The Latest: U.S. Park Police deny using tear gas at protest
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:
— Mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter wants justice for him “because he was good.”
— Retired admiral “sickened” by use of National Guard against protesters.
— Thousands of protesters mass across the street from Lafayette Park near the White House.
— Los Angeles police have arrested more than 2,700 during protests.
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Park Police is denying it used tear gas to disperse a crowd of protesters outside the White House on Monday night, saying officers instead used smoke canisters and pepper balls to aggressively push back the demonstrators.
Protesters scrambled as smoke filled the streets and AP journalists witnessed people reacting to their eyes and throats becoming irritated. Journalists covering the protest reported the crowd was largely peaceful at the time; the Park Police said they were responding to protesters throwing items, including bricks and frozen water bottles at law enforcement.
Justice Department officials offered a different explanation, saying officers were carrying out Attorney General William Barr’s order to expand the security perimeter outside the White House.
Officers repelled the crowd nearly 30 minutes ahead of a 7 p.m. curfew in Washington. Shortly after the crowd was pushed back, President Donald Trump walked through the park where they had gathered for a photo opportunity at a nearby church.
DALLAS — Former President George W. Bush criticized any effort to squelch protests of George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody.
In a statement issued Tuesday by his office in Dallas, the former Republican president said he and wife Laura Bush “are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country.”
Bush did not refer specifically toward President Donald Trump, but he called the harassment and threats toward African American protesters “a shocking failure.”
“It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. … Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place,” he said.
MINNEAPOLIS — The mother of George Floyd’s 6-year-old daughter, Gianna, said Tuesday that she wanted the world to know that her little girl lost a good father who would never get to see his daughter grow up.
“I want everybody to know that this is what those officers took. At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families,” Roxie Washington said during a Minneapolis news conference with her young daughter at her side. “I’m here for my baby and I’m here for George because I want justice for him. I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks, he was good.”
Floyd died on Memorial Day after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the black man’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
SEATTLE — Seattle’s police watchdog agency said Tuesday it is investigating the use of pepper spray to break up a fourth consecutive day of large protests over the George Floyd killing, a tactic that drew questions from some city leaders.
The protest Monday was largely peaceful but turned chaotic as officers dispersed the crowd at night using tear gas and flash-bang devices. Authorities said demonstrators threw fireworks and tried to storm a barricade near a police station, but citizen video posted on Reddit and Facebook showed that the chaos began when an officer grabbed a pink umbrella that a demonstrator was holding just across a barricade. Other officers nearby then began spraying chemicals and firing flash-bangs.
Seattle’s Office of Police Accountability said it has received about 12,000 complaints over the Seattle Police Department’s handling of the demonstrations and looting.
WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters gathered across the street from Lafayette Park near the White House on Tuesday evening as military and civilian law enforcement personnel stood on the other side of a black chain link fence that had been put up overnight to block access to the park.
The crowd chanted the name of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. Floyd is the black man who died while in police custody in Minnesota.
The protesters stood in front of the historic church where President Donald Trump went for a photo op Monday night after the area around Lafayette Park was cleared of protesters by law enforcement officials using smoke canisters and pepper balls.
When Washington’s 7 p.m. curfew hit, the protesters didn’t budge. Instead, they used an expletive to describe what they thought of the curfew and defied warnings from federal officials that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful.
WASHINGTON — A former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff says he was “sickened” to see National Guard troops and other security personnel forcibly clear protesters from a square near the White House to facilitate President Donald Trump’s walk to a nearby church to pose for photographers.
Calling the visit Monday a “stunt,” Mike Mullen, a retired Navy admiral who headed the military from 2007 to 2011, wrote in The Atlantic on Tuesday it laid bare what he called Trump’s “disdain” for the rights of peaceful protesters. He said it also risked further politicizing the military.
Mullen cautioned against an overly aggressive use of the military to restrain the sometimes-violent protests around the country. He said he has confidence in the professionalism of the troops but worries about the soundness of the orders they would be given by Trump.
MIAMI — A demonstration in Miami grew to about 400 people as protesters marched from a courthouse to a historically black neighborhood north of downtown.
Demonstrators sat on one knee during several stops to listen to organizers shouting instructions that they were to remain peaceful and hydrated in the 80-degree weather. They shouted “No justice, no peace, no racist police” as more than 30 officers followed the group a few blocks behind wearing body armor.
Twenty-two-year-old Trinity Auberry arrived at the demonstration with four other friends. It was the first time protesting for the young black model who said the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis is not isolated and cases of “police brutality” are also common in Florida.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia National Guard is pursuing disciplinary action against a guardsman who posted on social media that he would shoot at people protesting the death of George Floyd, officials said Tuesday.
The guardsman, Noah Garcelon, has already resigned his position as an officer with the Winfield Police Department after making the comments. In a series of now-deleted posts, Garcelon wrote that he would “start firing live rounds” at protesters and “see how many I can run over before my car breaks down.”
Maj. Gen. James Hoyer, who leads the state’s National Guard, said officials will be taking the appropriate disciplinary action related to Garcelon and any others “who make inflammatory comments related to protests going on across the nation.”
Winfield Police Department Chief Ron Arthur said Garcelon acknowledged that he made the comments and stressed that he wasn’t a racist before resigning.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, has urged people to remain peaceful but said he would not hesitate to call in the National Guard if demonstrations in the state became violent.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — About 100 people gathered in front of the state capitol building in downtown Columbia, South Carolina, on Tuesday afternoon as medics passed out water bottles and snacks and volunteers passed out voter registration forms.
Participants raised their fists in unison as passing commuters showed their solidarity with honks and waves.
An outreach minister emphasized the need to sustain demonstrations past the initial events over the weekend and also urged a peaceful nature in the afternoon’s demonstrations. Minister Danielle Ford told the crowd, “they’re waiting on us to give up, they’re waiting on us to get tired, they’re waiting on us to give in. We need you out here.”
A 21-year-old college student said she was protesting for justice for George Floyd as well as Joshua Ruffin, a 17-year-old shot to death by a Columbia police officer after a foot chase in April.
HOUSTON — Houston rappers Bun B and Trae Tha Truth organized a march on Tuesday and told the crowd it would be peaceful.
After asking the crowd of several thousand to look for anybody who could cause trouble, Bun B then led them on a chant. He said “What’s his name?” and the crowd replied, “George Floyd.”
The crowd later got down on one knee and was silent for 30 seconds.
Among those participating was a group of about 60 people on horseback from a riding club in Houston.
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday more than 2,700 people have been arrested since protests and violence began in the nation’s second-largest city.
The chief told the city Police Commission that about 2,500 of those arrests were for failure to disperse or curfew violations. The remainder were for crimes including burglary, looting, assaults on police officers and other violence.
The chief gave the figures during a report to the Police Department’s civilian oversight board. Several new demonstrations in Los Angeles on Tuesday over the death of George Floyd have remained peaceful.
PARIS — Riot officers have fired tear gas as scattered protesters threw projectiles and set fires during an unauthorized demonstration against police violence and racial injustice.
Several thousand people had previously rallied peacefully for two hours Tuesday around the main Paris courthouse in homage to George Floyd and to Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody.
Police had banned the protest because of coronavirus restrictions that forbid any gathering of more than 10 people.
As the demonstration wound down, police fired tear gas and protesters could be seen throwing projectiles. Two small fires broke out.
Tensions also erupted at a related protest Tuesday in the southern city of Marseille.
CHICAGO — Authorities in a Chicago suburb where two people were fatally shot in unrest following George Floyd’s death are issuing fresh safety precautions Tuesday.
Cicero officials cautioned residents to “stay home and stay off the streets” a day after violence and destruction erupted in the town of about 84,000 west of Chicago. Police say most of Monday’s chaos stemmed from residents trying to defend businesses. Roughly 60 people were arrested, mostly for burglary and weapons violations.
Two men in their 20s were fatally shot around 6 p.m. in separate incidents related to the violent clashes.
TRENTON, N.J. — Citing George Floyd’s death, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Tuesday the state will update its guidelines governing the use of force by police for the first time in two decades and will move to require a statewide licensing program for all officers.
At least 43 other states require some licensing requirement for officers, Grewal said, adding he wants to bring law enforcement in line with other professions that require licensing.
The announcements also include a pilot program in a handful of cities across the state to conduct training programs aimed at promoting safe interactions between police and communities and the implementation of a statewide database to document when police use force, Grewal said.
MINNEAPOLIS — The state of Minnesota has filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
The state says it will investigate the department’s policies and practices over the last 10 years to determine whether it has engaged in “systemic” discrimination against people of color. The complaint comes from the state Department of Human Rights, which enforces the state’s human rights act. It targets a police department that has faced decades of allegations of brutality and other discrimination against African-Americans and other minorities including within the department itself.
Critics say the department has a culture that resists change and the department has come under fresh criticism after Floyd died after a white officer knelt on his neck and ignored his cries of “I can’t breathe” until Floyd eventually stopped moving.
WASHINGTON — Attorney General William Barr ordered law enforcement officials to clear Lafayette Park and push back the perimeter around the White House when he arrived there Monday evening, leading to police using tear gas to disperse protesters.
A person familiar with the matter tells The Associated Press that Barr expected the perimeter to have been extended much earlier Monday. The person could not discuss the matter publicly and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.
The person said officials had met that morning and decided the perimeter had to be moved by at least one full block after multiple fires were set in the park the night before. They said that was expected to happen by Monday afternoon.
The person said Barr was surprised it hadn’t been done when he arrived in the early evening and directed action to be taken. They said he assumed police would use “typical crowd control measures” against protesters who resisted commands to clear the area.
MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors are delaying the case against a man who drove his semitrailer into a crowd of protesters on a closed Minneapolis freeway.
The 35-year-old man drove his tanker truck into the midst of thousands of people who had gathered on Interstate 35W near downtown Minneapolis on Sunday. Authorities said it appeared no one was hurt and the man was arrested.
Gov. Tim Walz said the man became confused and somehow got on the freeway before traffic officials closed it.
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday that the case against the man has been deferred pending further investigation and he’ll be released from jail. Freeman said investigators are working to gather additional information to help in making a charging decision.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump ordered military aircraft to fly above the nation’s capital Monday night as a “show of force” against demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd, according to two Department of Defense officials.
Show-of-force missions are designed to intimidate and, in combat zones, warn opposing forces of potential military action if provoked. The officials, who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss ongoing operations publicly, did not say how many or what type of aircraft had been mobilized.
Videos and photographs posted on social media showed helicopters flying low over buildings and hovering just above groups who were on the street despite a district-wide curfew.
On Tuesday, roughly 700 members of the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division had arrived at two military bases near Washington. Another 1,400 soldiers are ready to be mobilized within an hour, the two Pentagon officials said. The soldiers are armed and have riot gear as well as bayonets.
The officials said the mission has been named “Operation Themis.” In Greek mythology, Themis was a titaness of divine law and order, whose symbols are the scales of justice.
— Reporting by James LaPorta