The Latest: UF ending “gator bait” cheer over racist history
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— University of Florida ending “gator bait” sports cheer over its racial connotations.
— Oklahoma State U. removing name of ex-governor who advanced Jim Crow.
— Columbus statue coming down in Columbus, Ohio.
— Automakers to halt production to acknowledge Floyd’s death, Juneteenth.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The University of Florida is ending its “gator bait” cheer at football games and other sports events because of its racial connotations.
University President Kent Fuchs announced in a letter on Thursday that ending the cheer would be one of several changes on campus.
Fuchs says the “gator bait” cheer has “horrific historic racist imagery” involving black people being used as alligator bait.
Fuchs also says task forces will look into the university’s history with racial issues and whether any Confederate names are on campus buildings. The university will also stop using prison and jail inmates in agricultural programs.
STILLWATER, Okla. — Oklahoma State University’s governing board plans to vote Friday to remove the name Murray from a building at the school’s Stillwater campus.
The move ends the school’s affiliation with a governor who advocated for segregation and pushed to advance Jim Crow laws.
University President Burns Hargis sent a letter to the board of regents on Wednesday recommending that the school rename the building that pays homage to Oklahoma’s ninth governor, William H. “Alfalfa Bill” Murray. The vote will likely be a formality as the regents chairman, Tucker Link, joined Hargis in condemning the “Murray Hall” name. Link said Murray’s racist ideology was a reflection of the time period.
The vote comes after a controversy involving the school’s football team. Running back Chuba Hubbard, who is black, suggested Monday that he may boycott the program after head coach Mike Gundy was photographed wearing a T-shirt promoting One America News Network, a cable channel and website that has been critical of the Black Lives Matter movement and praised by President Donald Trump. Gundy, who is white, apologized to his team on Tuesday.
COLUMBUS, Ohio — A statue of Christopher Columbus will be removed from the Ohio city named after him.
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther announced the removal on Thursday.
The statue located by City Hall will be taken away immediately and placed in storage. The move comes as monuments to Confederates and other historical figures who repressed or oppressed other people are being dismantled across the country. Columbus is the largest U.S. city named for the explorer.
“For many people in our community, the statue represents patriarchy, oppression and divisiveness.” Ginther said in a statement. “That does not represent our great city, and we will no longer live in the shadow of our ugly past.”
DETROIT — Assembly lines at factories run by Detroit automakers will come to a halt Friday to commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S. and to support protests after the death of George Floyd.
Work will halt at Ford, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler factories for nearly nine minutes at 8:46 a.m. and p.m. in demonstrations organized by the United Auto Workers union.
“We do this in support of the millions who are demanding an end to racism and hate and calling for real reforms,” union President Rory Gamble wrote in a note to the UAW’s 400,000 members.
Floyd, who is black, died May 25 pleading for air as a white Minneapolis police officer held a knee to his neck for nearly eight minutes. Minnesota prosecutors acknowledged Wednesday that the officer had his knee on Floyd’s neck for 7 minutes, 46 seconds — not the 8:46 that has become a global symbol of police brutality.
All three automakers have agreed to shut down lines for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on each shift Friday. In addition, all employees at the companies are being asked to be silent for 8:46.
Friday is Juneteenth, considered the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump says he learned about the importance of Juneteenth from a black Secret Service agent and is taking credit for making the unofficial holiday “very famous.”
Trump made the comments in a Wall Street Journal interview published Thursday.
The president had planned to hold his first campaign rally since early March in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on June 19. Those plans were changed after the date and location were criticized as insensitive to the country’s history of racist violence.
June 19, known as Juneteenth, is an unofficial holiday that celebrates the end of slavery in the United States. It commemorates the day in 1865 when Union soldiers brought word of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas.
Trump’s indoor rally in Tulsa was moved to Saturday instead.
“I did something good: I made Juneteenth very famous,” Trump told the newspaper.
Tulsa was also the site of one of most notorious incidents of racist violence in U.S. history. In 1921, a mob of white residents attacked and killed black community members, destroying a thriving black business district.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Police in Portland, Oregon, say they cleared an area in the city’s Pearl District early Thursday when demonstrators tried to set up an “autonomous zone” similar to what protesters have enacted in Seattle.
Police declared a civil disturbance and unlawful assembly at 5:30 a.m. after hundreds of demonstrators tried to gather and camp.
Once the declaration was announced, police said the approximately 50 people remaining in the area left. Authorities say one person was arrested.
In Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, protesters have cordoned off several blocks near a police station. Police have largely retreated from the area and city officials say they continue to communicate with protest leaders, who say they are maintaining the space peacefully.
The “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone has been criticized by President Donald Trump and others. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he didn’t want any similar protest zone to happen in Oregon’s largest city.
“I do not want an autonomous zone set up in Portland,” he told reporters. “I want to state unequivocally — I absolutely do not support that.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The police chief of Tennessee’s capital city has announced he will retire amid calls for his resignation.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson will step down after a national search for a new chief is completed, Mayor John Cooper said in a statement Thursday. Cooper said Anderson, who took over as chief in 2010, intended to retire after serving 10 years in the role.
“Over the next several months, my office will organize input from the entire community as we find the right leader for this next chapter of community safety in Nashville,” Cooper said.
The announcement comes days after more than a dozen city officials signed a resolution seeking to oust Anderson.
Anderson has been criticized in recent years, with activists and some city leaders saying he has resisted change and transparency. Calls for his resignation have intensified amid a wave of protests calling for police reforms.
NEW YORK – A growing number of banks have announced they will close early on Friday in observance of Juneteenth.
It’s the latest example of corporate America moving toward recognizing the unofficial holiday.
JPMorgan Chase, along with PNC, Santander and others, will close their branches and call centers to observe the holiday. Employees at the bank will be paid in full for the half-day off.
“Closing the branches enables many of our colleagues to join in the celebration and reflect on not only America’s achievements, but also its enduring effort to acknowledge its flaws and become a better nation,” said JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, in a note to employees Wednesday.
Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the Union army brought word of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas. It is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. Many states recognize the holiday, but it has never been a federal holiday.
Banks have typically followed federal government guidelines on when to keep branches open or not. But the nationwide protests since the death of George Floyd have led to several companies to reexamine previously held positions.
INDIANAPOLIS — Protesters who faced tear gas from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department while demonstrating against police brutality sued the city Thursday to halt the use of the chemical agents and projectiles.
The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Indy10 Black Lives Matter and individual protesters by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. It argues that the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violates the First Amendment. IMPD has used tear gas and pepper balls against protesters during several demonstrations following the shooting death of Dreasjon Reed by an Indianapolis police officer and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“Excessive use of force against protesters chills free speech, and widens the rift of distrust between communities and the police that are sworn to serve them,” Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement.
The city’s Office of Corporation Counsel declined to comment on the lawsuit
SEATTLE — The largest labor group in the Seattle area has expelled the city’s police union, saying the guild failed to address racism within its ranks.
The vote Wednesday night by the King County Labor Council to exclude the Seattle Police Officers Guild comes after weeks of protests in the city over police brutality and racism following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Local elected leaders are reluctant to go against the umbrella group of more than 150 unions and 100,00 workers.
“Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large,” the labor council wrote on Twitter after the vote. “Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer part of our council.”
A labor council representative says the police guild could be readmitted at some point in the future.
PLAQUEMINE, La. — A parish in southeastern Louisiana voted unanimously to remove a statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse.
The Iberville Parish Council voted Tuesday night to move the statue, which has stood for more than a century. The Advocate reports at the base of the statue are the words: “The principles for which they fought live eternally.”
It’s not clear when the statue will be removed. The newspaper says the statue’s removal was put on the council’s agenda at the request of the parish’s president. Members of the public gave comment during Tuesday’s meeting.
“It shows that we’re actually moving forward finally and getting things done,” said council member Raheem Pierce. “We need to create new symbols together: white and black, Republican and Democrat.”
MIAMI — The Miami-Dade County school board has approved anti-racism instruction as part of the curriculum in one of the nation’s largest school districts.
Board members voted 8-1 late Wednesday, saying Miami-Dade schools need to firmly combat racism.
“It is hard to take a stance that talks about the wrongs of 400-plus years, and I know what people are going to say ‘Well, I didn’t do it. It wasn’t my fault.’ But what is it that we do? What do we tell our children?” said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, one of two black board members.
Some members said they fielded hundreds of calls and emails over the proposal, apparently prompted by a misinformation campaign accusing them of trying to indoctrinate children.
Marta Perez, the only member who voted against it, said she received angry calls because of her opposition to the curriculum change. She says the district should focus instead on academics and existing initiatives that already emphasize inclusion.
CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Commissioners in the West Virginia county, where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson was born, have voted to keep his statue outside the courthouse.
The Harrison County Commission voted 2-1 Wednesday against a motion to return the equestrian statue to the Daughters of Confederacy, which gifted it to the county in 1953, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported.
Commissioner David Hinkle voted in favor of removing it, saying he was “very ashamed of the backbone” of the commission following the vote.
Nearly 20 people asked commissioners to let the statue stand or have voters decide its fate. About a dozen others called for its removal, including two speakers who said they were Jackson’s relatives, The Exponent Telegram reported.
Colin Grant Jackson joined the virtual meeting from Illinois, saying he’s a Civil War buff.
“But I also believe that a heroic statue of his cause in front of the courthouse sends a very specific message of white supremacy against the black population of the county.”
More news about the death of George Floyd at https://apnews.com/GeorgeFloyd