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AG Barr Calls Black Lives Matter Protests in Portland ‘an Assault’ on U.S. Government in Testy Hearing

AG Barr Calls Black Lives Matter Protests in Portland ‘an Assault’ on U.S. Government in Testy HearingIn his first appearance ever before the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday, Attorney General William Barr declined to say that political concerns weren’t animating the Trump administration’s use of federal troops to crack down on Black Lives Matter demonstrators.Asked by Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-NY) if he’d discussed the politics of the crackdown with Trump or anyone in his inner circle, Barr didn’t specifically mention the Department of Justice operations but confirmed that the election “comes up” in his conversations with the president. “I’m a member of the Cabinet,” said Barr, “and there’s an election going on.”Pressed further by Nadler on the topic, Barr demurred: “I’m not going to get into my discussions with the president.” Bully Boy Bill Barr is America’s Ultimate Chaos AgentAs well, Barr indicated he views protesters in Portland, Oregon, not as demonstrators demanding Black liberation or defending themselves from an unwanted federal intrusion but as insurrectionists.“What unfolds nightly around the courthouse cannot reasonably be called a protest,” Barr said in his highly anticipated testimony. “It is, by any objective measure, an assault on the government of the United States.”Later, in response to GOP questioning, Barr thundered “is that OK?” in outlining demonstrators’ alleged offenses against federal officers. “I reject the idea that the Department has flooded anywhere and attempted to suppress demonstrators… We are at the courthouse defending the courthouse, we’re not out there looking for trouble.” Barr’s rhetoric represented the latest escalation by the Trump administration in demonizing the protests, which are part of what has become the largest sustained movement in American history. A Monday statement from the U.S. Marshals, a component of the Justice Department, called elements within the protesters “violent extremists,” a term typically used by the U.S. government to describe domestic terrorists, though a Marshals spokesperson said the reference was unintentional. “In the wake of George Floyd’s death, violent rioters and anarchists have hijacked legitimate protests to wreak senseless havoc and destruction on innocent victims,” Barr contended. Democrats fumed through the hearing on what they saw as Barr’s hypocrisy on that count. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) asked Barr whether he was aware of the pro-Trump protests in Michigan targeting Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, which featured heavily armed demonstrators. Barr said no. “You are aware of certain kinds of protesters, but in Michigan when protesters carried guns and Confederate flags and called for the governor of Michigan to be shot and lynched, somehow you are not aware of that, somehow you didn’t know about it, so you didn’t send federal agents in to do to the president’s supporters what you did to the president’s protesters,” charged Jayapal. The testimony from Barr, which has been more than a year in the making, has been hotly anticipated by Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill as an opportunity to litigate a number of his actions as Trump’s attorney general. Over the past year, Barr has overseen a reduction in the desired sentence and then the commutation of Trump ally Roger Stone’s conviction; the withdrawal of the criminal case against another Trump ally, Michael Flynn; the tear-gassing of Black Lives Matter protesters in D.C.’s Lafayette Park; an effort to oust the New York federal attorney handling sensitive investigations into Trumpworld; the transference of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort from prison to home confinement; and the deployment of armed, militarized federal agents against protesters in Portland over the objections of local and state elected officials. The growing portfolio of outrages that Barr has assembled has been overwhelming for House Democrats, some of whom have embraced the idea that the only remaining avenue for holding the attorney general—who has already been held in contempt of Congress—to account is to impeach him. But getting Barr on the House Judiciary witness stand, which was originally set for March and then later postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak, is widely seen as the first step in whatever House Democrats decide to do next.In his opening statement, Nadler previewed the crux of Democrats’ case by arguing that Barr has been Trump’s fixer. “Your tenure,” Nadler told Barr, “is marked by a persistent war against the department’s professional core in an apparent effort to secure favors for the president.”Barr shot back that he was trying “to reestablish the rule of law.”Trump Administration Plots Crackdown by Feds in Cities NationwideThe attorney general’s handling of nationwide protests proved the focus of the hearing from the beginning. Federal agents, including the Marshals and others from the Department of Homeland Security, cited vandalism against the Mark O. Hatfield Courthouse in Portland as a justification for their persistent presence. Barr, in his opening statement, called such vandalism the work of “hundreds of rioters.” Yet the federal response has generated the majority of the violence at the protests, which has included shooting protesters in the head with rubber bullets; breaking the hand of an unarmed Navy veteran; frequent pepper-spray dousings and tear-gassings; and street arrests without probable cause by minimally identified federal agents driving unmarked vans. Barr equivocated on whether federal agents can arrest protesters without probable cause, saying they could “not strictly” arrest someone because they were proximate to someone they believed was violent. But he demurred about whether such a thing represented an actual arrest, saying “that would require an intensive review” into each circumstance. It remains unknown exactly how many people in Portland have been arrested by federal agents during the July deployments. At one point, late in the hearing, Barr called pepper spray a “very important nonlethal tool” against “rioters” and added, “When people resist law enforcement, they’re not peaceful.”“There is no precedent for the Department of Justice actively seeking out conflict with American citizens, under such flimsy pretext, or for such petty purposes,” said Nadler. He said Barr “aided and abetted the worst failings of the president.”Elected officials, from Oregon’s governor to both its U.S. senators to the Portland mayor, have denounced the federal presence as a provocative escalation of violence. Barr and acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf have vowed to remain until the protests are quelled. ‘Shaking in Their Boots’: Trump Wanted a Portland-Style Offensive in ChicagoLast week, Barr justified a coming “surge” in federal law enforcement to Chicago, Albuquerque, and other cities—expected to last through the November election—by citing the Black Lives Matter protests as a source of public disrespect toward police. Black Lives Matter activists and their allies in Chicago are seeking an injunction against the use of Portland-style federal violence. After acknowledging “it is understandable” for Black Americans to distrust police, Barr said it was “an oversimplification” to view “some deep-seated racism generally infecting our police departments.” Defunding police is “grossly irresponsible,” he said, portraying crime as a “massively greater” threat to Black lives than police. Nadler countercharged: “At your direction, Department officials have downplayed the effects of systemic racism and abandoned the victims of police brutality; refused to hold abusive police departments accountable for their actions; and expressed open hostility to the Black Lives Matter movement.”But later in the hearing, Democrats also pressed Barr over his handling of criminal prosecutions stemming from Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) repeatedly asked Barr why Stone appeared to get special exceptions for leniency based on his age and conduct. “Can you think of any other cases where the defendant threatened to kill a witness, threatened a judge… where the DOJ claimed those were mere technicalities?” asked Deutch. “Can you think of even one?” Barr raised his voice in response, asserting the judge agreed with his analysis, though the witness in question, Randy Credico, did say he felt threatened by Stone. Democrats also tried to nail down definitive answers from Barr on a number of other subjects, such as whether he believed increased voting-by-mail increased the risk of voter fraud as Trump has alleged. Barr said it did. Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA) also raised concerns Trump would move the date of the election or even reject the results, given Trump’s arguments about absentee voting and the possibility that final results won’t be known for some time after Election Day. Barr tersely responded, “if the results are clear, I would leave office.” GOP Senators Will Say This Much: Trump Photo Op Wasn’t a Good LookBarr also seemed to dismiss the convictions and guilty pleas reached by Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, saying that the Justice Department would not prosecute “some esoteric, made-up crime, but [rather] a meat-and-potatoes crime.”On Tuesday, Barr—who wrote in his prepared opening statement that he is not “the President’s factotum”—received a warm reception from Republicans, for whom the attorney general has become a hero. The top House Judiciary Republican, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH), said last month the attorney general was doing “the Lord’s work.” “Spying. That’s why they’re after you, Mr. Attorney General,” Jordan said on Tuesday, before proceeding to portray the Black Lives Matter protests as violent through an extensive video that showed no police-induced violence.   A day before Barr’s hearing, a D.C. National Guard officer present at the Lafayette Park protest on June 1 told a different House committee that “the use of force against demonstrators in the clearing operation was an unnecessary escalation of the use of force.” Barr has denied accounts placing him in command responsibility for suppressing the protest. But the officer, West Point graduate and Iraq veteran Adam DeMarco, recounted Barr conferring with the Park Police shortly before they advanced to clear protesters from the square for Trump’s photo op. “From my observation, those demonstrators—our fellow American citizens—were engaged in the peaceful expression of their First Amendment rights,” DeMarco told the House natural-resources committee on Monday. “Yet they were subjected to an unprovoked escalation and excessive use of force.”Barr, questioned by Jayapal, dismissed his comments. “I don’t remember DeMarco as being involved in any decision-making,” he said, implying DeMarco was not credible since he “ran as a Democratic candidate in Maryland.” Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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The St. Louis couple that aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters received dozens of offers to replace a firearm that was seized by police, their attorney says

The St. Louis couple that aimed guns at Black Lives Matter protesters received dozens of offers to replace a firearm that was seized by police, their attorney saysPolice seized Mark and Patricia McCloskey's rifle in a search warrant. Since then, the couple has received over 50 offers to replace it, their lawyer said.



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Catholic priest suspended from church for calling Black Lives Matter protesters ‘maggots and parasites’

Catholic priest suspended from church for calling Black Lives Matter protesters ‘maggots and parasites’A Catholic priest in Indiana has been suspended from his public ministry, after he called Black Lives Matter (BLM) protesters “maggots and parasites".Reverend Theodore Rothrock, assigned to St Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church in Carmel, Indiana, was suspended on Wednesday, after he disparaged BLM protesters in a bulletin published on Sunday, according to Huffpost.



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Woman calls police on black couple building patio at their own home

Woman calls police on black couple building patio at their own homeA video of a New Jersey woman calling the police on her black neighbours went viral and eventually spawned a protest outside the woman's home.The incident occurred on Monday when Fareed Nassor Hayat, an attorney and a professor of law at City University of New York, and his wife, Norrinda, were in the backyard building a stone patio.



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3 North Carolina police officers were fired after they were heard on camera making racist comments, including one threatening to 'slaughter' Black people in a new civil war

3 North Carolina police officers were fired after they were heard on camera making racist comments, including one threatening to 'slaughter' Black people in a new civil warJames Gilmore, Jesse Moore II, and Kevin Piner had been on the force for more than 20 years. Their conversations were caught on an in-car camera.



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'Not to me, they don't': Philadelphia court supervisor fired for tearing down Black Lives Matter signs on video

'Not to me, they don't': Philadelphia court supervisor fired for tearing down Black Lives Matter signs on videoA supervisor with Philadelphia's Family Court was fired after a video circulated online showing him tearing down Black Lives Matter signs and telling bystanders that black lives don't matter to him.The video shows Michael Henkel marching along a sidewalk tearing Black Lives Matter signs from fences and walls. When a bystander yells "black lives matter" at him, Mr Henkel replies "not to me, they don't."



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A Black Man Was Found Hanging From a Tree—Residents Don’t Buy That It Was a Suicide

A Black Man Was Found Hanging From a Tree—Residents Don’t Buy That It Was a SuicideA 24-year-old black man was found hanging from a tree in Palmdale, California, this week, sparking a massive public outcry and demands for a more thorough investigation after officials almost immediately described it as a suicide. Robert Fuller was found by a passerby at about 3:39 a.m. Wednesday near Palmdale City Hall in Poncitlán Square, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. Homicide investigators said they had found “no signs of a struggle” and suggested Fuller had died by suicide—an assessment echoed by city officials who attributed the death to emotional despair caused by the coronavirus pandemic. “Sadly, it is not the first such incident since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” city officials said in a statement offering their “sincere condolences and sympathies” to Fuller’s loved ones. “Many people are suffering extreme mental anguish and the City wants everyone to know that help is available,” City Manager J.J. Murphy said in a statement on Fuller’s death. But critics have questioned why authorities were so quick to deem Fuller’s death a suicide, especially when an autopsy has not yet been completed. And at a Friday afternoon press conference, attendees literally shouted down city officials who reiterated their claim that Fuller was depressed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, with many in the crowd noting that Fuller had marched in a Black Lives Matter protest shortly before he was found dead. That claim could not immediately be verified by The Daily Beast. “Remember what the first coroner said about George Floyd?” one woman shouted after officials noted the coroner’s preliminary conclusion was suicide. In the case of Floyd—an unarmed black man who died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers last month—the initial report did not deem the case a homicide. Residents have asked Palmdale city officials to check surveillance footage from the area where Fuller was found dead, expressing incredulity at the idea he would have hanged himself right in front of City Hall and there would be no video evidence of what happened. Lt. Brandon Dean of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Homicide Bureau, who is supervising the investigation into Fuller’s death, told The Daily Beast investigators are “not officially saying that this is a suicide.” But “early indications” point to that, he said, noting that there were no defensive wounds or signs of a physical assault. There was “nothing that would indicate he was put up there against his will,” Dean said. “The rope wasn’t thrown over but tied to the branch, which means somebody had to get up there and tie it.”After the initial autopsy report listed suicide as the cause of death, he said, the coroner has since conducted a full autopsy and the cause of death determination won’t be made until toxicology results are in. “If the toxicology results were to show a high level of a chemical that might have poisoned him or knocked him unconscious and allowed someone to drag him up there, it would give a new direction to the case,” he said. While there are no cameras around City Hall, Dean said investigators have been reviewing footage from businesses near the area to see if they can find video of Fuller and determine whether he was with anyone else.  A woman who identified herself as a friend of Fuller’s phoned into a local radio show on Friday to dispute authorities’ suggestion that he died by suicide. “If you knew this young man, you would never get the thought of him having some type of mental illness. … He was always smiling,” the woman, identified only as Abby, said on Big Boy’s Neighborhood. “They’re trying to cover it up as a suicide and it’s not a suicide,” she said. A news report in the Antelope Valley Times also issued an editor’s note on their original story about Fuller’s death, noting that the paper had been “contacted by several readers not connected to this incident who strongly believe that the death was not a suicide and other suspicious factors are at play.” Police have stressed that the investigation is still continuing and that any information released so far is preliminary. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department has asked anyone with information to call  (323) 890-5500.Read more at The Daily Beast.Got a tip? Send it to The Daily Beast hereGet our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Sheriff’s Deputy Charged After Leading Armed Mob to Home of Black Teen: DA

Sheriff’s Deputy Charged After Leading Armed Mob to Home of Black Teen: DAA white sheriff’s deputy in North Carolina is facing criminal charges after allegedly leading an armed mob to the home of a black teenager and trying to force their way inside as part of a botched vigilante mission.New Hanover & Pender County District Attorney Ben David on Friday announced the charges against Jordan Kita, a New Hanover Sheriff’s Office detention officer accused of wearing his uniform while leading the group of people—one of whom was allegedly packing an AR-15—to confront a high school student at his home. Kita has since been fired from the sheriff's office. The teenager, Dameon Shepard, was playing video games late one evening when the group of men arrived at his door, demanding to know the whereabouts of a 15-year-old girl named Lekayda Kempisty who had been reported missing. Three in the group were said to be armed, carrying a shotgun, a semi-automatic rifle, and a handgun. Kita wore his New Hanover County Sheriff’s deputy uniform and gun, though he had not come to Shepard’s house on official business. The group said they were going to enter the house and question him, the Port City Daily reports. But in addition to having no legal authority to question or detain Shepard, they also had the wrong guy. The mob was in search of a man whose first name was Josiah. Josiah had reportedly previously lived in the neighborhood, but the only thing he apparently had in common with Shepard was being African-American in the predominantly white neighborhood. The armed group reportedly did not believe Shepard when he told them he wasn't who they were looking for. “There’s one in a police uniform, and he speaks to me first,” Shepard told the Port City Daily. “He says, ‘We’re looking for a missing girl. We were given this address, we were given your name, and we were told that she’s here. So we’re going to enter,’” Shepard was quoted as saying. He said he told the group they could not come inside and tried to shut the door, but Kita planted his foot so the door could not close. According to a letter from the Shepards’ attorney, James Lea, “Dameon became very frightened and hysterical, and kept repeating that his name was Dameon and that he attended Laney High School.”Shepard’s mother, awoken by the confrontation, then came to the front door. “The crowd was angry, and I still did not know what was going on,” Monica Shepard told the Port City Daily. “[Kita] kept saying, ‘I’m going to step inside, close the door, and talk to you,’ and I said, ‘No, you’re not.’”She told the vigilantes that her son was not named Josiah. Kita is said to have insisted he be allowed inside, but the mob eventually left. The missing girl, who had run away from home, was located later that evening.“The whole time, I was worried the worst would happen,” said Monica Shepard. “I’m still in shock. I don’t sleep well.” When Pender County sheriff’s deputies arrived later that night to investigate, they made no arrests and, according to Lea, took no names. Monica Shepard said, “Coming to the door like that with a mob of people with guns, what do we expect? What were their intentions? What if he was the person they were looking for or what if I was not home? What would’ve happened? I don’t want to have that conversation. I don’t want him to be a statistic. It’s scary.”Dameon and his mother Monica plan to file a civil lawsuit, according to their attorney. Lea called the sheriff’s department’s conduct an “outrageous and egregious violation.” “We obviously cannot have armed groups of citizens patrolling the streets of Pender County or New Hanover County terrorizing innocent families,” the lawyer wrote.Kita has been fired from the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office, and the office is conducting an internal affairs investigation, The News & Observer reports. He’s charged with breaking and entering, forcible trespassing, and failure to discharge duties. A second man, Austin Wood, is charged with “going armed to the terror of the public.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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Black People Know: The Coronavirus Is No Great Equalizer

Black People Know: The Coronavirus Is No Great EqualizerAs an African-American, I always anticipated that the COVID-19 pandemic would disproportionately hit my community, and other communities of color the hardest. It was never an if, but a when. COVID-19 does not see race, color, or nationality; but it does attack the vulnerable and require the collective will of a society to stop. Communities of color have always been excluded, exploited, and vulnerable to attack in America, so it was inevitable that the coronavirus would come for us. Tragically, our society still needs data to prove the possibility of the inevitable, and now the data is pouring in.On CBS This Morning on Tuesday, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who is black, acknowledged that African-Americans are at a higher risk of COVID-19 due to systemic inequalities. He talked about how he is prediabetic, has heart disease, high blood pressure, and asthma—and he attributed his ailments to the “legacy of growing up poor and black in America.”‘I Could Get the Virus If I Vote’: Wisconsin’s Terrifying Election DayAdams was born in 1974, and is clearly a smart, hard-working, and accomplished man. He’s worked his way out of poverty, but the poverty he was born into and that makes him more vulnerable to the coronavirus is the legacy of Jim Crow and systemic racism. This was an intentional impoverishing and enfeebling of the black community that still poses a life-threatening danger to even the most accomplished African-Americans.In Louisiana, about 70 percent of the people who have died from COVID-19 are black despite only accounting for a third of the state’s population. Just this morning my mother sent me a text message telling me that our family friend Orlando (Skip) Wright, who lives in Louisiana, died from COVID-19. My mom has known him since they were both children growing up in the segregated South. They even went to prom together, long before she met my father.In Chicago, 72 percent of those who have succumbed to COVID-19 are African-American, despite making up less than a third of the population. And the majority of Chicago’s black population is concentrated on the South Side that has been a historically underfunded and neglected part of the city.In Milwaukee, another segregated Midwestern city, African-Americans make up less than 30 percent of the population, but account for nearly 75 percent of the deaths.Last week, The Atlantic reported that COVID-19 is especially lethal in the South, due to the endemic poverty of the region and the ensuing health complications such as obesity, heart and lung disease, and hypertension. These lethal threats are especially high amongst the black community in the South. None of this data should be a surprise because since the beginning of the transatlantic slave trade, the white-dominated South has based its way of life around legitimizing the impoverishment, malnourishment, and oppression of black people.Yet the legacy of America’s previous horrors, only partially accounts for today’s tragedy. Incompetent Republican governors, such as Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida, have been slow to act and have left their states increasingly vulnerable. Last Thursday, Gov. Kemp publicly stated that he had only recently become aware that asymptomatic people could spread the coronavirus.Republican ignorance combined with their dislike of universal health care creates an inevitable crisis that will disproportionately harm communities of color. Kemp’s negligence, which is so egregious that is should be considered criminal, reflects nearly the entirety of the Republican response to this crisis at the state and federal level.Additionally, communities of color often fill the jobs that municipalities deem “essential” such as mailmen, and garbage collectors. They are unable to stay at home, and potentially expose themselves to the virus every day despite being the most susceptible to dying from COVID-19.The horrors of the past combined with the inequality and ignorance of the present creates a life-threatening crisis within the black community that Chicago’s mayor Lori Lightfoot describes as “breathtaking.” And while the numbers are breathtaking, they should not be shocking. The alarming number of African-American COVID-19 deaths represents an American-made tragedy created by our society’s systematic disregard for black life.Just as data confirms the possibility of the inevitable, data can also provide Americans with the information to change our status quo and create a more equitable society.Right now a group of Democratic lawmakers, Sens. Kamala Harris, Cory Booker and Elizabeth Warren; and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, are calling on the department of Health and Human Services to provide comprehensive racial data regarding the spread and impact of COVID-19.“Any attempt to contain COVID-19 in the United States will have to address its potential spread in low-income communities of color, first and foremost to protect the lives of people in those communities, but also to slow the spread of the virus in the country as a whole…. This lack of information will exacerbate existing health disparities and result in the loss of lives in vulnerable communities,” they warned in a letter sent to HHS.The tragedy befalling America’s black community is both American-made, and impairing our capacity to prevent the virus spreading. Yet despite the importance of this information to protect black, and all Americans, no one expects the Trump administration to act on this vital need. But Joe Biden must act.Biden was left for dead in the presidential race, but his support amongst black voters catapulted him to an almost insurmountable delegate lead in less than a month. Black voters could put him in the White House, but we will need to know that he has our back during a time of crisis.Biden needs to join forces with his fellow Democrats and get vocal about how the pandemic is disproportionately harming communities of color, and what he plans on doing to address this crisis.The disparity in death rates does take your breath away. But if the end result remains inaction from both sides of the political aisle and a continued normalization of systemic inequality, America may never recover from COVID-19.Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.



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