The Latest: Portland mayor seeks to avoid ‘autonomous zone’

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Kelli Ann Thomas

Kelli Ann Thomas, a candidate for Community Council, sorts signs before the start of a Workers First Caravan, Wednesday, June 17, 2020, in Miami. The caravan was part of a nation-wide effort to urge those in government to implement policies that further economic and racial justice. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

TOP OF THE HOUR:

— Portland, Oregon, police clear protesters from potential “autonomous zone.”

— Nashville police chief announces retirement.

— JP Morgan Chase, other banks to recognize Juneteenth.

— Indianapolis sued for using tear gas, projectiles at protests.

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PORTLAND, Ore. — Police in Portland, Oregon, say they cleared an area in the city’s Pearl District early Thursday when demonstrators tried to set up an “autonomous zone” similar to what protesters have enacted in Seattle.

Police declared a civil disturbance and unlawful assembly at 5:30 a.m. after hundreds of demonstrators tried to gather and camp.

Once the declaration was announced, police said the approximately 50 people remaining in the area left. Authorities say one person was arrested.

In Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, protesters have cordoned off several blocks near a police station. Police have largely retreated from the area and city officials say they continue to communicate with protest leaders, who say they are maintaining the space peacefully.

The “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone has been criticized by President Donald Trump and others. Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said he didn’t want any similar protest zone to happen in Oregon’s largest city.

“I do not want an autonomous zone set up in Portland,” he told reporters. “I want to state unequivocally — I absolutely do not support that.”

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The police chief of Tennessee’s capital city has announced he will retire amid calls for his resignation.

Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson will step down after a national search for a new chief is completed, Mayor John Cooper said in a statement Thursday. Cooper said Anderson, who took over as chief in 2010, intended to retire after serving 10 years in the role.

“Over the next several months, my office will organize input from the entire community as we find the right leader for this next chapter of community safety in Nashville,” Cooper said.

The announcement comes days after more than a dozen city officials signed a resolution seeking to oust Anderson.

Anderson has been criticized in recent years, with activists and some city leaders saying he has resisted change and transparency. Calls for his resignation have intensified amid a wave of protests calling for police reforms.

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NEW YORK – A growing number of banks have announced they will close early on Friday in observance of Juneteenth.

It’s the latest example of corporate America moving toward recognizing the unofficial holiday.

JPMorgan Chase, along with PNC, Santander and others, will close their branches and call centers to observe the holiday. Employees at the bank will be paid in full for the half-day off.

“Closing the branches enables many of our colleagues to join in the celebration and reflect on not only America’s achievements, but also its enduring effort to acknowledge its flaws and become a better nation,” said JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, in a note to employees Wednesday.

Juneteenth commemorates June 19, 1865, when the Union army brought word of the Emancipation Proclamation to enslaved people in Texas. It is celebrated as the end of slavery in the United States. Many states recognize the holiday, but it has never been a federal holiday.

Banks have typically followed federal government guidelines on when to keep branches open or not. But the nationwide protests since the death of George Floyd have led to several companies to reexamine previously held positions.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Protesters who faced tear gas from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department while demonstrating against police brutality sued the city Thursday to halt the use of the chemical agents and projectiles.

The federal lawsuit was filed on behalf of Indy10 Black Lives Matter and individual protesters by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana. It argues that the use of chemical agents and projectiles for crowd control violates the First Amendment. IMPD has used tear gas and pepper balls against protesters during several demonstrations following the shooting death of Dreasjon Reed by an Indianapolis police officer and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

“Excessive use of force against protesters chills free speech, and widens the rift of distrust between communities and the police that are sworn to serve them,” Ken Falk, legal director at the ACLU of Indiana, said in a statement.

The city’s Office of Corporation Counsel declined to comment on the lawsuit

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SEATTLE — The largest labor group in the Seattle area has expelled the city’s police union, saying the guild failed to address racism within its ranks.

The vote Wednesday night by the King County Labor Council to exclude the Seattle Police Officers Guild comes after weeks of protests in the city over police brutality and racism following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Local elected leaders are reluctant to go against the umbrella group of more than 150 unions and 100,00 workers.

“Any union that is part of our labor council needs to be actively working to dismantle racism in their institution and society at large,” the labor council wrote on Twitter after the vote. “Unfortunately, the Seattle Police Officer’s Guild has failed to do that work and are no longer part of our council.”

A labor council representative says the police guild could be readmitted at some point in the future.

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PLAQUEMINE, La. — A parish in southeastern Louisiana voted unanimously to remove a statue of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse.

The Iberville Parish Council voted Tuesday night to move the statue, which has stood for more than a century. The Advocate reports at the base of the statue are the words: “The principles for which they fought live eternally.”

It’s not clear when the statue will be removed. The newspaper says the statue’s removal was put on the council’s agenda at the request of the parish’s president. Members of the public gave comment during Tuesday’s meeting.

“It shows that we’re actually moving forward finally and getting things done,” said council member Raheem Pierce. “We need to create new symbols together: white and black, Republican and Democrat.”

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MIAMI — The Miami-Dade County school board has approved anti-racism instruction as part of the curriculum in one of the nation’s largest school districts.

Board members voted 8-1 late Wednesday, saying Miami-Dade schools need to firmly combat racism.

“It is hard to take a stance that talks about the wrongs of 400-plus years, and I know what people are going to say ‘Well, I didn’t do it. It wasn’t my fault.’ But what is it that we do? What do we tell our children?” said Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, one of two black board members.

Some members said they fielded hundreds of calls and emails over the proposal, apparently prompted by a misinformation campaign accusing them of trying to indoctrinate children.

Marta Perez, the only member who voted against it, said she received angry calls because of her opposition to the curriculum change. She says the district should focus instead on academics and existing initiatives that already emphasize inclusion.

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CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Commissioners in the West Virginia county, where Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson was born, have voted to keep his statue outside the courthouse.

The Harrison County Commission voted 2-1 Wednesday against a motion to return the equestrian statue to the Daughters of Confederacy, which gifted it to the county in 1953, West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported.

Commissioner David Hinkle voted in favor of removing it, saying he was “very ashamed of the backbone” of the commission following the vote.

Nearly 20 people asked commissioners to let the statue stand or have voters decide its fate. About a dozen others called for its removal, including two speakers who said they were Jackson’s relatives, The Exponent Telegram reported.

Colin Grant Jackson joined the virtual meeting from Illinois, saying he’s a Civil War buff.

“But I also believe that a heroic statue of his cause in front of the courthouse sends a very specific message of white supremacy against the black population of the county.”

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LEXINGTON, Ky. — A virtual city council meeting in Kentucky was interrupted Wednesday night by people making racial and homophobic slurs.

The Zoom meeting with the Lexington-Fayette Urban County council members was an open forum for the public to discuss police reform.

“As offensive as these comments are, I think there are a lot of our community members who hear them more often than we do,” Council member Mark Swanson, who is white, said during the meeting. “I think it’s a painful lesson for those of us who look like me on the council.”

One participant in the meeting, AJ Vaughn, said it was “disheartening” that “people can say such things and not have their faces shown.”

The Lexington Herald-Leader reported it was an open forum after a six-hour council meeting Tuesday to discuss police accountability didn’t leave time for public comment. Lexington Vice Mayor Steve Kay said the council was unable to screen the calls Wednesday.

Lexington police say they were investigating the calls.

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WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump weighed in on the shooting of Rayshard Brooks and the Atlanta police officer charged Wednesday with felony murder during an interview on Fox News.

Trump said “you can’t resist a police officer” and said he heard an explanation from Garrett Rolfe’s lawyer that the officer heard a sound like a gunshot and saw a flash in front of him.

“I don’t know that I would have necessarily believed that, but I will tell you, that’s a very interesting thing and maybe that’s so,” Trump said. “They are going to have to find out. It’s up to Justice right now. It’s going to be up to Justice. I hope he gets a fair shake because police have not been treated fairly in our country. They have not been treated fairly.”

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SEATTLE — Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes says his lawyers will review all the misdemeanor cases referred to his office involving peaceful protesters and some could be dismissed or referred to a restorative-justice program.

The Seattle Times reports Holmes said Wednesday that after weeks of anguished demonstrations over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and the killing of other black people around the country, it is plain to him that peaceful protesters should not be prosecuted despite having been arrested during events that have sometimes devolved into violent and destructive confrontations with Seattle police and supporting law enforcement agencies.

Thirty-seven misdemeanor cases have been referred to Holmes’ office for offenses such as obstructing police, failure to disperse and resisting arrest. Most of the arrests came in the week after the first Seattle protest on May 29, four days after Floyd died after a Minneapolis officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck as he pleaded for air.

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A private college in West Virginia said Wednesday it is removing the name of the late U.S. Sen. Robert C. Byrd from its health center, saying his name had caused “divisiveness and pain” without explicitly noting his complicated past on racial matters.

Byrd was a member of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1940s but subsequently denounced the organization. He served in the Senate for 51 years and died in 2010 at age 92.

Bethany College President Tamara Rodenberg said on the school’s website that Byrd’s name will be removed from the college’s Robert C. Byrd Health Center “to demonstrate Bethany College’s capacity to change, to listen, and to learn.”

Bethany’s statement did not specifically mention Byrd’s past ties to the Klan.

“Our lives are marked by decisions, by actions, and by grace, and today we embrace all three in a tangible, visible way at our beloved Bethany College,” Rodenberg wrote.

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