The Latest: Fire chief resigns after comment on protesters
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— George Floyd’s brother gives emotional testimony on Capitol Hill.
— Minneapolis police department withdraws from union contract negotiations to begin reforms.
— Virginia city looks into moving Confederate statue.
— New York passes bill to unveil police discipline records.
DENVER — A fire chief in a small Colorado town has resigned after posting a comment on Facebook saying he would spray protesters with high pressure water hoses for fun.
Lyons Fire Chief JJ Hoffman resigned Tuesday over the comment he made last month in response to someone else’s Facebook post that said Denver police should “wash all this human trash into the gutter.”
Hoffman said his comment was made in jest and issued a formal apology on June 1.
Democratic state Rep. Jonathan Singer said the apology was not enough and that Hoffman had lost credibility and the public’s trust. Singer asked the NAACP to investigate.
The Lyons Fire Protection District Board of Directors issued a formal reprimand for Hoffman a week ago and said they believed his apology was sincere.
BOSTON — The city will reassess the significance of a Christopher Columbus statue that was found beheaded Wednesday morning.
Mayor Marty Walsh says the statue will be taken down and placed in storage and there will be discussions about its future.
Police say the head of the statue located near the city’s traditionally Italian North End was found on the ground at about 12:30 a.m. Police are investigating and there’s no word yet on any arrests. The statue has been vandalized in the past.
Statues with racist connections have been targeted by protesters around the world speaking out against police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.
States have been pressed to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day over concerns that Columbus spurred centuries of genocide against indigenous populations in the Americas.
OKLAHOMA CITY — An Oklahoma man paralyzed from the waist down in a fall from a bridge when a truck drove through a crowd of protesters is in stable condition and improving, according to his brother.
Randy Knight said Wednesday that his brother, Ryan Knight, is regaining use of his hands and arms but still cannot move his legs.
Ryan Knight suffered broken bones in his neck and back when he fell at least 20 feet from an interstate overpass on May 31 as a truck drove through a Tulsa crowd protesting the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.
WASHINGTON — The brother of George Floyd asked lawmakers in emotional testimony Wednesday to ensure that his brother didn’t die in vain.
Philonise Floyd asked Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee “to make your names mean something.”
Floyd spoke as the House is considering a package of reforms that would limit legal protections for police, create a national database of excessive-force incidents, and ban police choke holds, among other changes.
Floyd told a silenced hearing room that he was there to ask Congress to “stop the pain” and make sure his brother is “more than another face on a t-shirt” and a name on a growing list of black men killed by police.
George Floyd died Memorial Day on a Minneapolis street while in police custody. Four police officers have been charged, one with second-degree murder.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Louisville police are changing a policy on using tear gas after complaints about its use to disperse crowds during recent protests.
The department’s interim police chief, Robert Schroeder, said Wednesday the use of tear gas must now be approved by the police chief or his designee.
“I know several peaceful protesters got caught up in situations where tear gas had to be used, and I regret people had to experience that,” Schroeder said at a news conference with Mayor Greg Fischer.
Schroeder said Louisville officers “do not use tear gas casually.”
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis Police Department is withdrawing from police union contract negotiations, the first step in what Chief Medaria Arradondo calls transformational reforms to the agency after the death of George Floyd.
Arradondo says a thorough review of the contract is planned. He says the contract needs to be restructured to provide more transparency and flexibility for true reform. The review would look at use of force and disciplinary protocols, including grievances and arbitration.
He says it’s debilitating for a chief when there are grounds to terminate an officer and a third-party mechanism works to keep that person on the street.
PORTSMOUTH, Va. — Protesters in Portsmouth, Virginia, covered statues at a Confederate monument in the city with sheets and bags Wednesday, several hours after the city’s council members had a meeting about relocating it.
A white sheet that read “BLM” covered the fence in front of the monument after the Portsmouth city council met Tuesday to discuss its removal, WVEC-TV reported. Mayor John Rowe proposed allocating $100,000 to remove the statue and possibly relocate it to a local cemetery.
The question about who owns the monument has been a roadblock in the city’s long quest to remove it. During the council’s meeting Tuesday, Rowe asked the city attorney if Portsmouth has the right to move the 127-year-old memorial. In 2018, a judge denied the city’s claim to own it because no one else had tried to claim it.
The local chapter of the NAACP and protesters have called for the 54-foot monument to be taken down.
A recent bill signed by Gov. Ralph Northam will allow cities to move or alter Confederate monuments they own starting July 1.
CAMDEN, Del. — A black journalist arrested while identifying himself as a reporter at a protest in Delaware has been released.
A video of the arrest was streamed live by the Dover Post reporter, Andre Lamar, on the news outlet’s Facebook page. It shows protesters lying on the ground with their hand behind their backs as Lamar questions officers about why the arrests are happening.
Police approach him and a struggle ensues as he shouts, “I’m with the press!” multiple times. Officers continue the arrest and pick up his camera gear as the altercation is broadcast live on the social media network.
Lamar was among more than 20 people arrested at the protests for obstructing traffic and blocking lanes on a highway in Camden, the Delaware State Police said in a statement Wednesday.
“Reporters have a fundamental right to cover the demonstrations we’re seeing in Delaware and across our country,” Delaware Gov. John Carney tweeted Tuesday night after Lamar’s arrest. “They should not be arrested for doing their jobs. That’s not acceptable.”