Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Tears and Relief Sweep Intersection Where George Floyd Died

By AARON MORRISON and TIM SULLIVAN

People gather at Cup Foods after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — There was quiet, just for a moment, as hundreds of people standing in the intersection at 38th Street and Chicago Avenue crowded in to listen to the news.

“They’re announcing the verdict!” someone shouted, calling for silence.

Then thunderous cheering filled the place where George Floyd was pinned beneath a police officer’s knee nearly a year ago, begging for air and his mother. Many people wept. Some sobbed.

They were cheering the first guilty verdict for the fired officer, Derek Chauvin, who was charged with murder and manslaughter. Moments later, another wave of cheers swept the crowd as the other two verdicts — both guilty — were announced. Moments after that, Chauvin put his hands behind his back and was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

In the place now known as George Floyd Square, a spot that millions around the world have seen in videos shot by bystanders during Floyd’s arrest, there was relief.

Venisha Johnson jumped for joy when she heard the verdicts. Minutes later she could barely speak, she was weeping so hard.

“It means so much to me,” said Johnson, who was wearing a mask that memorialized some of Floyd’s final words: “I can’t breathe.”

“I’ve been praying for George every day, every morning at 6 a.m. I’m just so happy. The way he was murdered was terrible, but thank you, Jesus,” she said.

Some 300 people gathered in the intersection, home to Cup Foods, the corner convenience store where employees had called police on the evening of May 25, saying Floyd had paid for cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. It was Memorial Day.

Since then, thousands have come to lay flowers at the site where Floyd had the air choked out of him. Or they came to stand beside the sculpture that now fills the middle of the street, a huge metal fist raised as a cry for justice. Or they look at the now-closed gas station, where the sign had been covered long ago with a demand: “Justice for George Floyd.”

On Tuesday, a protester climbed onto the sign to add two more words: “Justice Served?”

For those gathered on Tuesday, they had seen at least the beginning of justice.

“Let the healing work begin,” said Jennifer Starr Dodd, a Minneapolis woman, speaking through her tears. “Repentance, accountability, respect. You can’t have healing without repentance.”

By early evening, the square was a scene of celebration, prayer and community relief. More and more people streamed in. Someone played a tuba. There were occasional chants of “Say his name! George Floyd!” Parents brought children, showing them that, at least sometimes, a Black man could get justice.

Criminal convictions of police officers are exceedingly rare. There have been thousands of police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, but fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to criminologist Phil Stinson. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.

Toni Hamilton, who brought her daughters to the intersection to hear the verdict, was deeply relieved at the news.

“I feel like for this whole time we’ve all been breathing with half of our breath,” she said. “Now there’s opportunity for the future. ... There’s power when we all come together.”

It remains unclear what will happen to the square, which sprang up organically in the days after Floyd’s death, when community members put up homemade barricades to close it off. The city later replaced them with concrete barriers. It has been a place of pilgrimage and picnics, with people painting slogans and portraits on walls and the streets, leaving flowers and sometimes just hanging out and grilling hot dogs.

But neighborhood residents and entrepreneurs say the barricaded square led to a spike in crime and decimated businesses. City leaders have said they would reopen it after Chauvin’s trial, but the activists who serve as the square’s unofficial leaders say they will not step aside unless the city meets their long list of demands, including recalling the county prosecutor and firing the head of the state’s criminal investigative agency. Neither is likely to happen.

At one point on Tuesday, someone began throwing $1 bills in the air to symbolize the alleged counterfeit bill that led to Floyd’s death, and other people quickly followed. The money was soon collected in glass jars to become a donation — though it wasn’t really clear for what — and laid beside the flowers that now mark the spot where Floyd stopped breathing.

Eliza Wesley has been a near-constant presence at the square since Floyd’s death. She calls herself the Gatekeeper. Before the verdict was announced, she led the crowd in prayer.

“I don’t have any doubt in you, God,” she said. “We’ve been here for 11 months.”

“This is the day the Lord has made.”

___

Associated Press writer Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this report.

A Look at High-profile Cases Over Killings by US Police


MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted of murder and manslaughter charges in George Floyd’s death after pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck as he cried out: “I can’t breathe.”

The defense argued that Chauvin, a white 19-year veteran, used reasonable force and that Floyd died because of his illegal drug use and underlying health problems.

It has been rare to charge police with crimes in the death of civilians, and winning a conviction is harder in part because juries are often reluctant to second guess an officer’s split-second decisions. But Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck for 9 1/2 minutes, prosecutors say, as bystanders shouted at the officer to get off Floyd.

Chauvin was convicted of all charges on Tuesday.

Here’s a look at other high-profile killings by police and the outcome of the case:

ERIC GARNER

Eric Garner, 43, died in July 2014 in New York City after a white officer placed him in a chokehold when Garner refused to be handcuffed for allegedly selling loose, untaxed cigarettes. A Staten Island grand jury declined to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo in December that year. The Justice Department said in 2019 that it wouldn’t file civil rights charges after a yearslong investigation.

MICHAEL BROWN

Michael Brown, 18, was fatally shot by a white officer, Darren Wilson, in August 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri, touching off weeks of sometimes-violent protests. A St. Louis County grand jury declined in November 2014 to indict Wilson in the unarmed Black teen’s death, and the U.S. Department of Justice later also declined to charge him. Wesley Bell, the current St. Louis County prosecuting attorney, conducted a five-month review of witness statements, forensic reports and other evidence and announced in July that he would not charge Wilson.

LAQUAN MCDONALD

Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke shot 16 times at Laquan McDonald, killing the Black 17-year-old as he walked away from officers in October 2014. Van Dyke was charged with first-degree murder the same day the city released the shocking dashcam video of the shooting. Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in 2018 and sentenced to nearly seven years in prison.

TAMIR RICE

Tamir Rice, 12, was fatally shot by a white Cleveland police officer in November 2014 after officers responded to a 911 call from a man drinking beer and waiting for a bus who said a “guy” was pointing a gun at people. Tamir, who was Black, had a pellet gun tucked in his waistband and was shot after the officers’ cruiser skidded to a stop just feet away. A grand jury in December 2015 declined to indict patrolman Timothy Loehmann, who fired the fatal shot, and training officer Frank Garmback. The U.S. Justice Department announced last year that it would not bring federal criminal charges, saying the quality of video of the shooting was too poor for prosecutors to conclusively establish what had happened.

WALTER SCOTT

Michael Slager, a white South Carolina police officer, shot Walter Scott in the back as the unarmed 50-year-old Black man fled following a 2015 traffic stop. In 2016, a mistrial was declared after the jury deadlocked over a verdict in Slager’s murder trial. The next year, Slager pleaded guilty in federal court to violating Scott’s civil rights and as part of a plea deal, prosecutors dropped state murder charges. Slager was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He is now appealing his punishment, saying his lawyer never told him about a plea offer from prosecutors that could have cut years off his sentence.

FREDDIE GRAY

Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old Black man, died after he suffered a spinal injury while handcuffed and shackled in a Baltimore police van, sparking weeks of unrest across the city. Three officers were acquitted and prosecutors dropped the remaining state cases in July 2016. The U.S. Department of Justice announced in 2017 that it wouldn’t bring federal charges against the six officers involved in the arrest, saying it did not find enough evidence to prove the officers willfully violated Gray’s civil rights.

PHILANDO CASTILE

Philando Castile, a 32-year-old elementary school cafeteria worker, was shot five times by a St. Anthony, Minnesota police officer during a 2016 traffic stop after Castile informed the officer he was armed. The shooting gained widespread attention after Castile’s girlfriend, who was in the car with her then-4-year-old daughter, livestreamed its gruesome aftermath on Facebook. Officer Jeronimo Yanez testified that Castile was pulling his gun out of his pocket. The officer was acquitted of manslaughter at trial.

JUSTINE RUSZCZYK DAMOND

Justine Ruszczyk Damond, an unarmed white dual citizen of the U.S. and Australia, was fatally shot in July 2017 by Minneapolis Police Officer Mohamed Noor when she approached his squad car in the alley behind her home minutes after calling 911 to report a possible rape. Noor testified at trial that a loud bang on the squad car startled him and his partner and that he fired to protect his partner’s life. He was convicted of third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter and sentenced in 2019 to 12 1/2 years in prison.

JORDAN EDWARDS

Roy Oliver, a white Texas police officer, fired at a car full of teenagers as it drove away from a large house party in April 2017, fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards, who was sitting in the front passenger seat. Police initially said the vehicle backed up toward officers “in an aggressive manner,” but later admitted that bodycam video showed the vehicle was moving forward as officers approached. Oliver was convicted of murder in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison.

BREONNA TAYLOR

Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville emergency medical worker studying to become a nurse, was shot several times in her hallway after three plainclothes narcotics detectives busted down the door of her apartment in the middle of the night in March 2020. A grand jury brought no charges against officers in her death, although one was indicted for shooting into a neighboring home that had people inside. Prosecutors said two officers who fired at Taylor were justified in using force to protect themselves after they faced gunfire from her boyfriend. 

People Hit Streets in Grand Rapids, Detroit After Verdict

Cole Bond, left, and Mike Jack, from Fence Consultants of West Michigan, put up barricades in downtown Grand Rapids, Mich., Tuesday, April 20, 2021, as a jury deliberates fate of Derek Chauvin.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) — People rallied Tuesday in Detroit and Grand Rapids after a jury in Minneapolis convicted a former police officer of murder in the death of George Floyd.

Grand Rapids, which had some of Michigan’s worst violence last May after Floyd’s death, placed concrete barriers around the police department just hours before the verdict was announced.

Officials said they would protect the right to peacefully assemble but also wanted to be on guard for “chaos and destruction.”

“Whatever the outcome of this trial, we know people will be emotional and passionate in their reactions,” police Chief Eric Payne and City Manager Mark Washington said in a joint statement.

Marchers with Black Lives Matter signs moved through downtown Grand Rapids, calling for police reform and chanting the names of Black people who have been killed by police.

In Detroit, police Chief James Craig said Floyd’s death was a “stain on our profession.”

“The justice system worked,” he said, referring to verdict against Derek Chauvin. Nonetheless, over 40 community-based organizations in Detroit have called for Craig's resignation for misleading statements and the use of brutal and deadly force against people demonstrating and living in the city.

Chauvin, who is white, put his knee on Floyd’s neck during an arrest. He was convicted of murder and manslaughter in the Black man’s death.

Floyd’s death led to weeks of daily protests in Detroit. People returned to the streets after the verdict.

“If justice is to be found in this system, it will only be found using the methods of mass, militant struggles that make the chant ‘No Justice, No Peace’ real,” a group called Detroit Will Breathe said.

Chauvin Guilty of Murder and Manslaughter in Floyd’s Death

By AMY FORLITI, STEVE KARNOWSKI and TAMMY WEBBER

George Floyd's brother Philonise Floyd wipes his eyes during a news conference, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, after the verdict was read in the trial of former Minneapolis Police officer.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin was convicted Tuesday of murder and manslaughter for pinning George Floyd to the pavement with his knee on the Black man’s neck in a case that triggered worldwide protests, violence and a furious reexamination of racism and policing in the U.S.

Chauvin, 45, was immediately led away with his hands cuffed behind his back and could be sent to prison for decades.

The verdict — guilty as charged on all counts, in a relatively swift, across-the-board victory for Floyd’s supporters — set off jubilation mixed with sorrow across the city and around the nation. Hundreds of people poured into the streets of Minneapolis, some running through traffic with banners. Drivers blared their horns in celebration.

“Today, we are able to breathe again,” Floyd’s younger brother Philonise said at a joyous family news conference where tears streamed down his face as he likened Floyd to the 1955 Mississippi lynching victim Emmett Till, except that this time there were cameras around to show the world what happened.

The jury of six whites and six Black or multiracial people came back with its verdict after about 10 hours of deliberations over two days. The now-fired white officer was found guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

Chauvin’s face was obscured by a COVID-19 mask, and little reaction could be seen beyond his eyes darting around the courtroom. His bail was immediately revoked. Sentencing will be in two months; the most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson followed Chauvin out of the courtroom without comment.

President Joe Biden welcomed the verdict, saying Floyd’s death was “a murder in full light of day, and it ripped the blinders off for the whole world” to see systemic racism.

But he warned: “It’s not enough. We can’t stop here. We’re going to deliver real change and reform. We can and we must do more to reduce the likelihood that tragedies like this will ever happen again.”

The verdict was hailed around the country as justice by other political and civic leaders and celebrities, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a white man, who said on Twitter that Floyd “would still be alive if he looked like me. That must change.”

At a park next to the Minneapolis courthouse, a hush fell over a crowd of about 300 as they listened to the verdict on their cellphones. Then a great roar went up, with many people hugging, some shedding tears.

At the intersection where Floyd was pinned down, a crowd chanted, “One down, three to go!” — a reference to the three other fired Minneapolis officers facing trial in August on charges of aiding and abetting murder in Floyd’s death.

Janay Henry, who lives nearby, said she felt grateful and relieved.

“I feel grounded. I can feel my feet on the concrete,” she said, adding that she was looking forward to the “next case with joy and optimism and strength.”

Jamee Haggard, who brought her biracial 4-year-old daughter to the city’s George Floyd Square, said: “There’s some form of justice that’s coming.”

The verdict was read in a courthouse ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire and patrolled by National Guard troops, in a city on edge against another round of unrest — not just because of the Chauvin case but because of the deadly police shooting of a young Black man, Daunte Wright, in a Minneapolis suburb April 11.

The jurors’ identities were kept secret and will not be released until the judge decides it is safe to do so.

It is unusual for police officers to be prosecuted for killing someone on the job. And convictions are extraordinarily rare.

Out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data maintained by Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before Tuesday, only seven were convicted of murder.

Juries often give police officers the benefit of the doubt when they claim they had to make split-second, life-or-death decisions. But that was not an argument Chauvin could easily make.

Floyd, 46, died May 25 after being arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead.

The centerpiece of the case was the excruciating bystander video of Floyd gasping repeatedly, “I can’t breathe” and onlookers yelling at Chauvin to stop as the officer pressed his knee on or close to Floyd’s neck for what authorities say was 9 1/2 minutes. Floyd slowly went silent and limp.

Prosecutors played the footage at the earliest opportunity, during opening statements, and told the jury: “Believe your eyes.” From there it was shown over and over, analyzed one frame at a time by witnesses on both sides.

In the wake of Floyd’s death, demonstrations and scattered violence broke out in Minneapolis, around the country and beyond. The furor also led to the removal of Confederate statues and other offensive symbols such as Aunt Jemima.

In the months that followed, numerous states and cities restricted the use of force by police, revamped disciplinary systems or subjected police departments to closer oversight.

The “Blue Wall of Silence” that often protects police accused of wrongdoing crumbled after Floyd’s death. The Minneapolis police chief quickly called it “murder” and fired all four officers, and the city reached a staggering $27 million settlement with Floyd’s family as jury selection was underway.

Police-procedure experts and law enforcement veterans inside and outside the Minneapolis department, including the chief, testified for the prosecution that Chauvin used excessive force and went against his training.

Medical experts for the prosecution said Floyd died of asphyxia, or lack of oxygen, because his breathing was constricted by the way he was held down on his stomach, his hands cuffed behind him, a knee on his neck and his face jammed against the ground.

Chauvin’s attorney called a police use-of-force expert and a forensic pathologist to try to make the case that Chauvin acted reasonably against a struggling suspect and that Floyd died because of a heart condition and his illegal drug use. Floyd had high blood pressure and narrowed arteries, and fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in his system.

Under the law, police have certain leeway to use force and are judged according to whether their actions were “reasonable” under the circumstances.

The defense also tried to make the case that Chauvin and the other officers were hindered in their duties by what they perceived as a growing, hostile crowd.

Chauvin did not testify, and all that the jury or the public ever heard by way of an explanation from him came from a police body-camera video after an ambulance had taken the 6-foot-4, 223-pound Floyd away. Chauvin told a bystander: “We gotta control this guy ’cause he’s a sizable guy ... and it looks like he’s probably on something.”

The prosecution’s case also included tearful testimony from onlookers who said the police kept them back when they protested what was happening.

Eighteen-year-old Darnella Frazier, who shot the crucial video, said Chauvin gave the bystanders a “cold” and “heartless” stare. She and others said they felt a sense of helplessness and lingering guilt from witnessing Floyd’s slow-motion death.

“It’s been nights I stayed up, apologizing and apologizing to George Floyd for not doing more, and not physically interacting and not saving his life,” she testified.

___

Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press video journalist Angie Wang in Atlanta and writers Doug Glass, Stephen Groves, Aaron Morrison, Tim Sullivan and Michael Tarm in Minneapolis; Mohamed Ibrahim in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota; and Todd Richmond in Madison, Wisconsin, contributed.

Crowds React With Joy, Wariness to Verdict in Floyd’s Death

By AARON MORRISON, GILLIAN FLACCUS and JACQUELINE MARTIN

People cheer after a guilty verdict was announced at the trial of former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin for the 2020 death of George Floyd, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Minneapolis, Minn.

London Williams stood in Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D.C., moments before the verdict was read in George Floyd’s murder trial Tuesday, wondering how he would cope if the white police officer who killed the Black man was acquitted.

“I feel very nervous. It’s already hard as it is as a Black man in today’s society,” said Williams, standing with a date in the plaza near the White House renamed after Floyd’s death last May. “If this doesn’t go right, I don’t know how safe I will feel.”

Then, the verdict came for former Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin: guilty on all counts. Williams doubled over with emotion, covered his face and wept.

With that outcome, Black Americans from Missouri to Florida to Minnesota cheered, marched, hugged, waved signs and sang jubilantly in the streets. But they also tempered those celebrations with the heavy knowledge that Chauvin’s conviction was just a first, tiny step on the long road to address centuries of racist policing in a nation founded on slavery.

Many said they had prepared for a different result after watching countless deaths of people of color at the hands of police go unpunished. The shooting death of another Black man, Daunte Wright, by officers in suburban Minneapolis during the trial and of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago last month heightened tensions and muted the court victory for many.

“We are relieved but not celebrating because the killing continues,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who traveled to Minneapolis for the verdict, said in a telephone interview. “We hope this is the breaking point to stop legal lynching.”

In St. Louis, Missouri, a police association of predominantly Black officers called the verdict important but “a pebble in the ocean.”

“This victory is small but historical. Yet, why should we be thankful for something that is right? Why should we be thankful when George Floyd doesn’t have his life or his future?” the Ethical Society of Police, which represents about 260 St. Louis officers, said in a statement. “We all need to continue to fight for a change. ... We need change to end this systemic racism.”

Still, the verdict buoyed others who saw the trial as a litmus test for how sincere Americans are about racial justice and consequential police reform after Floyd’s death set off global protests. Jurors in the high-profile case deliberated for 10 hours over two days. Chauvin was handcuffed and taken into custody immediately after the verdict was read.

“It means so much to me,” said Venisha Johnson, a Black woman who cried at a gathering in what’s been dubbed George Floyd Square in Minneapolis. “I’ve been praying for George every day, every morning at 6 a.m. I’m just so happy. The way he was murdered was terrible! But thank you, Jesus.”

In Houston’s Third Ward, the historically Black neighborhood where Floyd grew up, a small crowd gathered under a tent near a mural of Floyd to listen as the verdict was read on TV. People driving by honked their car horns and yelled, “Justice!”

“We feeling good. We thank everybody that stood with us. It’s a blessed moment,” said Jacob David, 39, who knew Floyd and wiped away tears.

Floyd’s death on May 25 as Chauvin pressed a knee to his neck and the graphic bystander video that captured him pleading that he couldn’t breathe shocked and appalled the world and triggered protests against police brutality and racial injustice.

“We’ve just become so accustomed to not receiving justice. I’m just so very, very overwhelmed right now,” said Tesia Lisbon, a community activist in Florida’s capital of Tallahassee.

Lisbon was one of 19 people arrested by police last September during a Black Lives Matter march.

“We just got so used to not hearing good news, to not having the justice system on your side for so long,” Lisbon said.

Republican leaders were cautious in what they said after the verdict.

“It’s jury’s decision. I hope — you know, I think they can appeal whether or not he got a fair trial, but I told everybody that this is the way the system works,” said GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. “I accept the jury’s verdict and leave it up to the court.”

As people rejoiced, law enforcement from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon, prepared for any unrest in the hours to come.

In Grand Rapids, which had some of Michigan’s worst violence after Floyd’s death, authorities placed concrete barriers around the police building before the verdict was announced. Officials said they would protect the right to peacefully assemble but also wanted to be on guard for “chaos and destruction.”

And in Portland, which has seen repeated protests and vandalism since Floyd’s death, the mayor declared a state of emergency and put state police and the National Guard on standby to help local authorities with any unrest. Small groups of protesters have set fires, broken windows and vandalized buildings, including a church, a Boys & Girls Club and a historical society, in recent days over the deaths of Wright and Toledo, as well as a fatal police shooting in Portland last week.

At a news conference just minutes before the verdict was read, Mayor Ted Wheeler asked businesses to prepare by securing trash bins and making other preparations.

The FBI’s Portland office also said in a statement that the verdict was a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” to build a more just society but cautioned that anyone caught vandalizing property or committing any other crime while protesting would be held accountable.

___

Morrison reported from Minneapolis, Flaccus from Portland, Oregon, and Martin from Washington. Associated Press writers Sophia Tareen in Chicago; Bobby Caina Calvan in Tallahassee, Florida; Juan Lozano in Houston and Jim Salter in St. Louis contributed to this report. 

Chad President Idriss Deby Dies After 30 Years in Power, Military Says

Parliament has been dissolved after the president died of injuries sustained in clashes. It comes just a day after Deby won a sixth term in office.

Photo: Idriss Deby waves at supporters during a campaign rally

The death of Chad's longtime ruler will likely have huge implications for national and regional security.

Chad's President Idriss Deby died while visiting troops on the front lines of a fight against northern rebels, an army spokesman said on Tuesday. Deby's death comes just one day after he was declared the winner of a sixth term in office, marking over 30 years in power. 

On Monday, his campaign said he was headed to the northern part of the country to join troops in fighting "terrorists." Rebels based in Libya had attacked a border post on Monday, and advanced hundreds of kilometers south across the desert, towards the capital N'Djamena. Following the clashes, Chad's army said it had killed 300 rebels and quashed the offensive.

Transition council to take over

Army spokesman Azem Bermendao Agouna announced Deby's death on state television and radio, surrounded by military officers he referred to as the National Council of Transition. 

An 18-month council will be led by Deby's 37-year-old son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, the military said. A nightly curfew of will also be imposed during that time. The military said the country will hold "free and democratic elections" after that 18-month period.

"A call to dialogue and peace is launched to all Chadians in the country and abroad in order to continue to build Chad together," said Agouna. "The National Council of Transition reassures the Chadian people that all measures have been taken to guarantee peace, security and the republican order."

"In the face of this worrying situation, the people of Chad must show their attachment to peace, to stability, and to national cohesion,'' he said.

The general said that Deby had been taken to the capital after being wounded in battle.

Questions over the cause of death

The circumstances of Deby's death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location of the battlefield. However, some foreign observers have questioned how a head of state could have been killed, saying the death casts doubt on his protective guard.

Deby, 68, began his 30-year rule of the country in 1990, and is one of Africa's longest-serving leaders.

On April 11, Deby won over 79% of the vote. His long rule in the region's harsh political sphere has made him a strong figure in the French-led campaign against jihadist insurgents in the Sahel. 

Last August, the National Assembly named Deby the first field marshal in Chad's history, after he led an offensive against jihadists in the west of the country.

France's 'brave friend' lost in terror war

France on Tuesday reacted to Deby's death saying it had lost a "brave friend" and Chad "a great soldier." 

With experts fearing Deby's death could mean tremendous uncertainty for Chad going forward, the French presidency praised the former president and affirmed its support for Chad's stability and territorial integrity.

In a statement, Paris noted the formation of the interim council but said it hoped there would be a quick and peaceful return to civilian rule.

Both France and the United States are hoping their counter-terrorism efforts will not be pushed off course as Western countries depended heavily on Deby in the fight against Islamist militants such as Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin and groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel.

France, a former colonial power, has based its Sahel counter-terrorism operations in N'Djamena and in February Chad announced the deployment of 1,200 troops to complement 5,100 French soldiers in the area.

Rebels Vow to Take Capital After Chadian President Killed

By EDOUARD TAKADJI and KRISTA LARSON

FILE - In this Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2008 file photo, Chad's President Idriss Deby Itno, center-right, meets with French Defense Minister Herve Morin, center-left, in N'Djamena, Chad. Deby, who ruled for many years.

N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — Chad’s president of three decades died of wounds suffered during a visit to front-line troops battling a shadowy rebel group, the military announced Tuesday, as the insurgents vowed to take the capital in what could become a violent battle for control of the oil-rich Central African nation.

The military quickly named President Idriss Deby Itno’s son as the country’s interim leader, capping a series of stunning announcements that came just hours after the 68-year-old Deby had been declared winner of an election that would have given him another six years in power.

“Chad is not a monarchy. There can be no dynastic devolution of power in our country,” the rebels said in a statement late Tuesday, vowing to press their fight for the capital. “The forces of the Front for Change and Concord are heading toward N’Djaména at this very moment. With confidence, but above all with courage and determination.”

The circumstances of Deby’s death remained murky and some observers immediately questioned the events leading up to Tuesday’s announcement, raising the question of whether the military handing over power to Deby’s son instead of following the constitutional provisions in place amounted to a coup. Others raised fears of violence in the days to come.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty around how events in Chad will unfold: Whether the army will stay loyal to Deby’s son and continue the effort to repel the advancing rebels?” said Cameron Hudson with the Africa Center at the Atlantic Council.

Chadians fed up after 30 years of Deby’s rule could also align with the calls for change, he said.

“Either scenario presents a high risk of civilian casualties and a likelihood that fleeing civilians or soldiers could export Chad’s instability to neighboring states.”

Deby’s 37-year-old son, Mahamat, is best known as a top commander of the Chadian forces aiding a U.N. peacekeeping mission in northern Mali. The military said Tuesday he now will head an 18-month transitional council following his father’s death.

However, Chad’s constitution calls for the National Assembly to step in when a president dies while in office.

The military called for calm, instituting a 6 p.m. curfew and closing the country’s land and air borders as panic kept many inside their homes in the capital, N’Djamena.

“In the face of this worrying situation, the people of Chad must show their commitment to peace, to stability, and to national cohesion,” Gen. Azem Bermandoa Agouma said.

The circumstances of Deby’s death could not immediately be independently confirmed due to the remote location of the fighting.

The government has released few details of its efforts to put down the rebellion in northern Chad, though it did announce Saturday that it had “totally decimated” one rebel column of fighters.

The rebel group later put out a statement saying fierce battles had erupted Sunday and Monday. It released a list of five high-ranking military officials who it said were killed, and 10 others it said were wounded, including Chad’s president.

The army only said Tuesday that Deby had fought heroically but was wounded in a battle. He was then taken to the capital where he died of unspecified wounds.

The United Nations has about 1,800 staffers in Chad and spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said in New York that the U.N. was “watching the situation hour by hour.”

Some residents of the capital said they feared there was more to the story of Deby’s demise.

“The rumors that are going around about the transitional council give me the impression that some information is false,” Thierry Djikoloum said. “They are already talking about dissolving parliament ... So for me, I’d say it was a coup d’etat. He was killed.”

Some foreign observers also questioned how a head of state could have been killed, saying it cast doubt on his protective guard. The Chadian military has only acknowledged five deaths in weekend fighting in which it said it killed 300 rebels.

“We still don’t have the whole story,” Laith Alkhouri, a global intelligence adviser, told The Associated Press. “It raises concerns regarding the security forces’ assessment of the clashes and their intelligence regarding the severity of the situation.”

Deby, former army commander-in-chief, was a major French ally in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, hosting the base for the French military’s Operation Barkhane and supplying critical troops to the peacekeeping effort in northern Mali.

French Defense Minister Florence Parly expressed her condolences to the Chadian people, in a news conference with her German counterpart in Paris.

“What’s central to us now is that a process of democratic transition can be implemented and the stability of Chad preserved,” she said.

“For the rest, she added, French authorities need “a bit more time” to analyze the situation.

Earlier, the French presidency called Deby “a courageous friend.”

Chad is losing “a great soldier and a president who worked non-stop for the security of the country and the stability of the region for three decades,” it said in a statement.

Deby first came to power in 1990 when his rebel forces overthrew then-President Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.

Over the years Deby had survived numerous armed rebellions and managed to stay in power until this latest insurgency led by the Front for Change and Concord in Chad.

The rebels are believed to have armed and trained in neighboring Libya before crossing into northern Chad on April 11. Their arrival came on the same day that Chad’s president sought a sixth term in an election several top opposition candidates boycotted.

___

Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal. Associated Press writer Sam Mednick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; Cara Anna in Nairobi, Kenya; Sylvie Corbet in Paris and Jennifer Peltz at the United Nations contributed.

Chad President Deby Dies at 68 After Three-decade Rule

By EDOUARD TAKADJI and CARLEY PETESCH

FILE - In this Friday, May 29, 2015 file photo, Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno arrives for the inauguration of the new Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari, at the eagle square in Abuja, Nigeria.

N’DJAMENA, Chad (AP) — President Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled Chad for more than 30 years and became an important ally to Western nations in the fight against Islamic extremism in Africa, has been killed while battling against rebels in the north according to the military. He was 68.

The news of his death, announced Tuesday by the military, came hours after he had been declared the winner of an election that would have given him another six years in power. The circumstances of his death remained murky, and his son was quickly appointed to lead a transitional rule.

Deby, a northerner and French-trained army officer, rose through the ranks of the armed forces. In the 1980s, he was key in pushing pro-Libyan forces from Chad. He then led the Sudanese-supported Patriotic Salvation Movement in a rebellion in 1990 to overthrow Chadian dictator Hissene Habre, who was later convicted of human rights abuses at an international tribunal in Senegal.

After assuming the office of the presidency in 1991, he consolidated a military regime, survived numerous rebellions, coup attempts and economic crises to become one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders. He held onto power through various elections marred by allegations of fraud, and eventually passed a constitutional referendum in 2005 that eliminated presidential term limits and paved the way for his reelections in 2006 up until this latest election in April.

Though an oil-producing country, critics denounce Deby for using proceeds toward his military and weapons rather than aid for Chadians.

Despite criticism of his autocratic rule, Western nations consistently looked the other way as Deby’s army became a key player in the fight against Boko Haram in the Lake Chad region and against Islamic extremists in the Sahel.

Chad hosts the base for the French military’s Operation Barkhane and supplies critical troops to the G5 Sahel Joint Force, an alliance with Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Mauritania to combat growing extremism in the Sahel. The force also has international support from France, the U.S. and the European Union.

Condolences and memories of the longtime president poured in from regional leaders.

“The death of the Marshal of Chad, President Idriss Deby Itno, is sad news,” Senegalese President Macky Sall said in a statement on Twitter. “I salute his memory and pay tribute to his contribution to the stabilization of the Sahel. May his soul rest in peace.”

“It is with great emotion that I have just learned of the sudden disappearance of President Idriss Deby Itno,” former Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said. “I remember him as a great statesman and a distinguished strategist. I offer my sincere condolences to his family and to the Chadian people.”

Mali’s interim president, Bah N’Daw, said that Deby’s death was a heavy loss for Chad and the continent.

Guinea’s president, Alpha Conde, echoed these sentiments.

“We have lost a great friend and a tireless advocate for Africa. I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Marshal Idriss Deby Itno and to the people of Chad,” he said.

Deby, who in 2006 added Itno, an ethnic Zaghawa name, to his name, was married several times and has many children. Throughout his time in power, his wives and children have held key positions in the government and military.

Following Deby’s death, the military quickly announced that his 37-year-old son, Mahamat, who is best known as a top commander of the Chadian forces aiding a U.N. peacekeeping mission in northern Mali, will now head an 18-month transitional council.

___

Carley Petesch reported from Dakar, Senegal.

40,000 Displaced in North Mozambique After Assault on Palma

By ANDREW MELDRUM and TOM BOWKER

Displaced children attend a class in one of the educational centers set up by a local NGO in Pemba, Mozambique, after they fled attacks in Palma in Northern Mozambique, Monday April 19, 2021. The d...

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Some 40,000 displaced and urgently needing food, work suspended on a multi-billion-dollar gas investment, and scores of dead still being counted.

The damage caused by Mozambique’s extremist rebels in their deadly assault on the northeastern town of Palma continues to be assessed. Four weeks after the rebels launched a three-pronged attack, which lasted at least five days, Mozambican police and relief agencies are working to help the thousands uprooted by the violence and restore the town to daily life.

Although the fighting has ended, Palma does not appear to be completely secure, the rebels still able to make hit and run attacks, according to Cabo Ligado, which reports on the crisis caused by extremist violence in Mozambique’s northern Cabo Delgado province.

Thousands of families are continuing to flee Palma by trekking on foot or seeking evacuation by sea or air.

The aftermath of the siege of Palma is adding to the humanitarian crisis in northern Mozambique. An estimated 700,000 people have been displaced and more than 2,600 killed in the conflict against the extremist rebels, according to the U.N.

The number of civilians killed in Palma is being added up by officials. One survivor counted 87 dead, reported Mediafax, a local news publication. That number may include up to 12 bodies that police chief Pedro da Silva said were buried beneath a mango tree after being killed while attempting to flee from the Amarula hotel which had been surrounded by insurgents.

One of the first targets of the rebels, estimated to number between 100 and 200, were the banks in Palma, from which they stole about $1 million, according to local reports.

The Mozambican military claims to have killed at least 36 attackers and da Silva told state television that one of the group’s leaders, named as Ayub, was killed when security forces bombed the town’s main mosque where the attackers were thought to be hiding. On April 18, state TV reported that the military claimed to have killed 41 “terrorists”.

Thousands of those who fled Palma are in danger of dying of thirst or starvation, according to relief agencies. Many who hiked to safety reported they saw dead bodies along the way, of people who have died from hunger or dehydration, according to Doctors Without Borders.

“The only water available was from a single dirty river,” said Amparo Vilasmil, the medical group’s mental health activity manager for Mozambique. She said people usually follow main roads when fleeing, but sleep “well inside the forests for protection, avoiding villages and surviving on what little they can find.”

“It’s just constant, constant stories where you talk to people about having to run in the middle of the night, with, hopefully, the family together, but very often, families being separated,” Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF’s director of emergency programs, told journalists in Pemba, the provincial capital south of Palma, where many of the displaced are sheltering.

“Stories of people being kidnapped, stories of gender-based violence, horrific stories of the ordeals of people walking for days and days, kids arriving with their feet swollen and injured and having to be taken care of,” Fontaine said. “It is a very, very serious protection crisis, as you can imagine.”

As many as 20,000 people are still hoping to be rescued from Quitunda, a village about 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Palma that is next to the sprawling, fortified complex built by the France-based energy company Total its liquified natural gas project.

The Total project was to start pumping deposits of offshore gas and convert it to liquified natural gas in 2023. But the attack on Palma has set work back by at least a year, according to contractors on the project.

Thousands of people, including many contracted to work on the gas project, flocked to Quitunda during the attack on Palma, some were evacuated by sea and air but most remain huddled next to the fence of Total’s compound. Evacuation efforts have been slow and now people are struggling without food supplies, according to Mozambican volunteer organization Vamoz. The group is making lists of those stuck in Quitunda and is trying to evacuate those who are not from the Palma area.

At least 11,000 people are sheltering at the Quitunda school, according to the International Organization for Migration.

People have been living mainly off cassava for the last three weeks, but a shipment of food should arrive this week, sent by the government, Joana Martins of Vamoz told AP.

At the start of the attack, on March 24, the rebels quickly took down towers for mobile phones, cutting off communications to Palma. The communications have been restored, causing large numbers of people to call and requesting evacuation.

UN aid organizations have not yet reached the Palma area, she said.

“We have very limited resources for the work we are doing, and we are not seeing support,” Martins said. “We are very lonely in this fight, and vulnerable people are not being protected.”

Many people fled Palma northward to Tanzania, just 25 kilometers (15 miles) away. They crossed the Rovuma River to reach Tanzania. Once there, however, Tanzanian authorities sent many right back to Mozambique, although at a different border crossing across the Friendship Bridge at Negomano, according to local reports. The UN refugee agency said it is planning a mission to the Negomano border point “to support and identify Mozambican asylum seekers forcibly returned from Tanzania.”

The International Organization for Migration says 43% of the displaced people it has identified, in various parts of Cabo Delgado province and in neighboring Nampula province, are children. Almost three-quarters of the displaced — 72% — are living with host communities. Mozambican think tank the Center for Public Integrity this week called for the government to provide better accommodation for people displaced by the conflict.

Fire on Cape Town’s Table Mountain Under Control, Smoldering

By GERALD IMRAY

Residential neighborhoods are lit by raging fires in Cape Town, South Africa, Monday, April 19, 2021. Residents are being evacuated from Cape Town neighborhoods after a huge fire spreading on the slopes of the city's famed Table Mountain was fanned by strong winds overnight and threatened houses.(AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AP) — Firefighters in Cape Town finally brought a wildfire under control Monday after it swept across the slopes of the city’s famed Table Mountain, burning the university’s historic library and forcing the evacuation of some neighborhoods.

The smoldering fire is being watched for flareups amid high winds and hot, dry conditions.

City authorities said the fire, which started early Sunday, was “largely contained” more than 24 hours later.

The fire had already badly damaged the library and other buildings on the campus of the University of Cape Town on Sunday, as well as other historic buildings nearby. Fueled by the high winds, it spread through the wild bush on the mountain slopes toward the city’s center and the surrounding residential areas.

Devil’s Peak, one of the iconic points of the mountain which overlooks downtown Cape Town, was lit up by flames as the fire raged through the night. Residents of suburbs on the mountain slopes were evacuated early Monday as the blaze came dangerously close to their homes.

Fire-fighting helicopters with water containers suspended on ropes had been scooping up water from swimming pools and the nearby ocean and dumping it on the fire. But they were grounded on Monday because of the strong winds.

Four firefighters were injured battling the blaze on the slopes, said officials. The South African army had offered to help with some of its aircraft.

“It’s a massive wind that’s blowing, and that is actually fueling the fire to spread in each and every direction,” Cape Town mayor Dan Plato said.

A man in his 30s was arrested on suspicion of arson for setting additional fires, another city official said, but it’s not clear if he was responsible for starting the blaze. The man was arrested after witnesses reported seeing three people moving through flames setting more fires, Cape Town safety and security official JP Smith said.

Smith said the city had commissioned a forensic fire investigator to look into the cause.

Wildfires on the mountains surrounding Cape Town are fairly common during the hot, dry summer months and are sometimes whipped up into huge, uncontrollable blazes by strong coastal winds. The temperature in Cape Town peaked at 35 degrees Celsius (95 Fahrenheit) Sunday and the winds hit the city overnight and Monday.

About 250 city and volunteer firefighters were deployed to battle the fire, which damaged four buildings at the University of Cape Town. The Jagger Library’s main reading room, where rare and unique African books and manuscripts were kept, was gutted and some of the “priceless” works had been lost, the university said. Others were saved after fire-proof doors activated and sealed off parts of the library.

Library staff had watched “in horror” from a safe distance as the building burned, the library’s executive director, Ujala Satgoor, said.

A windmill, built in 1796, and a restaurant near a memorial for the British colonial politician Cecil Rhodes also burned down.

The university has been completely evacuated and shut down and meals were being provided for around 4,000 students who had to quickly leave the university campus and their residences, according to Gift of the Givers, a disaster response organization. Many of those students were taken to local hotels, the group said. Activities at the university were suspended until at least Wednesday.

The group said it is also supplying food and water to the firefighters who had been working for more than 24 hours to control the fire.

Heavy smoke hung over parts of Cape Town and people were advised to cover their mouths and noses with wet towels or rags while being evacuated.

Dramatic videos and photos were posted on social media by people who came perilously close to the blaze on the slopes of Table Mountain, which is popular among runners and mountain bikers on the weekend.

Lisette Lombard posted a video of herself escaping from the fire after going on a trail run on Sunday. She’s seen running, breathless, as plumes of smoke rise close behind her. She said her car and others left in a parking lot were completely burnt out and she eventually found help from firefighters coming up the mountain.

“When they told me that it (the fire) is out of control, that is when the penny dropped on how dangerous the situation was and how lucky I had got,” she told South Africa’s IOL news website.

Monday, April 19, 2021

Rhodesia-born (now Zimbabwe) Pathologist Stirs Controversy

Minneapolis. – Dr David Fowler, a South African-trained pathologist who was born in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, has been testifying for the defence in the murder trial of fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin charged with killing George Floyd.

Fowler, who is currently being sued for civil rights violations and covering for police stating they did nothing wrong in the murder of Anton Black, graduated from the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 1983 and is the former state of Maryland chief medical examiner.

Fowler reviewed Floyd’s case for the defence and told the court on Wednesday he considered the cause of death to be undetermined. He said there were many factors that could have contributed to his death, including heart disease and exposure to vehicle exhaust fumes during his restraint by the police.

Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck was not a significant factor in his death, said Fowler.

Some Americans and South Africans have weighed in on Fowler’s involvement in the case.

A tweet by author and CNN commentator Keith Boykin is what triggered the responses.

“Of all the forensic pathologists in the world, why did Derek Chauvin’s defence team pick a guy who graduated from the University of Cape Town in SA in 1983, when SA was still a racist apartheid regime?” Boykin tweeted on Wednesday.

The Zimbabwean-born former chief medical examiner for the state of Maryland told jurors Floyd was living with up to a 90 percent  narrowing of his arteries before he died. He said Chauvin’s kneeling on Floyd was not a significant factor in his death, and that Chauvin’s knee wasn’t near Floyd’s airway. 

– BusinessInsiderSA.

Demonstrators Protest Police Violence in Portland, Ore., Oakland, Calif.

By Christen McCurdy

April 17 (UPI) -- Residents and business owners in Portland, Ore., and Oakland, Calif., were assessing damages Saturday after protests against police misconduct turned violent in the two cities.

Oakland's demonstrations began peacefully on Friday, but as the night progressed participants lit fires and broke windows while protesting the police-involved deaths of 13-year-old Adam Toledo in Chicago last month Daunte Wright Sunday in suburban Minneapolis.

Between 250 and 300 people marched through downtown Oakland, then broke into splinter groups, according to media reports.

Some business owners boarded up their windows in anticipation of the demonstration, but store windows at a downtown Target store were broken and fires were set at several car dealerships.

Oakland police also reported an officer was assaulted.

Protesters dispersed at about 11 p.m., police said, and no citations were issued or arrests made.

In Portland, police declared a riot and made multiple arrests Friday night after demonstrators broke windows and lit fires in the city's downtown.

Portland has seen sustained protest activity for much of the last year, but witnesses described the vandalism as more significant in scale than other recent demonstrations.

The Portland Police Bureau announced four arrests following a demonstration involving several hundred people who started marching from Director Park in downtown Portland at about 9:30 p.m.

Police declared that event a riot shortly afterwards when individuals broke windows at downtown businesses, a church and a museum.

Police and local media reported multiple fires set in dumpsters, a portable toilet and in a construction site outside an Apple Store.

Portland Fire & Rescue extinguished the fires.

A second demonstration in another part of downtown was characterized as "a peaceful event" by police. In that demonstration, marchers held a vigil and walked across the Hawthorne Bridge.

The Oregonian reported that while demonstrations had been previously planned in response to the incidents in Chicago and Minneapolis, they also came just hours after an officer-involved shooting in Portland.

Demonstrators gathered near the scene of that shooting in Lents Park in southeast Portland, about 10 miles from the downtown area.

Little information has been released about the victim, who police described as an armed white man, or the events immediately preceding his death. Police identified the officer involved as Zachary Delong, an eight-year veteran of the bureau. He has been placed on administrative leave.

A crowd of about 100 people gathered in the park early Friday as officers investigated the scene. Police described the crowd as "hostile" and encroaching on the area where investigators were working, but no arrests were made.

Brooklyn Center, Minn., meanwhile, saw a sixth night of protests Friday night, which police said was largely peaceful until protesters breached security fences, prompting arrests.

Illinois National Guard Activated Ahead of Chauvin Verdict

CHICAGO (AP) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker activated the Illinois National Guard Monday ahead of an expected verdict in the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer charged with George Floyd’s death.

The move was in response to a request from Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. Pritzker’s office said 125 personnel would be deployed starting Tuesday to support Chicago police. Their “limited mission” would include helping manage street closures during demonstrations, Pritzker’s office said.

Former officer Derek Chauvin, who is white, faces murder and manslaughter charges after pinning his knee against Floyd’s neck last May. Disturbing video footage of Floyd’s death prompted demonstrations and calls for racial justice nationwide. In Chicago, chaos followed some protests. The case went to the jury Monday.

“It is critical that those who wish to peacefully protest against the systemic racism and injustice that holds back too many of our communities continue to be able to do so,” Pritzker said in a statement. “Members of the Guard and the Illinois State Police will support the City of Chicago’s efforts to protect the rights of peaceful protestors and keep our families safe.”

In the same statement, Lightfoot explained that she made the request “out of an abundance of caution,” saying there weren’t any known threats.

Chicago has recently seen several days of mostly peaceful protests and vigils over the death of 13-year-old Adam Toledo, who was fatally shot by a Chicago police officer.

San Diego Transit Agency Settles Death Lawsuit for $5.5M

SAN DIEGO (AP) — San Diego County’s transportation agency has apologized and agreed to pay $5.5 million to the mother of a mentally ill man who died after a security officer kept a knee on his neck for several minutes.

It was announced Monday that the Metropolitan Transit System, its security contractor and their insurers will split the payment in a mediated settlement over the 2019 death of 24- year-old Angel Zapata Hernandez.

The agency last summer revised its use-of-force policies, including banning chokeholds and knee restraints for the head, throat and neck.

The announcement comes in the midst of the trial of Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer charged with murder in the death of George Floyd. Chauvin pinned his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly 9 1/2 minutes last May.

Hernandez, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, was seen wandering and acting erratically near tracks in downtown San Diego, authorities said.

He ran from an MTS code compliance officer and was grabbed by the officer and a contracted transit security officer, authorities have said.

The MTS released video from security cameras and the officers’ body cameras that showed Hernandez running, then being handcuffed and taken to the ground. He struggles while face down, with officers putting knees on his back and neck.

A lawyer for the family alleged that one officer kept a knee on Hernandez’s neck for around six minutes.

Hernandez eventually stopped breathing and was pronounced died at a hospital.

The MTS officer and the security officer later resigned, although the MTS said its officer’s resignation was unrelated to Hernandez’s death.

No criminal charges were filed but at Monday’s news conference, Sharon Cooney, chief executive officer of the transit agency, said the officers “made mistakes on Oct. 15, 2019, that contributed to Mr. Hernandez’s death.”

“We do believe that without a doubt, that the awful outcome could have been avoided had we provided better training for psychiatric emergency response and more robust de-escalation training,” Cooney said.

“His death has left an emptiness in our hearts that will never go away,” Hernandez’s mother, Claudia Hernandez, said at the news conference. “The best way to honor Angel’s memory is that no family ever has to suffer the needless loss of their child.”

County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, who chairs the MTS board, called Hernandez’s death “a terrible tragedy that should not have occurred” and apologized to the family.

Feds Weighing How to Respond After Verdict in Chauvin Trial

By JONATHAN LEMIRE and MICHAEL BALSAMO

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is privately weighing how to handle the upcoming verdict in the trial of former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, including considering whether President Joe Biden should address the nation and dispatching specially trained community facilitators from the Justice Department, aides and officials told The Associated Press.

Closing arguments began Monday in Chauvin’s trial with a prosecutor telling jurors that the officer “had to know” he was squeezing the life out of George Floyd as he cried over and over that he couldn’t breathe and finally fell silent. Chauvin faces murder and manslaughter charges.

The plans for possible presidential remarks are still fluid, with the timing, venue and nature of the remarks still being considered, in part depending on the timing of the verdict, according to two White House aides who were not authorized to speak publicly about private conversations and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The White House has been warily watching the trial proceed in Minneapolis — and then another shooting of a Black man by a white police officer last week — and are preparing for the possibility of unrest if a guilty verdict is not reached in the trial. Biden may also speak after a guilty verdict, the White House aides said.

The verdict — and the aftermath — will be a test for Biden, who has pledged to help combat racism in policing, helping African Americans who supported him in large numbers last year in the wake of protests that swept the nation after Floyd’s death and restarted a national conversation about race. But he also has long projected himself as an ally of police, who are struggling with criticism about long-used tactics and training methods and difficulties in recruitment.

Press secretary Jen Psaki said Monday that the White House has had a “range of conversations” about preparations for the upcoming verdict and added, “Our objective is to ensure there is space for peaceful protest.”

“Of course we’ll let the jury deliberate and we’ll wait for the verdict to come out before we say more about our engagements,” Psaki said.

Psaki said administration officials have been in contact with leaders in Minnesota and in other cities and states that saw unrest after Floyd’s death last year.

She declined to answer if Biden would be “disappointed” if a not guilty verdict was reached.

Meanwhile, the FBI and the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota have been working with local officials to support law enforcement as they prepare for the possibility of unrest after the verdict, officials said.

And the Justice Department has also dispatched specially trained community facilitators ahead of a verdict, according to a senior Justice Department official. The official could not discuss the plans publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The officials, part of the Justice Department’s Community Relations Service, tout themselves as “America’s Peacemaker” by mediating disputes in communities and holding listening sessions to help prevent future conflicts.

A federal civil rights investigation, separate from the trial, remains ongoing. Several witnesses were subpoenaed earlier this year to appear before a federal grand jury considering charges against Chauvin.

The Justice Department’s civil rights investigation has been focused on Chauvin and some of the witnesses, including other officers who worked with Chauvin, people familiar with the matter have told the AP.

Chauvin was prepared to plead guilty to third-degree murder in George Floyd’s death before then-Attorney General William Barr personally blocked the plea deal last year. Barr rejected the deal in part because he felt it was too soon, as the investigation into Floyd’s death was still in its relative infancy, law enforcement officials said.

Across the country, police departments are also preparing for the possibility of rioting or other unrest, with some canceling vacation time and increasing the number of officers available for shifts. The federal government hasn’t detailed its plan in the event of widespread or sustained civil unrest.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Monday that there has been a request from officials in Washington, D.C., for D.C. National Guard forces in the event there is civil unrest in the nation’s capital, and it is currently being reviewed by the Army. He said the Army secretary has the authority to approve any request for D.C. National Guard but did not have details on the request.

__

Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.

Murder Case Against Ex-cop in Floyd’s Death Goes to the Jury

By AMY FORLITI, STEPHEN GROVES and TAMMY WEBBER

In this image from video, former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin listens as his defense attorney Eric Nelson gives closing arguments as Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill preside Monday, April 19, 2021, in the trial of Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The murder case against former Officer Derek Chauvin in the death of George Floyd went to the jury Monday in a city on edge against another round of unrest like the one that erupted last year over the harrowing video of Chauvin with his knee on the Black man’s neck.

The jury of six white people and six people who are Black or multiracial began deliberating after nearly a full day of closing arguments in which prosecutors argued that Chauvin squeezed the life out of Floyd last May in a way that even a child knew was wrong.

The defense contended that the now-fired white officer acted reasonably and that the 46-year-old Floyd died of a heart condition and illegal drug use.

The jurors deliberated about four hours before retiring for the night to the hotel where they are being sequestered for this final phase of the trial. They were due to resume Tuesday morning.

After closing arguments were done, Judge Peter Cahill rejected a defense request for a mistrial based in part on comments from California Rep. Maxine Waters, who said “we’ve got to get more confrontational” if Chauvin isn’t convicted of murder.

The judge told Chauvin’s attorney: “Congresswoman Waters may have given you something on appeal that may result in this whole trial being overturned.” He called her comments “abhorrent” and “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch.”

Chauvin, 45, is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, all of which require the jury to conclude that his actions were a “substantial causal factor” in Floyd’s death and that his use of force was unreasonable.

The most serious charge carries up to 40 years in prison.

“Use your common sense. Believe your eyes. What you saw, you saw,” prosecutor Steve Schleicher said in closing arguments, referring to the bystander video of Floyd pinned to the pavement with Chauvin’s knee on or close to his neck for up to 9 minutes, 29 seconds, as onlookers yelled at the officer to get off.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson countered by arguing that Chauvin did what any reasonable police officer would have done after finding himself in a “dynamic” and “fluid” situation involving a large man struggling with three officers.

As Nelson began speaking, the now-fired Chauvin removed his COVID-19 mask in front of the jury for one of the very few times during the trial.

With the case drawing to a close, some stores were boarded up in Minneapolis. The courthouse was ringed with concrete barriers and razor wire, and National Guard troops were on patrol. Floyd’s death set off protests last spring in the city and across the U.S. that sometimes turned violent.

The city has also been on edge in recent days over the deadly police shooting of a 20-year-old Black man, Daunte Wright, in a nearby suburb on April 11.

About 300 protesters marched in the streets outside the courthouse shortly after the jury got the case, lining up behind a banner reading, “Justice 4 George Floyd & all stolen lives. The world is watching.”

Prosecutor Jerry Blackwell had the final word Monday, offering the state’s rebuttal argument. The prosecutor, who is Black, said the questions about the use of force and cause of death are “so simple that a child can understand it.”

“In fact, a child did understand it, when the 9-year-old girl said, ‘Get off of him,’” Blackwell said, referring to a young witness who objected to what she saw. “That’s how simple it was. `Get off of him.’ Common sense.”

Under the law, police have certain latitude to use force, and their actions are supposed to be judged according to what a “reasonable officer” in the same situation would have done.

Nelson noted that officers who first went to the corner store where Floyd allegedly passed a counterfeit $20 bill were struggling with Floyd when Chauvin arrived as backup. The defense attorney also pointed out that the first two officers on the scene were rookies and that police had been told that Floyd might be on drugs.

“A reasonable police officer understands the intensity of the struggle,” Nelson said, noting that Chauvin’s body camera and badge were knocked off his chest.

Nelson also showed the jury pictures of pills found in Floyd’s SUV and pill remnants discovered in the squad car. Fentanyl and methamphetamine were found in Floyd’s system.

The defense attorney said the failure of the prosecution to acknowledge that medical problems or drugs played a role “defies medical science and it defies common sense and reason.”

During the prosecution’s argument, Schleicher replayed portions of the bystander video and other footage as he dismissed certain defense theories about Floyd’s death as “nonsense.” He said Chauvin killed Floyd by constricting his breathing.

Schleicher rejected the drug overdose argument, as well as the contention that police were distracted by hostile onlookers, that Floyd had “superhuman” strength from a state of agitation known as excited delirium, and that he suffered possible carbon monoxide poisoning from auto exhaust.

The prosecutor sarcastically referred to the idea that it was heart disease that killed Floyd as an “amazing coincidence.”

“Is that common sense or is that nonsense?” Schleicher asked the jury.

Blackwell, his fellow prosecutor, likewise rejected the defense theory that Floyd died because of an enlarged heart: “The truth of the matter is that the reason George Floyd is dead is because Mr. Chauvin’s heart was too small.”

Earlier, Schleicher described how Chauvin ignored Floyd’s cries and continued to kneel on him well after he stopped breathing and had no pulse. Chauvin was “on top of him for 9 minutes and 29 seconds and he had to know,” Schleicher said. “He had to know.”

He said Chauvin heard Floyd, “but he just didn’t listen.”

The prosecutor said Floyd was “not a threat to anyone” and was not trying to escape when he struggled with officers but instead was terrified of being put into the tiny backseat of the squad car.

He said a reasonable officer with Chauvin’s training and experience — he was a 19-year Minneapolis police veteran — should have sized up the situation accurately.

Chauvin, wearing a light gray suit with a blue shirt and blue tie, showed little expression as he watched himself and the other officers pinning Floyd to the ground on bodycam video played by his attorney. He cocked his head to the side and occasionally leaned forward to write on a notepad.

An unidentified woman occupied the single seat set aside in the pandemic-spaced courtroom for a Chauvin supporter.

Floyd’s brother Philonise represented the family in court, as he often has during the trial.

Schleicher also noted that Chauvin was required to use his training to provide medical care to Floyd but ignored bystanders, rebuffed help from an off-duty paramedic and rejected a suggestion from another officer to roll Floyd onto his side.

“He could have listened to the bystanders. He could have listened to fellow officers. He could have listened to his own training,” Schleicher said. “He knew better. He just didn’t do better.”

Webber reported from Fenton, Michigan. Associated Press video journalist Angie Wang in Atlanta and writers Mohamed Ibrahim and Aaron Morris in Minneapolis contributed.

Judge in Chauvin Trial Calls Waters’ Comments ‘Abhorrent’

By STEPHEN GROVES and LISA MASCARO

In this image from video, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill reads instructions to the jury before closing arguments, Monday, April 19, 2021, in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin at the Hennepin County Courthouse in Minneapolis. Chauvin is charged in the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd. (Court TV via AP, Pool)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — The judge overseeing the trial of a former Minneapolis police officer in the death of George Floyd on Monday called recent comments by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters “abhorrent,” saying they could lead to a verdict being appealed and overturned.

Waters, a California Democrat, had joined protesters on Saturday outside the police department of a Minneapolis suburb where a police officer fatally shot a Black motorist earlier this month. Waters, who is Black, told the crowd she wanted to see a murder conviction against Derek Chauvin for Floyd’s death.

When asked what should happen if Chauvin isn’t convicted on murder charges, she replied, “We gotta stay on the street, we’ve got to get more active, we’ve got to get more confrontational, we’ve got to make sure that they know that we mean business.”

Minneapolis is on edge as it anticipates the outcome of Chauvin’s trial and reels from the death of 20-year-old Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center.

Judge Peter Cahill showed frustration with Waters’ rhetoric shortly after the jury was dismissed Monday to begin deliberations. Chauvin’s defense attorney had motioned for a mistrial in light of Waters’ comments. Cahill denied the motion but called it “disrespectful to the rule of law and to the judicial branch” for elected officials to comment on the outcome of the case.

“Their failure to do so, I think, is abhorrent, he said. ”But I don’t think it has prejudiced us with additional material that would prejudice this jury. They have been told not to watch the news. I trust they are following those instructions.”

A spokesman for Waters didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Conservatives have seized on Waters’ comments, saying she is inflaming tensions as Minneapolis looks to prevent looting and destruction that occurred after Floyd’s death last year.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki was asked at Monday’s daily White House briefing if Biden agrees with Waters’ comment, but she attempted to tamp down the president’s stance.

“He recognizes the issue of police violence against people of color, communities of color is one of great anguish, and it’s exhausting and quite emotional at times,” she said, adding, “But as he also always says, protests must be peaceful. That’s what he continues to call for.”

Waters has been a galvanizing figure for decades, visiting communities nationwide to advocate for racial and economic justice, and an end to police violence.

It’s no surprise she would appear in Minnesota. She began focusing on policing issues in 1979 after the police shooting of a Black woman during a confrontation in Los Angeles over an unpaid gas bill and was a leading voice advocate for policing changes in the aftermath of the videotaped beating of Black motorist Rodney King by LAPD officers.

Over three decades in Congress, the Los Angeles-area congresswoman has drawn criticism from Republicans and conservatives, who were quick to seize on her comments Monday.

The House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy said on Twitter that he was introducing a resolution to censure Waters “for these dangerous comments.”

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said in a speech that “it’s harder to imagine anything more inappropriate than a member of Congress flying in from California to inform local leaders, not so subtly, that this defendant had better be found guilty.”

Still, Waters has allies as a longstanding and senior member of Congress.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Waters’ comments should be viewed in the context of the long struggle toward civil rights.

“Maxine talked about confrontation in the manner of the Civil Rights movement,” Pelosi told reporters at the Capitol.

Asked if Waters should apologize, Pelosi said no.

“I myself think we should take our lead from the George Floyd family. They’ve handled this with great dignity, and no ambiguity or lack of misinterpretation by the other side,” Pelosi said.

__

Mascaro reported from Washington. Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed reporting from Chicago.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

HEALTH AUTHORITY URGES GOVT TO LIFT PAUSE ON J&J COVID-19 VACCINE

SAHPRA said it recently reviewed data from the Sisonke Research Study which immunized healthcare workers and found no significant safety concerns.

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine. © Volodymyr Kalyniuk/123rf

Eyewitness News 

JOHANNESBURG - The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) recommended that government lift the pause on administering the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine.

It said this should be done provided that specific conditions are met.

South Africa suspended the rollout of the vaccine in the implementation study - after US health agencies discovered rare cases of blood clots in six people who received the jab, out of about seven million.

SAHPRA said it recently reviewed data from the Sisonke Research Study which immunized healthcare workers and found no significant safety concerns.

The health authority's Dr Boitumelo Semete-Makokotlela said the rollout should continue with safety measures in place including strengthened screening and monitoring of participants who are at high risk of a blood clotting disorder.

“Based on the data, we have to lift the pause. We’ve put in place conditions so that woever presents symptoms is notified quickly.”

Let's Preserve Our Liberation Gains

President Mnangagwa and First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa walk to the venue of the 41st Independence Anniversary celebrations yesterday.

Farirai Machivenyika-Senior Reporter for the Zimbabwe Herald

Zimbabwe celebrated 41 years of independence yesterday with President Mnangagwa calling on Zimbabweans to be inspired by the occasion to preserve the gains of the liberation struggle.

This year’s truncated event was held at State House in line with Covid-19 containment regulations.

Cabinet ministers, senior Government officials, service chiefs, traditional leaders and members of opposition political parties attended the event but there was no participation by the general public at State House with the majority of Zimbabweans locally and abroad following on television or online.

The celebrations were held under the theme: “Zimbabwe at 41: Together, Growing our Economy for a Prosperous, Resilient and Inclusive Society”. 

In his address, President Mnangagwa touched on socio-economic issues affecting the country.

“As a sovereign nation and people, the occasion of our Independence Day is a constant reminder of the need to preserve, safeguard and protect our liberation war heritage and the rich history of our country,” he said.

“This is the foundation and hallmark of our nation, today and forever. We are holding this year’s celebrations with jubilation as our nation continues to register successes on many fronts.”

Commemoration of the day was a celebration of the victory of the liberation struggle and that the construction of Mbuya Nehanda’s statue in Harare was a reminder to future generations of the need to be serving the country wholeheartedly with loyalty.

This year’s event was initially scheduled to be held in Bulawayo in line with the spirit of devolution, but for the second year running, that had to be postponed due to the Covid-19 public health requirements.

President Mnangagwa said gatherings would only resume when the pandemic was over, but said the country would emerge stronger in the fight against the disease. 

“Zimbabwe is grateful for the financial and material support and solidarity from friendly nations and development partners in our efforts to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. I also commend the local private sector, individuals, institutions of higher learning, churches and other stakeholders for their support,” he said. 

He thanked the dedication and sacrifice of frontline workers and security services and congratulated Zimbabweans for abiding by the national lockdown regulations and measures. 

The recently launched nationwide vaccination programme would continue until herd immunity was reached and reassured Zimbabweans on the safety of the vaccines.

The colourful banner.

President Mnangagwa said as the Second Republic, his Government would not betray the cause of the liberation struggle that made many sacrifice their lives for the freedom of the country.

“Therefore, the signing of the Global Compensation Agreement on July 29, 2020, is a re-affirmation of the irreversibility of land reform as well as a symbol of our commitment to constitutionalism, the respect of the rule of law and property rights. 

“As Zimbabweans, we must now all work together for increased production, productivity and profitability of the agriculture sector,” he said.

The GCA was signed with former commercial white farmers for compensation of the improvements made on the land that was compulsorily acquired for resettlement and is expected to bring to finality the land reform programme.

The President said it was encouraging that this year’s summer cropping season would witness a bumper harvest due to the good rains received and the swift implementation of the Presidential Climate Proofed Pfumvudza/Intwasa Programme, Presidential Inputs Support Scheme, Command Agriculture, Presidential Horticulture Programme and initiatives by farmers. 

“Treasury has set aside ZW$60 billion for the timely payment of farmers by the Grain Marketing Board. 

“The usual grain collection depots will be complemented by mobile and fixed collection points throughout the country,” he said. 

Government was also implementing programmes to improve livestock, mechanisation of farms and irrigation development through rehabilitation of old schemes and dam construction as a way of boosting agricultural productivity.

“Despite altered economic growth projections due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the reform agenda under the Transitional Stabilisation Programme realised indisputable successes. The successor programme, the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS 1), is now underway. The translation of NDS1 into 16 languages will enhance national vision sharing and robust implementation of the NDS 1 strategy,” he said. 

President Mnangagwa said Government continued to realise budget surpluses, record continuous decline in inflation while the foreign currency auction system has also enhanced transparency and accountability in the distribution and use of foreign currency. 

The manufacturing sector, President Mnangagwa said, had remained resilient despite effects of the illegal sanctions, natural disasters and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The President lights the Independence Flame at State House in Harare yesterday.

“Locally produced goods and commodities now constitute a larger share of our country’s market shelves,” he said. 

“In line with Government’s private sector led development we applaud industry for its positive response to the Local Content Strategy. This is reflective of the positive national sentiments on our economic growth potential, anchored on the Second Republic’s consistent and predictable policy environment.”

The resuscitation of strategic industries such as fertiliser, iron and steel, pharmaceuticals, textiles and clothing, leather manufacturing, as well as food and beverages was being accelerated. 

Efforts were underway to transform the economy from an exporter of predominantly primary products to higher nodes of industrial development. 

Turning to mining, the President said the industry was projected to rebound by 11 percent this year. Guided by the Strategy to achieve a US$12 billion mining industry by 2023, programmes that include increased exploration, expansion of existing mines, resuscitation of closed mines and opening of new ones, beneficiation and value addition were being prioritised. 

“Since 2020, the energy and power sector has witnessed relative stability in the supply of electricity and liquid petroleum products. Our quest to realise energy sufficiency is, therefore on course,” added said. 

President Mnangagwa said the Hwange Power Station expansion with the new Unit 7 and Unit 8 set to add 600MW to the national grid, was now 61 percent of complete while 280MW would be restored when the overhaul of Unit 3 and refurbishment of Unit 6 were completed. 

The approval of a US$310 million facility from India Exim Bank would see work to extend the lifespan of the power station start in earnest. Several other renewable energy projects were in the pipeline or at various stages of development. 

“Our country is encouraged and optimistic about the immense possibilities as a result of oil and gas exploration in Muzarabani. This project will broaden the country’s energy matrix and have far reaching benefits to the economy as a whole,” he said. 

On tourism, he said the Covid-19 pandemic had negatively affected the sector but the ongoing National Vaccination Programme offered hope for revival while incentives were being offered to increase domestic tourism under the Tourism ZimBhoo Campaign, including the provision of a Government guarantee to improve access to finance for further development of the sector. 

President Mnangagwa said sound national infrastructure was an essential building block for sustainable economic development and growth and so Government had launched phase two of the Emergency Road Rehabilitation Programme to repair roads and bridges affected by the heavy rains this year. 

“With bolts and bars, brick upon brick and stone upon stone, we are rebuilding our great country. We are harnessing and effectively deploying our local resources and human capital to upgrade and modernise the country’s infrastructure,” President Mnangagwa said.

On social services, the President said the provision of health, water and sanitation, education and public transport, among others, remained at the core of Government policies. 

“Accordingly, my Government’s health sector reforms have resulted in improved regulation, accountability, transparency and work ethic within the sector. 

“Devolution funds have enabled the construction of suitable primary and secondary health care and education facilities throughout the country. Work is underway towards establishment of specialist medical facilities, including in prime tourist resorts,” the President said. 

Government would continue looking at the needs of the disabled and provide them equal opportunities so that they play their part in the development of the country. 

Government was committed to freedom of expression as seen by the recent licensing of six privately-owned television stations and six language-based community radio stations. He urged the new licence-holders to project diversity and plurality in the broadcasting sector and advance national identity.