Some of the most high profile court cases started with a grand jury. Here’s how they work and why some have faced criticism.
An attempt by Senate Republicans to move forward with a police reform bill was blocked by Democrats, delivering a blow to the momentum on Capitol Hill to enact changes in the wake of George Floyd’s death.
Earlier Wednesday, tbree Georgia men were indicted in the murder case of Ahmaud Arbery case, and an Arizona police chief resigned after video released of man who died in custody.
Elsewhere, Chicago’s school board voted down a measure to terminate police contract, and three Tucson police officers resigned following the investigation of the death of a man in police custody in April.
A closer look at some recent developments:
- Three Georgia men were indicted on felony murder and malice charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes announced Wednesday.
- The District of Columbia National Guard said it is deploying unarmed troops in the nation’s capital to help secure monuments and infrastructure after protesters have sought to tear down statues related to the Confederacy and racial history.
- Outside of President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix at a megachurch Tuesday, local authorities declared an “unlawful assembly due to criminal activity and a current danger to our community,” the Phoenix Police Department said on Twitter.
- A Purdue University student became the latest to be expelled after institutions have started to investigate incidents of hate and bias in students’ social media posts.
- Hours after the FBI found no criminal activity when a noose was found in the garage stall of Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. at Talladega Superspeedway, Wallace said he was “mad because people are trying to test my character.”
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Senate Democrats block Republican policing bill, dealing blow to reform efforts
Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked a police reform package they argue does not go far enough in implementing changes needed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death.
The measure failed 55-45, delivering a blow to the momentum on Capitol Hill to enact changes and likely lowering the chances that Congress will move on policing legislation before the November elections.
“I don’t know what it’s gonna take to wake up,” Sen. Tim Scott,of South Carolina, the sole Black Republican in the Senate, said during an impassioned speech. “We’ll move on. People will forget about it. You know what’s gonna happen? Something bad – and we’ll be right back here talking about what should have been done, what could have been done, why we must act now.”
While the Senate is in a standstill, the House is preparing to move forward on its own competing bill on Thursday – legislation that Democrats hope will pressure Senate Republicans to negotiate a bipartisan compromise.
– Christal Hayes
Professional soccer team will no longer play national anthem before games
Tulsa’s team in the semi-pro National Premier Soccer League has announced it will no longer play the U.S. national anthem at its home matches and will instead feature Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” as its designated “song of patriotism.”
After reviewing the lyrics, Tulsa Athletic officials did not feel the song “represents or unites their diverse players, fans and community,” according to a statement issued by the team on Wednesday.
“From our beginning, we have developed a culture of inclusion and acceptance at Tulsa Athletic,” said team co-owner Sonny Dalesandro. “We live in a country that allows us to freely speak our voice. We utilize this right as a club to continually try and improve our team and community.”
– Steve Gardner
Tucson police chief resigns after video released of man who died in custody
Tucson’s police chief abruptly resigned Wednesday after video footage showed an April incident that led to the death of a man in police custody and many questions about how officers handled the incident.
City Mayor Regina Romero, who was at the press conference, did not indicate if she will accept the resignation.
The chief, Chris Magnus, said that while the three police officers involved in the incident — who have since resigned — have not yet been found criminally responsible in the death of 27-year-old Carlos Ingram Lopez, an investigation found that they violated department policies during the arrest.
– Emily Wilder and Audrey Jensen, Arizona Republic
Three Georgia men indicted on felony murder, malice charges in Ahmaud Arbery case
Three men in Georgia have been indicted on murder charges in the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a prosecutor announced Wednesday.
Cobb County District Attorney Joyette Holmes said in a press conference outside the Glynn County courthouse that a grand jury indicted Travis McMichael, Gregory McMichael and William “Roddie” Bryan Jr. on charges that include felony murder and malice.
“This is another positive step, another great step for finding justice for Ahmaud, for finding justice for this family and the community beyond,” Holmes said.
The McMichaels and Bryan were each charged with two counts of aggravated assault and one count each of false imprisonment and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man, was shot and killed on Feb. 23 while jogging about two miles from his home.
San Diego police will now require de-escalation
The San Diego Police Department will now require the use of de-escalation in policing, including mandating an officer to step in if another is using unreasonable force, San Diego Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer said Wednesday.
“This is a policy that will help make sure that what happened in Minneapolis does not happen here in San Diego,” Faulconer said in a press conference..
The policy also “requires officers, when safe and reasonable, to use techniques that can resolve situations, either through lowered levels of force or no force at all.” The police can still use force if de-escalation tactics do not work, he said.
The decision comes after the San Diego City Council voted to increase funding for its police department June 9, and after the police department banned carotid restraints June 1.
– Elinor Aspegren
Chicago school board votes down measure to terminate police contract
As hundreds of protesters marched throughout Chicago on Wednesday in support of a motion to terminate Chicago Public Schools’ contract with the police department, the city’s school board voted down the motion.
The motion would have terminated the school system’s $33 million police contract, which provides more than 200 officers to dozens of schools.
While critics say police in schools contribute to the marginalization of students of color and that funding would be better spent on other peacekeeping strategies, several school board members expressed concerns about the safety of students in schools without police.
The death of George Floyd, who died under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer, prompted Minneapolis to end its contract, and other cities are considering the move.
– Grace Hauck
National Guard soldiers deployed to guard DC monuments amid protests
Unarmed National Guard troops have been deployed in the nation’s capital to guard monuments and infrastructure amid protests over racial injustice and some demonstrators’ attempts to pull down statues.
“The District of Columbia National Guard has sent unarmed troops to guard monuments and other infrastructure in support of local law enforcement agencies,” said Washington, D.C., National Guard spokesperson Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Craig Clapper on Wednesday.
The deployment comes as some protesters across the country have tried to remove statues related to the Confederacy and other statues following the death of George Floyd.
Protesters at Lafayette Park near the White House tried to remove the park’s statue of Andrew Jackson, who, as president, removed Native American tribes in the Southeastern United States from their ancestral lands.
– Nicholas Wu and Tom Vanden Brook
SportsPulse: The sports world rallied around Bubba Wallace after a noose was found in his garage at Talladega Motor Speedway this past weekend. Now NASCAR is looking to bring the hammer down on whoever is responsible.
NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace reacts to FBI investigation: ‘People are trying to test my character’
Hours after the FBI concluded its investigation into the noose that was found in his No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports garage stall, NASCAR driver Bubba Wallace appeared on CNN to speak out about the incident that took place at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
“I’m pissed. I’m mad because people are trying to test my character and the person that I am and my integrity,” Wallace said in the CNN interview with Don Lemon. “They’re not stealing that from me, but trying to test that.
“And as a person that doesn’t need the fame, doesn’t need the hype, doesn’t need the media, I could care less. I could give two craps about that. But, to sit there and read — that’s my problem I’m reading too much into (what’s being said on social media) and investing too much time into it.”
– Jim Reineking
Purdue student among several expelled from colleges over racist statements
As rallies for Black Lives Matter and protests against police discrimination continue, institutions are investigating incidents of hate and bias that crop up in students’ social media posts, videos and messages.
A Purdue University undergraduate student is no longer a Boilermaker as of Tuesday because of his racist statements, according to a news release from the university.
A day after a Twitter thread showing a University of Tennessee student using a racial slur began drawing attention, the university announced the student would not be on the cheer team and would not be attending UT in the fall. Three days later, a second Twitter thread was posted showing a video of someone identified as a UT engineering student using graphic, racist language toward Black women.
Meanwhile at Marquette University in Milwaukee, a student and lacrosse player at had her admission offer rescinded after screenshots of a Snapchat she posted about the death of George Floyd drew anger on social media.
And at Missouri State University, two incoming students withdrew from the university after a similar Twitter thread surfaced, showing the students using a racial slur.
– Monica Kast, Knoxville News Sentinel; Ron Wilkins, Lafayette Journal & Courier
South Dakota governor on taking down Mount Rushmore: ‘Not on my watch’
Statues of former presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have been torn down by protesters or are being removed across the country, raising questions about where that leaves Mount Rushmore, which displays two of those presidents in huge granite in South Dakota’s Black Hills.
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem has a simple response to those that question whether it will be taken down: “Not on my watch.”
Not on my watch. https://t.co/U6gGap5Ib6
— Governor Kristi Noem (@govkristinoem) June 23, 2020
The controversial side of Mount Rushmore goes beyond the slave holding pasts of Washington and Jefferson, however.
Native American tribes were given the Black Hills in perpetuity in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. But miners seeking gold came into the area in an expedition led by Gen. George Custer in 1874 and demanded the U.S. Army’s protection. The Indian Appropriations Act of 1876 cut off all rations until the Lakota ended hostilities and ceded the Black Hills to the federal government.
Tribes have attempted to reclaim the Black Hills several times in recent decades.
– Michael Klinski, Sioux Falls Argus Leader
Wisconsin protesters tear down Capitol statues, attack state senator
Fury exploded outside the Wisconsin State Capitol on Tuesday night as protesters smashed windows, attacked a state senator, and tore down two statues – including one of an abolitionist who died trying to end slavery during the Civil War.
The unrest began earlier Tuesday in Madison after a Black man was arrested after bringing a megaphone and a baseball bat into a Capitol square restaurant.
During the melee Tuesday, Democratic state Sen. Tim Carpenter was assaulted after taking a photo of protesters. “I don’t know what happened … all I did was stop and take a picture … and the next thing I’m getting five, six punches, getting kicked in the head,” Carpenter said.
Statues of Lady Forward and Col. Christian Heg were also dragged away from their spots guarding the statehouse. Heg fought and died for the Union during the U.S. Civil War; his sculpture was thrown into a lake by protesters.
The original Forward statue was first placed in front of the Capitol in 1895. Forward is “an allegory of devotion and progress,” according to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
– Molly Beck and Lawrence Andrea, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Calls for justice renewed in death of Elijah McClain
As protests continue around the nation demanding action to address systematic racism and police brutality, renewed calls for justice have arisen in the death of Elijah McClain, a 23-year-old from Colorado who died after police held him by his neck and paramedics injected him with ketamine. More than 2.1 million people have signed a change.org petition, demanding the officers be held accountable.
McClain’s family said he was walking home from a convenience store last August while wearing a ski mask to stay warm because he had anemia.
Police received a call about a “suspicious person” and, when they arrived, police say McClain did not immediately comply with their order to stop walking. Naomi McClain, Elijah’s sister, told Denver7 that her brother was wearing headphone and may not have heard the officers.
Officers with the Aurora Police Department took McClain to the ground and subdued him with a hold around his neck. Paramedics used the ketamine to subdue him, the Denver Post reported. McClain suffered from cardiac arrest and died several days later. According to the Post, the officers involved in the incident were cleared of criminal wrongdoing and internal policy violations. There have been increased calls in recent weeks for an independent investigation into the case, the newspaper reported.
Minneapolis police chief says George Floyd’s death was ‘murder
Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo says the death of George Floyd was ‘murder’ and the officer who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck knew what he was doing because he had been trained on the dangers of positional asphyxia.
According to the Associated Press, Arradondo’s comments Tuesday may have been the first in which he used the term, “murder,” to describe the incident.
Floyd, a Black man, died May 25 while he was handcuffed and face-down on pavement, with Officer Derek Chauvin pressing a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The homicide, captured on video, set off nationwide protests over police abuses — especially against African Americans.
In an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Arradondo issued a statement Monday: “Mr. George Floyd’s tragic death was not due to a lack of training…The officers knew what was happening – one intentionally caused it and the others failed to prevent it. This was murder…”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder; three other officers face charges of aiding and abetting.
– Dennis Wagner
Phoenix police declare protest outside of Trump rally an ‘unlawful assembly’
Outside of President Donald Trump’s rally in Phoenix at a megachurch Tuesday, local authorities declared an “unlawful assembly due to criminal activity and a current danger to our community,” the Phoenix Police Department said on Twitter.
Police also shot projectiles into the crowd, reported the Arizona Republic, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. Phoenix police later said that it was deemed an unlawful assembly because protesters entered an area intended for the presidential motorcade and two protesters hit two officers.
Khiry Wilson, a leader with local protest group W.E. Rising Project, told the Arizona Republic the protests outside Dream City Church were nonviolent. “We gave them that benefit of the doubt and we backed up, and they kept coming to us closer, and the next thing they did was back up so close to us that they pushed a riot shield into one of our nonviolent protesters’ face and it was assault from the Phoenix PD,” Wilson said. “It was assault plain and simple.”
Trump visited the Arizona-Mexico border Tuesday and later held a rally in Phoenix where he gave a 90-minute speech urging young people to vote in November.
Associate of Rayshard Brooks arrested for alleged arson at Wendy’s in Atlanta
The Fulton County Sheriff’s Office has arrested a 29-year-old woman in connection with an arson fire at the Atlanta restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed by police, and the suspect reportedly knew Brooks before his death.
In Twitter posts Tuesday, a sheriff’s spokesperson said deputies had “just apprehended Wendy’s arson suspect Natalie White,” and that she was “in custody at the Fulton County Jail.”
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White’s attorney, Drew Findling, told CNN his client was associated with Brooks, but declined to elaborate. Findling said White did not start the June 13 fire.
Brooks was shot in the Wendy’s parking lot June 12 after he scuffled with officers, grabbed one of their Tasers and tried to run away.
Video of the shooting added to nationwide outrage over police use of force against Blacks, prompting demonstrations at the restaurant which was torched the next evening.
– Joel Shannon
More on protests
- Rayshard Brooks: Family and friends gathered Tuesday to remember Brooks in a private funeral
- Defund the police? Some cities have already started and are investing in mental health instead
- Art activism: Stories behind murals, street paintings and portraits created in protest
A South Carolina city votes to remove statue of former vice president, slavery advocate John C. Calhoun
Amid calls to remove Confederate monuments and statues, the city of Charleston voted unanimously Tuesday to remove a statue of former U.S. vice president and slavery advocate John C. Calhoun from downtown Marion Square.
City officials said the statue will be placed in “an appropriate site where it will be protected and preserved.” The vote comes after Mayor John Tecklenburg’s announcement last week that the statue will be removed.
Early Wednesday, people were gathering in the square to watch as crews worked to bring the statue down.
A Virginia high school named after Robert E. Lee will change its name
The Fairfax County School Board voted Tuesday to change the name of Robert E. Lee High School in Springfield, Virginia. The board will vote on a new name on July 23 after a month of public comment.
“Confederate values are ones that do not align with our community. I have seen the pain and hurt that these names have inflicted on friends, colleagues, and community members. Our schools need to be places where all students, staff, and members of the community feel safe and supported,” Fairfax County School Board vice-chair Tamara Derenak Kaufax, who initiated the name change, said in a news release.
Superintendent Scott S. Brabrand recommended six names to consider changing it to, which include prominent figures like U.S. Congressman John Lewis, former President Barack Obama, and civil rights acvitists Mildred Loving and Cesar Chavez. The school board will meet with community members on July 15 to get their feedback on the recommended names.
Contributing: The Associated Press