TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Protesters tear down George Washington statue in Portland, Oregon.
— Boston’s 1st black police commissioner defends seeing AG Barr.
— President Trump issues message on Juneteenth.
— Minnesota Twins remove statue of ex-owner Calvin Griffith.
DENVER — Colorado Gov. Jared Polis has signed into law a broad police accountability bill passed amid protests over the death of George Floyd.
The Democratic governor signed the measure on Friday. The new law gets rid of the qualified immunity defense that protects police officers from lawsuits and allows them to be sued for misconduct. It bans chokeholds and limits other uses of force.
It also requires all local and Colorado State Patrol officers who have contact with the public to be equipped with body cameras by July 1, 2023. Unedited camera footage must be released to the public within 21 days of misconduct complaints being filed.
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — City officials and community members in St. Petersburg, Florida, celebrated Juneteenth with the unveiling of a block-long, colorful mural that said “Black Lives Matter.”
It was painted by 16 different artists — one for each letter — on the street in front of the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum, in the city’s historic black neighborhood.
Plum Howlett, a tattoo artist and the muralist who decorated the letter T, inspired by Colin Kapernick, said, “We know our lives matter. You don’t have to tell us that. We’re trying to tell the world that. The world doesn’t get to see this part of St. Petersburg.”
A community celebration of the mural was cancelled due to a surge in coronavirus cases in the county, but still, around a hundred people gathered for the event. As a man played violin, the names of people who died at the hands of police were read aloud. Community members, each with a yellow or red rose in hand, walked to a vase and placed the flowers inside. Several speakers followed, and most mentioned the death George Floyd, the recent protests for racial justice, and hundreds of years of inequality for black people in America.
PORTLAND, Ore. — Protesters who took to the streets in Portland, Oregon, for the 22nd consecutive night Thursday tore down a statue of George Washington that was erected in the 1920s.
The demonstrators placed a sticker on the head of the statue that read “You are on Native land” and also spray-painted the statue’s pedestal.
The Portland Police Bureau said Friday that a smaller group split from several hundred peaceful protesters late Thursday and threw hot dogs at police and cut a fence surrounding the Justice Center, which has been a flashpoint in the nightly demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd.
Another group set a fire around the Washington statue before tearing it down. No one was arrested.
Earlier in the week, protesters at the University of Oregon in Eugene vandalized two statues representing white pioneers.
NEW ORLEANS — Community and environmental groups have won court approval for a Juneteenth ceremony at a Louisiana site archaeologists have described as probably a cemetery for enslaved African Americans when the land was a plantation.
A state appeals court rejected an appeal by the local Formosa Plastics Group member that is building a $9.4 billion chemical complex there.
FG LA LLC, which is building the plant, will not go to the state Supreme Court, spokesman Jim Harris said Friday.
“We will be prepared with water and masks, if they need them, and will do everything we can to make their celebration successful and comfortable,” he said.
BOSTON — Boston’s first black police commissioner is defending his recent meeting with U.S. Attorney General William Barr after the mayor raised objections.
Commissioner William Gross says the meeting Thursday at police headquarters was an “opportunity to educate” the head of the Department of Justice about police training, community relations and the need for national changes.
Barr’s office tweeted a picture of Barr and Gross together, smiling, and thanked the commissioner for his “wonderful hospitality and invaluable insight and advice.” The caption says it’s the first time a sitting U.S. attorney general had visited the department.
Mayor Marty Walsh, a Democrat, tweeted Barr and President Donald Trump’s administration “do not share Boston’s values or my values” and the “general lack of respect for people and their rights are a danger to our city and the future of our country.”
The mayor has proposed cutting $12 million from the police budget to use for social service programs.
Gross defended the meeting on Thursday: “You never, ever run and hide from a conversation. I spoke for the people in Boston today to a top official in D.C. that I thought needed to hear the message from a black man — from a proud police commissioner.”
PIERRE, S.D. — Gov. Kristi Noem has proclaimed Friday as Juneteenth Day in South Dakota to mark the traditional commemoration date of the emancipation of enslaved African Americans.
The proclamation doesn’t make it a state-recognized holiday as it is in most other states. Ian Fury, a spokesman for the Republican governor, says only an act of the Legislature can do that.
Deborah Evans, spokeswoman for the National Juneteenth Observance Foundation, said she’s glad South Dakota is taking a step with the proclamation.
Democratic Sen. Reynold Nesiba, of Sioux Falls, plans to propose legislation in the 2021 session to add Juneteenth to the list of state-recognized holidays.
Celebrating Juneteenth isn’t limited to people who are the descendants of freed slaves, Nesiba told the Argus Leader. The day celebrates the “inclusive values of a more perfect union” and bringing the country closer to “liberty and justice for all.”
ATLANTA — Thousands of people packed Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta for an religious rally in which speakers and attendees implored an end to racism.
An estimated 6,000 people took part in the OneRace event inside the park, while others waited outside for a planned march to the state capital a few blocks away.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump issued a presidential message on Juneteenth in which he noted “the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation.”
“It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness.”
Trump’s message: “On this day 155 years ago, African Americans in Texas first heard the righteous and long-overdue words of General Order Number 3: “All slaves are free.” These words confirmed for still-enslaved people in Texas that the Union Army would enforce and defend their freedom, announced nearly 3 years earlier by President Abraham Lincoln in his Emancipation Proclamation.
Juneteenth reminds us of both the unimaginable injustice of slavery and the incomparable joy that must have attended emancipation. It is both a remembrance of a blight on our history and a celebration of our Nation’s unsurpassed ability to triumph over darkness. That ability is rooted in the fundamental goodness of America — in the truths upon which we, as a Nation, declared an end to our status as the subjects of a monarch and emerged as a free and independent people: that all men are created equal by the hand of God, endowed by our Creator with the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. These words form the heart of what Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., called the “promissory note to which every American was to fall heir.” The celebration of Juneteenth marks an important milestone in the hard-fought journey to make good on that promise for all Americans.
This Juneteenth, we commit, as one Nation, to live true to our highest ideals and to build always toward a freer, stronger country that values the dignity and boundless potential of all Americans.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — About two dozen black men, most wearing suits, quietly stood arm in arm Friday morning in front of the building that houses the city’s criminal courts.
Behind them was a statue of Justice Adolpho Birch, the first African American to serve as chief justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court.
“If you were uncomfortable standing out here in a suit, imagine how you would feel with a knee to your neck,” said Phillip McGee, one of the demonstrators. “We just want to paint a better narrative for every brother out here that you see, and every brother out here that you don’t see.”
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins have removed a statue of former owner Calvin Griffith at Target Field, citing racist remarks he made in 1978.
Griffith’s statue was one of several installed when the team opened its new ballpark in 2010.
The team said in a statement Friday it “cannot remain silent and continue ignoring the racist comments he made in Waseca … (that) displayed a blatant intolerance and disregard for the Black community that are the antithesis of what the Minnesota Twins stand for and value.”
Griffith moved the team to Minnesota in 1961 from Washington D.C. In 1978, in a speech to a Waseca Lions club, he said he decided to do so “when I found out you only had 15,000 blacks here,” the Minneapolis Tribune reported at the time.
The Twins say they wanted to pay permanent tribute to important figures in the team’s past, but the decision to honor Griffith “reflects an ignorance on our part of systemic racism.”
Spokesman Dustin Morse says the removal was an internal decision, but the team had “certainly heard from outside fans and the community over the years,” about Griffith’s remarks.
SEATTLE — The Board of Health departments in two Washington state counties have declared racism a public health crisis.
KING-TV reported King and Pierce counties joined governments across the country in recognizing racism as a public health crisis. Officials in the counties plan to advance a public health approach in addressing institutional and systemic racism.
King County’s official resolution says, “Racism harms every person in our society and is the root cause of poverty and economic inequality.”
It adds: “King County residents of color are more likely to experience inequities in education, access to jobs, earning power, adequate and safe housing, higher rates of policing and involvement in the criminal legal system.”
The declaration by King and Pierce county health departments means more resources for community organizations to address racial biases.
MILWAUKEE — School board members in Wisconsin’s largest school district have voted to cut ties with police officers who patrol outside its schools.
The Milwaukee school board voted unanimously late Thursday. The district received more than 700 emails and letters overwhelmingly supporting the resolution, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Milwaukee Public Schools has paid officers to patrol neighborhoods around some schools, monitor dismissals and staff some athletic events. Unlike some other districts, the officers are not posted inside the schools. MPS serves nearly 75,000 students.
More than $1 million was budgeted for police contracts in the 2019-2020 school year and more than half was directed to those school resource officers.
The Milwaukee Police Department issued a statement during the meeting, saying it “fully supports” the MPS if it decides to remove the police and agrees the “funding should be reinvested into our public school system to support social services.”
The resolution also bars the district from buying and maintaining metal detectors, facial recognition and social media monitoring software.
School districts in several cities have terminated police contracts or taken steps toward that end, including Minneapolis, Denver, Oakland and Portland, Ore. .
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The city of Little Rock has removed from a city park a statue honoring a militia unit that formed to fight for the Confederacy.
Mayor Frank Scott Jr. says the city removed the Memorial to Company A, Capital Guards statue on Thursday from MacArthur Park.
Scott says the Capital Guards were “memorialized without concern for those in our community who have suffered grave injustices” and whose ancestors were “forced to provide free labor.”
The Capital Guards statue was placed at the park in 1911 during the United Confederate Veterans Reunion.
Scott says the statue, which had been vandalized this week, will be placed in storage. The city will work with the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism to find an appropriate location for it.
More news about the death of George Floyd at https://apnews.com/GeorgeFloyd