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The Latest: Police prevent mass rally in Sydney

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Statues boarded up in London ahead of anti-racism and far-right protests

— Australian government urges protesters not to attend rallies

— Columbus statue in Camden, New Jersey, latest to be taken down

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SYDNEY — Hundreds of police have disrupted plans for a Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Sydney, but protest organisers have vowed that other rallies will continue around Australia over the weekend despite warnings of the pandemic risk.

Police ringed the Sydney Town Hall hours before around 3,000 people were expected to attend a rally on Friday following the death in Minnesota of George Floyd.

Police vans were parked in side streets in preparation for mass arrests for breaching a 10-person limit on public gatherings. Protesters instead split, and 100 dispersed around the hall while another a few hundred converged on a nearby park.

The protesters all appeared to obey police directions to leave.

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LONDON — Authorities in London have boarded up a war memorial and a statue of wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill ahead of expected rival demonstrations by anti-racism and far-right protesters.

Monuments have become major focuses of contention in demonstrations sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was hauled from its plinth by protesters in the English port city of Bristol on Sunday and dumped in the harbor.

Several other statues have been defaced around the country. Police now fear far-right groups plan to seek confrontation under the guise of protecting statues.

With more demonstrations expected on the weekend, a protective plywood screen was erected around Churchill’s statue outside Parliament. Authorities also fenced off the nearby Cenotaph, a memorial to Britain’s war dead.

A Black Lives Matter group in London said it was calling off a planned protest on Saturday because the presence of far-right activists would make it unsafe. Another anti-racism protest Friday is set to go ahead.

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BERLIN — Police in eastern Germany have suspended two officers who filmed themselves harassing a homeless man.

A 90-second video of Sunday’s incident in Bad Belzig, southwest of Berlin, that was uploaded to social media, showed one of the officers shoving the inebriated man and trying to kick him.

Police in Brandenburg state said late Thursday that the two officers face a criminal investigation and disciplinary proceedings, and have been suspended from work.

The global debate about police conduct following the death of George Floyd in the United States has prompted scrutiny of several incidents in Germany, too.

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CANBERRA, Australia — Australian government leaders have urged activists not to attend Black Lives Matter and other rallies planned for the weekend due to the pandemic risk.

Rallies are planned for Australian cities this weekend over the Minnesota death of George Floyd; the coronavirus risk posed to asylum-seekers held in crowded Australian immigration detention centers; and the pandemic threat created by eating meat.

Police largely did not enforce social distancing rules during peaceful Black Lives Matter rallies attended by thousands in Australian cities last weekend that focused on the high incarceration rate of indigenous Australians.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison has urged police to charge protesters with breaching pandemic restrictions during the coming weekend.

“The very clear message is that people should not attend those events, because it is against the health advice to do so,” Morrison told reporters.

A large police presence gathered in Sydney around the site of a proposed Black Lives Matter rally hours ahead of its scheduled start in an apparent attempt to deter the public gathering.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann suggested demonstrators could lose government welfare payments if they attended rallies, but Morrison later ruled out any such federal retaliation. The government pays a wage subsidy to 3.5 million Australians to keep them in work during the pandemic lockdown.

A protester became sick after attending a Melbourne rally on Saturday and later tested positive for COVID-19. Authorities suspected he became infected before the rally and might have spread the virus to other protesters.

A court on Thursday ruled a refugee rally planned for Sydney on Saturday illegal because of the pandemic threat, increasing the range of powers available to police to prevent it.

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CAMDEN, N.J. — A statue of Christopher Columbus in this southern New Jersey city, has been taken down, joining others across the country.

The city of Camden released a statement calling the Farnham Park statue a “controversial symbol” that has “long pained residents of the community.”

Protesters mobilized by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police have called for the removal of statues of Columbus around the country, saying the Italian explorer is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

Video from local news outlets showed the statue coming down Thursday night. The city’s statement says “a plan to reexamine these outdated symbols of racial division and injustices” is overdue. The majority of Camden residents are people of color.

Statues of Columbus have also been toppled or vandalized in cities such as Miami; Richmond, Virginia; St. Paul, Minnesota, and Boston, where one was decapitated.

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The use of controversial “no-knock” warrants has been banned in Louisville, and the new ordinance named for Breonna Taylor, who was fatally shot after officers burst into her home.

The city’s Metro Council unanimously voted Thursday night to ban the controversial warrants after days of protests and calls for reform.

Taylor, who was studying to become a nurse, was shot eight times by officers conducting a narcotics investigation on March 13. No drugs were found at her home.

“I’m just going to say, Breonna, that’s all she wanted to do was save lives, so with this law she will continue to get to do that,” Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, said after the law was passed. “She would be so happy.”

The law bans the use of the warrants by Louisville Metro officers. Police typically use them in drug cases over concern that evidence could be destroyed if they announce their arrival. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul also introduced federal legislation Thursday that would ban the use of no-knock warrants nationwide.

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ATLANTA — Charges have been upgraded against a 42-year-old man accused of deliberately running his ATV into an Atlanta police officer during a protest of police brutality and the death of George Floyd.

In a statement Thursday, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said Avery Goggans, of Stone Mountain, faces new charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

Campos said the new charges were filed because Goggans had tried to hit two other officers at different intersections before he rammed into Officer Maximilian Brewer in downtown Atlanta on the night of May 30. Brewer suffered significant injuries to his legs.

Goggans was initially charged with DUI, reckless driving, possession of marijuana and other traffic offenses including serious injury by vehicle, Campos said.

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