The Latest: Oregon police chief pleas for peaceful protests

The Latest on the May 25 death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white police officer pressed a knee on his neck:

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Oregon police chief pleads for a stop to the violence during demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

— UN human rights chief says US must face racial issues.

— National Guard probes low-flying helicopter during DC protests.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — The police chief in Portland, Oregon issued a plea Wednesday to the city’s residents to help its leaders stop the violence that has engulfed the city for five consecutive nights in demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

Chief Jami Resch said at a news conference that a peaceful march and rally Tuesday that attracted more than 10,000 people was marred when several hundred people broke off late and confronted police officers guarding a building that holds police headquarters and a sheriff’s detention center.

The repeated nights of mayhem have rattled even liberal Portland, which has such a storied history of protest that the late president George H. W. Bush dubbed it “Little Beirut.”

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ATHENS — Hundreds of people are marching to the U.S. Embassy in Athens to protest the killing of George Floyd.

Greek police say about 700 people are taking part in Wednesday’s demonstration through the city center, in a protest called by leftwing groups and anarchists.

No violence has been reported, but such protests often descend into street riots, and police have mounted a strong guard outside the Embassy building.

A similar protest is scheduled in Athens on Thursday.

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ROTTERDAM — A protest demonstration in the Netherlands had to be cut short because crowds became too big and would have made social distancing measures impossible.

Rotterdam mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb had already moved the protest over the death of George Floyd to a more open space instead of the city center. But as thousands sought to converge and the crowds swelled at the site near the Maas River, authorities first called on people to stay away and then moved in early to end the peaceful protest.

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POZNAN, Poland — Dozens of young people walked in an anti-racist march on Wednesday in Poland’s western city of Poznan in response to the death of George Floyd.

Mostly clad in black, the protesters carried signs with “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter” written on them. They walked to the U.S. Consulate and then to a downtown square where they lay face down on the ground, just like the handcuffed Floyd lay pleading for air as a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

Also Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to Poland, Georgette Mosbacher, apologized on Twitter to Warsaw residents whose flowers and candles placed before the embassy in Floyd’s memory had been removed. Mosbacher called it a “misunderstanding.”

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BERLIN — The U.N.‘s top human rights official called for grievances to be heard on “endemic and structural racism” at the heart of the protests in the United States.

Michelle Bachelet, the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, says addressing those grievances is necessary for the U.S. to “move on from its tragic history of racism and violence.”

While calling for protesters to express their views peacefully, she also urged U.S. leaders to unequivocally condemn racism and “reflect on what has driven people to boiling point.”

Bachelet’s office also cited “at least 200 reported incidents of journalists covering the protests being physically attacked, intimidated or arbitrarily arrested, despite their press credentials being clearly visible.”

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SEATTLE — Large crowds marched through Seattle and demonstrations were mostly peaceful until late in the night, when Seattle police used tear gas and flash-bang grenades to disperse a crowd near a police precinct.

Seattle police say some people in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood began throwing objects at officers. There were no immediate reports of arrests.

On Tuesday, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan addressed hundreds of demonstrators and encouraged them to keep marching and keep it peaceful.

“Your voices holding me accountable are important and you should continue to raise them,” Durkan told those assembled outside the city’s Emergency Operations Center downtown. Durkan and protest leaders planned to meet Wednesday.

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ATLANTA — Large, peaceful protests in Atlanta were marked by pockets of confrontation between protesters and police ahead of the curfew on Tuesday night.

Hundreds lingered on the streets of downtown ahead of the 9 p.m. curfew imposed by Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. Authorities used armored vehicles to form a cordon at the state capitol.

Near Centennial Olympic Park, where much of the protests and unrest have centered, National Guard troops fired tear gas and moved in on a group shortly after curfew fell. The crowd quickly dispersed, and television footage showed police leading some people away in zip ties.

Police say 52 arrests were made Tuesday, bringing the total arrests in Atlanta to 439 over five days of protests since Friday.

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PHOENIX — Thousands of people participated in peaceful protests on Tuesday night with no arrests, according to police.

One crowd marched in the heart of downtown and another gathered at the state capitol about a mile to the west.

The protests ended early in the evening, with most participants leaving by the 8 p.m. start of a statewide curfew ordered Sunday by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

It was the sixth consecutive night of protests, with no reported arrests in Phoenix for the second straight night.

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MADRID — Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez has called the response of the U.S. government to the outcry over police brutality and injustice against African Americans “authoritarian.”

Sánchez referred to the wave of demonstrations in the wake of George Floyd’s killing on May 25 in Minneapolis when he spoke during debate on the government’s response to the coronavirus outbreak at the Spanish parliament’s Lower House.

Sánchez, who leads a left-wing coalition, says “I share and stand in solidarity with the demonstrations that are taking place in the United States.”

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WASHINGTON — The Washington D.C. National Guard says it will investigate the use of one of its helicopters to make an aggressive “show of force” against protesters near the White House on Monday.

The commanding general of the D.C. Guard, Maj. Gen. William Walker, says in a brief written statement Wednesday that he directed the investigation. The helicopter, normally designated for use in medical evacuations, hovered low enough to create a deafening noise and spray protesters with rotor wash from the aircraft.

Williams says the Guard is dedicated to the safety of its fellow citizens and their right to peacefully protest.

He says, “This is our home, and we are dedicated to the safety and security of our fellow citizens of the District and their right to safely and peacefully protest.”

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WASHINGTON — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against Minneapolis Police and the Minnesota State Patrol, alleging police have violated the rights of journalists covering the protests in response to the death of George Floyd.

The lawsuit, filed by the ACLU of Minnesota on Wednesday, alleges a “pattern and practice of conduct by law enforcement,” which the organization says, “tramples on the Constitution.”

The lawsuit’s lead plaintiff is Jared Goyette, a freelance journalist who says he was shot in the face by a rubber bullet fired by police. The suit outlines the number of journalists who have been arrested or injured by police since the demonstrations began last week.

The lawsuit also alleges police have interfered with news coverage and have continued to “target and intimidate the press by firing less-lethal ballistics designed for riot control directly at members of the media.”

The ACLU has also vowed to bring lawsuits against police departments across the U.S. who arrest, target or attack journalists.

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ORLANDO, Fla. — Mostly peaceful rallies in Tampa and St. Petersburg took a turn late Tuesday when police used smoke grenades, nonlethal rounds, pepper canisters and other measures to disperse crowds.

Protesters fled, screaming and angry, and police made dozens of arrests. They briefly detained two Tampa Bay Times reporters who were covering the events, the newspaper reported.

In St. Petersburg, a group of protesters went to police headquarters late Tuesday, where tensions heightened.

Officers told the crowd to leave the area, and then launched smoke and what appeared to be flash bangs at the crowd, the Times reported. Police and Pinellas County Sheriff’s deputies closed in on the crowd, arresting several. A reporter was briefly detained.

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LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the death of George Floyd was “inexcusable” and he understands why people are protesting.

In his first public comments on the turmoil roiling the U.S., Johnson told lawmakers “what happened in the United States was appalling, it was inexcusable, we all saw it on our screens and I perfectly understand people’s right to protest what took place.”

He added “protest should take place in a lawful and reasonable way.”

Johnson, who has sought to nurture close ties with President Donald Trump as he leads the U.K. out of the European union, deflected calls from the opposition to suspend exports of tear gas and rubber bullets to the United States.

Johnson says all British arms exports complied with the country’s human rights obligations, “and the U.K. is possibly the most scrupulous country in that respect in the world.”

Most British police officers do not carry guns, though armed units have been involved in several fatal shootings in recent years.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond Police have denied accusations an officer spit on a detained protester after a video showing the alleged incident was shared on social media.

The incident “did not happen as the activists have claimed” and a slow-motion analysis of the video “shows the officers spitting on the grass and not on the detainee,” the Richmond Police Department says in multiple Twitter posts Tuesday night.

A version of the slow-motion video obtained by the Richmond Times-Dispatch focuses on the officer closest to the handcuffed detainee and follows the spit’s trajectory.

Police say officers were frequently coughing and spitting due to “exposure to tear gas,” amid demonstrations in the city.

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BERLIN — A German government spokesman has called the death of George Floyd “terrible and avoidable,” but says the United States doesn’t need advice from Germany on dealing with the situation.

Steffen Seibert says “America is a strong democracy where there is a lively debate about everything that’s happening now, it doesn’t need our advice.”

Asked whether Germany has a problem with racial discrimination, Seibert says “racism certainly isn’t a problem in America alone, it’s a problem in many societies and I’m sure there is racism in Germany, too.”

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Several thousand people congregated at the state capitol in St. Paul for a peaceful protest Tuesday, organized by high school students in metro area.

The sit-in on the capitol’s front lawn and steps was in contrast to the civil unrest that has roiled the Twin Cities since the death of George Floyd.

Army National Guard soldiers handed out bottled water during the protest.

Also, faith leaders from several congregations marched with hundreds past the ruins of burned businesses to the boarded up Target store, which was the epicenter of protesting and looting last week.

St. Paul Police Chief Todd Axtell and St. Paul Fire Chief Butch Inks walked alongside clergy members during the march, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Officials in Minnesota tweeted Wednesday that 612 people have been arrested since they set up a state operations center late last week.

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JOHANNESBURG — South Africa’s government is calling on security forces in the United States to use “maximum restraint” in responding to the protests over the killing of George Floyd.

The statement cites Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor saying just as Americans supported South Africa in its struggle against apartheid, “South Africa, too, supports the clarion calls for practical action to address the inadequacies highlighted by protesters.”

The statement also warns that the violence marking some of the protests in the U.S. “seriously detracts from drawing international awareness to the legitimate concerns about violence against defenseless black people and other minorities in America.”

The statement ends by expressing the belief that the U.S., “a beacon of freedom for many worldwide, has the ability to directly focus on healing and peace.”

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TEHRAN, Iran — Iran’s supreme leader has assailed Washington in the wake of George Floyd’s killing for its allegedly duplicitous policies when it comes to upholding human rights.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed in America, “they kill people in an open crime, and they do not offer an apology while claiming (to support) human rights.”

Khamenei, who has final say on all state matters, added: “Apparently, the African American man who was killed there was not a human being.”

Khamenei’s remarks came in a speech on Wednesday marking the anniversary of the 1989 death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The televised speech came as the country cancelled an annual massive commemoration for Khomeini due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Khamenei described Floyd’s death, including how he repeatedly said “I can’t breathe.” Khamenei added “this is nothing new. This is the American nature. This is what Americans have been doing to the whole world.”

In Iran, which in November put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds, arresting thousands and disrupting internet access, state television has repeatedly aired images of the U.S. unrest.

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VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis says he has ‘’witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest’’ in the United States in reaction to the killing of George Floyd and called for national reconciliation.

“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,’’ the pope said during his weekly Wednesday audience, held in the presence of bishops due to coronavirus restrictions on gatherings.

At the same time, the pontiff warned “nothing is gained by violence and so much is lost.’’

Francis said he was praying “for the repose of George Floyd and all those who have lost their lives as a result of the sin of racism’’ and issued his condolences for all those who grieve their loss. He called for national reconciliation and peace.

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