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GENEVA - A COVID-19-induced hunger pandemic in Latin America and the Caribbean could threaten the stability of countries in the region, the World Food Program said. 

Latin America is the region with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases globally, accounting for more than a quarter of the more than 17 million cases reported by Johns Hopkins University. The disease is driving hunger and food insecurity in a region already facing economic, social and political instability, as well as drought and the start of the hurricane season, WFP said.   

The agency projects the number of people in Latin America and the Caribbean facing severe food shortages in coming months will rise to 16 million.

WFP Executive Director David Beasley recently visited a farming project run by the WFP in Ibarra, in Ecuador's Imbabura Province.   

In a video from the site, Beasley addressed the economic devastation created in Latin American countries by COVID-19. He said many farmers are barely eking out a living because of the pandemic, which is preventing them from selling their crops.   

“Just in the areas where WFP [is] in this region alone, we have seen a substantial increase in over 11 million people that are marching toward the brink of starvation," he said. "So, it is devastating, and it is why we must act, and we must act now so that we can bring some hope to people. Otherwise you will have political destabilization, mass migration, economic deterioration, supply chain disruption and many people will starve, in addition to COVID itself.”   

The World Food Program said people in Haiti, countries along Central America’s Pacific coast — especially Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador — as well as Venezuelan migrants in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru are most at risk of starvation and death.    

The COVID and hunger pandemics must be tackled together, Beasley said, because they feed upon each other. The WFP is calling for $328 million to provide crucial aid in the region.   

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NEW YORK - U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday that the coronavirus pandemic is profoundly affecting peace and security worldwide.
“Collective security and our shared well-being are under assault on many fronts, led by a relentless disease and abetted by global fragilities,” Guterres said. “Our challenge is to save lives today while buttressing the pillars of security for tomorrow.”
The U.N. chief addressed a virtual high-level meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the effect of the pandemic on peace and security. More than 10.5 million people worldwide have been confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

“The consequences can be seen even in a number of countries traditionally seen as “stable,” he said. “But the impacts are particularly apparent in countries already experiencing conflict or emerging from it and may soon engulf others.”
Guterres said tensions are rising as a result of the severe socioeconomic fallout of the health crisis and the erosion of public trust in countries where the people feel the response has been ineffective or lacked transparency.
With some 100 armed conflicts raging around the world, peace processes are at risk, particularly if the international community is not fully engaged.
“In other places, conflict actors — including terrorist and violent extremist groups — see the uncertainty created by the pandemic as a tactical advantage,” Guterres said.
He noted that in many places, health care workers and humanitarians who are aiding the sick and those impacted by the virus have been targeted for attack.
Guterres warned of growing signs of authoritarianism, including restrictions on the media, civic space, and freedom of expression, as well a rise in hate speech and an “epidemic” of online misinformation.
“Populists, nationalists, and others who were already seeking to roll back human rights are finding in the pandemic a pretext for repressive measures unrelated to the disease,” he cautioned.
Guterres said these wide-ranging risks require an urgent and united response, including from the Security Council, and he welcomed their endorsement Wednesday of his call for a global cease-fire to support the coronavirus response.

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JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA - Amid a global pandemic, a glimmer of hope: The Democratic Republic of Congo has officially beaten its tenth Ebola outbreak, which raged for two years in the nation’s volatile east. As top international health officials welcomed the news, they noted lessons learned in the Ebola battle that can be used to fight the coronavirus, which they say is surging on the continent.

The tenth Ebola outbreak in The Democratic Republic of Congo has ended after two years and the 2,300 deaths in the country’s east, the head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, announced Thursday. 

“Today is a joyous occasion. I'm delighted to celebrate the end of the Ebola outbreak in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. ... The Ebola response was a victory for science. The rapid rollout of a highly effective vaccine saved lives and slowed the spread of Ebola. For the first time, the world now has a licensed Ebola vaccine and effective treatments were identified that dramatically lower death rates when patients are treated early.”

But, he and other experts noted, other threats menace that country and the African continent.

Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa, noted that as this epidemic has ended, the coronavirus pandemic is growing in Africa. Congo has more than 6,000 coronavirus cases. The continent’s coronavirus epicenter, South Africa, this week surged past 100,000 cases.

And, Moeti noted, Congo still has an Ebola outbreak, just in a different place; and other diseases are also menacing the population.

“The new Ebola outbreak in Mbandaka, in Equateur province, in the DRC; along with measles outbreaks in the Central African Republic, in Chad, in the DRC as well, in South Sudan and other countries; and an increase in malaria in some countries in Southern Africa compared to last year; are all reminders of the need to ensure continuity of essential health services for other life-threatening conditions while at the same time-fighting Covid-19," said Moeti.

She noted there are now more than 332,000 COVID-19 cases on the African continent and 8,700 people have lost their lives.

But, she added, this difficult path has been paved with important lessons that could be applied to the new pandemic.

“One of the most important lessons that have been learned is the need to engage with, work with, enable communities to be knowledgeable, to be empowered, to play their role in different ways. I think that was one of the most important lessons to come out of the Ebola outbreak and it's extremely relevant for the Covid-19," said Moeti.

"Secondly, we've learned great lessons about how to innovate in the middle of a pandemic, how to learn, how to develop new technologies. The professor referred to the fact that at the same time as the response was going on there was work to discover new therapeutics, a new vaccine. ... And then thirdly, we have seen the importance of the resilience of health systems. So one of the lessons that I take away is that we must invest in health systems when we do not have outbreaks going on,” she added.

Moeti said that if Ebola can end, there is hope that other infectious diseases can also be vanquished. But, she stressed, the most important players are ordinary people. She urged everyone, in Africa and beyond: wear a mask, wash your hands, and take care.

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Thousands of Jews around the world are considering making what's called Aliyah. It's Hebrew for immigrating to Israel, partly to find shelter in a place that, as of Wednesday, has suffered few coronavirus deaths compared to other countries. While Israel has banned tourists from entering, it is allowing new immigrants. Linda Gradstein reports for VOA from Jerusalem

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WHITE HOUSE - Amid sustained nationwide street protests, U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order outlining some police reforms.

“Reducing crime and raising standards are not opposite goals,” Trump said in the White House Rose Garden before signing the document, titled “Safe Policing for Safe Communities.”

The order will encourage “police departments nationwide to adopt the highest professional standards to serve their communities. These standards will be as high and as strong as there is on Earth,” said the president.

The measure also calls for certification bodies to train officers on de-escalation techniques and use of force standards.

Another part of the order pushes for creating so-called co-respondent services, a system in which officers would pair with social workers when responding to nonviolent calls, by directing “federal funding to support officers in dealing with homeless individuals, and those who have mental illness and substance abuse problems,” said Trump. “We will provide more resources for co responders, such as social workers who can help officers manage these complex encounters.”

Trump did not address the linkage of systemic racism to police brutality, an issue cited by demonstrators across the country.

“The president’s weak executive order falls sadly and seriously short of what is required to combat the epidemic of racial injustice and police brutality that is murdering hundreds of Black Americans,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in a statement, contending it “lacks meaningful, mandatory accountability measures to end the misconduct. During this moment of national anguish, we must insist on bold change, not meekly surrender to the bare minimum.”

U.S. opinion polls show there are widespread concerns among the public about brutal responses by law enforcement.

Trump administration officials have rejected the narrative that American law enforcement is endemically racist.

"Americans want law and order," said the president during his remarks Tuesday. "They demand law and order."

Before the Rose Garden event, Trump met with families of some of those who lost loved ones in deadly interactions with police.

“Your loved ones will not have died in vain,” said Trump in his remarks before signing the order. “I cannot imagine your pain or the depth of your anguish, but I will fight for justice.”

More sweeping overhauls to the nation’s policing are under consideration in Congress.

Proposals for police reforms come after three weeks of nationwide protests renewed by the death in police custody of George Floyd, an African American man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd’s was the latest case to spark outrage at the use of force by police, especially against African Americans. Last Friday brought another with police shooting dead Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta.

The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the issue Tuesday with testimony from law enforcement and civil rights officials.

The chamber’s Republican majority is crafting its package of proposals, which includes a ban on chokeholds and increased use of police body cameras.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the legislation “a serious proposal to reform law enforcement.”

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Republican effort does not go far enough.

“While the president has finally acknowledged the need for policing reform, one modest executive order will not make up for his years of inflammatory rhetoric and policies designed to roll back the progress made in previous years,” said Schumer.

“Unfortunately, this executive order will not deliver the comprehensive meaningful change and accountability in our nation’s police departments that Americans are demanding,” the Democratic lawmaker added. “Congress needs to quickly pass strong and bold legislation with provisions that make it easier to hold police officers accountable for abuses, and President Trump must commit to signing it into law.”

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is expected to vote sometime this month on its own package that includes a contentious provision that would make it easier to file civil lawsuits against officers.

Trump is standing by what is known as the qualified immunity doctrine. The doctrine protects law enforcement officers from lawsuits unless it can be proven they violated clearly established statutory or constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known.

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U.S. President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order Tuesday on some police reforms, the goal of which a senior administration official said is “to invest more and incentivize best practices.” 

Briefing reporters Monday ahead of the signing, a senior administration official said the main piece will be creating certification bodies to train officers on de-escalation techniques and use of force standards. 

“We’re leveraging our ability to execute discretionary grants and prioritizing those police departments that take the time to get that credentialing,” the official said. 

Another part would push for creating so-called co-respondent services, a system in which officers would pair with social workers when responding to nonviolent calls, especially those involving mental health concerns and drug addiction issues. 

More sweeping overhauls to the nation’s policing are under consideration in Congress. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the issue Tuesday with testimony from law enforcement and civil rights officials. 

The chamber’s Republican majority is crafting its package of proposals, which includes a ban on chokeholds and increased use of police body cameras. 

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the legislation “a serious proposal to reform law enforcement.” 

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said the Republican effort does not go far enough, and that “now is the time to seek bold and broad-scale change.” 

The Democrat-led House of Representatives is expected to vote sometime this month on its own package that includes a provision that would make it easier to file civil lawsuits against officers who violate someone’s rights. 

The White House has signaled President Donald Trump would not endorse ending what is known as the qualified immunity doctrine.

Proposals for police reforms come after three weeks of nationwide protests renewed by the death in police custody of George Floyd, an African American man who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota after an officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. 

Floyd’s was the latest case to spark outrage at the use of force by police, especially against African Americans. Last Friday brought another with police shooting dead Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta. 

Protesters, organized by civil rights groups, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), gathered outside the Georgia Capitol where lawmakers were returning to work after a coronavirus shutdown. More than a thousand demonstrators demanded lawmakers take up criminal justice reform, as well as voting issues, after last week’s election was marred by long lines at the polls.    

A few protesters came inside the Capitol, chanting in the building’s rotunda.    

Several Democratic state lawmakers, who are in the minority in the Georgia House and Senate, joined the protest Monday and said they are ready to act on calls for reforms. Republican House Speaker David Ralston told lawmakers Monday he wants to pass a bill to further penalize hate crimes, saying its passage is “just as important” as passing a state budget. The House has previously passed a hate crimes bill, but it has stalled in the Senate.        

Many Democrats are proposing an array of new legislation to reform policing practices, however, Republicans, as well as some Democrats, say there is not enough time to pass a big legislative package with only 11 days remaining in the lawmakers’ session following a lengthy coronavirus shutdown.          

Demonstrations also took place Monday evening in Washington’s Lafayette Park across the street from the White House to mark two weeks since law enforcement forcefully cleared a peaceful crowd shortly before U.S. President Donald Trump walked through the area for a photo opportunity at a nearby church.             

Also, Monday, the U.N. Human Rights Council agreed to hold an urgent debate on Wednesday “on the current racially inspired human rights violations, systematic racism, police brutality, and violence against peaceful protesters.” 

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The United States has officially gone over the 2 million mark in total cases of novel coronavirus infections.

According to figures published Thursday on the website of Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus resource center, the U.S. now has 2,000,464 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 112,924 deaths, maintaining its position as the leading country with the total number of cases and deaths.

Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, predicted Wednesday night during an interview on CNN the nation’s death toll will nearly double by September.

“Most Americans are not ready to lock back down, and I completely understand that.” Dr. Jha said. “I understand people are willing to live alongside this virus. It means that between 800 and 1,000 Americans are going to die every single day.”

As many as 21 states have recorded their highest number of COVID-19 cases this week, with many concentrated across the western and southwestern states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Utah.  The increases come amid a loosening of coronavirus restrictions in recent weeks, including the annual Memorial Day holiday that signals the start of the traditional summer vacation season.

The newest surge of infections has prompted local health officials in California to cancel the popular annual Coachella music and arts festival and the Stagecoach country music festival scheduled for October.  Both outdoor festivals were originally scheduled to be held in April but were postponed as the outbreak began spreading.

Experts also fear the ongoing nationwide protests sparked by the death of an African-American man in Minneapolis while in police custody will lead to another spike in COVID-19 infections.  Protesters have been captured on video walking shoulder-to-shoulder, although many of them were wearing masks.   

However, officials at the popular Disneyland theme park in Anaheim, California, announced Wednesday they plan to begin a phased reopening of Disneyland and its sister theme park, Disney California Adventure, on July 17, the 65th anniversary of Disneyland’s opening.  The entertainment giant also announced a phased reopening of its Orlando, Florida, theme parks, anchored by Walt Disney World, in mid-July.

The World Health Organization said Thursday the African continent now has more than 200,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 5,600 deaths.  Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Africa regional director, told reporters during a briefing at the agency’s headquarters in Geneva the pandemic is “accelerating” and will continue to climb until an effective vaccine is developed.  South Africa accounts for a quarter of all coronavirus cases with over 55,421 and 1,210 deaths.

WHO has already determined Latin America to be the world’s new hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic, with the latest figures raising the total number of cases in the region to well over 1 million, with over 70,000 deaths.  With 772,416 confirmed cases, Brazil is the most-affected country in the region and ranks only behind the United States on the overall global list of confirmed cases.

Following Brazil is Peru with more than 207,000 overall cases. Chile is in third place with 148,456 cases and Mexico is close behind with 129,184.

As of Thursday, there are a total of 7,394,801 confirmed COVID-19 cases worldwide, with 417,022 deaths.


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Members of the U.S. Congress are examining national police reform proposals, while local and state officials announce more steps to change funding and authorizations for the use of force in their police departments. 

The House Judiciary Committee is set to hear Wednesday from Philonise Floyd, brother of George Floyd, the African American man whose death in police custody after an officer held a knee to his neck for almost nine minutes sparked nationwide protests urging reforms. 

Other witnesses include Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo and Vanita Gupta, former head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division and current president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 

Gupta wrote on Twitter that she would testify “on the need for transformative policing policies that promote accountability, reimagine public safety, and respect the dignity of all people.” 

House Democrats have proposed a package of reforms that includes bans on racial profiling and chokeholds, making it easier to sue officers in civil court and establishing a national database tracking officer misconduct.  A vote is planned this month. 

Scott to lead Republican effort

Republican leaders in the Senate have tasked Senator Tim Scott with leading the creation of their own package of proposals, an effort White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows told reporters Tuesday he hopes will come “sooner than later.”

Scott said Tuesday he held a productive discussion with colleagues on the plan and they would be releasing a draft “in the near future.” 

“I am hopeful that this legislation will bring much-needed solutions,” Scott said. 

Senator Lindsey Graham, who heads the Senate Judiciary Committee, has set a hearing on police use of force for next week. 

With the two parties each controlling one of the chambers, and President Donald Trump repeatedly stressing the need for “law and order” amid the protests, it is unlikely the sides will agree on all of their proposals, but there is some common ground, including the misconduct database. 

Chokehold bans

Local bans on chokeholds have been among the steps already taken by city and state leaders in places such as California, Denver, and in Minneapolis, the city where Floyd died.  The latest such move came from the police department in Phoenix, Arizona, which announced the immediate ban of the technique Tuesday. 

In Portland, Oregon, Mayor Ted Wheeler said his package of reforms includes halting the use of patrol officers on public transit and moving $7 million from the city’s police budget to programs for communities of color.  Other cities have pledged similar funding shifts, including New York and Los Angeles, heeding what has become one of the major initiatives promoted by protesters. 

New York state lawmakers also voted Tuesday to repeal a decades-old law that made the disciplinary records and misconduct complaints against officers secret.  Governor Andrew Cuomo has said he will sign it. 

George Floyd funeral

Floyd was entombed Tuesday in Pearland, Texas after a Houston funeral attended by hundreds of family members, friends, and prominent figures. 

Civil rights leader the Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy, saying Floyd touched people all over the country, and in other parts of the world who have also joined in the protest, “marching with your name.” 

“People are walking out in the streets, not even following social distance because you've touched the world. And as we lay you to rest today, the movement won't rest until we get justice. Until we have one standard of justice. Your family is gonna miss you, George. But your nation is going to always remember your name because your neck was one that represented all of us. And how you suffered represented our stuff,” Sharpton said. 

Among those in attendance were the parents of Eric Garner, Botham Jean and Michael Brown, three victims of earlier police violence whose deaths brought calls for reforms. 

“Until we know the price for black life is the same as the price for white life, we're going to keep coming back to these situations over and over again," Sharpton told those assembled at The Fountain of Praise Church. 

Hundreds of people gathered along the funeral procession route to pay their final respects to Floyd, and to express their grief and their frustration at the history of police violence against African Americans and the lack of action to eliminate it. 

"We've been kneeling. Nothing happened.  We've been peacefully protesting. Nothing happened,” Xavier Bradley told VOA.  “Only until something gets destroyed they'll listen. Now we've got their ear, hopefully, we can put it to good use." 

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New criminal charges were filed Wednesday in the killing of George Floyd, a black man who died last week while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison charged Derek Chauvin, the white police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck even as Floyd said he could not breathe, with second-degree murder, a stiffer charge than the third-degree-murder charge he previously faced along with second-degree manslaughter.

In addition, Ellison charged three other former officers who were at the scene and did not intervene in the incident on May 25 — Tou Thao, Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane — with aiding and abetting second-degree murder. All four officers were fired in the immediate aftermath of Floyd’s death, but only Chauvin was charged with criminal conduct in the case.

Floyd’s death has spawned more than a week of protests throughout the United States, many of them largely peaceful, as was the case Tuesday night and during the day on Wednesday.

But some protests quickly devolved into raging clashes between authorities and demonstrators, with police cars and government buildings set afire and looters ransacking stores.

The civil unrest has perhaps been the most widespread in the U.S. in decades. The Associated Press reported more than 9,000 arrests have been made throughout the country over the past eight days.

Before the charges were filed Wednesday, Floyd family attorney Ben Crump said, "We are demanding justice. We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis, Minnesota" on Thursday.

Third-degree murder is defined as killing someone unintentionally and not done as part of the commitment of another felony.

Second-degree murder is generally defined as an intentional killing that lacks premeditation. Someone convicted of second-degree murder is believed to have demonstrated an extreme indifference for human life. All murder convictions in the U.S. can, but don’t always, result in sentences of decades in prison.

A heavy police presence on the streets of big U.S. cities and curfews imposed by their mayors curbed most of the violence Tuesday night and into Wednesday.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "Last night we took a step forward in moving out of this difficult period we've had the last few days and moving to a better time.”

He said New York police arrested about 280 people on protest-related charges Tuesday night, compared with 700 a day earlier.

Global attention

The death of Floyd and subsequent protests have drawn worldwide attention, with numerous demonstrations in other countries supporting the American protesters angered by Floyd’s death and the sense that police often treat black people more harshly than whites.

Pope Francis called for national reconciliation and peace, saying he had ''witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest'' in the U.S.

"My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,” the pope said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has mixed support for peaceful protests with calls for a tough response against rowdy demonstrators.

He said that "lowlifes and losers" took over the streets of his hometown of New York earlier in the week and again tweeted Wednesday: "LAW & ORDER!"

Local police in numerous cities have been augmented by the call-up of more than 20,000 National Guard troops in 29 states to deal with the violence.

In Philadelphia, a statue of a former police chief and mayor, Frank Rizzo, was taken down early Wednesday after vandals repeatedly attacked it. Rizzo was widely accused of racism and brutality in the 1970s.

New York protest

On Tuesday night, peaceful protesters defied nighttime curfew orders in some areas, including New York City, where hundreds of people remained on the Brooklyn Bridge for several hours after marching from the Brooklyn side to find their path into Manhattan blocked by police.

In Atlanta, police fired tear gas to break up a crowd of hundreds who remained after the start of the city’s 9 p.m. curfew. Officers were seen detaining people in both cities.

Hundreds of people remained past curfew time in Washington’s Lafayette Square park across from the White House, where the scene was much quieter than Monday evening when officers aggressively fired tear gas and rubber bullets at largely peaceful protesters to clear the way for Trump to make a photo-op appearance in front of nearby St. John’s Episcopal Church.

The protesters who gathered in the park Tuesday chanted slogans of “Black lives matter,” “Don’t shoot” and “Enough is enough.”

They stared at tall black metal fencing that was put in place to bolster security in the area. A few kilometers away, National Guard troops stood fanned out across the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, a popular tourist site wherein 1963, civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech.

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MINNEAPOLIS - Years of dialogue about police and criminal justice reforms in Minneapolis had improved the relationship between the African American community and law enforcement, activists say — before the police killing this week of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for several minutes as he pleaded for air.  

Floyd's death and footage of the officer pressing a knee into his neck for several minutes have unleashed protests and violent clashes with law enforcement — exposing simmering frustration and the fact that there's much work still ahead, several advocates and leaders told The Associated Press.

"Progress and change can ebb and flow," said Jeremiah Ellison, who won a City Council seat after participating in past protests against police killings of African Americans in Minnesota. 

The four nights of unrest this week — including the torching of a police station that officers abandoned — "proved to me that we've regressed to the point of 2015," Ellison said, referring to the year that also saw protests after the death of Jamar Clark, a black man killed by police.

Minneapolis — a city of nearly 430,000 that is 60% white, 19% black and 9% Hispanic — has a long history of economic and educational disparities that have marginalized black residents for decades, despite its reputation for progressive values. It is one of the most segregated cities in the country for its size, and schools suffer from stubborn achievement gaps.

The city-appointed its first black chief of police nearly three years ago, after slow progress toward making the department more inclusive. Earlier this year, a statewide task force made up of activists, people representing victims of police brutality, and law enforcement leaders released recommendations for policing reforms.  

That task force was formed in the wake of several high-profile fatal shootings of black men by police in the Minneapolis area. Those included Clark, who was killed during a struggle with two white Minneapolis officers, and Philando Castile, who was fatally shot by a Hispanic suburban police officer during a traffic stop in 2016.  

While Nekima Levy Armstrong, a civil rights lawyer and former president of the Minneapolis NAACP, acknowledges that progress, she said that many old habits are still entrenched.

"The system itself has not changed," Armstrong said. "The culture within the Minneapolis Police Department has not changed."

The city's police department of more than 800 officers is still predominantly white, she said. The department did not respond to a request for up-to-date figures, but the Star Tribune reported in 2014 that the force, including cadets in-field training, was 78.9% white, 9.2% black, 5.2% Asian, 4.1% Hispanic and 2.5% American Indian.

Some leaders, including former Mayor R.T. Rybak and state Sen. Jeff Hayden, have blamed the city's police union in recent days for fostering a culture that protects brutal officers and resists efforts at reform. The union's president, Lt. Bob Kroll, did not return a call seeking comment.

The eruption of anger in Minneapolis reflects frustration over these realities, despite some progress, said Teqen Zéa-Aida, a longtime activist in the city.  

But the images themselves also demanded a "public response," he said, though he pushed for protests to happen online given the risks of gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We saw his eyes ... we saw a lynching. George Floyd is Emmett Till, 2020," he said, referring to the black 14-year-old who was abducted, beaten and killed in 1955 after he was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, a lynching that helped spur the civil rights movement.

Bystander video and photos of the arrest showed Floyd on the ground, while Officer Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck, ignoring his pleas for help. Two other officers appear to help hold him down, and a fourth attempt to keep space around the scene.  

"My stomach hurts, my neck hurts, everything hurts ... I can't breathe," said Floyd, who eventually becomes motionless.  

Police initially said they arrested Floyd because he matched the description of a man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store and that he resisted arrest. Police were trying to put Floyd in a squad car when he stiffened up and fell to the ground, saying he was claustrophobic, according to the criminal complaint detailing charges against Chauvin.

In addition to igniting the turmoil in Minneapolis, Floyd's death has garnered national attention, and it drew comparisons to the case of Eric Garner, a black man who died in 2014 in New York after he was placed in a chokehold by police and also said he could not breathe.

The delay in Chauvin's arrest may have also helped to drive the protests, which turned markedly more violent than those that followed the deaths of either Clark or Castile. Authorities arrested Chauvin and charged him Friday with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. His attorney had no comment when reached by the AP. The other three officers involved have not been charged, but the investigation is continuing. All four were fired Tuesday shortly after the video began circulating.

Some activists and community leaders said they expected the protests to continue to push for the arrests of and charges for the three other officers.

Floyd's death "just touched people in a way that they didn't expect," said Armstrong.

"We must get to the underlying solutions or we will be right back here in a fairly short time," said Keith Ellison, the state's first African American attorney general, whose son is the Minneapolis city councilman. "We've got to literally shift policing."

Ramsey County Undersheriff Bill Finney, who in 1992 became the first African American police chief in Minnesota when he was appointed to the job in neighboring St. Paul, said even when the relationship between police and the black community improves, all sides must guard against complacency.

"You have to constantly make deposits into the community bank of goodwill," Finney said. "You want to get to a place where the community stops considering you as 'the police' and starts seeing you as their police."



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