Public viewing underway in Houston; Biden opposes defunding police; Derek Chauvin’s first court appearance

The public viewing for George Floyd began in Houston and a court hearing for the officer accused of second degree murder was scheduled in Minneapolis on Monday, two weeks after Floyd’s death helped ignite a wave of historic protests across the nation.

Hundreds of mourners lined up to form a procession to Floyd’s coffin inside the Fountain of Praise church. Others paid their respects at a mural of Floyd on a wall in his old neighborhood in the city’s Third Ward.

“There’s something special about his life and his family,” said Bevan Walker, 50, as a snapped a photo of the mural. “His name is going to be synonymous with justice for generations to come.”

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer charged with second-degree murder, has been in jail since his arrest May 29. 

The drumbeat for “defunding” police was growing louder, despite opposition from Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden. A veto-proof majority of city council in Minneapolis has publicly expressed support for disbanding the city’s force. Mayors in Los Angeles and New York promised to funnel some funds from police to community programs. Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, representing Floyd’s family, has asked the United Nations for recommendations aimed at systemic changes in U.S. law enforcement.

“The United States government has consistently failed to hold police accountable and did not bring federal criminal charges even in cases with irrefutable video evidence,” Crump said in a statement.

A closer look at some recent developments:

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Biden: Don’t defund police

Presumptive Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden issued a statement saying he does not support the nationwide push to defund police departments. Biden, through spokesman Andrew Bates, said he supports funding for initiatives such as mental health programs and substance abuse treatment so officers can concentrate on policing.

“He hears and shares the deep grief and frustration of those calling out for change, and is driven to ensure that justice is done and that we put a stop to this terrible pain,” Biden spokesman Andrew Bates said in a statement.

Houston says goodbye to George ‘Big Floyd’

A public viewing was underway Monday for George Floyd in his childhood hometown of Houston. Floyd, 46, grew up in the neighborhood’s Cuney Homes housing project, also known as “The Bricks.” Known as “Big Floyd,” he put out rap mix tapes and was a standout athlete at Jack Yates High School.

Floyd also had several brushes with the law. In 2009, he went to state prison after pleading guilty to charges of armed aggravated robbery. When he was released in 2013, friends say he returned to Houston, determined to steer youth away from the mistakes he made.

“Just having his presence there really helped solidify things in the neighborhood,” said Chris Johnson, a minister at Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church. “He helped a lot of conflicted and confused people.”

– Rick Jervis

‘Defund police’: Here’s what is happening

The call to “defund the police” is gaining momentum. In Minneapolis, a veto-proof majority of the city council committed to dismantling its police department, breaking with Mayor Jacob Frey’s desire to make reforms but not break up the embattled police force. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti vowed to cut as much as $150 million from a planned increase in the police budget, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city would move funding from the NYPD to youth initiatives and social services.

“It’s not just about taking away money from the police, it’s about reinvesting those dollars into black communities,” Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement, told WBUR.

– Ryan Miller

Democrats honor Floyd with silence, unveil police reform bill

House Democrats will stand in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds at a ceremony on Capitol Hill on Monday to honor George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes as he lay handcuffed in the street.

 Democrats will also unveil a sweeping package addressing police changes, the first major legislative response to Floyd’s killing and protests against police brutality across the nation. The Justice in Policing Act of 2020 is set to be introduced after House Democrats gather in the Capitol’s Emancipation Hall, which was named in honor of slaves who helped construct the Capitol. It remains unclear whetherit can win approval in the Republican-held Senate. 

– Christal Hayes

Biden to meet with Floyd family, won’t attend service

Joe Biden will meet with the family of George Floyd in Houston but will not attend the public viewing Monday or Tuesday’s private ceremony and burial, his office says. Family lawyer Ben Crump had said Biden was expected to attend, but Biden’s office now says he will provide a video message to avoid disruptions from the added security measures his attendance would require. A six-hour public viewing will take place Monday afternoon; an invite-only memorial service is set for Tuesday. 

In England, statue of slave trader tossed into river

Police in Bristol, England, were searching for protesters who toppled a bronze statue of 17th century merchant, philanthropist and slave trader Edward Colston and tossed it into the River Avon. Photos from the scene show a protester with his knee on the figure’s neck, a homage to George Floyd, who died while being similarly restrained by a Minneapolis police officer. The BBC reports that the statue was later dragged through the city’s streets and thrown into the harbor. The empty plinth was used as a makeshift stage for protesters.

Colston was a principal of the Royal African Company that shipped tens of thousands of men, women and children from Africa to the Americas. He bequeathed his wealth to charities and his name is prominent on his city’s streets, memorials and buildings.

Floyd family appeals to UN to bring systemic changes to US policing

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump, representing George Floyd’s family, has asked the United Nations to intervene in Floyd’s case and make recommendations for systemic, U.S. police changes. Crump is urging the UN to investigate the circumstances surrounding the death of Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while other officers provided no aid.

Reforms requested include “deescalating techniques,” independent prosecutions and autopsies for every police killing. The goal: “stop further human rights abuses including torture and extrajudicial killings of African Americans,” Crump said in a statement obtained by ABC.

Security fence draws protest art: ‘The whole nation is crying’

More than a mile of temporary security fencing encasing the White House and its environs as demonstrations roll across the city has become a showcase for protest art. Some sections of the fencing, which the Secret Service has said could come down this week, is covered with signs and posters: “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “No more police murder of black people.” Kai Gamanya, who hung a painting featuring a fist flanked by a crown and a pyramid, told DCist her work reflects that black people come from royalty.

“It’s like the whole nation is crying, and this whole fence is crying,” Gamanya said. “And if you were to back up and see it from beginning to end, it’s nothing but posters from all the way down.”

Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah joins protest near White House

Utah Sen. Mitt Romney joined a group of protesters Sunday near the White House, becoming the latest politician to rally in the wake of the death of George Floyd and one of the most prominent Republicans.

While marching, Romney told an NBC reporter, “We need a voice against racism. We need many voices against racism and against brutality. We need to stand up and say that black lives matter.”  

The former Republican presidential candidate reiterated those comments to a Washington Post reporter. He also tweeted two pictures of himself, wearing a mask, at the protest. One shows him walking with the protesters. The other is a selfie. The photos are captioned, “Black Lives Matter.” 

– Jordan Culver

Minneapolis City Council vows to break up police

A veto-proof majority of the Minneapolis City Council has committed to dismantling the city’s police department, breaking with Mayor Jacob Frey’s desire to make changes but not break up the embattled police force. Nine of the council’s 12 current members appeared Sunday on a city park stage behind the words “Defund police’’ and expressed their support for disbanding the department, which has drawn intense criticism since the May 25 killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died in police custody.

“It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe,” council president Lisa Bender said. “Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period.”

Frey was jeered Saturday outside his home by protesters seeking the department’s defunding when he expressed his opposition, saying, “I do not support the full abolition of the police department.’’

Top editors at New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer out

The New York Times said editorial page editor James Bennett has resigned, four days after the newspaper printed an op-ed from a U.S. senator calling for military intervention to quell rioters in protests against police brutality. The essay by Arkansas GOP Senator Tom Cotton, with the headline “Send in the Troops,’’ drew vehement criticism by Times staffers and readers, and two days later the newspaper said it should not have been published.

Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger said the publication of the op-ed reflected “a significant breakdown in our editing processes,’’ and that Bennett was not the right person to shepherd needed changes. Jim Dao, who oversaw the op-eds, also stepped down from that position but remained with the paper.

The Times moves come a day after Stan Wischnowski, the top editor of The Philadelphia Inquirer, announced his resignation amid fallout from a controversial headline about the impact of the recent civil unrest. The headline, “Buildings Matter, Too,” appeared over a column in Tuesday’s newspaper exploring the damage and looting that accompanied some of the nationwide protests over police violence. Wischnowski and other editors later apologized for the headline, describing it as “deeply offensive.”

Donald Trump orders National Guard out of Washington, D.C.

President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that he had ordered the National Guard out Washington, D.C., after mobilizing them in response to protests that occasionally triggered vandalism, looting and clashes with police. Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser had objected to the deployment. Trump, however, called for a tough response to protests across the nation in order to “dominate the streets,” threatening to call in active-duty troops to quell unrest where local authorities were unable to do so.

Tensions on U.S. streets have eased somewhat in recent days, and protests Saturday were overwhelmingly peaceful. 

“Everything is under perfect control,” Trump tweeted. “They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!” 

Washington, D.C., authorities said the protesting crowds were the biggest to date.

– William Cummings

Stars lend voices, financial support to protest movement

Singing celebrities are not standing quietly on the sidelines as the nation rises up to confront inequality and police brutality. Paul McCartney released a statement in support of racial equality. K-pop superstars BTS have donated $1 million to Black Lives Matter, and Michael B. Jordan showed his support for the BLM movement at a recent protest in Los Angeles. Justin Bieber weighed in Saturday in support of the movement, saying he has been “inspired by… (and) benefited from black culture.”

“My style, how I sing, dance, perform, and my fashion have all been influenced by black culture,” Bieber posted on Twitter. “I am committed to using my platform from this day forward to learn, to speak up about racial injustice and systemic oppression, and to identify ways to be a part of much needed change.”

– Kim Willis and Rasha Ali

More on protests, George Floyd:

Contributing: The Associated Press

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