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Atlanta Police Walk Out in Protest of Murder Charge Against Officer Who Killed Rayshard Brooks

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  • On June 12, Rayshard Brooks was shot and killed by Atlanta Officer Garrett Rolfe after an altercation in a Wendy’s parking lot. 
  • Ongoing protests over systemic racism in law enforcement soon began to invoke Brooks’ name, and some demonstrators burned down the Wendy’s where Brooks died the following day.
  • On Wednesday, Rolfe was charged with 11 crimes, including the murder of Brooks. The other officer involved at the scene faces three charges, including aggravated assault.
  • Hours later, reports began to flood in that Atlanta police officers were calling in sick and staging a walkout in response to the charges.

Garrett Rolfe and Devin Brosnan Charged

The two Atlanta officers involved in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks have been charged. The officer who killed him, Garrett Rolfe, faces 11 charges, including murder and aggravated assault. 

On Wednesday, Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard announced the charges and revealed several new details from the incident, which took place on June 12. The first is that when Rolfe shot Brooks, he reportedly exclaimed, “I got him.” Howard also said Rolfe kicked Brooks as he struggled for his life. Following that, Howard accused Rolfe of failing to render first aid, reportedly for more than two minutes.

Of Brooks, Howard described his demeanor as “almost jovial,” saying, “For 41 minutes and 17 seconds, he followed their instructions, he answered questions.” 

After Brooks failed a sobriety test, Howard claimed that officers failed to inform him that he would be arrested.

Rolfe’s attorneys have denied the charges against him, saying he reacted after he thought he “heard a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.” They claim Rolfe immediately called for an ambulance and began rendering aid to Brooks. 

Surfaced video, as well as Howard’s accusation, appear to contest that claim. Video shows the officers standing over Brooks for more than two minutes before they directly administer aid. 

The other officer, Devin Brosnan, faces three charges including an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks’ shoulder after Brooks had already been shot. 

Like Rolfe, Brosnan’s legal team has argued the accusations against him, saying that he shouldn’t have been charged with assault because “an assault puts somebody in fear of immediately receiving a violent bodily injury. That wasn’t Devin’s intent.”

His lawyers also argue that he put his foot on Brooks’ arm for less than 10 seconds to make sure he couldn’t get access to a weapon. 

Police Walkout and Call in Sick After Charges

Hours after these charges came down from the DA, unusual reports that Atlanta police officers weren’t responding to calls in three of the city’s six zones began to surface. 

Essentially, it appeared like officers were staging a walkout in response to those charges. 

Following those speculations and fears that the city wouldn’t be equipped to handle 911 calls, Atlanta PD denied that police had staged a walkout after clocking into their shift.

“Earlier suggestions that multiple officers from each zone had walked off the job were inaccurate,” the department said on Twitter. “The department is experiencing a higher than usual number of call outs with the incoming shift. We have enough resources to maintain operations & remain able to respond to incidents.” 

Vince Champion, Southeast regional director for the International Brotherhood of Police Officers, then refuted that claim. 

“There are officers walking off,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There are officers saying they are not going to leave the precinct unless to help another officer. Some are walking off and sitting in their personal vehicles.” 

Later that night, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms told CNN that the city had enough officers to cover it through the night, though she didn’t say exactly how many had called in sick, presumably in protest. She also said the city could call in different agencies for back-up if needed, but as to whether it actually asked for help, Atlanta PD would not say.

Thursday morning, Atlanta PD stressed that it could still respond effectively to 911 calls, writing on Twitter, “Please don’t hesitate to call if you have an emergency.”

Arrest, Death, and Viral Video

According to a release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Rolfe and Brosnan responded to a call at a Wendy’s of a man who had fallen asleep in his car. 

That man was later identified as Brooks. While responding, those officers reportedly conducted a sobriety test on Brooks. When Brooks failed that test, they tried to take him into custody.

According to the officers, Brooks resisted arrest. During the struggle, he somehow managed to get a hold of one of the officer’s tasers. After that, Brooks attempted to run away. As he did, he pointed the taser at the officers, who were chasing after him.

That’s when Rolfe shot Brooks, who was later pronounced dead.

Two days later, The New York Times published an analysis of security footage and eyewitness videos that had surfaced. In The Times markups, Brosnan can be seen pulling his taser out during a physical struggle. Notably, that taser is the one Brooks would later grab.

From there, the three struggle. At one point, Brooks appears to punch Rolfe. Brooks then runs away. Rolfe allegedly fires his taser at him. 

Rolfe then reaches for his handgun. Meanwhile, Brooks turns around and fires the taser he had stolen from Brosnan. As he does, Rolfe draws his gun and shoots at Brooks three times. 

According to The Times, for the next minute or so, Brooks is injured but moving on the ground. Brosnan and Rolfe stand over him, but don’t appear to provide medical assistance until after another officer arrives. Shortly afterward, an ambulance rushes Brooks to the hospital, but eight minutes later, he’s pronounced dead.

Police Chief Steps Down and Brooks’ Autopsy

Brooks’ death added a fresh wave of outrage from demonstrators who were already protesting the deaths of other Black people at police hands—including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, among a long list of others.

On Saturday, protesters surrounded the Wendy’s where Brooks was killed, with police reportedly responding by using tear gas and flash bangs to break up the crowd. Later in the night, some demonstrators reportedly broke windows and threw fireworks inside, causing the building to go up in flames.

“While there may be debate as to whether this was an appropriate use of deadly force, I firmly believe that there is a clear distinction of what you can do and what you should do,” Bottoms said at a new conference on Saturday. “I do not believe that this was a justified use of deadly force and have called for the immediate termination of the officer.” 

Brooks’ lawyer has also given similar defense, saying that while Brooks was resisting arrest and had a taser, that taser wasn’t a deadly weapon and police could have arrested him without shooting him.

During her news conference, Bottoms also announced that Atlanta Police Chief Erika Shields would be stepping down.

“And because of her desire that Atlanta be a model of what meaningful police reform should look like across this country, Chief Shields has offered to immediately step aside as police chief so that the city may move forward with urgency in rebuilding the trust so desperately needed throughout our communities,” Bottoms said. 

On Sunday, Rolfe was fired and Brosnan was put on administrative leave. 

The Fulton County medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Brooks said Brooks had been shot in the back twice. 

See what others are saying: (CNN) (The New York Times) (Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

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China Imposes Retaliatory Sanctions on US Officials Over Xinjiang Criticisms

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  • The U.S. imposed sanctions on Chinese officials last week over the treatment of Uighurs and other ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.
  • The decision was the latest escalation during a time of heightened tensions between the two nations over policies in Hong Kong, the trade war, and questions about sovereignty in the South China Sea, among other matters.
  • In response, China announced retaliatory sanctions against U.S. officials, including Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
  • However, what exactly the Chinese sanctions will do is currently unclear as officials haven’t given specifics yet.

Sanctions and Counter Sanctions

Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) were sanctioned by China on Monday over their involvement in criticizing the nation’s actions in Xinjiang. Two other American officials faced sanctions as well for interfering in “China’s internal affairs,” as characterized by the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

The Chinese sanctions were in retaliation over earlier sanctions the U.S. placed on Chinese officials last Thursday. The U.S. was able to do this following the passage of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act last month. That law allows the U.S. to place sanctions, in line with the Global Magnitsky Act, on officials who are involved in the ongoing repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang.

When the law was passed in mid-June, China warned that if the U.S. actually imposed any sanctions they would do the same in retaliation. after Thursday’s announcement, the Chinese Foreign Ministry stated, “We urge the US to immediately rescind its wrong decision and stop making any remarks or moves that interfere in China’s internal affairs and undermine China’s interests. The Chinese side will firmly fight back if the US obstinately pursues such agenda.”

Zhao Lijian, Spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry speaking to reporters about US-imposed Sanctions. (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China)

Despite China’s threat, the U.S. imposed sanctions on certain Chinese officials and organizations involved in Xinjiang on July 9. The sanctions include freezing the assets these officials hold in the U.S., as well as restricting the ability of the officials and their immediate family members’ to enter the U.S.

In a statement on July 9, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo wrote, “The United States will not stand idly by as the CCP carries out human rights abuses targeting Uyghurs, ethnic Kazakhs, and members of other minority groups in Xinjiang, to include forced labor, arbitrary mass detention, and forced population control, and attempts to erase their culture and Muslim faith.”

Out of the four named individuals in the sanctions, one stands out: Chen Quanguo. Chen is the Communist Party secretary for Xinjiang and part of the Politburo and the highest-ranking Chinese official to ever be sanctioned under the Global Magnitsky Act. He first received infamy for his actions while doing the same job in Tibet from 2011-2016.

The Treasury Department named three other individuals who would have their assets frozen for helping Chen set up the surveillance and detention families in Xinjiang.

Additionally, the Xinjiang Public Security Bureau (XPSB) was also sanctioned by the Treasury Department, and the State Department added that officials who worked with the XPSB were also liable to have themselves and their families denied entry into the U.S.

When speaking about the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said, “The United States is committed to using the full breadth of its financial powers to hold human rights abusers accountable in Xinjiang and across the world.”

Tit-for-Tat Hostilities

However, these sanctions will likely end up being largely symbolic because these officials don’t travel to the U.S. in the first place. It’s also believed that their assets aren’t based in America but in China.

Even as a symbolic act, it still made China upset. On Monday, the country imposed its own sanctions against the four U.S. officials in retaliation, including the aforementioned Senators Cruz and Rubio.

Cruz was likely placed on this list for his work as part of the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Two other officials part of that committee were also named, including Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and Sam Brownback, a lawyer who also serves as the US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom.,

Rubio was likely named over his co-sponsorship of the Uighur Human Rights Policy Act. Interestingly though, China avoided issuing sanctions on the other co-sponsor, Sen. Robert Menedez (D-NJ).

As far as what these sanctions will actually do, that’s a little unclear. So far, China hasn’t given any specifics as to what the penalties would be.

These recent sanctions are just the next step in ongoing tit-for-tats between the two countries. There’s an ongoing trade war, tensions over how Hong Kong is being treated by the mainland Chinese, issues over the sovereignty of the South China Sea, and major problems with how the Chinese are treating ethnic minorities in the Xinjiang region.

The problems in Xinjiang are so bad, that there are pundits and experts calling it a cultural genocide.

Even outside of the US, China has increasingly been pressured to change course over Xinjiang and Hong Kong.

See what others are saying: (NBC News) (Al Jazeera) (NPR)

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San Francisco Lawmaker Proposes CAREN Act to Make False, Racist 911 Calls Illegal

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  • San Francisco City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced an ordinance this week called the CAREN Act, which would make false, racially discriminatory 911 calls illegal.
  • The acronym stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies. It is named after “Karens,” a nickname for white women who throw unwarranted fits in public.
  • These fits often appear racially motivated and have led to “Karens” calling the police on people of color.
  • California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has also introduced a similar piece of legislation that would outlaw these calls throughout the state.

Why the “CAREN” Act?

A lawmaker in San Francisco has introduced an ordinance that would outlaw making false, racially discriminatory 911 calls, dubbed the CAREN Act.

City Supervisor Shamann Walton introduced the ordinance. In a tweet announcing the act on Tuesday, he called racist 911 calls “unacceptable.”

The CAREN Act stands for Caution Against Racially Exploitative Non-Emergencies, but its name bears much more weight. A “Karen” is an Internet nickname for white women whose privilege and entitlement leads to loud complaints, threats of legal action, calling supervisors, and often, calling the police. The unjustified outrage of Karens has been documented in countless viral incidents, and in many cases, they show a clear prejudice against people of color. 

One video that went viral in May has been pointed to as a prime example of this. In that clip, Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York, called the police on a Black man named Christian Cooper. Both were in Central park at the time when the man asked her to put her dog on a leash, as she was required to do in that area.

However, that confrontation escalated when she desperately told a 911 operator that she was being threatened when she was not. Many felt her instinct to weaponize her white privilege and make a false claim could have had serious consequences considering the fact that Black Americans are more likely to face police brutality and die in police custody. She has since been charged with filing a false report after much public outrage.

While videos of this nature have often gone viral, this incident came at a cultural tipping point. Not long after it made its way across the Internet, another story received national attention: a video of George Floyd being killed by police officers in Minneapolis. This sparked a movement of people confronting systemic racism and police brutality, and since then, more “Karen” videos have spread online in an effort to hold people accountable for their racist behavior.

What the Ordinance Does

While filing a false police report is already illegal, Walton is pushing for more to be done to stop people from calling the authorities on people of color for no real reason. The CAREN Act would make it illegal to fabricate a report based on racial and other kinds of discrimination. 

“Within the last month and a half in the Bay Area, an individual called the police on a Black man who was dancing and exercising on the street in his Alameda neighborhood and a couple called the police on a Filipino man stenciling ‘Black Lives Matter’ in chalk in front of his own residence in San Francisco’s Pacific Heights,” he said in a statement. 

This is not the only proposal of its kind. California Assemblyman Rob Bonta has introduced a similar ordinance. His proposed legislation, AB 1150, would make state that “discriminatory 911 calls qualify as a hate crime, and further establish civil liability for the person who discriminatorily called 911.”

“AB 1550, when amended, will impose serious consequences on those who make 911 calls that are motivated by hate and bigotry; actions that inherently cause harm and pain to others,” Bonta said in a statement. “This bill is incredibly important to upholding our values and ensuring the safety of all Californians.”

See what others are saying: (SFist) (The Hill) (CNN)

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Catholic Church Granted at Least $1.4 Billion in PPP Loans

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  • An analysis from the Associated Press found that the Catholic Church received at least between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid.
  • The report identified 3,500 loans the Church received from the Paycheck Protection Program, but leaders have previously stated that as many as 9,000 bodies of the Church received funding.
  • However, government data only shared who received loans over $150,000. Smaller churches that received under that amount were not on the list, meaning the Catholic Church could have collected even more than records show.
  • Usually, religious groups would not be eligible for funding from the Small Business Administration, but the Church allegedly spent a good chunk of money lobbying so that there would be an exception for the PPP.

Catholic Church Receives Billions in PPP Funds

The Catholic Church received between $1.4 and $3.5 billion in federal coronavirus relief aid, according to a Friday analysis from the Associated Press.

While houses of worship and religious organizations are usually ineligible for federal aid from the Small Business Administration, an exception was made for the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to keep American businesses afloat as the pandemic shut the country down.

The AP found records of 3,500 forgivable loans for Catholic dioceses, parishes, schools, and other ministries. That number, however, is likely higher.

The Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference has claimed that 9,000 Catholic bodies received loans. Government data only shared loans over $150,000, so smaller churches who got less were not on the list, meaning the Church may have pocketed even more than $3.5 billion. 

“The government grants special dispensation, and that creates a kind of structural favoritism,” Micah Schwartzman, a University of Virginia law professor told the AP. “And that favoritism was worth billions of dollars.”

According to the AP, the Archdiocese of New York received $28 million just for executive offices. St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City received $1 million. Diocesan officials in Orange County, California received four loans worth $3 million. The AP’s analysis suggests that the Catholic Church and its entities were able to retain 407,900 jobs with this loan money.

“These loans are an essential lifeline to help faith-based organizations to stay afloat and continue serving those in need during this crisis,” spokesperson Chieko Noguchi told the AP.

How Did the Church Get Aid?

Like many businesses throughout the country, churches had to shut their doors as large gatherings became unsafe as the coronavirus’ spread continued. Masses were canceled or moved online and celebrations for the Easter holidays were dropped, causing the Church to to fall behind financially. 

While its global net worth is not known, the Catholic Church is considered the wealthiest religious organization in the world. It is also one of the most powerful groups of any kind, with an estimated 1.2 billion followers all over the planet. According to the AP, its deep pockets and far-reaching influence helped it receive federal aid. 

The Catholic Church lobbied heavily to make sure religious groups were allowed to receive money from the PPP, the AP says. Their report found that the Los Angeles archdiocese spent $20,000 lobbying Congress to include “eligibility for non-profits” in the CARES Act, the legislation that formed the PPP. Records also show that Catholic Charities USA spent another $30,000 in CARES Act lobbying.

With its wealth and power, the Catholic Church is also plagued with controversy and scandal. For years, there have been reports that the Church has covered up for priests and other leaders who have been accused of sexual abuse. Many entities of the church have had to shell out large sums of money in legal fees and settlements. 

The AP found that around 40 of the dioceses that have paid out “hundreds of millions of dollars” to related compensation funds or bankruptcy proceedings received loans. These loans totaled at least $200 million.

See what others are saying: (Associated Press) (Business Insider) (Market Watch)

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