The Latest: UN human rights chief: US must face race issues

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:

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

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

— Thousands peacefully protest in St. Paul, Minn., Phoenix, Seattle.

— US arrests at least 9,300 at protests since George Floyd's death.

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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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PORTLAND, Ore. — Several hundred people broke away from a massive peaceful protest late Tuesday and engaged in a confrontation with police officers guarding a public building.

Police Chief Jami Resch says in a video message posted on Twitter that members of the smaller group tried to tear down fencing to protect a facility that holds the police headquarters and a county jail. They threw bottles, bats and mortars at officers.

Police declared an unlawful assembly and set off flash-bang grenades and tear gas. It wasn’t clear how many arrests, if any, had been made.

The violence was in stark contrast to a rally and march earlier in the evening. Thousands of people laid down on a major bridge spanning the Willamette River for 9 minutes, with their bodies covering nearly the entire span of the bridge.

The crowd proceeded to Pioneer Courthouse Square for a peaceful rally before the much smaller group broke away.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler canceled an 8 p.m. curfew earlier Tuesday after praising protesters for Monday night’s demonstration, which was largely peaceful.

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NEW YORK — At least 9,300 people have been arrested in protests around the country since the killing of George Floyd, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Los Angeles has recorded 2,700 arrests since the protests, followed by New York with about 1,500. Police in Dallas, Houston and Philadelphia have also arrested several hundred people.

Protests have engulfed cities from coast to coast. Floyd was an African American man killed by a Minneapolis police officer who pressed a knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes, even as he pleaded he couldn’t breathe.

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NEW YORK — Thousands of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd remained on New York City streets Tuesday after an 8 p.m. curfew put in place by officials struggling to lessen the destruction.

Mayor Bill de Blasio had doubled down on a citywide curfew, moving it up from 11 p.m. a night earlier, but rejected urging from President Donald Trump and an offer from New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to bring in the National Guard.

Protests resumed Tuesday during the day over the death of Floyd, a black man who died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.

Thousands marched in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, as merchants boarded up their businesses. As the the curfew arrived, many were still in the streets and marching, with officers initially standing by.

But officers started ordering people to move along and began taking people into custody. Demonstrators on the West Side Highway in lower Manhattan were herded off, with parts of the roadway blocked off behind them.

“Something has to break, and it’s not going to be us,” says Evan Kutcher, one of hundreds of demonstrators who stood outside the Barclays Center chanting Floyd’s name. “We’re here because something needs to change."

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WASHINGTON — The protest in the nation’s capital on Tuesday night was peaceful and polite, in contrast to the previous nights’ demonstrations.

The crowd outside Lafayette Park near the White House protested the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minnesota.

Instead of spray painted, the protesters Tuesday favored colorful children’s street chalk, writing Black Lives Matter slogans on the asphalt in front of St. John’s Church.

Protesters chanted and talked among themselves, most wearing masks, but not keeping to social distancing for the coronavirus. One protester, Mati Yiheyis, a 21-year-old college student at the University of Virginia, speculated that fears of coronavirus kept many older people away.

When one protester climbed a lamp post and removed a street sign he was roundly booed.

“It’s not what we’re about,” said protester George “T.J.” Pierce of Washington.

The crowd started thinning out on its own after 8 p.m., an hour after a curfew went into place, although a core group of several hundred remained at the fence, chanting at the line of police and soldiers in riot gear on the other side.

On Monday, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback aggressively drove protesters away from Lafayette Park, clearing the way for President Donald Trump's photo op at St. John’s Church.

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LOS ANGELES — Thousands took to the streets of Los Angeles in peaceful protests Tuesday, and smaller demonstrations dotted California cities while authorities renewed overnight curfews in LA and other areas that have seen clashes with police and destruction of hundreds of businesses.

There were several sizable demonstrations in Los Angeles, and Mayor Eric Garcetti took a knee at one while in a crowd outside police headquarters. However, hundreds gathered outside the mayor’s house and protested later in the day.

Elsewhere in the city, police cordons backed by National Guard troops kept a tight watch on marchers in Hollywood, where hundreds were arrested a day earlier, and at a crowd of thousands at City Hall.

In San Francisco, people marched up the Great Highway along San Francisco’s Ocean Beach. At San Jose’s City Hall, several hundred showed up for a demonstration and speeches organized by the local branch of the NAACP.

San Francisco Police Chief William Scott asked supervisors Tuesday to keep an overnight curfew order for at least the “next few days” to get ahead of people bent on using peaceful protests to pilfer stores and commit violence. Mayor London Breed ordered the 8 p.m. curfew Sunday following a night of thefts downtown.

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Police are urging thousands of demonstrators planning to attend a protest rally in Australia’s second-largest city over George Floyd’s death to reconsider due to social distancing rules.

Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Luke Cornelius on Wednesday described the rally planned for Saturday as the largest mass gathering in Melbourne since pandemic restrictions were introduced in March.

Public gatherings are limited to 20 people in Victoria state, and people must keep 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart.

Australia has recorded 7,221 coronavirus cases with 26 in hospitals on Wednesday. There have been 102 deaths.

Cornelius didn't say whether police plan to fine protesters, but says “police would prefer people obey the law.”

Police have not enforced social distancing regulations when thousands gathered peacefully in Sydney and Perth in solidarity with U.S. demonstrators and to protest the over-representation of indigenous Australians in prisons.

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MINNEAPOLIS — The Minneapolis school board has voted to end its contract with the Minneapolis Police Department following the death last week of George Floyd.

The Star Tribune reports the vote was unanimous Tuesday.

Minneapolis Public Schools will stop further negotiations with the Police Department. Schools Superintendent Ed Graff must come up with a new plan for school safety by the board’s Aug. 18 meeting.

School board chairwoman Kim Ellison said in an interview that she values “people and education and life.” Ellison said she’s now convinced, “based on the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department, that we don’t have the same values.”

The Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts have faced criticism over the use of school resource officers. Both districts have sought to transform the role to be more of a mentor than an enforcer.

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