The casket of George Floyd arrives for a public memorial at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston, Monday, June 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

The Latest: Biden met with Floyd’s relatives in Houston

June 08, 2020 - 7:17 pm

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Floyd’s relatives met with Biden for an hour in Houston.

— National Park Service: newly erected fence in front of a White House protest area is temporary.

— Prosecutors say criminal charges will not be brought against thousands of Los Angeles protesters arrested for violating curfew and other police orders.

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

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

___

The lead attorney for George Floyd’s family said the grieving relatives met with Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden for an hour Monday in Houston.

Ben Crump said Biden’s “compassion meant the world to this grieving family,” and he described the visit as an example of “what will begin to heal America” as citizens around the country demand changes to police practices after Floyd’s death.

“Listening to one another is what will begin to heal America,” Crump said. “That’s just what Vice President Biden did with the family of George Floyd for more than an hour. He listened, he heard their pain and shared in their woe.”

Biden traveled to Houston for the visit ahead of Floyd’s funeral. Biden has called for substantial changes to police practices in the U.S., but he opposes some activists’ call to defund police and shift that taxpayers spending to other services.

Biden wants to expand spending on social services such as education and mental health care that can support police efforts, but also spend more on training existing police officers.

Floyd, a black man who was handcuffed, died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air. The officer has since been fired, arrested and charged with second-degree murder, among other charges.

___

WASHINGTON — The National Park Service is calling a newly erected fence in front of a White House protest area temporary.

Park Service spokeswoman Katie Liming said Monday that her agency and the Secret Service expect to reopen part of Lafayette Park in front of the White House on Wednesday.

Liming says some areas of the park will remain closed to allow workers to deal with damage and address safety hazards. Liming gave no details and no time for when the rest of the square would reopen.

Lafayette Park in front of the White House is one of the country’s most prominent sites for political protests and other free-speech events.

It’s been closed off since early last week, when law officers used chemical agents and other force to drive out protesters in the nationwide rallies against police brutality.

Authorities left a newly erected high black fence blocking the square, even though recent protests have been overwhelmingly calm.

Liming says the Washington Ellipse, Sherman Park and some other landmark areas also will reopen Wednesday.

___

GENEVA — The American Civil Liberties Union says relatives of George Floyd and three other black people who were killed by police have joined some 600 rights groups to demand the top U.N. human rights body “urgently” convene a special session to look into a rise of police violence and repression of protests in the United States.

A spokesman for the Human Rights Council in Geneva confirmed the council office received a letter on Monday from the groups outlining their call, as Black Lives Matter protests continue to gain traction well beyond the United States — notably in Europe.

At least one-third of the council’s 47 member states would have to back the call for a special session in order for one to be called.

The prospects of one being held swiftly remained uncertain. The council cut short its last session in March because of the coronavirus outbreak and has been grappling with ways to start it back up next Monday.

The efforts have been complicated because the government of Switzerland, which has seen the COVID-19 pandemic recede in recent weeks, is for now still restricting all public gatherings to no more than 300 people. Council sessions generally draw hundreds more than that.

The groups want an independent investigation into the recent killings of unarmed black people in the U.S. as well as one into “violent law enforcement responses to protests.” The call included relatives of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Michael Brown and Philando Castile.

The United States, like all U.N. member states, regularly has its human rights record examined by the council, a 47-member state body that is not part of the United Nations but is supported by it.

___

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Black Democrats in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives commandeered the podium for about 90 minutes at the start of voting session Monday, disrupting the day’s business in an effort to force action on police reform bills.

The dramatic takeover went on pause when the Republican House speaker said he would consider putting proposals up for votes and that he supports a special session to consider the legislation.

The protesters, including veteran black lawmakers from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, hung a “BLACK LIVES MATTER” banner from the speaker’s dais and vowed they would not leave without movement on the stalled proposals.

___

OLYMPIA, Wash. — Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said he was convening an advisory group of black leaders and law enforcement representatives to develop police reform proposals following days of huge protests in his state over the killing of George Floyd.

“My hope is to collaborate with this group to write meaningful legislation in our state,” the Democrat said.

He stated three areas of action: an independent investigative and prosecutorial process for allegations of officer-involved killings, which would involve the creation of a state investigative unit separate from any other law enforcement entity in the state; rethinking police use of force, including chokeholds; and creating a legally binding and enforceable obligation that officers report misconduct by fellow officers.

___

NEW ORLEANS — New Orleans’ mayor said the Superdome would glow crimson and gold — the colors of George Floyd’s high school — Monday night as a tribute to him and a call for racial equality.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Superdome administrators agreed to her lighting request — which in turn was made at the request of Sylvester Turner, mayor of Houston, where Floyd grew up and where his funeral will be held Tuesday.

Floyd, who was black, choked out “I can’t breathe” many times before he died May 25 after what prosecutors said was 8 minutes and 46 seconds with his throat pinned under a white police officer’s knee in Minneapolis.

Crimson and gold are the colors of Houston’s Yates High School, where Floyd graduated.

“As we continue to mourn the loss of George Floyd, along with others who have been the victim of violence by police officers, we will seek to remember him and honor his memory,” Cantrell said.

“Last week, we showed the world that we can march, protest and be heard, and do so peacefully and respectfully. We will continue to demand justice and ensure that our police officers remain a positive presence in our own community.”

Earlier in the day, Police Chief Shaun Ferguson acknowledged that police fired rubber balls at protesters on a Mississippi River bridge last week and apologized for having said otherwise at a next-day news conference defending officers’ use of tear gas.

Other protests in New Orleans and around the state have been peaceful.

___

LOS ANGELES — Prosecutors say criminal charges will not be brought against thousands of Los Angeles protesters arrested for violating curfew and other police orders.

City Attorney Mike Feuer said Monday that his office will develop an alternative outside court without punishment for those cited for violating curfew or failing to obey orders to leave demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

District Attorney Jackie Lacey said she won’t file charges in protest misdemeanor cases from other parts of Los Angeles County.

The city had the largest number of the 10,000 protest arrests in the U.S. tracked by The Associated Press.

Police and sheriff’s deputies arrested more than 3,000 people over days of mostly peaceful protests. The vast majority of citations were happened in Los Angeles for violating curfew or dispersal orders.

___

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 white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after he stopped responding. Floyd's death has inspired international protests.

___

SEATTLE — Just days after Seattle’s mayor and police chief promised a month-long moratorium on using a type of tear gas to disperse protesters, the department used it again during an overnight protest — bringing severe criticism Monday from City Council members, vows to overhaul the department and an additional call for the mayor’s resignation.

“How many people need to write in about being gassed in their own homes? How many people have to be sprayed in the street every night or experience getting hit with flash bombs or rubber bullets?” Council Member Teresa Mosqueda said during a council briefing.

“The mayor should ... ask herself if she is the right leader and resign.”

Council President Lorena Gonzalez and others also expressed their frustration with Mayor Jenny Durkan and the police, signaling radical change is on the way.

Durkan’s office did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

The developments in Seattle came soon after Minneapolis City Council members said they intend to disband the city’s police department following the killing of George Floyd and protests against police brutality and racism that have erupted around the globe.

___

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After years of delays, Nashville will begin rolling out body cameras and in-car cameras for much of its police force next month, Mayor John Cooper said in a statement Monday.

The project has been repeatedly delayed over concerns about cost. On Monday, Cooper said camera vendor Motorola has agreed to delay payment for two years, bringing the cost for 2021 to $2.1 million.

The announcement comes amid an outcry over policing tactics and days of protests over the May 25 death of George Floyd.

A routine budget hearing last week lasted until 5:30 a.m. as hundreds of people showed up or called in asking Nashville’s city council to defund the police and put more money into social services.

___

A Florida man is facing federal weapons charges after police reported finding a Molotov cocktail in his backpack during a protest against police brutality.

A criminal complaint says 27-year-old Ivan Jacob Zecher was charged Friday with possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and unlawful possession of an unregistered firearm.

Police say Zecher was part of a group of protesters blocking traffic in downtown Jacksonville on May 31 and throwing objects at police officers and cars.

Authorities say officers arrested Zecher and noticed liquid leaking from his backpack. The complaint says a search of the bag revealed a bottle filled with gasoline, along with a lighter and a hatchet.

___

PORTLAND, Ore. — Not yet six months into her job, the chief of the Portland, Oregon, Police Bureau is stepping down as protests roil the city.

Jami Resch on Monday announced that she asked Charlie Lovell, an African American lieutenant, to serve as the next chief of police of Oregon’s largest city.

“He’s the exact right person at the exact right moment,” she said at a news conference.

Demonstrators held two peaceful protests in Portland but a third one that lasted until the early hours of Monday resulted in at least 20 arrests, with some demonstrators throwing objects at police, who fired tear gas and sponge-tipped projectiles.

Full beverage containers, glass bottles, hard-boiled eggs and rocks were thrown or fired at officers using slingshots, police said in a statement Monday. A medic who was working with the officers was hit in the stomach with a rock.

___

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.

___

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.

___

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.

AP Editorial Categories: 
Comments ()