Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

US protests: New York seeks $1bn police cut as week-long rallies occupy City Hall Park

Mississippi voted to remove the Confederate emblem from its state flag

On the seventh day of "defund the police" protesters occupying a park near city hall, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio on Monday announced a plan for the police department budget to be cut by $1 billion.

Mr de Blasio declined to give details of “savings” for the nation’s largest police department, saying the cuts were still being negotiated with the city council.

But he said spending on capital projects would be reduced by $500 million (Dh1.83bn) and there could be changes to the department’s role in policing schools.

The money would go to the city’s chronically underfunded public housing system and to youth programmes, Mr de Blasio said.

Hundreds of demonstrators have spent the past week camped out in City Hall Park after weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd and other African Americans killed by police.

“We’ve done different levels of escalation to make sure we’re getting their attention,” said Jonathan Lykes, one of the movement’s organisers.

“If they defund the police by $1bn then we have won. But that’s only our demand this week.”

The annual operating budget of the NYPD is about $6bn, plus several billion more in shared city expenses, such as pensions.

The department has about 36,000 officers.

Asked if that number would stay the same, Mr de Blasio said: “Whatever we do in terms of headcount has to keep the city safe.”

Patrick Lynch, head of the Police Benevolent Association union, said the proposed cuts would lead to fewer officers on the streets amid a surge in shootings that has lasted several weeks.

“We will say it again: the mayor and the city council have surrendered the city to lawlessness," Mr Lynch said.

"Things won’t improve until New Yorkers hold them responsible."

The City Hall Park occupation was organised by black and LGBT activists but has sought to include input across the spectrum.

A makeshift “People’s Library", assembled under a tent, promotes “radical literature".

A nearby bodega features free donated food and personal protective equipment for occupiers, many of whom are wearing masks.

Gatherings of more than 10 people are still banned in New York City because of the coronavirus.

Minnesota

A Minnesota judge on Monday said that he was likely to move from Minneapolis the trials of the four former police officers charged in George Floyd’s death if public officials and lawyers did not stop talking about the case.

Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill stopped short of issuing a gag order on lawyers, but he said one was likely if public statements continued.

Mr Cahill said such a situation would also make him likely to grant a motion for a change of venue if one were filed.

“The court is not going to be happy about hearing about the case in three areas: media, evidence and guilt or innocence,” he said.

It was the second pre-trial hearing for the officers, who were fired after Floyd’s death on May 25.

Derek Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder and other counts, while Thomas Lane, J Kueng and Tou Thao are charged with aiding and abetting.

St Louis

A white couple stood outside their St Louis mansion on Sunday evening and pointed guns at protesters calling for police reform who were marching past the house.

US President Donald Trump on Monday shared a video on Twitter showing the Missouri couple pointing guns towards protesters.

Mark McCloskey, 63, who lives in the mansion with his wife, Patricia McCloskey, said they feared for their lives and that protesters damaged a wrought-iron gate at an entrance to the wealthy neighbourhood.

Both are personal-injury lawyers.

"This is all private property," Mr McCloskey told KMOV4 local news. "There are no public sidewalks or public streets.

"I was terrified that we'd be murdered within seconds, our house would be burnt down, our pets would be killed. We were all alone facing an angry mob."

Kimberly Gardner, the city's chief prosecutor, said she was alarmed by the videos and that her office was investigating.

"We must protect the right to peacefully protest, and any attempt to chill it through intimidation or threat of deadly force will not be tolerated," Ms Gardner said.

The protesters were heading to the home of St Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson to demand her resignation after she read out the names and addresses of people calling for police reform in a Facebook Live event last week.

Ms Krewson apologised and took the video down.

On Sunday, Mr Trump drew swift condemnation for retweeting video of a Florida supporter shouting "white power", a phrase used by white supremacist groups, and later deleted it.

The White House said Mr Trump had not heard the slogan.

Seattle

A man was killed and another wounded in Seattle’s occupied protest zone on Monday.

It was the second fatal shooting in the area.

Police said it happened in the city’s Capitol Hill neighbourhood, which has recently become a protest occupation.

Harborview Medical Centre said one of the wounded men was taken to the hospital in a private vehicle at about 3.15am.

The centre said the second was taken by Seattle Fire Department medics about 15 minutes later.

It said one man died and the other was in a critical condition.

Seattle police did not immediately release details about the shooting.

Days earlier, crews arrived with heavy equipment at the Capitol Hill occupied protest zone in Seattle, ready to dismantle barriers set up after protesters seized the area on June 8 after clashes with police.

Mississippi

Mississippi legislators took a historic vote to remove a Confederate battle emblem from their state flag.

Spectators in the Capitol cheered and applauded after the vote on Sunday.

It is the last state in the US to have a flag with the Confederate symbol, which many people condemn as racist.

There was broad bipartisan support for the decision.

Republican Governor Tate Reeves said he would sign the bill and the state flag would lose its official status.

Updated: July 1, 2020 02:26 AM

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