House rejects security fund for officers’ trials

ST. PAUL, Minn. — The Minnesota House rejected a bill to create a fund to bolster security during the upcoming murder trial of a former Minneapolis officer charged with killing George Floyd.

The measure failed Thursday on a 71-63 vote in the Democratic-controlled House.

Democratic Gov. Tim Walz proposed creating the $35 million fund to reimburse any community that requests mutual aid from other law enforcement agencies. That would include, the trial of Derek Chauvin, which is expected to draw worldwide attention when it begins March 8, and the trial in August of three other ex-officers.

Local, state and federal authorities have been preparing for demonstrations and possible unrest for months. They fear a repeat of violence that erupted after Floyd’s death on May 25, as protests began in Minneapolis and spread worldwide, leading to a national reckoning over race.

Floyd, a Black man in handcuffs, died after Chauvin, who is white, pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after Floyd said he couldn’t breathe.

Walz authorized the Minnesota National Guard this month to deploy in preparation for Chauvin’s trial. But the Guard is not considered a law enforcement agency and must partner with police.

The Republican-controlled Senate passed a bill that would take state aid from Minneapolis if the city doesn’t reimburse other departments. Walz opposes that approach.

— The Associated Press

Black Indiana lawmakers face boos during debate

INDIANAPOLIS — Tempers flared among Indiana legislators during a debate Thursday when Black lawmakers were shouted down and booed by some Republicans and two House members had to be separated in a hallway.

Democratic Rep. Greg Porter of Indianapolis, who is Black, was speaking in the Indiana House against a bill allowing a rural, mostly white, St. Joseph County township to leave the South Bend Community Schools, which is about 60% Black or Hispanic, when he called the proposal discriminatory.

Several Republican members said loudly “no” and “stop,” after which Porter, who was wearing traditional African clothing in recognition of Black History Month, left the House meeting room.

The debate continued and Democratic Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary, who is also Black, called the bill racist. Smith also faced boos and some Republican members started leaving the room.

A confrontation soon erupted in a hallway between Republican Sean Eberhart of Shelbyville and Democratic Rep. Vanessa Summers of Indianapolis, another Black lawmaker, and they were separated by other legislators.

Summers said she doesn’t remember what was said in the heat of the moment but admitted she “has a mouth” and may have used strong language. She said she was calling out another Republican, though, when Eberhart thought she was talking to him.

“He just went off and got mad and tried to hit me,” Summers told The Indianapolis Star. “I felt in danger for my life.”

Eberhart said he was called a racist and verbally attacked by Summers.

— The Associated Press

Troopers claim discrimination by police

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Black troopers in the Maryland Department of State Police have accused the agency of racism and discrimination, pointing to disparities in discipline and promotions, as well as underrepresentation and alleged instances of retaliation, according to a state senator.

Maryland State Sen. Joanne Benson of Prince George’s County met with more than 20 Black troopers who presented her with documents detailing their claims, WRC in Washington reported Thursday. The television station did not identify the troopers because those who spoke out are violating department policy.

“They had the paperwork. They had the proof,” Benson said. “They had done their homework relative to the incidents that have occurred and the problems they were experiencing.”

Benson, a Democrat, said she would call Superintendent Woodrow “Jerry” Jones before the legislative Black Caucus. Jones has headed Maryland State Police for the past year.

“It is unacceptable. We’re not going to go along with it,” Benson said.

— The Associated Press

Titans players give $130K to social justice orgs

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Titans players and the team’s foundation have donated more than $130,000 to nine organizations dedicated to social justice.

A news release from the NFL team says players offered personal donations and the The Titans Foundation matched them.

The recipients include 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, which focuses on academic and social development of Black male students in the greater Nashville area; YCWA Amend Together, which engages men and boys to change the culture supporting violence against women and girls; and Project Return, which is dedicated to fresh new starts in the Nashville community for people after incarceration.

The donations were made in collaboration with the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative.

— The Associated Press

2 charged in arson fires set amid Floyd protests

MINNEAPOLIS — Federal authorities said Thursday they’ve charged two more people in arson fires set during protests that followed George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis after being arrested by police.

Jose Angel Felan Jr., 34, and Mena Dhaya Yousif, 22, both of Rochester, were charged after being arrested in Mexico on immigration violations. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Minnesota said Felan is charged with three counts of arson and Yusif is charged with being an accessory after the fact for allegedly helping Felan evade police.

Authorities said Felan set fires May 28 at a Goodwill store, Gordon Parks High School and a 7 Mile Sportswear store, all on University Avenue in St. Paul.

The pair are in custody in California pending a detention hearing next week, the U.S. attorney’s office said. Attorneys listed for them did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Floyd, a Black man who was in handcuffs at the time, died May 25 after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on his neck for a number of minutes even as Floyd cried out that he couldn’t breathe. Widely seen bystander video sparked protests in the city, including violence, arson and theft, and quickly spread around the country.

— The Associated Press

Man sentenced for driving truck toward protestors

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A Virginia man was sentenced to three years in jail for brandishing a hatchet and driving his truck toward a group of Black Lives Matter protesters, according to a news report.

Emanuel “Manny” Wilder, 20, was sentenced Thursday and was also ordered to pay $1,856, the cost of his extradition from Florida, The Virginian-Pilot reported. Wilder was arrested in Lake City, Florida, last year after he failed to appear for trial in Virginia Beach.

The incident happened on May 31, 2020 near the Oceanfront boardwalk area in Virginia Beach, where Black Lives Matter protesters gathered to march against the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.

In court, Wilder was seen on video shirtless, wielding a hatchet and yelling racial obscenities at the group of protesters. In another video, he was seen driving his red pickup truck toward the group.

Virginia Beach District Court Judge Jon Babineau said Wilder “was acting in a totally irrational manner, full of hatred.”

Wilder pleaded guilty to all the charges against him, including reckless driving, using abusive language and two counts of failing to appear in court.

Defense Attorney Otis Forbes said Wilder suffered from post traumatic stress disorder stemming from a childhood issue but he wasn’t taking any medication at the time. Forbes also said Wilder went to Florida because he was “homeless” and had nowhere else to go.

— The Associated Press

State, nonprofit partner on vaccine outreach

HARTFORD, Conn. — Connecticut is partnering with a Hartford-based nonprofit organization, which advocates for health equity across the state, to reach out to more than 10,000 minority residents over the next three months and dispel myths about the COVID-19 vaccine.

The arrangement announced Friday is part of the state’s efforts to reach out to Black and Latino communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus and may be reticent to get vaccinated.

“We want to ensure that communities at highest risk have equitable access to the vaccines that will protect them and allow everyone to return to a sense of normalcy,” said Dr. Deidre Gifford, the state’s acting public health commissioner, in a statement. “The team at Health Equity Solutions will strengthen and enhance our outreach efforts in the Black and Latino communities.”

The organization plans to focus on faith-based and education-based networks to reach the widest audience possible, providing people with information about the vaccine.

There will be a particular focus on issues concerning distrust of the medical system within the state’s Black community. That distrust in the government and the medical community is often linked to the Tuskegee experiment, in which Black men in Alabama were left untreated for syphilis as part of a study that ran from the 1930s into the ‘70s.

Health Equity Solutions already hosted webinars that have reached more than 3,000 people, and more than 20 events have been scheduled, with more being planned.

“We wish there was not a pandemic at all, but we are ready, willing, and able to make sure that people have accurate information to make a timely decision that is best for themselves and their family,” said Dr. Tekisha Dwan Everette, the organization’s executive director.

— The Associated Press

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