexander Kueng, 27, Thomas Lane, 36, and Tou Thao, 34, face court appearances today, charged with one count each of aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Derek Chauvin, 44, was charged last week by the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Ten days after Floyd’s death, the nation is still reeling from the blatant injustice the viral video of the confrontation appears to show. The first of three memorial services for Floyd is scheduled for this afternoon in Minneapolis.
“He was, from the beginning, trying in his humblest form to show he was not resisting in no form or way,” Maurice Lester Hall told The New York Times.
Protests across the U.S. remained large but were more subdued Wednesday night ahead of the first of multiple memorial services for Floyd, who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck while he was handcuffed. President Donald Trump’s handling of the protests came under fire once again: his former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced Trump as a threat to American democracy.
Drew Brees apologizes for protest comments
Drew Brees apologized Thursday after other athletes spoke out against the New Orleans Saints quarterback’s comment that he would not support protests during the National Anthem. Brees, who had said ‘”taking a knee” disrespects the flag, said on Instagram that “in an attempt to talk about respect, unity, and solidarity centered around the American flag,” he had made “comments that were insensitive and completely missed the mark.” He said his words lacked “awareness and any type of compassion or empathy.”
New Orleans Saints teammates had been among those calling Brees out. Running back Alvin Kamara and wide receiver Michael Thomas both seemed to express their disapproval. San Francisco 49ers defensive back Richard Sherman called Brees “beyond lost.”
Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers posted on Instagram: “It has NEVER been about an anthem or a flag. Not then. Not now. Listen with an open heart, let’s educate ourselves, and then turn word and thought into action.”
– Nate Scott and Steve Gardner
Duchess Meghan tells graduates history is repeating itself
Duchess Meghan, in an emotional graduation video for her alma mater, called on new high school graduates to help America rebuild its foundation amid protests over the killing of George Floyd. The 38-year-old duchess – who is living in Los Angeles with her husband, Prince Harry – spoke to graduates of Immaculate Heart High School in a video during their Wednesday night ceremony. Meghan, who is biracial, has been vocal in the past about enduring racist incidents in Hollywood as an actress and in tabloids as a member of the British royal family. She lamented the fact that the past felt like it was repeating itself and students again had to face strife as a reality, rather than a “history lesson.”
“The first thing I want to say to you is that I’m sorry,” she said. “I’m so sorry you have to grow up in a world where this is still present.”
– Hannah Yasharoff
Floyd, a ‘king,’ was not combative with Minneapolis officers, friend says
George Floyd’s longtime friend, Maurice Lester Hall, says Floyd complied completely with the officers who stopped his car and tried to defuse the tensions. Floyd, Hall and an unidentified women were found by police in a parked car shortly after police say Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes at a nearby store. Floyd and Hall, Houston natives, had connected in Minneapolis through a pastor in 2016, Hall said. Hall, arrested Monday in Houston on outstanding warrants, told The New York Times he considered Mr. Floyd a confidant and a mentor.
“I’m going to always remember seeing the fear in Floyd’s face because he’s such a king,” Hall said. “That’s what sticks with me, seeing a grown man cry, before seeing a grown man die.”
Three officers will be charged; Derek Chauvin faces second-degree murder
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says it’s difficult to win convictions against police officers and that prosecuting the four former officers charged in connection with Floyd’s death “will not be an easy thing.” J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao face initial court hearings today, charged with aiding and abetting a murder. Ellison also announced Wednesday that charges against former officer Derek Chauvin have been upgraded to second-degree murder from third degree. All four policemen were fired the day after Floyd’s killing May 25, but only Chauvin had been charged until Wednesday.
“To the Floyd family, to our beloved community and to everyone that is watching, I say: George Floyd mattered,” Ellison said. “We will seek justice for him and for you and we will find it.”
Barack Obama urges mayors to commit to police reform
Former President Barack Obama hosted a town hall Wednesday urging mayors in the country to commit to police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death that triggered protests nationwide.
“What are the specific steps you can take?” Obama asked. The steps, he said, include reviewing their law enforcement’s use-of-force policies with community members, and committing to report on any needed changes. Obama said his administration created a task force in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that produced many reforms.
Obama also supported protesters demanding police reforms and justice for Floyd. “We both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that could be implemented and monitored and make sure we’re following up on.”
‘Unprovoked attack on a defenseless police officer’ in NYC
A day that began with hope that New York City was beginning to find a way out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus and a week of angry demonstrations over police brutality ended Wednesday with more violence.
Peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd drew thousands of people in New York City, but police broke them up after shortly after an 8 p.m. curfew. Police said not long after that, a man ambushed officers on an anti-looting patrol in Brooklyn, stabbing one in the neck. The attacker was shot by responding officers and was in critical condition.
Two officers suffered gunshot wounds to their hands in the chaos, but all three wounded officers were expected to recover.
Police Commissioner Dermot Shea called it “a completely, cowardly, despicable, unprovoked attack on a defenseless police officer.” While he declined to say what motivated the attack, he drew a line to the heated rhetoric of the past week and angry crowds decrying police violence that have sometimes turned violent.
Mattis blasts president as a threat to American democracy
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced President Donald Trump Wednesday in an statement that hammered his former boss as a threat to American democracy.
He took aim at the White House’s decision Monday to forcibly clear protesters from a park in front of the White House, so Trump could walk across the street and pose with a Bible in front of a historic church. Mattis called it an abuse of power.
He also said Trump is needlessly dividing the country and “militarizing” America’s response to the protests, Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic magazine.
“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us,” he wrote.
– Deirdre Shesgreen
2 Florida workers fired for ‘hateful, racist’ comments about protesters
A Florida Highway Patrol trooper and a Tallahassee employee of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have been fired for making “abhorrent” comments about George Floyd protesters, the department said.
The two workers had directed “hateful, racist and threatening remarks” toward Florida demonstrators calling for better policing as part of nationwide protests in the wake of Floyd’s death in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
In an official tweet, DHSMV said it found remarks by Trooper Daniel Maldonado and William Henderson, who worked at the agency’s Tallahassee headquarters, “abhorrent and reprehensible.” Their comments were made via text message and social media.
“Their conduct is not in any way reflective of the troopers and employees of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,” the agency in announcing their termination Tuesday night.
– James Call, USA TODAY Network-Florida Capital Bureau
Robert E. Lee, other Confederate monuments ousted in Richmond
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans Thursday for the removal of an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.
The Democratic governor will direct the statue to be moved off its massive pedestal and put into storage while his administration seeks input on a new location, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak before the governor’s announcement.
“That is symbol for so many people, black and otherwise of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said Del. Jay Jones, a black lawmaker from Norfolk.
Also on Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to remove the other Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, which include statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Those statues sit on city land, unlike the Lee statue, which is on state property.
3 held on terror charges in right-wing conspiracy to spark violence during protests in Las Vegas
Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.
Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus. Prosecutors say the men later sought to capitalize on protests over George Floyd’s death.
They were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest downtown after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.
– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal
George Floyd’s son visits site of father’s death in Minneapolis
George Floyd’s son knelt and prayed at the spot where his father was killed, making his first public appearance Wednesday. Quincy Mason Floyd, 27, was trembling when he first saw the spot on Chicago Avenue where his father, George, died May 25 while handcuffed and in police custody.
“I appreciate everyone showing support and love,” Quincy Mason Floyd said.
The first of three memorial services for Floyd is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.
– Mark Emmert, Des Moines Register