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George Floyd live updates: Memorial in Minneapolis on Thursday; Barack Obama pushes police reform; Mattis blasts Trump

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Officer Derek Chauvin will now face second-degree murder charges, while Officers Thomas Lane, J.A. Keung and Tou Thao will face charges, as well.

USA TODAY

Protests across the U.S. remained large but were more subdued Wednesday night ahead of the first of multiple memorial services for George Floyd, the handcuffed black who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck.

On Wednesday, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said that the charges for Derek Chauvin have been upgraded to second-degree murder. Ellison also said the three other officers at the scene when Floyd died last week have been charged with aiding and abetting a murder.

The topic of police reform is top of mind, with former President Barack Obama urging mayors to commit to changes during a town hall Wednesday. 

A closer look at some recent developments:

  • Former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced President Trump as a threat to democracy for failing to unite the country as protests erupted after George Floyd’s death. 
  • In Virginia, the statue of Gen. Robert E. Lee and other Confederate monuments on Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue will be removed.
  • Two Florida workers were fired Tuesday for making “hateful, racist” comments about Floyd demonstrators demanding better policing as part of nationwide protests.

Wednesday’s protests: Here’s a city-by-city look at the latest developments.

Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for the Daily Briefing. Here’s the latest news:

Barack Obama urges mayors to commit to police reform

Former President Barack Obama hosted a town hall Wednesday urging mayors in the country to commit to police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s death that triggered protests nationwide.

“What are the specific steps you can take?” Obama asked. The steps, he said, include reviewing their law enforcement’s use-of-force policies with community members, and committing to report on any needed changes. Obama said his administration created a task force in 2014 after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, that produced many reforms. 

Obama also supported protesters demanding police reforms and justice for Floyd. “We both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that could be implemented and monitored and make sure we’re following up on.”

‘Unprovoked attack on a defenseless police officer’ in NYC

A day that began with hope that New York City was beginning to find a way out of the crisis caused by the coronavirus and a week of angry demonstrations over police brutality ended Wednesday with more violence.

Peaceful protests over the death of George Floyd drew thousands of people in New Yotk City, but police broke them up after shortly after an 8 p.m. curfew. Police said not long after that, a man ambushed officers on an anti-looting patrol in Brooklyn, stabbing one in the neck. The attacker was shot by responding officers and was in critical condition.

Two officers suffered gunshot wounds to their hands in the chaos, but all three wounded officers were expected to recover.

Police Commissioner Dermot Shea called it “a completely, cowardly, despicable, unprovoked attack on a defenseless police officer.” While he declined to say what motivated the attack, he drew a line to the heated rhetoric of the past week and angry crowds decrying police violence that have sometimes turned violent.

Mattis blasts president as a threat to American democracy

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis denounced President Donald Trump Wednesday in an statement that hammered his former boss as a threat to American democracy. 

He took aim at the White House’s decision Monday to forcibly clear protesters from a park in front of the White House, so Trump could walk across the street and pose with a Bible in front of a historic church. Mattis called it an abuse of power. 

He also said Trump is needlessly dividing the country and “militarizing” America’s response to the protests, Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic magazine. 

“Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people – does not even pretend to try. Instead he tries to divide us,” he wrote.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

2 Florida workers fired for ‘hateful, racist’ comments about protesters

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper and a Tallahassee employee of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles have been fired for making “abhorrent” comments about George Floyd protesters, the department said. 

The two workers had directed “hateful, racist and threatening remarks” toward Florida demonstrators calling for better policing as part of nationwide protests in the wake of Floyd’s death in police custody on Memorial Day in Minneapolis.

In an official tweet, DHSMV said it found remarks by Trooper Daniel Maldonado and William Henderson, who worked at the agency’s Tallahassee headquarters, “abhorrent and reprehensible.” Their comments were made via text message and social media. 

“Their conduct is not in any way reflective of the troopers and employees of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,” the agency in announcing their termination Tuesday night.

– James Call, USA TODAY Network-Florida Capital Bureau

Minnesota AG: Three officers will be charged; Derek Chauvin faces second-degree murder

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said arrest warrants were issued Wednesday for former Minneapolis police officers J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao, adding that they have been charged with aiding and abetting a murder. Ellison also announced that charges against former officer Derek Chauvin have been upgraded to second-degree murder from third degree.

All four policemen were fired the day after Floyd’s killing May 25, but only Chauvin had been charged until Wednesday. Floyd’s deadly arrest, captured on video, has sparked protests against police brutality and racism across the nation.

In the video, Lane and Keung can be seen on top of Floyd, while Thao is standing by.  According to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday, Thao stood by as Floyd repeatedly said he could not breathe. Court papers describe Thao as being more concerned about controlling the nearby crowd than Floyd’s welfare.

“The family of George Floyd watched the video in agony,” family lawyer Benjamin Crump said. “We cannot have two justice systems in America, one for black America and one for white America.”

Robert E. Lee statue, other Confederate monuments to be removed in Richmond

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam is expected to announce plans Thursday for the removal of an iconic statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from Richmond’s prominent Monument Avenue, a senior administration official told The Associated Press.

The Democratic governor will direct the statue to be moved off its massive pedestal and put into storage while his administration seeks input on a new location, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to speak before the governor’s announcement.

“That is symbol for so many people, black and otherwise of a time gone by of hate and oppression and being made to feel less than,” said Del. Jay Jones, a black lawmaker from Norfolk. 

Also on Wednesday, Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced plans to remove the other Confederate monuments along Monument Avenue, which include statues of Confederate President Jefferson Davis and Confederate Gens. Stonewall Jackson and J.E.B. Stuart. Those statues sit on city land, unlike the Lee statue, which is on state property.

3 held on terror charges in right-wing conspiracy to spark violence during protests in Las Vegas

Three Nevada men with ties to a loose movement of right-wing extremists advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government have been arrested on terrorism-related charges in what authorities say was a conspiracy to spark violence during recent protests in Las Vegas.

Federal prosecutors say the three white men with U.S. military experience are accused of conspiring to carry out a plan that began in April in conjunction with protests to reopen businesses closed because of the coronavirus. Prosecutors say the men later sought to capitalize on protests over George Floyd’s death.

They were arrested Saturday on the way to a protest downtown after filling gas cans at a parking lot and making Molotov cocktails in glass bottles, according to a copy of the criminal complaint.

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

More news about the George Floyd protests

George Floyd’s son visits site of father’s death in Minneapolis

George Floyd’s son knelt and prayed at the spot where his father was killed, making his first public appearance Wednesday. Quincy Mason Floyd, 27, was trembling when he first saw the spot on Chicago Avenue where his father, George, died May 25 while handcuffed and in police custody.

“I appreciate everyone showing support and love,” Quincy Mason Floyd said.

The first of three memorial services for Floyd is scheduled for 1 p.m. Thursday.

– Mark Emmert, Des Moines Register

Contributing: The Associated Press

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