The rapidly unfolding movement to pull down Confederate monuments around the U.S. in the wake of George Floyd’s death has extended to statues of slave traders, imperialists, conquerors and explorers around the world, including Christopher Columbus, Cecil Rhodes and Belgium’s King Leopold II.
Protests and, in some cases, acts of vandalism have taken place in such cities as Boston; New York; Paris; Brussels; and Oxford, England, in an intense re-examination of racial injustices over the centuries. Scholars are divided over whether the campaign amounts to erasing history or updating it.
Here are some of the latest developments as the death of George Floyd has led to a national reckoning on racial discrimination:
10 Resign From SWAT Team Amid Safety Concerns
Ten members of a South Florida police department’s SWAT team have resigned from the team, citing safety concerns and local officials’ “disdain” for the unit.
The eight officers and two sergeants resigned from the team, but did not resign from the Hallandale Beach Police Department.
Police Chief Sonia Quinones received a memo from the SWAT team Friday morning, City Manager Greg Chavarria said in a statement, according to news outlets.
The officers said they were “minimally equipped” and had been “disrespected” by city officials who refused to address equipment and training concerns.
“The risk of carrying out our duties in this capacity is no longer acceptable to us and our families,” the officers wrote in the memo, dated June 9. “The anguish and stress of knowing that what we may be lawfully called upon to do in today’s political climate combined with the team’s current situation and several recent local events, leave us in a position that is untenable.”
The officers also said they were outraged that command staff had recently joined protesters and other officials in taking a knee as demonstrators called for the case of Howard Bowe to be reopened.
“This lack of support by members of the Command Staff is crippling to the agency and its rank and file,” the memo said.
Bowe, a 34-year-old black man, was killed in 2014 by Hallandale Beach’s SWAT team as it carried out a search warrant and raided his home. The officers wrote that investigators never found that any misconduct had been committed by the officers involved in Bowe’s death. The case later resulted in a $425,000 settlement between Bowe’s family and the city.
Dallas Officials Agree to 90-Day Ban on Use of Tear Gas Against Demonstrators
Dallas officials have agreed to a 90-day ban on the use of tear gas and other less-lethal police crowd-control weapons against demonstrators.
U.S. District Judge Sam Lindsay approved late Thursday a consent decree in which Dallas police agree not to use against peaceful demonstrators smoke bombs, flashbangs, pepperballs, Mace or other chemical agents. They also agree to not fire such impact projectiles as rubber bullets, bean bags or sponges.
The preliminary injunction will remain in effect until Sept. 9 unless extended, amended or dissolved by the judge.
Tasia Williams and Vincent Doyle sued the city and police after rubber bullets injured them during two separate Black Lives Matter marches in Dallas.
The demonstrations are a reaction to the killing of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer.
Chicago Nearly Triples Per Capita Police Spending Since '64
Mayor Lori Lightfoot has rejected demands to defund the Chicago Police Department, arguing that neighborhoods want more police support.
But an analysis shows Chicago is spending more on policing per person than at any time in the last half-century despite a persistent drop in crime over the last two decades, while the vast majority of murders remain unsolved.
Chicago allocated about $750 million in today’s dollars to the police department in 1964 from the city’s general operating budget. About 3.5 million people lived in Chicago then, meaning the city funded the police at a rate of $215 or so per resident, adjusted for inflation.
Judge Orders Pause on Tear Gas in Seattle
A federal judge has ordered Seattle to temporarily stop using tear gas, pepper spray and flash bang devices to break up peaceful protests.
The 14-day edict is a victory for groups who say authorities overreacted to demonstrations in the city after the death of George Floyd. A Black Lives Matter group sued the Seattle Police Department this week to halt the violent tactics police have used to break up largely peaceful protests in recent days.
Officers used tear gas, pepper spray and other less-lethal weapons against crowds that have demonstrated against racism and police brutality following the killing of Floyd in Minneapolis.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best apologized to peaceful protesters who were subjected to chemical weapons. However, Best has said some demonstrators had violently targeted police, throwing projectiles and ignoring orders to disperse.
Law School Bearing Franklin Pierce Name Considering Removal
A New Hampshire law school bearing the name of the state's only president, Franklin Pierce, is thinking about removing him from its title as part of the national conversation about systemic racism because he opposed taking steps to stop slavery.
Pierce, the country's 14th president, served from 1853 to 1857. He was an accomplished attorney and brigadier general in the U.S. Army. He never owned slaves and expressed moral opposition to slavery, but he was concerned with keeping the nation unified.
“I support these calls to reconsider our relationship to an historical figure who was a part of our country’s painful history,” Megan Carpenter, dean of the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, said in a statement Friday. “Our school has an incredible opportunity to become a meaningful part of the national dialogue. I’m personally inspired by the voices within our school community who are expressing their feelings on this issue."
Carpenter added, “We will be a part of positive change toward racial justice and equality. The school will gather input and engage discussion on a variety of issues related to racial justice, diversity and inclusion, and the Franklin Pierce name will be a significant part of these discussions.”
A decision on whether to remove Pierce's name from the Concord school will be made no later than Aug. 1, Carpenter said.
1st City in US Named for Columbus Puts His Statue in Storage
The first city in the United States named for Christopher Columbus has removed a statue of the explorer and placed it in storage for safekeeping after it was vandalized several times in a week.
Workers in Columbia, South Carolina, dismembered the statue early Friday, and by mid-morning only the feet were attached to the pedestal at Riverfront Park.
The statue will be stored until citizens, the Columbia City Council and other officials can have a comprehensive discussion about what to do next, Mayor Steve Benjamin said.
Boston Mayor Declares Racism a Public Health Crisis
Mayor Marty Walsh on Friday declared racism a public health crisis in the city of Boston and immediately redirected $3 million in police overtime funds to help address the issue, NBC Boston reported.
He said that as part of his proposed 2021 budget that will be submitted on Monday he will reallocate 20%, or $12 million, of the Boston Police Department's overtime budget to invest in equity and inclusion across the city.
NY Police Disciplinary Records Made Public
New York state lawmakers earlier this week repealed a decades-old law that has kept law enforcement officers’ disciplinary records secret and Gov. Andrew Cuomo made it official on Friday, NBC New York reported.
The repeal of the law known as Section 50-a was spurred by the local uproar over the death of George Floyd. Only Delaware has a similar law.
The measure to make officers’ records and misconduct complaints public was the first police change among several police accountability bills currently racing through the state legislature. Lawmakers passed other bills that would provide all state troopers with body cameras and ensure that police officers provide medical and mental health attention to people in custody.
Gov. Cuomo said Friday he will sign an executive order requiring local governments and agencies to "develop a plan that reinvents and modernizes police strategies." Communities must create and implement a plan by April 1, the governor said, or they will not be eligible for state funding.
The plans must address force by police officers, crowd management, community policing, implicit bias awareness training, de-escalation training and practices, restorative justice practices, and community-based outreach.
Clemson to Remove Name of Pro-Slavery Politician John C. Calhoun
Clemson University trustees voted Friday to rename the South Carolina school’s honors college, stripping off the name of former vice president and slavery proponent John C. Calhoun.
The university’s board also publicly requested permission from the state legislature to change the name of Tillman Hall back to its original name, the Main building. The iconic campus building currently honors “Pitchfork” Ben Tillman, the governor and U.S. senator who used virulent racism to dominate South Carolina politics after Reconstruction.
Other than removing the Confederate flag from state House grounds after a deadly attack on nine black Charleston church members in 2015, lawmakers have refused to take up any major changes of Confederate monuments. Change requires a two-thirds vote of both the House and Senate.
Trustees cited the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has spurred protests over racial injustice and police brutality across the country, as an impetus for the renaming. The honors program will now be called the “Clemson University Honors College.”
Calhoun, who was born in South Carolina, declared slavery a “positive good” on the U.S. Senate floor in 1837. Tillman led a white mob in 1876 that killed several black men in Hamburg, an Aiken County town where freed slaves had settled.
Clemson’s honors college was established in 1962 and named after Calhoun in 1981, and the university maintains Calhoun’s plantation home Fort Hill on campus.
Starbucks to Allow Baristas to Wear Black Lives Matter Attire and Accessories After Backlash
In a reversal, Starbucks said Friday it would allow its workforce to wear clothing and accessories like pins in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
The move came amid backlash after BuzzFeed first reported that the company justified its previous ban by saying such displays could incite violence.
Starbucks will now make 250,000 shirts with a design that includes “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace," a move that's similar to how the coffee chain celebrates LGBTQ rights and marriage equality, CNBC reported.
Until those arrive, workers can wear their on shirts or accessories to show support for the movement.
Trump Says Chokeholds by Police Should Generally 'Be Ended'
President Donald Trump says he’d like to see an end to the police use of chokeholds, except in certain circumstances.
“I don’t like chokeholds," Trump said in an interview with Fox News Channel that aired Friday. “Generally speaking,” he said, the practice “should be ended.” But Trump also talked at length about a scenario in which a police officer is alone and fighting one-on-one and could have to resort to the tactic.
'It's Everybody Fighting for Her': Breonna Taylor's Mother, Sister Speak Out
Breonna Taylor's mother and sister talked on the TODAY show Friday about the legacy of the Black emergency medical technician who was shot and killed in a botched police raid on her Kentucky home in March.
Many at protests over police brutality across the country have invoked Taylor's case.
One day after the Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted to ban no-knock warrants as part of the measure known as "Breonna's Law," Taylor's mother Tamika Palmer said it was "amazing that people are listening, that people are saying her name and learning who she was."
Her sister added that now that many, including prominent celebrities, have taken up their cause the family doesn't "have to fight alone."
"It's everybody fighting for her," Juniyah Palmer said.
Tamika Palmer said her daughter's death "doesn't feel real" and she's "still waiting for her to come through that door."
Taylor's family is calling for officers involved in her death to be arrested and criminally charged.
The mayor signed the measure into law later Friday.
How Protests Are Paying Off With New Police Reform Initiatives
NBCLX's Noah Pransky reports on three ways police protests have already led to changes that in past cases might have taken years: more bans on carotid neck restraints, support for the Black Lives Matters movement, and more funding for body cameras.
'The Bachelor' Casts Its First Black Male Lead
Matt James, a 28-year-old real estate broker, will become the first Black male lead on "The Bachelor" after 24 seasons of the ABC reality show.
James was originally cast on Clare Crawley's season of "The Bachelorette" just months ago, but production was put on hold due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
James' casting on the series comes after a campaign was launched urging "The Bachelor" to cast a Black male lead. In 2017, Rachel Lindsay made history on "The Bachelorette" as the first Black lead of that series.
"A step in the right direction," James said on "Good Morning America" of his casting.
Experts: Police 'Woefully Undertrained' in Use of Force
With calls for police reforms across the U.S., instructors and researchers say officers lack sufficient training on how and when to use force, leaving them unprepared to handle tense situations. Better training can’t fix all the issues facing the nation’s police departments, but experts believe it would have a big impact.
“The skills are not taught well enough to be retained and now the officer is scrambling to find something that works,” said William Lewinski, executive director at Minnesota-based Force Science Institute, which provides research, training and consulting to law enforcement agencies.
Its two-year study of three large U.S. police academies says skills like using a baton or taking down an aggressive offender deteriorate dramatically within two weeks.
A recent Associated Press investigation found that a lack of firearms training has resulted in unintentional shootings by law enforcement. It’s the same problem with use-of-force techniques, Lewinski said.
“Police officers across the country are woefully undertrained,” said Sean Hendrickson, an instructor at Washington state’s police academy in suburban Seattle.
San Francisco Police Won’t Respond to Non-Criminal Calls
San Francisco police will stop responding to neighbor disputes, reports on homeless people, school discipline interventions and other non-criminal activities as part of a police reform plan the mayor announced Thursday.
Mayor London Breed said in a news release that on calls that don’t involve a threat to public safety, police would be replaced by trained, unarmed professionals to limit unnecessary confrontation between the police department and the community.
Breed’s said as part of police reforms, the city will also strengthen accountability policies, ban the use of military-grade weapons and divert funding to the African-American community.
The city will develop its plan over the next year and follow models like the Cahoots program in Eugene, Ore., Breed said. That community-based crisis program employs social workers and mental health workers to respond to disturbances where crimes are not being committed.
Georgia Couple Finds Their 'Black Lives Matter' Yard Sign Crossed Out
A man in Georgia said he was in shock after waking up to find his family’s “Black Lives Matter” yard sign crossed out in black paint.
Jeff Harris told WGCL-TV he found a black x painted over the sign on Thursday as he was taking out his dog. Harris and his wife had put up the sign over the weekend after protesting the death of George Floyd in Atlanta.
Kara Harris told the news outlet that she's surprised, because they live in a “quiet” and "diverse" neighborhood in suburban Mableton.
The sign has been cleaned up and it remains in their yard.
Black Broadway Performers, Workers Write Scathing Letter Calling Out Industry’s Racism
A scathing letter addressed to “White American Theater” was signed by 300 Black performers, musicians and back out house staff as a means of calling out Broadway’s long and continued history of racism, NBC New York reported.
The letter reads in part, “We see you. We have always seen you. We have watched you pretend not to see us.” Those who signed the letter said they are fed up with the industry being far from welcoming for far too long.
“It’s commonly known that certain directors don’t hire Black people,” said actress Asmeret Ghebremichael, whose credits include “Book of Mormon” and “Legally Blonde.” She went on to describe an encounter with another director where racism was almost casual.
“I was with a director and some friends one time and this person just used the N-word casually and I was stunned and paralyzed with shock,” Ghebremichael said.
Band-Aid Announces New Bandages for Different Skin Tones
Band-Aid announced that it's "launching a range of bandages in light, medium and deep shades of Brown and Black skin tones that embrace the beauty of diverse skin" in an Instagram post Thursday.
"We stand in solidarity with our Black colleagues, collaborators and community in the fight against racism, violence and injustice. We are committed to taking actions to create tangible change for the Black community," the post said.
In 2005, Band-Aid previously launched a line of "perfect blend" bandages to blend with multiple skin tones that were later discontinued, company spokesperson Megan Koehler told NBC.
"We are excited to bring back a similar product with improved comfort and flexibility," she said in a statement. The new Band-Aids will launch in 2021 in the company's "most popular style, flexible fabric."
The company says its "clear strips" style of bandages, which first launched in the 1950s, are designed to be used by people with a variety of skin tones.
Still, Johnson & Johnson has long faced criticism for offering Band-Aids through its history that did not match the skin tones of Black and Brown communities.
The company also plans to donate to Black Lives Matter.
Austin, Texas, Bans Chokeholds, Limits Police Budget
The Austin City Council and Mayor Steve Adler unanimously approved five items to reform the city's police department following weeks of protests against police brutality.
The rare move banned the use of chokeholds and strongholds, shooting at moving vehicles and the use of tear gas and munitions at crowds expressing First Amendment rights. At the initiative of Mayor Pro Tem Delia Garza, a goal of zero racial disparity in traffic stops and use-of-force by officers was also set.
The city’s judicial committee will be converted into a public safety committee, at the leadership of council member Jimmy Flannigan, who will chair the committee.
The City Council also directed that the budget allocated to the police department not include any new sworn police officers, eliminate sworn positions that the police department can’t reasonably fill in FY 2020-2021 and reallocate those funds for other public health and safety resources and initiatives.
Some council members showed support for reductions to the police department budget of up to $100 million, though an exact number has not yet been formalized.
George Floyd Protests
Racial Justice Protests Revive Debate Over Washington Redskins’ Name
The recent protests over the death of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter revived the decades-old debate over the name of Washington, D.C.’s NFL team.
The Washington Redskins participated on Twitter in Blackout Tuesday, posting a black square calling for racial equality, NBC Washington reported.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez replied to the Redskins, commenting, "Want to really stand for racial justice? Change your name."
Denver Votes to Remove Resource Officers From Schools
The Board of Denver Public Schools has passed a resolution to remove resource officers from its schools, officials announced Thursday.
The decision comes after discussions between the board and various members of the Denver community weighed the pros and cons of such an action.
"There is absolutely nothing more important than all of our students feeling safe, cared for, and protected in our schools. An education does not happen without that," a spokesperson for the public schools said in a statement Thursday.