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The Latest: Texas' Abbott pays respects at service for Floyd

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Texas' Abbott pays respects with hundreds of people mourning the death of George Floyd at a church in Houston.

— Birx says she’s worried about the impact the widespread protests may have on curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

— France’s interior minister says police will no longer conduct chokeholds.

— Denver’s police department is changing policies regarding its use of force and body cameras.

— UK leader says anti-racism protests have been “subverted by thuggery”

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HOUSTON — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has paid his respects with hundreds of people mourning the death of George Floyd at a church in Houston, where Floyd grew up.

The Republican governor looked at Floyd’s body in a gold-colored casket at The Fountain of Praise church Monday for about 15 seconds, then lowered his head with his hands folded for several seconds more.

Abbott told reporters outside the church that he will include Floyd’s family in discussions about police reform and any related legislation.

“George Floyd is going to change the arc of the future of the United States. George Floyd has not died in vain. His life will be a living legacy about the way that America and Texas responds to this tragedy,” Abbott said.

Abbott said he planned to meet privately with Floyd’s family and present them with a Texas flag that was flown over the state Capitol in Floyd’s honor. The governor wore a striped crimson and gold tie, which he said was in honor of Floyd as those are the colors of Floyd’s high school.

Floyd, who was black and handcuffed, died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped responding. His death has inspired international protests.

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LOS ANGELES — Funeral-style auto processions in memory of George Floyd are winding through Southern California.

The processions are expected to culminate Monday with a downtown Los Angeles memorial service for Floyd, whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police two weeks ago continues to draw nationwide protests.

The processions coincide with a final public viewing for Floyd at a Houston church. His funeral will be Tuesday, followed by burial next to his mother.

California demonstrations have been largely peaceful for days, after initially being marred by violence and looting.

Officials announced Sunday that California National Guard troops are being pulled out of California cities that had requested them.

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RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia prosecutor said Monday she is investigating whether hate crimes charges are appropriate against an “admitted” Ku Klux Klan leader who authorities say revved his vehicle’s engine and drove through peaceful protesters occupying a Richmond-area roadway.

There were no reports of serious injuries from the incident late Sunday afternoon. Harry H. Rogers was arrested and charged with assault and battery, attempted malicious wounding and felony vandalism, Henrico County Commonwealth’s Attorney Shannon Taylor said in a statement.

“The accused, by his own admission and by a cursory glance at social media, is an admitted leader of the Ku Klux Klan and a propagandist for Confederate ideology. We are investigating whether hate crimes charges are appropriate,” Taylor said in the statement.

Rogers, 36, of Hanover County, made an initial court appearance Monday morning where he agreed to accept a court-appointed attorney and was denied bond, Richmond TV station WTVR reported.

The attorney listed for him in court records, George Townsend, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Taylor’s statement said Rogers was driving recklessly in the vicinity of the protest, drove up to the protesters, revved the engine and drove into the group.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s virus task force, says she’s worried about the potential impact the widespread protests against police violence may have on curbing the coronavirus pandemic.

Birx said Monday she’s concerned shouting protesters may have spread the disease and that high-risk individuals attended some protests. She also said that some urban testing sites were destroyed in the protests.

Birx made the comments on a private White House call with governors, the audio of which was obtained by The Associated Press.

Birx said she saw many protesters not wearing masks and some who wore masks were shouting. She said that while the masks may work at stopping to spread the disease when an infected person wearing one is talking, “we don’t know the efficacy of masks with shouting.”

She said she’s also concerned about some of the age groups she saw at the protests, particularly as they became more peaceful.

“I saw more and more higher risk groups on the streets,” Birx said.

Birx said about 70 testing sites nationwide, including pharmacies, that were serving inner city residents were destroyed during the protests.

Vice President Mike Pence urged governors to make sure masks were distributed at protests and that protesters distance themselves from potentially vulnerable family members. He noted that hasn’t been a spike in cases after large crowds gathered during Memorial Day Weekend, which was before the protests began.

“Sunlight, humidity, heat are all our allies in all of this,” Pence said.

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PARIS — France’s interior minister says police will no longer conduct chokeholds that have been blamed for multiple cases of asphyxiation and which have come under renewed criticism after George Floyd’s death.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced Monday that “the method of seizing the neck via strangling will be abandoned and will no longer be taught in police schools.”

He spoke out as the French government comes under increasing pressure to address brutality and racism within the police force.

Immobilization techniques where officers apply pressure with their knees on prone suspects are used in policing around the world and have long drawn criticism. French lawmakers have called for such practices to be banned.

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SEATTLE — Police in Seattle again used flash bangs and tear gas to break up a crowd of George Floyd protesters overnight Sunday after authorities said people threw rocks and fireworks at officers, but City Council members say police overreacted.

There was mayhem in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood for a second night in a row.

Earlier Sunday, a man drove a car at protesters, hit a barricade then exited the vehicle brandishing a pistol.

At least one person was injured. The victim was a 27-year-old male who was shot and taken to a hospital in stable condition, the Seattle Fire Department said. Police said the suspect was taken into custody.

Hours later, police say the crowd near a police station became unruly, with multiple projectiles thrown.

Police ordered people to disperse and said in a Tweet “CS gas has been authorized.”

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Governors in 34 states and the District of Columbia have activated more than 42,700 National Guard members to assist state and local law enforcement in support of civil unrest operations.

The numbers may change as governors assess their needs.

On Monday, approximately 4,000 Guard men and women from the District of Columbia and supporting states remain on station in DC for support to the National Capitol Region.

More than 600 returned to their home states Sunday, and an additional 1,500 are expected to depart in the next 24 hours.

All additional Guardsmen from states supporting DC are expected to return home by Wednesday.

“The National Guard, over the short span of several months, has gone from tackling natural disasters such as floods, to combating the coronavirus across the country, to now dealing with civil unrest in support of law enforcement on the streets of America, all while many of their fellow Guardsmen are deployed abroad, defending against America’s real adversaries,” Secretary of Defense Dr. Mark T. Esper said.

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DENVER — Denver’s police department is changing policies regarding its use of force and body cameras in the wake of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody.

As more people demonstrated in Denver on Sunday evening, the department released a statement saying that it has fully banned the use of chokeholds with no exceptions effective immediately.

It also said officers who intentionally point their gun at someone will be required to notify a supervisor and file a report to help collect data on such incidents.

The department said that it will also require members of its SWAT team to activate their body cameras when they are performing tactical operations.

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GENEVA — The head of the World Health Organization says it supports the global movement against racism and hopes that those protesting will “do so safely” — such as by keeping at least one meter (3 feet) apart from each other, cleaning their hands, covering a cough and wearing masks.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus had a reminder for people who are sick: They should stay home and contact a health care provider.

Dr. Michael Ryan, the agency’s emergencies chief, noted that the “riskiest position” to be in is exposure in close proximity to a “particularly asymptomatic case of COVID-19.”

He said people have had four or five months to “really internalize” that a person who is unwell or getting ill “should really be at home and not engaged in any public activity.”

But he suggested that government officials should have the last word.

“We would always defer to national and sub-national authorities if they wish and need to take necessary public health actions that are based on risk assessment, that are based on scientific evidence,” Ryan said. “Then we will defer to their advice they give to their communities in order to protect their health.”

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An 18-year-old motorist has been charged in Tennessee with recklessly driving into a group of demonstrators who were protesting police brutality, striking four, authorities said.

During a street protest in the city of Memphis on Friday, Anthony Marcuzzo slowly drove his Chevrolet Tahoe into a line of protesters “and continued to move forward, pushing through the four demonstrators,” according to a police affidavit filed in Shelby County Criminal Court.

A woman was carried 20 feet as she hung onto the driver’s side mirror, police said. She was treated at a hospital for bruises on her left arm and left leg.

Police reviewed surveillance video and charged Marcuzzo on Saturday with reckless endangerment and reckless driving.

Protesters have been marching around the globe since the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck after he pleaded for air while handcuffed on May 25.

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LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says anti-racism demonstrations have been “subverted by thuggery” after protesters tore down a statue of a slave trader in the city of Bristol and scrawled graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in London.

London’s Metropolitan police say a dozen people were arrested and eight officers injured after demonstrators clashed Sunday with police in central London.

Johnson says while people have a right to peacefully protest, they have no right to attack the police. He says “these demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery — and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve.’’

Crime, Policing and Justice Minister Kit Malthouse called Monday for those responsible for toppling the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol to be prosecuted.

But Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees told the BBC that while he doesn’t condone criminal damage, he felt no “sense of loss” for the statue.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Add North Carolina’s capital city to those sporting a bold message denouncing racism painted in large yellow letters on a city street.

Artists on Sunday painted the words “End Racism Now” on a downtown street, the Raleigh News & Observer reported.

The message was added days after the mayor of Washington, D.C., had the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on a street leading to the White House amid days of demonstrations in the nation’s capital and all over the country in response to George Floyd's death in Minneapolis.

Floyd died May 25 after a white officer pressed his knee into the unarmed black man's neck, ignoring his “I can’t breathe” cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving.

Charman Driver, former chair of the Contemporary Art Museum on Martin Street, where the painting is located, called it “a very painful totem.” The street leads to Confederate monuments on State Capitol grounds, which have been spotlighted as offensive during protests.

The painting was applied Sunday morning when a city engineer met the artists and brought barricades to block off the street.

“We did it. And it’s wonderful. And we feel really good about it. Our voices are being heard, but it’s not enough,” Driver said.

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