The Latest: Bill to eliminate police immunity fails in La.
TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Atlanta police officer to be charged with felony murder.
— Portland, Oregon cutting police budget by $16 million.
— Massachusetts governor files bill to require certification of police.
— Statue of African American tennis star Arthur Ashe vandalizd in his hometown of Richmond, Virginia.
BATON ROUGE, La. — A Louisiana lawmaker’s effort to eliminate police officers’ wide immunity from civil lawsuits for damages for injury or death was shelved by Republicans on a state House committee.
The House civil law committee voted 9-7 Wednesday against the measure from Democratic Rep. Edmond Jordan.
More than a dozen black lawmakers stood together in the room to support Jordan’s bill. After the vote, some left in tears.
Supporters of the bill said the immunity is so sweeping that it’s nearly impossible to hold officers accountable for excessive force when prosecutors refuse to bring criminal charges.
Opponents said legal avenues exist to prosecute police for excessive force. The Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association said the measure would make it harder for officers to combat crime.
The vote fell largely along party lines. Two GOP lawmakers joined Democrats in backing the measure, which was proposed after the death last month of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and other recent instances of police brutality.
PORTLAND, Ore. — City commissioners voted Wednesday to cut $16 million from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget in response to concerns about police brutality and racial injustice.
The cuts are part of a city budget approved by the commissioners in a 3-1 vote. The money saved by eliminating the gun reduction violence team, school resource officers and transit officers will be redirected to social service programs. The lone commissioner to vote no said the cuts to police weren’t deep enough.
Thousands of protesters have filled the streets of Portland every night for three weeks following the death last month of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
ATLANTA — The police officer who fatally shot Rayshard Brooks in the back after the fleeing man pointed a stun gun in his direction is going to be charged with felony murder and 10 other crimes.
Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard made the announcement about Garrett Rolfe during a news conference Wednesday.
Howard said Rolfe kicked Brooks while he lay on the ground and that the officer with him, Devin Brosnan, stood on Brooks’ shoulder as he struggled for life Friday night.
Rolfe had already been fired after he fatally shot the 27-year-old Brooks. Brosnan had been put on administrative leave.
Brosnan is being charged with aggravated assault and other crimes. The shooting had sparked new demonstrations in Georgia’s capital against police brutality.
BOSTON — Police officers in Massachusetts would have to be certified by the state under a bill filed Wednesday by Gov. Charlie Baker.
The bill would also allow for the decertification of officers who engage in excessive force, and it encourages additional training, including for advanced deescalation techniques.
Massachusetts is one of only a few states without a statewide certification program for law enforcement.
The Republican governor said his administration worked with members of the Massachusetts Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and public safety officials to draft the bill.
Baker said at a press conference that the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officers made it clear it's "the time to get this done.” He added that improving law enforcement is only one piece of the process.
LONDON — The governing body of Oxford University’s Oriel College has recommended the removal of a statue of Victorian imperialist Cecil Rhodes that has long been the target of protests.
The college’s governors, made up of faculty, met Wednesday and said they had “voted to launch an independent Commission of Inquiry into the key issues surrounding the Rhodes statue.“
A similar campaign has sought the removal of his statue in Oxford. The movement has gained new momentum since the death of George Floyd spurred anti-racism protests around the world.
Rhodes made a fortune from gold and diamond mines in the late 19th century, with miners laboring in brutal conditions. His statue was removed from the University of Cape Town in South Africa in 2015.
RICHMOND, Va. — A statue of African American tennis star Arthur Ashe has been vandalized.
Photos show the base of the monument tagged with white spray paint and the words “white lives matter” as well as the initials “WLM.” Those initials were later painted over with “BLM,” short for black lives matter.
Richmond Police said they were alerted to the vandalism on Monument Avenue about 10:15 a.m. Wednesday. Police say red paint on the statue itself was already being removed by community members.
Authorities have information on possible suspects and are asking the community to call the Crime Stoppers line if they have information on who was responsible for the vandalism.
The monument was dedicated in 1996 to memorialize the Richmond native, who died in 1993, and to counterbalance the string of statues on Memorial Avenue dedicated to Confederate leaders.
LAS VEGAS — The University of Nevada, Las Vegas has removed a statue of its “Hey Reb!” mascot from in front of its alumni center following an outcry from student groups, including the Native American Student Association.
The decision to remove the bronze statue, which was criticized for its relationship to the Confederacy, came weeks after the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.
University President Marta Meana says she has had conversations with individuals and stakeholders about how the university can move forward in light of recent events.
The statue is expected to be returned to its donors.
NEW YORK — New York’s governor signed an executive order recognizing Juneteenth as a paid holiday for state employees to commemorate the emancipation of slaves in the U.S.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo called it “a day we should all reflect upon” and “a day that is especially relevant in this moment in history. Cuomo said he’ll propose legislation next year making June 19 a permanent state holiday.
President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was effective Jan. 1, 1863, but the news took time to travel. It wasn’t until June 19, 1865, when word of the proclamation was brought by the Union army to enslaved people in Texas.
AMSTERDAM — Vandals have daubed red paint and the word “racist” on a statue of Mohandas Gandhi in Amsterdam, amid a wave of attacks on statues around the world of controversial historical figures.
A worker cleaned the statue Wednesday with a high-pressure water hose. Gandhi, widely lauded for his peaceful campaign to win independence for India, has faced criticism for some of his writings about black Africans.
A lawyer, Gandhi traveled to South Africa in 1893 and stayed for two decades, fighting to expand rights for Indians there. He has faced criticism for referring in his writings to black South Africans as backward. However, he later changed his views and supported the rights of black South Africans.
His nonviolent resistance methods have been used in movements for civil rights and freedom across the world.
DETROIT — A white suburban Detroit police chief has been suspended for 30 days without pay and will undergo diversity training for inappropriate social media posts about people protesting the death of George Floyd.
Trustees in Macomb County’s Shelby Township voted 5-2 on Tuesday night on the punishment for chief Robert J. Shelide, who has held the title since 2015.
Shelide, who earlier apologized, told the township board before the vote that he is “not a racist” and “I bleed blue.”
Shelide had been on administrative leave the past two weeks while officials investigated posts on a now-deleted Twitter account. Screenshots posted on Facebook show one tweet spoke about the need to “unleash real cops” and describing protesters as “barbarians” and needing “body bags.“
PORTLAND, Ore. — Police say a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters early Wednesday in downtown Portland, injuring three people.
Police say the 27-year-old male driver drove away “at a high rate of speed,” but was tracked and arrested on suspicion of hit and run, reckless driving and possession of a controlled substance, according to The Oregonian/OregonLive.
Two people were taken by ambulance to a hospital. Another was taken for treatment in a personal car. Police say none of the injuries were life-threatening.
ATLANTA — Georgia’s lieutenant governor is proposing a version of a hate crimes law for the state.
Republican Geoff Duncan called on lawmakers to create a free-standing hate crime and include more categories of bias crimes. Those would involve people victimized because of their culture and their status in exercising First Amendment rights, including worship, free speech, free press, assembly or petition of government.
A previous effort was found unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court more than a decade ago.
In February, Ahmaud Arbery was shot near Brunswick, Georgia. Investigators have said a white man uttered a racial slur after chasing Arbery down and shooting him.
Georgia’s House passed a simpler measure last year that’s been stalled in a Senate committee for more than year. The bill would add extra penalties onto crimes committed because of someone’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.
GENEVA — The brother of George Floyd has made a heartfelt plea to the U.N.’s top human rights body to launch intense international scrutiny of systemic racism and the killing of unarmed blacks by police.
Philonese Floyd’s message by video to the Human Rights Council came as it contemplates an unprecedented bid sought by the Africa Group to create a Commission of Inquiry — the council’s most powerful tool of scrutiny — to examine and report on racism and violence against protesters by police in the United States.
“I am my brother’s keeper. You in the United Nations are your brothers and sisters’ keepers in America — and you have the power to help us get justice for my brother George Floyd,” Floyd said. “I am asking you to help him. I am asking you to help me. I am asking you to help us: Black people in America.”
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The Huntington City Council in West Virginia will vote Wednesday on a proposal to make Juneteenth a permanent city holiday.
The celebration commemorates when enslaved people in Texas learned they were free on June 19, 1865. Huntington Mayor Steve Williams told The Herald-Dispatch he supports the proposal and wants the city’s African American residents to know “the city celebrates Juneteenth with them just as we all celebrate July Fourth together.”
The mayor says the idea for the holiday proposal came from meetings with his diversity advisory committee amid the international protests following the death of George Floyd. Williams expects Wednesday’s meeting will help fast-track the resolution so council members can get it in the books before Friday.
The Emancipation Proclamation was signed by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, and freed enslaved people of the rebellion Confederate states.
HOUSTON — Officials say a statue of a Confederate soldier has been removed from a downtown Houston park and a second Confederate statue is expected to be removed soon.
The “Spirit of the Confederacy” statue was removed late Tuesday from Sam Houston Park. Mayor Sylvester Turner said last week the statue will be housed in the Houston Museum of African American Culture.
A second statue, of Confederate artillery commander Richard W. “Dick” Dowling, is also slated for removal. Initially, the Dowling statue was to be moved from Houston’s Hermann Park to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historical Site near Port Arthur.
But officials say the Dowling statue will instead be placed in a warehouse, at least temporarily, after leaders in Port Arthur expressed opposition.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Roman Catholic chaplain at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has resigned at the request of the archdiocese after sending an email suggesting the killing of George Floyd was not an act of racism and he hadn’t lived “a virtuous life.”
The Archdiocese of Boston asked the Rev. Daniel Patrick Moloney to step down June 9 after he sent the message to Catholics at MIT, The Boston Globe reports. A statement from the archdiocese said Moloney’s comments “were wrong and by his resignation he accepts the hurt they have caused.”
The archdiocese learned about the email from Catholics at MIT and alumni. Moloney says he was trying to speak out against “cancel culture” and regrets his message has been misunderstood.
Suzy Nelson, an MIT vice president and dean for student life, sent an email to students calling Moloney’s comments “deeply disturbing” and “Father Moloney’s message failed to acknowledge the dignity of each human being and the devastating impact of systemic racism.”
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