Photos by Eric Miller for Reuters and Richard Tsong-Taatarii for the Star Tribune
- Ongoing protests over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis surged on Wednesday.
- Demonstrators looted, set fires, and clashed with police, who responded with flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets.
- One man was shot and killed after a pawn shop owner allegedly suspected him of trying to loot his store.
- Local leaders and Floyd’s family called for peace. Meanwhile, protests also took place in Los Angeles and Memphis.
Protests raged on in Minneapolis Wednesday night over the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died after a police officer kneeled on his neck for several minutes.
The demonstrations, which have been ongoing since Tuesday, reportedly started out peacefully when protestors gathered in the afternoon outside the third precinct police headquarters.
But according to reports, by the early evening, officers began trying to disperse the crowds with flash-bang grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets. Protestors responded by throwing objects at the precinct building and the officers.
The clashes reportedly continued on throughout the night as protestors set fires and looted stores.
The looting started at a Target across the street from the precinct before spreading to other parts of the city, the Star Tribune reported. Numerous videos shared on social media showed people taking items out of the store, smashing windows, and destroying other pieces of property.
Local outlets also reported that a grocery store and several small businesses were also looted. A man was shot and killed by a pawn shop owner, marking the first and only reported fatality from these protests. According to the Tribune, the shop owner opened fire on the man, who he believed was trying to loot his store.
The Tribune also reported that at least four other people were shot, though it is unclear if the shootings were connected or separate instances.
Police allegedly did not do anything to stop the looters, prompting at least one group of armed men to stand outside a strip mall.
In a now-viral, one of the armed men told a reporter that the group was going around the city helping store owners because police were not, but added that they also supported the protestors.
“Basically you see the records that cops keep,” the man said. “And cops are a lot less likely to try and tread on people’s rights when there’s other armed Americans with them.”
“It’s goddamn time that some heavily armed rednecks stood with fellow citizens,” he added. “So bottom line, justice for Floyd and I hope they stop looting at some point.”
Meanwhile, multiple fires were set all across the city. Some of the biggest blazes took place at an AutoZone store and an affordable-housing building that was under construction.
The AutoZone fire was put out by firefighters then reignited by protestors, who reportedly threw rocks and other objects at them.
Those protests went on through the night and continued into Thursday morning.
Videos and pictures circulated online Thursday showed some fires still smoldering and police officers in riot gear still standing off against people still protesting in the streets.
According to reports, the National Guard has been ordered to the third precinct to help relieve the police.
Response from Leaders & Other Protests
Amid the escalations, numerous local leaders and other individuals took to social media to call for peace.
“Please, Minneapolis, we cannot let tragedy beget more tragedy,” Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), who represents Minneapolis in Congress, also made similar remarks on Twitter.
“Violence only begets violence,” she said. “More force is only going to lead to more lives lost and more devastation.”
Ben Crump, the lawyer for George Floyd’s family, also made a similar argument, writing on Twitter that Floyd’s family thanks the protestors for standing for justice, but adding, “George Floyd’s family wants peace in #Minneapolis — but knows that Black people want peace in their souls — and until we get #JusticeForFloyd there will be no peace.”
“We cannot sink to the level of our oppressors and endanger each other as we respond to the necessary urge to raise our voices in unison and in outrage,” he continued. “Looting and violence distract from strength of our collective voice.”
In an interview with CNN Thursday morning, George Floyd’s brother, Philonise Floyd, also echoed Crump’s remarks.
“I want everybody to be peaceful right now, but people are torn and hurt because they’re tired of seeing black men die constantly, over and over again,” he said.
Other protests over Floyd’s death also look place in Los Angeles and Memphis.
In Los Angeles, protesters gathered in front of City Hall and then blocked traffic on the 101 freeway. The protest was mostly peaceful, though some demonstrators broke the windows of California Highway Patrol cars.
In Memphis, a group of people marched in protest before gathering outside a police building. A small group of counter-protesters showed up, and both sides began yelling, prompting police to step in.
According to reports, the officers stood in the middle of the two groups, allowing both sides to protest without coming in contact. Some demonstrators were reportedly taken into custody.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (ABC News) (The Star Tribune)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.