Saturday, May 15, 2021


Minnesota backs sweeping reforms to overhaul police conduct

The governor of Minnesota said Thursday that he would convene a special session of the state legislature to position his state at the forefront of a national movement to overhaul policing and address systemic racism in the wake of George Floyd's death.



Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, endorsed what he described as a "coordinated, powerful set of reforms" that would revamp oversight and disciplinary procedures, fund community groups that could act as alternatives to the police and put the state attorney general in charge of investigating officers who use lethal force.

"Minnesotans have raised their voice. . . . They have come to the capitol with the expectation of change," Walz said, announcing that the special session would begin at noon Friday. "The time is upon us, and we need to get it done. The community is telling all of us what they want."

As Washington continues to face partisan gridlock and election-year politics, states, cities and some corporations are responding to Floyd's death and the burgeoning national movement it sparked by embracing far-reaching changes. Democrats in Congress have offered a police reform proposal and Republicans are set to do so, but it is unclear whether they will be able to reach agreement.

The move in Minneapolis and elsewhere came as demonstrators in Seattle took the overhaul effort into their own hands, setting up what they called "the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone," where police are forbidden, food is free and documentaries are screened at night.

The establishment of the unauthorized, unpoliced area drew condemnation from President Donald Trump, who has urged force against violent protesters, lashed out at Democratic-led cities and tweeted about "LAW & ORDER."

Walz's call for new state laws on police conduct came as officials in Miami, Houston, New York, Los Angeles and elsewhere have taken steps to change regulations and procedures for their police forces. Some municipal leaders have embraced activists' call to "defund the police," calling for a reallocation of resources from law enforcement and into social services.

Several companies and other institutions also took steps Thursday to respond to growing concerns about racial inequality and to show their customers they are on the right side of history.

Nike joined Twitter in designating June 19, a date commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, as a company holiday. Facebook said it would designate the day, often called "Juneteenth," as a "day of learning," when employees would be encouraged to gain a deeper understanding of the experience of black Americans.

The actions were part of a trend that has included a slew of institutions, companies, politicians and other national figures signing on to the Black Lives Matter movement. It represents a dramatic change from just a few months ago, when such issues seemed more likely to divide the country than to create the relatively unified response now in evidence.

Some have responded to Floyd's death by taking steps to remove symbols, systems and structures that reflect or perpetuate racism, such as statues of Confederate generals and 18th-century slave traders.

On Thursday, protesters and local leaders continued toppling monuments of such historical figures, and a Senate panel voted to remove the names of Confederate leaders from military bases.

Trump, who has pushed forcefully to keep the Confederates' names on military bases, in some ways found himself isolated at a time of quickly changing public opinion. He traveled to Dallas on Thursday for a discussion on race and policing, where he reiterated his view that the authorities should "dominate" city streets.

"I made the statement 'You have to dominate the streets,' and they said, 'Oh, that's such a terrible thing,' " Trump said. "Well, guess what? You know who dominated the streets? People that you don't want to dominate the streets. So I'll stick with that."

But several Republican leaders have broken with Trump recently as he has struggled to address the civil unrest sparked by the death of Floyd under the knee of a Minneapolis police officer. The Senate panel voting to rename military bases was led by Republicans, many of whom said they saw no reason to keep the names of Confederate generals defeated in the Civil War.

The Pentagon's top general, meanwhile, apologized on Thursday for appearing alongside Trump near the White House after authorities forcibly removed peaceful protesters from the area. He became the latest military leader to distance himself from the president in the wake of the controversial photo op, in which Trump walked to a church across from the White House and held up a Bible.

"I should not have been there. My presence in that moment, and in that environment, created the perception of the military involved in domestic politics," Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a prerecorded graduation speech to students at the National Defense University. "As a commissioned uniformed officer, it was a mistake that I have learned from."

Trump continued to defend the use of military power against protesters, whom he described as "anarchists" and "Domestic Terrorists." He seized on the situation in Seattle, calling on local and state leaders there to take control and threatening to step in with federal force.

"Radical Left Governor @JayInslee and the Mayor of Seattle are being taunted and played at a level that our great Country has never seen before," Trump wrote on Twitter. "Take back your city NOW. If you don't do it, I will. This is not a game. These ugly Anarchists must be stopped IMMEDIATELY. MOVE FAST!"

Inslee and Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan both hit back, with Inslee calling Trump "a man who is totally incapable of governing."

Still, the president said he was working on an executive order that would "encourage police departments nationwide to meet the most current professional standards for the use of force, including tactics for de-escalation."

Trump's language suggested that the proposal would leave police departments with the option of following the use-of-force standards, something many activists say does not go far enough to mandate change.

Since then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin drove his knee into the neck of Floyd, an unarmed black man, for nearly nine minutes on May 25, millions have taken to the streets to demand new laws that would mandate less aggressive policing tactics.

Walz is aiming to turn Minnesota into a national leader on police reform with the package of proposals he is presenting to the legislature. The measure would change state law on when a police officer is justified in using deadly force, a new measure that Walz's office said would "prioritize sanctity of life."

The package would also offer funding to allow social workers to join police officers in responding to crisis calls and welfare checks, a policy shift that Trump appeared to embrace on Thursday.

Democrats control the House in Minnesota, and their People of Color and Indigenous Caucus drew up the proposals that Walz co-signed. Republicans run the Senate, and though they have shown support for some of the measures, they have also criticized Walz and indicated that their priority will be to curb his power to extend the state of emergency over the coronavirus.

Floyd's death continued to reverberate outside of politics, too, as several institutions and public figures announced new steps to promote anti-racism and embrace the Black Lives Matter movement.

Lady Antebellum, the Grammy-winning country music trio behind one of the highest-selling country songs of all time, announced Thursday that it was dropping the "antebellum" from its name. The group, which will now be known as Lady A, apologized for using a name associated with the Antebellum South, the period before the Civil War. "We've watched and listened more than ever these last few weeks, and our hearts have been stirred with conviction, our eyes opened wide to the injustices, inequality and biases black women and men have always faced and continue to face everyday," the group said on Twitter. "We are deeply sorry for the hurt this has caused and for anyone who felt unsafe, unseen or unvalued."

The board of directors for U.S. Soccer announced that it was repealing a rule that forced players on the national team to stand during the national anthem, instead encouraging players to choose how they wished to protest racial injustice. The rule was enacted after women's team star Megan Rapinoe knelt in protest during the national anthem.

It was the latest sports body to take action to support peaceful protests against racism, after the NFL also reversed course.

The moves were not welcomed by all.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., for example, responded to U.S. Soccer's move by advocating that the body should be defunded.

"I'd rather the US not have a soccer team than have a soccer team that won't stand for the National Anthem," Gaetz tweeted Thursday.


Published : June 12, 2020

By : The Washington Post · Toluse Olorunnipa, Reis Thebault · NATIONAL, POLITICS, COURTSLAW, RACE