The Latest: Germany wants protesters to social distance


Associated Press



BERLIN — The German government is calling on people attending anti-racism protests to stick to coronavirus distancing rules.

At least 15,000 people demonstrated in Berlin and 25,000 protested in Munich on Saturday and there were protests in other German cities as part of the global demonstrations against racism and police brutality that have followed the May 25 death of American George Floyd.

In some cases, protesters were closely packed together despite German requirements for people to stay 1.5 meters (5 feet) apart.

Chancellor Angela Merkel’s spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Monday “it is good if people take to the streets in Germany as well with a clear statement against racism.”

But he added: “the pictures that in some cases emerged over the weekend were not good. Both things must be possible: to demonstrate peacefully, which is a fundamental right, and keep to the (social distancing) rules.”

He said many demonstrators “created a big risk for themselves and others.”

Germany has been widely praised for its adroit handling of the pandemic.

—-

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian media say lawmakers in parliament chanted “Death to America” during a session the previous day, allegedly in a show of support for protesters in the U.S. over the killing of George Floyd.

The report on Monday says the chants followed a request by lawmaker Ahmad Naderi for a moment of silence over deaths of protesters.

Iran makes a point of daily criticizing Washington in the wake of the ongoing turmoil in America and protests over police killings of African Americans.

State television in Iran, which in November put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds, arresting thousands and disrupting internet access to the outside world, has repeatedly aired images of the U.S. unrest.

—-

LONDON — U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says anti-racism demonstrations have been “subverted by thuggery” after protesters tore down a statue of a slave trader in the city of Bristol and scrawled graffiti on a statue of Winston Churchill in London.

London’s Metropolitan police say a dozen people were arrested and eight officers injured after demonstrators clashed Sunday with police in central London.

Johnson says while people have a right to peacefully protest, they have no right to attack the police. He says “these demonstrations have been subverted by thuggery – and they are a betrayal of the cause they purport to serve.’’

Crime, Policing and Justice Minister Kit Malthouse called Monday for those responsible for toppling the bronze memorial to slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol to be prosecuted.

But Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees told the BBC that while he doesn’t condone criminal damage, he felt no “sense of loss” for the statue.

__

PARIS — France’s government is scrambling to address growing concerns about police violence and racism within the police force, as protests sparked by George Floyd’s death in the U.S. stir up anger around the world.

The country’s top security official, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner, is holding a news conference Monday after Floyd-related demonstrations in cities around France. He promised last week to be “unforgiving” with violations by police, but pressure is growing on the government to act.

French President Emmanuel Macron has stayed unusually silent so far both about Floyd’s death and what’s happening in France.

French activists say tensions in low-income neighborhoods with large minority populations grew worse amid virus confinement measures, because they further empowered the police.

Some people are tracking cases of alleged violence by police via an app and collecting testimonies via social media.

At least 23,000 people protested around France on Saturday against racial injustice and police brutality, and more French protests are planned for Tuesday, when Floyd is being buried.

___

STOCKHOLM — In connection with a George Floyd anti-racism demonstration in Goteborg, Sweden’s second-largest city, police said Monday that five people had been arrested and 35 cases — ranging from rioting and vandalism to causing injuries, refusal to follow law enforcement orders and resisting arrest — had been reported.

Part of the otherwise peaceful rally turned against the police. Rocks were thrown at their vehicles and protesters tried to break storefronts in a downtown shopping mall.

“This is ridiculous. This is not Black Lives Matter for me,” Yaneneh Jatta, who took part in the demonstration, told Swedish broadcaster SVT, speaking about the unrest.

Later, a dozen cars were torched in a Goteborg suburb with a predominantly low-income population.

In Copenhagen, 15,000 people marched peacefully Sunday from the U.S. Embassy to the Danish Parliament with signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.”

Authorities in Denmark say freedom of speech, a cornerstone of the Danish Constitution, is more important than a current coronavirus health directive that limits gatherings to 10 people.

___

SEATTLE — Authorities say a man drove a car at George Floyd protesters in Seattle Sunday night, hit a barricade then exited the vehicle brandishing a pistol.

At least one person was injured. The Seattle Fire Department said the victim was a 27-year-old male who was shot and taken to a hospital in stable condition.

Video taken by a reporter for The Seattle Times showed part of the scene in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where demonstrators have gathered for days near a police precinct.

___

SEATTLE — Seattle City Council members sharply criticized Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best after police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters a day after Durkan and Best said they were trying to de-escalate tensions.

Authorities said rocks, bottles and explosives were thrown at officers in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood Saturday night. Police said via Twitter that several officers were injured by “improvised explosives.”

The mayhem in the Capitol Hill neighborhood came on the ninth consecutive day of George Floyd protests in the city. It followed a large, peaceful demonstration earlier.

It also came a day after Durkan and Best imposed a 30-day moratorium on the department’s use of one kind of tear gas.

___

PHOENIX — Demonstrators have marched through the streets of Phoenix and Scottsdale in two separate protests for social justice in memory of a black man who was killed by an Arizona police officer.

The Arizona Republic reports organizers in Phoenix say a line of demonstrators stretched nearly a mile Sunday. Protesters kneeled outside of the Arizona Department of Public Safety headquarters to denounce the deaths of black men and women at the hands of police nationwide, including Dion Johnson in Phoenix.

In Scottsdale, up to 1,000 protesters demonstrated, with Police Chief Alan Rodbell marching in uniform near the front.

___

RALEIGH, N.C. — Add North Carolina’s capital city to those sporting a bold message denouncing racism painted in large yellow letters on a city street.

Artists on Sunday painted the words “End Racism Now” on a downtown street, the Raleigh News & Observer reported. The message was added days after the mayor of Washington, D.C., had the words “Black Lives Matter” painted on a street leading to the White House amid days of demonstrations in the nation’s capital and all over the country in response to George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis.

Floyd died May 25 after a white officer pressed his knee into the unarmed black man’s neck, ignoring his “I can’t breathe” cries and holding it there even after Floyd stopped moving.

Charman Driver, former chair of the Contemporary Art Museum on Martin Street, where the painting is located, called it “a very painful totem.” The street leads to Confederate monuments on State Capitol grounds, which have been spotlighted as offensive during protests.

The painting was applied Sunday morning when a city engineer met the artists and brought barricades to block off the street.

“We did it. And it’s wonderful. And we feel really good about it. Our voices are being heard, but it’s not enough,” Driver said.

___

CANBERRA, Australia — An indigenous academic has used an award to urge Australians to address black deaths in custody,

Melbourne University professor Marcia Langton was given an Order of Australia award on Monday for her distinguished service to tertiary education and as an advocate for indigenous Australians.

Langton defied government leaders’ pandemic warnings by attending a rally in Melbourne on Saturday protesting the death in Minnesota of George Floyd and the high rate of indigenous incarceration in Australia.

Langton said Australian politicians did not acknowledge that the disproportion rate of indigenous people being sent to prison was a problem and police were not trained to prevent indigenous deaths in custody.

“I would have thought it is pretty straightforward — do not kill Aborigines. How hard is that?” Langton told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Minister for Indigenous Australians Ken Wyatt, the first indigenous person to serve in the role, said Langton made a poignant point. He said he would work with state agencies to address the large number of indigenous prisoners receiving hospital treatment.

There have been 434 indigenous deaths in police custody and prisons in Australia since 1991 when a government inquiry reported on the problem of black deaths in custody, The Guardian reported.

Indigenous Australians account for 2% of Australia’s adult population and 27% of Australia’s prison population.

___

WASHINGTON — Mitt Romney marched in a protest against police mistreatment of minorities in the nation’s capital, making him the first known Republican senator to do so.

Romney, who represents Utah, posted a tweet showing him wearing a mask as he walked with Black Lives Matter protesters in Washington on Sunday. Äbove the photo he wrote: Black Lives Matter.

Romney, who was walking with a Christian group, told NBC News that he needed to be there.

“We need a voice against racism, we need many voices against racism and against brutality,” he said.

On Saturday, Romney tweeted a photo of his father, George, who was the governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, marching with civil rights protesters in the 1960s in a Detroit suburb.

Above the photo, Mitt Romney wrote: “This is my father, George Romney, participating in a Civil Rights march in the Detroit suburbs during the late 1960s — “Force alone will not eliminate riots,” he said. “We must eliminate the problems from which they stem.”

___

LOS ANGELES — National Guard troops will be pulled out of California cities where they’ve been deployed for a week after rampant violence and thievery marred the first days of protests over the death of George Floyd, officials announced Sunday.

The announcement came as peaceful demonstrations again popped up across the state, including one on horseback and another on wheels, as protesters continue to call for police reforms.

“After nearly a week assisting civil authorities on the streets of California, soldiers with the California National Guard will begin transitioning back to their home armories,” the Cal Guard said in a statement. A timeline for the pullout was not provided.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti said some troops would begin departing Sunday evening.

“A small number of units will be stationed nearby until June 10 to provide emergency support if needed,” Garcetti said in a statement.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said Friday that he’d encourage local leaders to end their use of the Guard “in an expeditious manner, but a very thoughtful manner.”

More than 7,000 National Guard troops were deployed to LA, San Francisco, Sacramento and other cities to assist local law enforcement, Cal Guard said.

While the vast majority of protesters have been peaceful, there were violent clashes with police and hundreds of businesses were vandalized.

Associated Press