Following weeks of national protests since the death of George Floyd, President Donald Trump signs an order encouraging better police practices and establishes a database to keep track of police officer excessive use-of-force complaints. (June 16)

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During a Senate Judiciary hearing about police violence Tuesday, Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz dismissed the idea that systemic racism exists in U.S. institutions, including police departments.

The senators’ rejections came on the same day that President Donald Trump signed an executive order to address police misconduct after meeting with some families of Black victims of police violence that was described as both “contentious” and “compassionate.”

“A great many of our colleagues use the phrase ‘systemic racism’ to suggest that the entire criminal justice system is imbued with racism,” Cruz said of Democrats. “I don’t believe that’s accurate.”

Also Tuesday, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas removed its ‘Hey Reb’ statue from campus after calls to take down its mascot that featured a man wearing a Confederate Army cap and uniform.

A closer look at some recent developments: 

  • President Donald Trump signed an executive order Tuesday directing police departments to adopt new standards for the use of force.
  • Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced the resignation of Police Chief William Smith, three days after a police SUV drove into several protesters and two weeks after police used tear gas against a crowd of peaceful protesters before curfew.
  • A 911 dispatcher called her supervisor to express concern over the apprehension of George Floyd, which she saw in real-time on surveillance footage.

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UNLV removes Confederate-themed ‘Hey Reb’ statue from Las Vegas campus

In the wake of George Floyd’s death and nationwide protests against racial injustice, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas removed its “Rebel” mascot from campus Tuesday. The ‘Hey Reb!’ statue was donated to the university in 2007.

UNLV President Marta Meana notified students about the removal and suggested the mascot’s future is uncertain. 

“In recent conversations with the donor, we mutually agreed it was best to remove the statue and return it,” Meana said in an email Tuesday. “Over the past few months, I have had discussions with multiple individuals and stakeholder groups from campus and the community on how best the university can move forward given recent events throughout our nation. That includes the future of our mascot.”

On the night the statue was removed, a petition calling for a new UNLV mascot had almost 4,000 signatures.“Having a mascot that is inextricably connected to a failed regime whose single aim was to preserve the institution of slavery is an embarrassment to our campus and to our community,” the petition said.

– Ed Komenda, Reno Gazette Journal

Texas Sens. Ted Cruz, John Cornyn dismiss idea of systemic racism in police, society

Texas Republican Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz on Tuesday rejected the notion of systemic racism within policing, and beyond, in the United States. 

Speaking during a Senate Judiciary hearing about police violence, both senators dismissed the idea of systemic racism to witnesses, including S. Lee Merritt, an attorney representing George Floyd’s family.

“I would like the witnesses to tell us if they believe that the police department and the police in America are systemically racist,” Cornyn asked the panel. “Would anybody like to raise their hand agreeing with that statement?”

A few of the witnesses testifying appeared to raise their hands. Cornyn responded, “And that means all 18,000 police departments, all 800,000 law enforcement officers? Is that true?”

– Savannah Behrmann

Man arrested on charges of starting fire at Minneapolis police station

Federal agents have arrested a Minnesota man they accuse of starting a fire inside the Minneapolis Police Department’s 3rd Precinct station during the protests and subsequent rioting over the death of George Floyd.

Dylan Shakespeare Robinson, 23, was arrested in Colorado on Sunday after federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agents asked for the public’s help in identifying several people they say were recorded on video in the area of the police station when the fires started on the night of May 28. In a court filing, ATF agent Nathan Boyer said a tipster identified Robinson as a schoolmate of her son.

ATF agents previously arrested another man, Branden Michael Wolfe, 23, for setting a fire inside the police station. Agents said Wolfe confessed after he was caught with a stolen police radio, pistol, body armor and baton.

– Trevor Hughes

Florida mourners want justice for  Oluwatoyin Salau: I am outraged’

Dozens gathered at a vigil Tuesday for Oluwatoyin Salau, demanding answers and “justice for” the activist.

Her body was found on southeast Tallahassee’s Monday Road on Saturday night. She was reported missing on June 6. The body of Victoria Sims, 75, also was discovered in the same area.

“We don’t know what happened to her,” Danaya Hemphill said, her voice heavy with grief, tears streaming down her face. “What was she doing out here? I am hurt! I am outraged by this!”

Salau was affiliated with Movement 850, which describes itself as “student leaders and community residents working together to demand justice and policy change” for police reform in Tallahassee. She spoke at recent protests and spent her final days carrying signs in the protests for Black lives.

Aaron Glee Jr., 49, was arrested after police found the bodies of Salau and Sims on his property, the Tallahassee Democrat reported. He is being charged with felony murder and kidnapping, according to court documents.

Sims was a retired state worker, grandmother and volunteer who was well-known for her work in local Democratic politics.

– Elinor Aspegren

Richmond, Virginia, chief resigns after police vehicle strikes protesters

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney announced city Police Chief William Smith’s resignation at a news conference Tuesday.

“Richmond is ready for a new approach to public safety,” Stoney said during the press conference. “There is work to be done, and we’re ready to do it.”

The announcement comes days after a police SUV struck several Richmond protesters blocking its path near the Robert E. Lee statue Saturday night and two weeks after police dispensed tear gas into a crowd of peaceful protesters more than 20 minutes before curfew. 

The mayor also outlined a series of police reforms he hopes to implement, including the establishment of an independent civilian review board to investigate complaints about police misconduct and an alert system so that behavioral health specialists will be the first to respond – rather than police – when someone is experiencing a mental health crisis.

– Elinor Aspegren

Dispatcher warned police sergeant as officer pinned down George Floyd

A 911 dispatcher who was apparently watching in real time as a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd called a supervisor to tell him what she saw, not caring if it made her look like a “snitch,” according to a recording of the call made public Monday.

In the recording, the dispatcher calls a police sergeant and says what she was seeing on live video looked “different” and that she wanted to let him know about it. The dispatcher was in a 911 call center at the time and was watching video from a surveillance camera posted at the intersection where police apprehended Floyd, according to city spokesman Casper Hill.

“I don’t know, you can call me a snitch if you want to, but we have the cameras up for 320’s call. … Um, I don’t know if they had used force or not. They got something out of the back of the squad, and all of them sat on this man. So, I don’t know if they needed you or not, but they haven’t said anything to me yet,” says the dispatcher, whose name is edited out of the recording.

More on protests

Contributing: The Associated Press


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