The Latest: Black Lives Matter banner removed from Embassy
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Black Lives Matter banner removed from U.S. Embassy in South Korea.
— Seattle City Council votes unanimously to bar police from using tear gas and pepper spray.
— NYPD closes plainclothes anti-crime unit in nod to reform.
— Under police pressure, France backs off ban on chokeholds during arrests.
— New lawsuit opposes plans to remove Lee statue in Virginia.
SEOUL, South Korea — A large Black Lives Matter banner has been removed from the U.S. Embassy building in South Korea’s capital three days after it was raised there in solidarity with protesters back home.
The banner was put up Saturday, with Ambassador Harry Harris tweeting that his embassy “stands in solidarity with fellow Americans grieving and peacefully protesting to demand positive change.” But the banner was removed Monday and another banner commemorating the Korean War was on display Tuesday.
The embassy said the banner’s removal was meant to avoid any misperception that it aimed to encourage donations for certain unspecified organizations.
Harris “wanted to highlight the enduring American values of racial equality, freedom of speech, and the right to peacefully protest,” the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. “However, the Ambassador’s intent was not to support or encourage donations to any specific organization. To avoid the misperception that American taxpayer dollars were spent to benefit such organizations, he directed that the banner be removed.”
SEATTLE — The Seattle City Council has voted unanimously to bar police from using tear gas, pepper spray and several other crowd control devices after officers repeatedly used them on mostly peaceful demonstrators protesting racism and police brutality.
The 9-0 vote Monday came amid frustration with the Seattle Police Department, which used tear gas to disperse protesters in the city’s densest neighborhood, Capitol Hill, just days after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Chief Carmen Best promised not to.
The council heard repeated complaints from residents forced out of their homes by the gas even though they weren’t protesting; one resident said his wife doused their child’s eyes with breast milk.
A federal judge on Friday issued a temporary order banning Seattle police from using tear gas, pepper spray, foam-tipped projectiles or other force against protesters, finding that the department had used less-lethal weapons “disproportionately and without provocation,” chilling free speech in the process.
NEW YORK — New York City’s police department is disbanding the type of plainclothes anti-crime units that were involved in the 2014 death of Eric Garner and have long been criticized for aggressive tactics, Commissioner Dermot Shea said Monday.
The NYPD’s anti-crime units, which focused primarily on seizing illegal guns, were responsible for a disproportionate number of shootings and complaints, Shea told reporters after meeting with top deputies to discuss the move.
The change comes amid a nationwide reckoning over police brutality.
Garner died when an officer enforcing a ban on the sale of loose cigarettes used a chokehold to wrestle him to the ground.
About 600 officers working in the unit will be given new assignments.
WASHINGTON — A senior administration official says an executive order that President Donald Trump is expected to sign Tuesday would set up a database for tracking police officers who have complaints about excessive use of force in their records.
The official says the administration wants to keep officers with complaints in their record from moving from one police department to the next.
The president’s executive order comes as lawmakers work quickly in response to outrage over the death of George Floyd. Senate Republicans are also poised to unveil an extensive package of policing changes.
Administration officials say the executive order would also establish a national credentialing system that would give police departments a financial incentive to adopt best practices on such things as use of deadly force and prohibiting the use of chokeholds, except in situations when deadly force is allowed by law.
The official says that cities such as Minneapolis and Baltimore “are not using the most modern standards” when it comes to their training materials.
Two officials briefed reporters on the executive order on the condition that they not be identified. The officials said they expect the major law enforcement trade groups to back the effort.
PARIS — Under pressure from police, the French government has backed away from a ban on chokeholds during arrests.
France’s interior minister announced a week ago that the maneuver would be abandoned, in the face of growing French protests over police brutality and racial injustice unleashed by George Floyd’s death in the U.S.
But French police responded with five straight days of counterprotests, arguing that the ban deprived them of a key tool to subdue unruly suspects.
On Monday, the national police director sent a letter to police, obtained by The Associated Press, saying chokeholds will no longer be taught in police schools but can continue to be used “with discernment” until alternatives are found.
Police unions hailed the reversal.
RICHMOND, Va. — Six property owners in Virginia’s capital city of Richmond have filed a lawsuit seeking to stop Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from removing a towering statue there to Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee.
The lawsuit challenges Northam’s authority to order removal of the Lee statue from Monument Avenue in the ex-capital of the Confederacy.
Northam’s spokeswoman says the governor considers the statue a “divisive symbol.” The governor recently ordered its removal, citing the pain gripping the country over the death in police custody of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis.
Richmond’s Confederate monuments became rallying points for protesters in recent days.
Last week, demonstrators toppled a statue of Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, that was part of a much larger monument.
LAS VEGAS — A former U.S. Marine has been charged with impersonating a federal officer after the man was armed and wearing tactical gear as he stood alongside police at a protest in Las Vegas last month.
A criminal complaint alleges Zachary Sanns was wearing plain clothes with a tactical vest, helmet and belt, a balaclava, a stun gun and two firearms as he appeared near the front line May 30 with police as they faced off with people protesting the death of George Floyd.
He is charged with one count of false impersonation of an officer or employee of the United States. Sanns’ attorney declined to comment.
RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond police say one protester was arrested after an overnight demonstration outside police headquarters turned violent and three officers were injured.
The confrontation began Sunday night and extended into the early morning hours Monday as hundreds of protesters gathered outside police headquarters to protest an earlier incident in which a police car struck several protesters blocking its path.
No one appeared to be injured in that incident.
In a statement released Monday afternoon, Chief William Smith said some demonstrators threw rocks and other objects at police officers.
Smith said several city vehicles were heavily damaged, several privately owned buildings in the area were vandalized and numerous dumpster fires were set.
Protests against police brutality have rocked the U.S. since the death of George Floyd on May 25.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Retail giant Walmart closed some of its locations in Arkansas after Black Lives Matter demonstrators gathered outside of stores in an effort to shutter them in wake of George Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that four Walmart stores and a Sam’s Club closed on Sunday in Little Rock. The international corporation is based in the state.
Activist Dawn Jeffrey tells protesters at a Walmart location while live streaming on Facebook that they were done with the “wicked Waltons.”
She notes how the founding family takes too much money from the community and invests in private prisons.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he wants the governor of Washington to call in the National Guard to deal with demonstrators in Seattle, saying “the problem with what happened in Seattle is it spreads, and all of a sudden they’ll say ‘let’s do some other city and lets do another one.’”
Trump is also suggesting that he’s got several options for dealing with demonstrators who have staked out several blocks near downtown Seattle after officers withdrew from a police station following violent confrontations. They named it the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”
Speaking to reporters at the White House, Trump says “the American public is very angered by that.”
Trump also complained that media organizations are not dedicating adequate attention to what’s happened in Seattle.
He said that if “the right ever took over a city, conservative Republicans took over a city, it would be the biggest story in history.”
Trump also spent several minutes criticizing Gov. Jay Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, calling her “scared stiff.”
“If they don’t do the job, I’ll do the job,” Trump said, declining a request to provide specifics.
BOSTON — A long-running New England television show spotlighting local restaurants and food has been taken off air after its CEO mocked the nationwide protests against police brutality on social media.
Boston-based stations WBZ-TV and WSBK-TV said in a statement Sunday that Phantom Gourmet, which first aired in the early 1990s, has been placed “on hiatus pending further review.”
Dave Andelman, the show’s CEO and co-host, took jabs at participants of the Black Lives Matter movement in a number of recent posts on his personal Facebook account.
He mockingly called for defunding “potatoes, not police” and suggested Boston restaurants and retailers “offer touchless, curbside looting,” in reference to the violence and destruction that followed a recent downtown protest.
DULUTH, Minn. — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz marked the 100th anniversary of a painful chapter in Duluth history by visiting a memorial to three black men lynched by a white mob.
Elias Clayton, Elmer Jackson and Isaac McGhie were traveling circus workers accused of raping a white woman, though her doctor later found no evidence of assault.
Walz gestured Monday to the corner where the men were lynched, and said Minnesota’s “inability to deal with that led to what happened down there,” pointing southward toward Minneapolis, where George Floyd died after being arrested by police.
Walz made the same connection on Friday, when he and two other members of the state pardons board granted a posthumous pardon to Max Mason, a fourth circus worker convicted in the case despite what a prosecutor at the time called weak evidence.
Walz is now pressing for major policing reforms in a special session of the state Legislature. The Star Tribune reports that Walz said his goal is to change law in ways that activists say will make a difference in their lives. Walz said the state will “be defined either by the murder of George Floyd or by how we respond to the murder of George Floyd.”
New Jersey police must divulge the names of law enforcement officers who commit serious disciplinary violations, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal ordered Monday.
The state’s top law enforcement official said in a statement that the order would apply going forward to all state, county and local law enforcement agencies.
Agencies must publicly identify officers who were fired, demoted or suspended for more than five days because of a disciplinary violation, Grewal said. The first lists must be published by Dec. 31.
Officers’ identities previously were not disclosed publicly unless they faced criminal charges, the attorney general said.
Grewal announced more stringent disclosures affecting the state police.
The names of troopers who have been disciplined in about 430 cases going back to 2000 will be published by July 15, Grewal said.
DENVER — Former Colorado Gov. and current Senate hopeful John Hickenlooper on Monday apologized for jokingly comparing politicians to slaves being whipped to row “an ancient slave ship.”
Hickenlooper’s apology came after Tay Anderson, a black Denver school board member who has been instrumental in organizing protests after the death of George Floyd, tweeted a video of Hickenlooper making the quip Monday morning.
Anderson has endorsed Hickenlooper’s rival, former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff, in the Democratic Senate primary.
Hickenlooper’s campaign said the video Anderson tweeted was from 2014 but did not specify the event at which the then-governor was speaking.
The video shows a silhouetted Hickenlooper speaking at some sort of gathering with a microphone in his hand about political schedulers. “Imagine an ancient slave ship,” he tells the audience. He says the schedulers are the people who lashed slaves to keep them rowing the ship. “We elected officials are the ones rowing,” Hickenlooper said.
In a statement released through his campaign, Hickenlooper said: “Taking a look at this video from six years ago, I recognize that my comments were painful. I did not intend them to be. I offer my deepest apologies.”
TAMPA, Fla. — More than five dozen peaceful protesters in Florida who were arrested earlier this month for unlawful assembly while demonstrating against police abuse following the death of George Floyd in Minnesota won’t be prosecuted, a State Attorney said Monday.
State Attorney Andrew Warren in Tampa said that his office won’t be filing charges against 67 protesters who were arrested two weeks ago in downtown Tampa.
The prosecutor’s office will also work to expunge the arrest records of the protesters who were taken into custody, he said.
“In these unlawful assembly cases, there is no value in filing charges,” Warren said at a news conference. “Prosecuting people for exercising their First Amendment rights creates problems rather than solving them. It can weaken the bonds between law enforcement and the community, while undermining faith in our system.”
Warren warned, though, that his office would prosecute anybody who takes advantage of the protests to cause destruction or commit crimes. He said his office is still reviewing another 133 arrests starting from the night of May 30, including cases of arson and vandalism from that night when a gas station was set ablaze and store windows were smashed.
Under Florida law, an “unlawful assembly” is a gathering of three or more people with a “common unlawful purpose” that must have an “intent to do an unlawful act which threatens the peace.”
“There was no evidence that anyone was intending to commit a crime,” Warren said. “They were just there to protest.”
Follow all AP coverage of protests against racial injustice and police brutality at https://apnews.com/GeorgeFloyd.