Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice The latest news and updates on the struggle against racism in America.
A protester and a police officer shake hands during a June 2 solidarity rally in New York calling for justice over the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

Live Updates: Protests For Racial Justice

Latest news and updates on the struggle against racism in America

The WNBA announced it launched a Social Justice Council with a mission of raising awareness on issues concerning race, voting rights and LGBTQ+ advocacy. Icon Sportswire via Getty Images hide caption

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Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The WNBA announced it launched a Social Justice Council with a mission of raising awareness on issues concerning race, voting rights and LGBTQ+ advocacy.

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The WNBA season is schedule to tip off later this month, and players hope fans marvel at their precision passes, shooting accuracy and speed during a fast break. But the league also hopes to shine a spotlight on another type of movement: the call for social justice reform.

The league announced it is dedicating the 2020 season to address the nation's "long history of inequality, implicit bias and racism" that disproportionately impacts communities of color.

The season will highlight the Black Lives Matter movement and the Say Her Name campaign.

For the first weekend of the season, players may wear special uniforms honoring Breonna Taylor, a Black woman who was shot and killed by Louisville police executing a no-knock search warrant in March.

League officials say that players can choose to wear Taylor's name on their uniforms throughout the season.

The league and the players association are also in talks about how to honor other women and girls of color who are "the forgotten victims of police brutality and violence." A WNBA statement also names Sandra Bland and Vanessa Guillen, in addition to Taylor.

Guillen, an Army specialist, was last seen in April at Fort Hood in Texas. Last week, her remains were found near where she went missing. Bland died in 2015 police custody in Texas.

For the entire season, the WNBA says players will don warmup shirts with "Black Lives Matter" on the front and "Say Her Name" on the back. "Black Lives Matter" will also be displayed on the court during games.

"We are incredibly proud of WNBA players who continue to lead with their inspiring voices and effective actions in the league's dedicated fight against systemic racism and violence," WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said in a statement.

Nneka Ogwumike, the president of the league's players' association and a forward for the Los Angeles Sparks, called the effort "a pivotal moment" in modern sports history.

"With 140-plus voices all together for the first time ever, we can be a powerful force connecting to our sisters across the country and in other parts of the world," Ogwumike said.

The WNBA also announced the formation of the WNBA/WNBPA Social Justice Council, which plans to hold a series of conversations centered around race, LGBTQ+ advocacy, gun control and voting rights.

Las Vegas Aces forward Angel McCoughtry tweeted, "We have yet to scratch the surface into making a better America !"

"People have asked , what is putting the names on a jersey gonna do ? Well we plant seed for a better tomorrow. Yes , it takes time to grow but in due time amazing things will bloom," McCoughtry said.

Because of the ongoing concerns with the coronavirus, the WNBA season will be shortened and played at a "bubble" location in Florida. The NBA has similar plans.

The IMG Academy in Bradenton, about 45 miles south of Tampa, will host all 12 WNBA franchises for a 22-game regular season, followed by a traditional playoff format.

On Monday, the league announced seven out of 137 WNBA players tested positive for the coronavirus. The league said the tests were conducted between June 28 and July 5.

As NPR reported last week, the NBA has confirmed at least 25 of its players have tested positive for the virus. They are scheduled to resume their season in the Orlando area later this month.

All but one of the WNBA teams were scheduled to arrive early this week at the IMG Academy facilities.

The league said the Indiana Fever delayed their travel "at least five days in an abundance of caution," citing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's self-quarantine guidelines.

NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace stands during the national anthem before a NASCAR auto race Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. Darron Cummings/AP hide caption

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Darron Cummings/AP

NASCAR Cup Series driver Bubba Wallace stands during the national anthem before a NASCAR auto race Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis.

Darron Cummings/AP

Updated at 9:23 p.m. ET

President Trump followed up a pair of divisive speeches over the holiday weekend on Monday by castigating NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag and calling on its only Black driver to apologize for "a hoax" involving a rope fashioned into a noose that the FBI later determined wasn't a hate crime.

The comments — in a tweet about NASCAR and driver Bubba Wallace — were the latest in a series of inflammatory statements Trump has made that seem aimed at stoking his base, even as his job approval numbers hovered at their lowest level amid racial tensions over George Floyd's death and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

"Has @BubbaWallace apologized to all of those great NASCAR drivers & officials who came to his aid, stood by his side, & were willing to sacrifice everything for him, only to find out that the whole thing was just another HOAX? That & Flag decision has caused lowest ratings EVER!" the president tweeted Monday morning.

Later in the day, Wallace tweeted a response with the hashtag #LoveWins. He addressed it to "the next generation and little ones following my footsteps ... always deal with the hate being thrown at you with LOVE! ... Even when it's hate from the POTUS."

Last month, members of Wallace's team discovered the noose, which was found on the door of an infield garage stall assigned to the driver at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.

The following day, in a show of solidarity with Wallace, NASCAR drivers and teams pushed his No. 43 car down pit road at the speedway.

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However, FBI investigators later announced that the noose had been hanging in the garage since the last big race at the speedway in October, well before it was assigned to Wallace, and that the incident did not constitute a hate crime.

Wallace, who has been a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter protest movement and had called for banning the Confederate flag from NASCAR events, has accepted the FBI's conclusions.

Also following Trump's tweet on Monday, NASCAR reiterated its support for Wallace, saying on Twitter: "We are proud to have Bubba Wallace in the NASCAR family and we commend his courage and leadership. NASCAR continues to stand tall with Bubba, our competitors and everyone who makes our sport welcoming and inclusive for all racing fans."

Despite Trump's tweet, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the president was not taking a position on NASCAR's removal of the Confederate flag, but she defended his call for an apology from Wallace.

"The FBI ... has concluded that this was not a hate crime, and he believes it would go a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged this as well," she told reporters.

West Point Graduates' Letter Calls For Academy To Address Racism

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Stands remain empty as family members of United States Military Academy graduating cadets are restricted from attending commencement ceremonies on June 13 in West Point, N.Y John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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John Minchillo/AP

Stands remain empty as family members of United States Military Academy graduating cadets are restricted from attending commencement ceremonies on June 13 in West Point, N.Y

John Minchillo/AP

At the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., there is a stone memorial engraved with the names of graduates who fought and died in the Civil War for both the Union and the Confederacy.

Some recent West Point graduates want that to change, and they wrote a policy proposal outlining ways they say will help create an "anti-racist West Point."

In a 40-page document sent to West Point leaders, the alumni call for, among other things, removing names, monuments and art honoring the Confederacy; investigating the disciplinary system for racially discriminatory punishments; and improving anti-racism training.

"We are concerned that Black Cadets are experiencing racism in a manner inconsistent with the statement made by the Superintendent in a USA Today interview that the Academy 'does not have a systemic problem with racism,' " nine alumni write in a letter to West Point leaders. "We hope for West Point to become a place where that statement rings true and therefore want to partner with the Academy in striving for that."

The nine alumni are not speaking to journalists. But according to retired Capt. Mary Tobin, a mentor and former West Point cadet who is speaking on their behalf, they were inspired by a group of cadets in 1971 who wrote a manifesto that helped quash an effort by President Nixon to erect more Confederate statues at West Point.

"For cadets, especially cadets of color, addressing systemic racism is a part of a long legacy we have at West Point," she tells Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep.

Tobin says West Point does a "fantastic job" teaching military history and tactics. But recognizing former cadets who became Confederate soldiers — like Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, which was the name on the barracks she lived in while a cadet — is problematic.

"I am also from the South, I'm also a Black woman, and so it is in stark contrast to seeing these generals who sought to keep my ancestors enslaved being hailed in a place of honor," Tobin says.

So an "anti-racist West Point" will require, Tobin says, a declarative statement that racism will not be tolerated.

"From that policy then follows training. We have an honor code: A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do," she says. "We have an entire program devoted to that, funded and fully staffed. That should also happen in regards to issues of racism."

She recalls a complaint to her from one cadet in summer training. The cadet wore her hair in braids that conformed to Army regulations, but she was instructed to take them out. The cadet, Tobin says, even provided the officer with the regulation because "as Black women, we have to keep the regulation in our pockets," she says. "We know we're going to be confronted about our hair."

Nevertheless, she says, a "white leader demanded that she take her braids out inside of a port-a-potty. And besides the humiliation of having to go through that, this leader was wrong."

Barry Gordemer and Mohamad ElBardicy produced and edited this story for broadcast.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp slammed Atlanta officials who "have failed to quell ongoing violence" over an especially turbulent few months. Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images hide caption

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Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp slammed Atlanta officials who "have failed to quell ongoing violence" over an especially turbulent few months.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is activating up to 1,000 National Guard troops after a spate of shootings and protests in Atlanta over the weekend. Five people died, including an 8-year-old girl, and at least 30 people were injured. The Republican governor issued an executive order Monday that would send the National Guard to protect the state Capitol, the Governor's Mansion and the Department of Public Safety's headquarters, where close to 100 demonstrators set fire to part of the building early Sunday morning.

In the order, Kemp slammed Atlanta officials who "have failed to quell ongoing violence" over an especially turbulent few months that have seen the resignation of the police chief, increased sickouts of officers and two officers charged in connection with the killing of a Black man.

"Peaceful protests were hijacked by criminals with a dangerous, destructive agenda," Kemp said. "Now, innocent Georgians are being targeted, shot and left for dead. ... Enough with the tough talk — we must protect the lives and livelihoods of all Georgians."

The Atlanta Police Department is offering a reward in the killing of 8-year-old Secoriea Turner, who was shot Saturday night near the Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks was killed by a white police officer on June 12. Sunday evening, a visibly frustrated Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms decried the violence that rocked the city over the Fourth of July weekend, asking for information about a group of armed individuals who blocked the road before firing into the car and striking Secoriea.

"Enough is enough," Bottoms said. "We have talked about this movement that is happening across America at this moment in time when we have the ears and the interest of people across this country and across this globe who are saying they want to see change."

Less than 24 hours later, a 53-year-old man was also killed near where Secoriea died.

Bottoms, who is considered to be a contender as former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate in this year's presidential election, received praise for her earlier handling of protests following the death of George Floyd but now faces criticism for the increase in crime.

On Monday, Atlanta police erected concrete barriers around the burned-out restaurant and cleared out protesters and items left at a makeshift memorial.

The Manhattan district attorney says he will prosecute Amy Cooper, who called police after a black man asked her to leash her dog in New York's Central Park. Christian Cooper/AP hide caption

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Christian Cooper/AP

The Manhattan district attorney says he will prosecute Amy Cooper, who called police after a black man asked her to leash her dog in New York's Central Park.

Christian Cooper/AP

A white woman who called the police and claimed a Black man was threatening her after he asked her to put her dog on a leash in New York's Central Park will be prosecuted over the incident, Manhattan's district attorney said Monday.

"Today our Office initiated a prosecution of Amy Cooper for Falsely Reporting an Incident in the Third Degree," Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance Jr. said in a statement.

If convicted of the Class A misdemeanor, Cooper could face up to one year in jail, a fine or both.

The woman's behavior as she called the police has been widely criticized as racist at a time when the U.S. is facing a broader conversation over its legacy of racial injustice.

The incident between her and Christian Cooper, who is Black and not related, took place in a wooded area of the park that requires dogs to be leashed at all times.

Christian Cooper, an avid bird-watcher, recorded a portion of their interaction on his cellphone. It was later posted to social media and went viral.

The dispute prompted widespread discussion about incidents in which white people have called law enforcement to report people of color, and Black people in particular, for seemingly innocuous activities.

The encounter between two took place on May 25, the same day that George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis. Floyd, a Black man, died after a white officer knelt on his neck for several minutes. Floyd's death was also captured on cellphone video, and the now-former officer faces a second-degree murder charge.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office said Amy Cooper is scheduled to be arraigned on Oct. 14. It did not immediately provide further information about the case.

"I would like to encourage anyone who has been the target of false reporting to contact our Office," Vance said. "We are strongly committed to holding perpetrators of this conduct accountable."

The viral video

In Christian Cooper's video, Amy Cooper approaches him as she holds the dog's leash in one hand and pulls her dog by the collar with the other.

At one point Christian Cooper says to her, "Please don't come close to me."

She asks him to stop recording, and when he does not heed to that warning, she tells him that she'll call the police on him.

"Please call the cops," Christian Cooper says to her.

She obliges.

"I'm in the Ramble, and there's a man, African American, he's got a bicycle helmet. He's recording me and threatening me and my dog," she says.

Christian Cooper never appears to come closer to her. After repeating herself to the emergency dispatch operator, Amy Cooper begins yelling in the phone with more panic in her voice.

"I'm sorry. I can't hear. Are you there? I'm being threatened by a man into the Ramble. Please send the cops immediately!" she screams.

After the woman is seen putting her dog on its leash, the video ends.

Amy Cooper was fired from her job at the investment management firm Franklin Templeton after the video went viral.

She later told CNN in a statement, "I'm not a racist. I did not mean to harm that man in any way." She also said she didn't intend to hurt the African American community.

Christian Cooper told NPR in May that what she did was "pretty crappy without a doubt." But he said he wasn't sure the response to her actions had been proportionate.

"I'm not sure that her one minute of poor decision-making, bad judgment and, without question, racist response necessarily has to define her completely."

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms condemned weekend violence that included the killing of an 8-year-old girl. "You can't blame this on a police officer," Bottoms said. "You can't say this is about criminal justice reform." Andrew Harnik/AP hide caption

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Andrew Harnik/AP

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms condemned weekend violence that included the killing of an 8-year-old girl. "You can't blame this on a police officer," Bottoms said. "You can't say this is about criminal justice reform."

Andrew Harnik/AP

"Enough is enough," Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said after an 8-year-old girl was killed and more than 20 other people were reported injured over a violent Fourth of July holiday weekend.

The Atlanta Police Department is offering a reward of up to $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest or indictment of those responsible in the child's killing.

Secoriea Turner was shot near the Wendy's restaurant where Rayshard Brooks was killed last month after a confrontation with police.

At an emotional Sunday evening press conference, Bottoms acknowledged the simmering tensions between Atlantans who have protested for weeks against police brutality. She said the recent spate of shootings in the city is a result of "members of the community shooting each other."

"You can't blame this on a police officer; you can't say this is about criminal justice reform. This is about some people carrying some weapons who shot up a car with an 8-year-old baby," Bottoms said. "We are doing each other more harm than any police officer on this force."

She also said the violence threatens to derail the overall message promoted by the largely peaceful protests, which gained momentum in Atlanta and in many cities across the nation following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

"If you want people to take us seriously ... and you don't want us to lose this movement, then we can't lose each other in this," Bottoms said.

Charmaine Turner, the child's mother, pleaded with the public to help find those responsible.

"Help me, help my baby," Turner said during the media briefing. She added if Secoriea were still alive at this time, she would likely have just finished dinner and would be recording a video of herself dancing.

"We understand the frustration of Rayshard Brooks," Turner said. "We ain't got nothing to do with that. We innocent."

She added, "Somebody knows something."

According to Atlanta's interim police chief, Rodney Bryant, a man driving with Turner and her daughter attempted to pull into a parking lot on Saturday evening "when he was confronted by a group of armed individuals who had blocked the entrance."

"At some point," the chief continued, "someone in the group opened fire on the vehicle, striking it multiple times, striking the child who was inside."

Bryant said, "We cannot tolerate this level of lawlessness. We cannot tolerate losing a child from the city of Atlanta."

In separate violence over the weekend, a 53-year-old man was also shot and killed near the same Wendy's. The area near the fast-food restaurant, which was burned in the aftermath of Brooks' killing, has been the scene of recent protests.

On Monday, Atlanta police and other city officials began removing items such as flowers left in front of the restaurant to memorialize Brooks, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tweeted, "While we stand ready to assist local leaders in restoring peace & maintaining order, we won't hesitate to take action without them."

Last week, a Fulton County Superior Court judge allowed the former Atlanta police officer accused of shooting and killing Brooks to be released from jail on a $500,000 bond.

A statue of the abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass, pictured here, was torn from its base in Rochester, N.Y., on the anniversary of his famous speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?" AP hide caption

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AP

A statue of the abolitionist and writer Frederick Douglass, pictured here, was torn from its base in Rochester, N.Y., on the anniversary of his famous speech "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?"

AP

A statue of Frederick Douglass, installed in 2018 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the abolitionist's birth, was ripped from its pedestal in Rochester, N.Y., on Sunday — the 168th anniversary of one of Douglass' most famous speeches.

"Are the great principles of political freedom and natural justice, embodied in that Declaration of Independence, extended to us?" Douglass asked in his "What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July" address on July 5, 1852, in Rochester.

"I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary!" the former slave declared in the speech to the Rochester Ladies' Anti-Slavery Sewing Society. "Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us."

Douglass lived in Rochester for decades, and the statue was one of 13 monuments to him erected throughout the city.

The statue was found about 50 feet away from its base in Maplewood Park, just beyond a fence near the Genesee River gorge. It "had been placed over the fence to the gorge and was leaning against the fence," Rochester police said in a statement, reported by the Democrat & Chronicle.

A finger on the statue's left hand was damaged, as well as the lower part of the statue and its base. Carvin Eison of the Re-Energizing the Legacy of Frederick Douglass Project, which brought the statues to the city, told the newspaper that the statue is too badly damaged to be repaired and will need to be replaced.

"Is this some type of retaliation because of the national fever over confederate monuments right now?" Eison told local TV station WROC. "It's beyond disappointing."

Rochester Police have not publicly identified any suspects. Nothing else in the park was found to be vandalized or graffitied, and no one so far has claimed responsibility for the damage to the statue of Douglass.

In a tweet, President Trump blamed "anarchists" for the vandalism. "This shows that these anarchists have no bounds!" he said.

The death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25 sparked protests and tributes in Minneapolis and across the country. All four officers involved were fired and now face criminal charges. Jim Mone/AP hide caption

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Jim Mone/AP

The death of George Floyd in police custody on May 25 sparked protests and tributes in Minneapolis and across the country. All four officers involved were fired and now face criminal charges.

Jim Mone/AP

A third former Minneapolis police officer involved in the killing of George Floyd has been released from jail.

According to Hennepin County jail records, Tou Thao was released from custody with conditions on Saturday morning after posting $750,000 bond.

Thao, 34, faces charges of aiding and abetting second-degree murder while committing a felony, as well as aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter with culpable negligence. He has not yet entered a plea.

He is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 11.

Thao is one of the four officers accused in the May 25 death of George Floyd, which sparked protests against racism and police brutality across the country and around the world. All have since been fired and are facing criminal charges.

Derek Chauvin, the officer captured on camera kneeling on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes, was charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter. He remains in custody on $1.25 million bail.

Video of the incident shows Chauvin continuing to press his knee on Floyd's neck, despite repeated pleas by Floyd that he couldn't breathe. The other three officers did not intervene.

According to a criminal complaint filed in June, Thao brought out a hobble restraint to use on Floyd, but the officers decided not to use it and instead "maintained their positions." The complaint describes how Thao stood guard against onlookers as the three other officers held Floyd down by the legs, back and neck.

"The defendant then became concerned about a number of citizens who had gathered and were watching the officers subdue Mr. Floyd, and potential traffic concerns, and so the defendant stood between those citizens and the three officers."

The other two ex-officers, J. Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane, face the same charges as Thao and have already been released on bond.

A Minnesota judge recently set a tentative trial date of March 8 for all four men, but said he expects their attorneys to file motions for separate trials.

Thao joined the Minneapolis Police in 2009, but was laid off that year due to budget cuts and reinstated in 2012. He had six police conduct complaints on his record, one of which was still open at the time of his firing.

Thao was also a subject of a 2017 police brutality lawsuit, which alleged that he and another officer beat a plaintiff during his arrest in 2014, breaking his teeth while he was handcuffed. The city settled the lawsuit for $25,000.

Remains of the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy in Baltimore after it was ripped from its pedestal by protesters on Saturday. Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images hide caption

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Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images

Remains of the Christopher Columbus statue near Little Italy in Baltimore after it was ripped from its pedestal by protesters on Saturday.

Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS via Getty Images

Protesters in Baltimore pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus and hurled it into the city's Inner Harbor on Saturday night, adding to the list of monuments toppled during nationwide demonstrations against racism and police brutality.

In videos posted to social media, protesters can be seen using ropes to yank down the statue — located near the city's Little Italy neighborhood — before throwing it into the harbor amid cheers.

According to the Baltimore Sun, they were marching in support of the reallocation of funds from the police department to social services, a reassessment of the public education system, reparations for Black people, housing for the homeless and the removal of statues "honoring white supremacists, owners of enslaved people, perpetrators of genocide, and colonizers."

While the 15th-century Italian explorer credited with discovering the New World was once widely hailed as a hero, his legacy is increasingly one of violence against and exploitation of native people.

Lester Davis, a spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young, told the Sun the toppled statue is part of a "re-examination taking place nationally and globally around some of these monuments and statues that may represent different things to different people."

"We understand the dynamics that are playing out in Baltimore are part of a national narrative," Davis said. "We understand the frustrations. What the city wants to do is serve as a national model, particularly with how we've done with protesting. We've seen people who have taken to the streets, we have supported them. We are going to continue to support it. That's a full stop."

Protesters in Baltimore pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus and threw it in the harbor on July 4. It had stood near the city's Little Italy neighborhood since 1984, when it was unveiled by public figures including President Ronald Reagan. Lana Harris/AP hide caption

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Lana Harris/AP

Protesters in Baltimore pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus and threw it in the harbor on July 4. It had stood near the city's Little Italy neighborhood since 1984, when it was unveiled by public figures including President Ronald Reagan.

Lana Harris/AP

The marble statue toppled Saturday night depicts Columbus facing east into the rising sun, and was dedicated by former Baltimore Mayor William Donald Schaefer and President Ronald Reagan in Oct. 1984. It is one of three monuments to Columbus in the city.

The Italian community holds a wreath-laying ceremony in the area around the statue before the annual Columbus Day Parade, which was replaced by a new Italian Heritage Festival in 2019.

"I support Baltimore's Italian-American community and Baltimore's indigenous community. I cannot, however, support Columbus," said Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott. In a statement issued on Saturday night, he said he suggested the statue be removed in 2017.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan condemned the statue's removal in a series of tweets on Sunday morning, calling it "the antithesis of democracy."

"While we welcome peaceful protests and constructive dialogue on whether and how to put certain monuments in context or move them to museums through a legal process, lawlessness, vandalism, and destruction of public property is completely unacceptable," he wrote.

Baltimore is not the only city grappling with Columbus' controversial legacy.

The city of Philadelphia recently announced it will ask the Philadelphia Art Commission on July 22 to approve the removal of a Columbus statue from Marconi Plaza.

And statues of the explorer have recently been taken down or vandalized in cities including Richmond, Va.; St. Paul, Minn.; New Haven, Conn.; Boston; Miami and Columbus, Ohio.

Updated 2:30 a.m. ET Sunday

One person has been killed and one hospitalized in serious condition after a vehicle barreled past a police barrier and into protesters on a freeway in Seattle this weekend.

24-year-old Summer Taylor died Saturday evening at Harborview Medical Center, according hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg. Diaz Love, 32, remains in serious condition.

The Washington State Patrol said Saturday that the driver of the white Jaguar sedan, a 27-year-old man, is in custody. At this point, officers have not offered a motive, though Capt. Ron Mead said officers believe the suspect was not impaired.

At a news conference early Saturday, Mead did not offer further details on how authorities believe the man bypassed a police closure to reach the victims. But he warned that the incident offers a stark lesson for protesters.

"My hope is, as a result of this tragedy, protesters will reconsider their desire to be on the interstate," he said, "because I cannot guarantee their safety, plain and simple."

Several graphic videos of the incident hit social media shortly afterward. In one, the sedan careens past a cluster of vehicles blocking its way, appearing to swerve back into the pair of victims. They're flung skyward off the car's hood before tumbling back down to the surface of Interstate 5.

Another video livestreamed a long, uneventful record of the protest — until, in the final 15 seconds, someone begins to scream, "Car! Car! Car!" The footage ends with the screech of brakes slicing through a swirl of screams and unfocused images.

The incident comes just days after Seattle authorities dismantled a blocks-long zone that had been set aside for protests against police brutality and racial injustice. Since early June, the Capitol Hill Organized Protest zone had been home to demonstrations demanding changes to policing and funding cuts to the police force.

The site was closed because it had become "lawless and brutal," Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best explained this week, noting that shootings in the zone had resulted in two deaths. But the closure has failed to halt protesters from gathering across the city, including on the freeway.

Mead said Saturday that protesters have forced a closure on Interstate 5 every day for nearly three weeks. The freeway, however, is "simply not a safe place" for protesters to gather, he added.

Since nationwide protests erupted in late May, there have been reports of at least 50 vehicle-ramming incidents — many of which were suspected attacks by right-wing extremists targeting Black Lives Matter protesters.

"The message they're trying to send is, 'You need to get out of the street and stop these protests,' " Ari Weil, the terrorism researcher at the University of Chicago who compiled those statistics, told NPR last month. "They're trying to intimidate the most recent wave of BLM protesters, to stop their movement."

Washington's NFL franchise announced Friday that it will conduct a thorough review of its name. Head coach Ron Rivera said in a statement that the name issue "is of personal importance to me." Nick Wass/AP hide caption

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Nick Wass/AP

Washington's NFL franchise announced Friday that it will conduct a thorough review of its name. Head coach Ron Rivera said in a statement that the name issue "is of personal importance to me."

Nick Wass/AP

Updated at 9:35 p.m. ET

The Washington Redskins football team is conducting a "thorough review" of its name, an apparent break from the NFL franchise's longtime resistance to consider such a move.

A short time later, Major League Baseball's Cleveland Indians said it would consider the "best path forward with regard to our team name." It said the team wants to embrace responsibility to advance social justice.

Friday's announcement by the Washington team came a day after FedEx, the title sponsor of the team's stadium, said it requested that the team change its name.

"In light of recent events around our country and feedback from our community, the Washington Redskins are announcing the team will undergo a thorough review of the team's name," the franchise said in a statement. "This review formalizes the initial discussions the team has been having with the league in recent weeks."

Team owner Dan Snyder, who has previously resisted changing a name that many find offensive to Native Americans, said: "This process allows the team to take into account not only the proud tradition and history of the franchise but also input from our alumni, the organization, sponsors, the National Football League and the local community it is proud to represent on and off the field."

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell says the league backs the team's review.

"In the last few weeks we have had ongoing discussions with Dan and we are supportive of this important step," Goodell said in a statement, according to NFL.com.

In 2015, a federal judge ruled that the franchise's trademark should be cancelled because the name "may disparage" Native Americans. But two years later, the group of Native Americans who had sued dropped their legal fight after the Supreme Court ruled in a separate case that federal trademark protections couldn't be denied over the use of disparaging and offensive terms.

"Although a poll taken in 2016 found that most Native Americans did not find the team's name offensive, a survey published by the University of California at Berkeley earlier this year showed that nearly half of 1,000 Native Americans polled agreed or strongly agreed that the name of the Washington team is offensive," NPR's Scott Neuman has reported.

In recent days, corporate sponsors have put pressure on the team to ditch the name.

On Thursday, FedEx issued a one-sentence statement saying it had "communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name."

FedEx paid $205 million in the late 1990s for the naming rights to the team's stadium in Landover, Md. And company CEO Fred Smith is a minority owner of the team.

Earlier this week, AdWeek reported that 87 investment firms and shareholders worth $620 billion sent letters asking FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo to stop doing business with the team if it doesn't find a new name.

The letter to Nike cited the Black Lives Matter movement and said that "we are witnessing a fresh outpouring of opposition to the team name."

"Therefore, it is time for Nike to meet the magnitude of this moment, to make their opposition to the racist team name clear, and to take tangible and meaningful steps to exert pressure on the team to cease using it."

In Friday's announcement, Washington head coach Ron Rivera said, "This issue is of personal importance to me and I look forward to working closely with Dan Snyder to make sure we continue the mission of honoring and supporting Native Americans and our Military."

A general view of FedEx Field in Landover, Md. Mark Tenally/AP hide caption

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Mark Tenally/AP

A general view of FedEx Field in Landover, Md.

Mark Tenally/AP

FedEx, the title sponsor of the Washington Redskins' stadium, is asking the team to change its name following a report that investors are lobbying for the company to cut ties with the National Football League team.

FedEx, which paid $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights to the team's stadium in Landover, Md., said in a statement on Thursday that it had "communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name."

The request follows a report in AdWeek on Wednesday that letters signed by 87 investment firms and shareholders worth $620 billion had asked FedEx, Nike and PepsiCo to cut business ties with the team unless it agrees to the name change.

FedEx CEO Fred Smith is a minority owner of the team. However, the majority owner, Daniel Snyder — who bought the team in 1999 — has shown no inclination to change the name.

A letter to Nike from investors cited Black Lives Matter as having "focused the world's attention on centuries of systemic racism."

"[We] are witnessing a fresh outpouring of opposition to the team name," it said. "Therefore, it is time for Nike to meet the magnitude of this moment, to make their opposition to the racist team name clear, and to take tangible and meaningful steps to exert pressure on the team to cease using it."

Although a poll taken in 2016 found that most Native Americans did not find the team's name offensive, a survey published by the University of California at Berkeley earlier this year showed that nearly half of 1,000 Native Americans polled agreed or strongly agreed that the name of the Washington team is offensive.

The controversy over the name has gone on for years. But the recent Black Lives Matter protest has provided a new impetus for change.

An NFL official confirmed Thursday that the league intends to play "Lift Every Voice and Sing," often called the Black national anthem, at each team's season opening game after "The Star Spangled Banner."

In another sign of change, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell last month said that he would welcome former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick back in league three years after the quarterback was effectively shut out of the NFL for calling attention to racial injustice by taking a knee during the pregame rendition of the national anthem.

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" will be performed live or played before every NFL season opening game, starting on Sept. 10. Tom Puskar/AP hide caption

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Tom Puskar/AP

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" will be performed live or played before every NFL season opening game, starting on Sept. 10.

Tom Puskar/AP

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" will be played or performed live before every Week 1 NFL game, as the league considers ways to recognize victims of systemic racism.

The song known as the Black national anthem will play at the start of every season opener game, coming before "The Star Spangled Banner," a source familiar with the league's discussions told NPR.

The song will be played beginning Sept. 10, with the nationally televised Kansas City Chiefs vs. Houston Texans game. It will also play during the full slate of Sunday afternoon games, Sunday Night Football and the two ESPN Monday night games.

The league has been in discussions on the subject with the National Football League Players Association.

Other items being discussed include on-uniform elements like names of victims on helmet decals or jersey patches, educational programs and storytelling, for example, in the form of public service announcements about victims and their families.

The move highlights how the landscape of the NFL is changing in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd and nationwide protests against racial injustice.

In June, several current players collaborated on a video called "Stronger Together," which named Black victims of police brutality and called on the NFL to publicly condemn racism, admit wrongdoing for preventing players from peacefully protesting and affirm that Black lives matter.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell issued a statement the following day, condemning the systematic oppression of Black people and saying the league was wrong for not listening to players' concerns about racism and police brutality.

"Without Black players, there would be no National Football League," he said. "And the protests around the country are emblematic of the centuries of silence, inequality and oppression of Black players, coaches, fans and staff."

He added he would reach out to players and others on how the league can "improve and go forward for a better and more united NFL family."

The league is also making a financial commitment to social justice, announcing a $250 million effort over 10 years to support programs addressing "criminal justice reform, police reforms and economic and educational advancement."

"Lift Every Voice and Sing" was written as a poem by NAACP leader James Weldon Johnson, and set to music by his brother John Rosamond Johnson in 1899.

It was first performed in 1900 at a segregated school in Florida by a group of children commemorating the birthday of President Abraham Lincoln. Subsequent landmark performances in the intervening decades include those by Kim Weston in 1972, Melba Moore in 1990, Gladys Knight and BeBe Winans in 2012 and Beyoncé in 2018.

"Black communities across the globe continue to be vulnerable in very unique and unsettling ways," Shana Redmond, a professor at UCLA who studies music, race, and politics, told NPR in 2018. "To sing this song is to revive that past — but also to recognize, as the lyrics of the song reveal, that there is a hopeful future that might come of it."

NPR's Tom Goldman contributed to this report.

What Happened For Black Transgender People When Police Protests And Pride Converged

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On June 14, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to rally for Black trans lives in the Brooklyn Liberation march. Imara Jones/Courtesy Imara Jones hide caption

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Imara Jones/Courtesy Imara Jones

On June 14, an estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to rally for Black trans lives in the Brooklyn Liberation march.

Imara Jones/Courtesy Imara Jones

June 2020 was a pride month that looked different from past years, and not just because people were socially distancing and wearing masks: Demonstrations for LGBTQ equality overlapped with protests against violence and systemic racism against Black people.

At the intersection of these two fights for equality are Black transgender people.

Imara Jones, an independent journalist and founder of TransLash media, told NPR's All Things Considered, that this moment has been "a crucible."

"The marriage of these two issues at the same time has been incredibly intense, but if you look at the history of the two movements, in many ways it makes sense that they actually are occurring at the same time," Jones said. "They have so many cross links. People involved in one were involved in the other. They both have similar roots in terms of what they are all about."

Jones was referring to the Stonewall riots — in which police violently raided New York's Stonewall Inn on June 28, 1969. The resulting protests, which were led by Black and brown transgender and nonbinary people, focused on police brutality and led to the first Pride march one year later.

She said that "in a much larger frame, it makes sense" that the Black Lives Matter movement and the LGBTQ movement have converged. "But it has been incredibly intense." In June alone, at least four Black trans women were killed: Dominique "Rem'mie" Fells, Riah Milton, Brayla Stone and Merci Mack.

Fifty years after the Stonewall riots, on June 14, 2020, organizers estimated 15,000 people gathered in Brooklyn to march for Black trans lives in the Brooklyn Liberation rally. It's believed to have been the largest ever gathering in support of Black trans people.

"Black trans people are the most marginalized of the marginalized in every single way that's imaginable," Jones said. "And of course the irony, as well, of this moment is that the very people who helped to start the fight for LGBTQ rights have not benefited from the movement that they started."

There's one message Jones wants people to remember as the movement for equality continues on all fronts: Trans people are people.

"I think that what happens is that we're so easily caricatured and dehumanized, and so once we dismiss people, we don't hear them, we don't believe that their concerns are valid, we don't look to hire or to fight for equality, and so I think that's the most important thing," Jones said. "And the second thing is that when we leave certain groups of people behind, the rights of everyone are fragile. You should care about us if you care about yourself."

Jonaki Mehta, Vincent Acovino and Sarah Handel produced and edited the audio version of this story.

Reformed Neo-Nazi Discusses President Trump's Controversial Shared Retweet

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A demonstrator makes the OK hand gesture believed to have white supremacist connotations during the End Domestic Terrorism rally in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 17, 2019. John Rudoff/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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A demonstrator makes the OK hand gesture believed to have white supremacist connotations during the End Domestic Terrorism rally in Portland, Ore., on Aug. 17, 2019.

John Rudoff/AFP via Getty Images

When Christian Picciolini was a neo-Nazi, he heard the term "white power" all the time. It was the term neo-Nazis used as a greeting, as a pejorative, to instill fear, even to sign off letters in lieu of "sincerely."

"It was also a proclamation that distilled what we believed in into two words," Picciolini — who is now an author and founder of the Free Radicals Project, a group that works to prevent extremism — told NPR's Morning Edition.

"It was always used in a way that was a white supremacist manner," he says. "Not in a sense that black power is used as a cry for equity and a cry against white supremacy. White power has always been used as kind of a bludgeon and not as anything other than that."

When President Trump on Sunday retweeted a video in which an alleged supporter yelled "white power," Picciolini didn't want to speculate what the president was thinking. But what struck him, he says, "is that this has been a pattern."

"This hasn't been the first time that the president has tweeted something that has come from a white supremacist or that has had a white supremacist message, whether it's talking about a conspiracy theory that's connected to white genocide or whether it's using pejorative language to describe other people," Picciolini said. "What is intentional, I believe, is the goal to instill fear. We're seeing a lot more language that is racist, especially with the use of social media, and he is emboldening that kind of language through his tweets."

Trump later deleted the tweet, but he has not publicly apologized for it or condemned the racist term in the video. In a statement, Judd Deere, the White House deputy press secretary, said the president "did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters."

In the weeks since protests over police brutality began sweeping the nation, the president has called statues of Confederate generals "beautiful," labeled some protesters "THUGS" and said he would unleash "vicious dogs" and "ominous weapons" against them.

"I think what President Trump is, is a megaphone," Picciolini said. "It's as if Trump kicked over a bucket of gasoline on all of those small fires that have existed for 400 years and created one large forest fire."

Extremism researchers worry that far-right militants and white supremacists are looking for ways to exploit political turmoil in the U.S. as a way to further inflame racial divides. It's a dynamic Picciolini called "absolutely frightening."

"It is ingrained in their ideology that a race war will come one day," Picciolini said. "That there will be civil unrest that they will be able to take advantage of. And they're seeing everything line up, from the pandemic, to unemployment, to disappearing middle class, to a very heated and contested election that is coming up. This is almost a perfect storm for this type of civil unrest that they've been talking about for decades that it seems to them that it's almost a reality."

Ryan Benk and Matt Kwong produced and edited the audio version of this story.

The FBI has reported a surge in background checks for gun sales. Here, firearms are for sale at a shop in New Castle, Pa. Keith Srakocic/AP hide caption

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Keith Srakocic/AP

The FBI has reported a surge in background checks for gun sales. Here, firearms are for sale at a shop in New Castle, Pa.

Keith Srakocic/AP

In a year marked by coronavirus fears, a slowing economy and nationwide protests calling for an end to systemic racism, more and more Americans are looking to arm themselves, according to a key government indicator.

The FBI reported that Americans set a new record of 3.9 million background checks to purchase or possess firearms in June. That eclipsed the previous record set in March of 3.7 million background checks.

In fact, seven of 1o highest weeks for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which is run by the FBI and was launched in 1998, have come this year. This includes the first four weeks in June.

Illinois registered the highest number of background checks last month, with 706,404. That state was followed by Kentucky (395,188), Texas (227,232), and Florida (210,415). California rounded out the top five background checks with 158,349.

By comparison, Washington, D.C., had 897 for the month of June, while Hawaii tallied 1,660 background checks and Vermont had 4,920, according to the FBI data.

"Civil unrest, rioting, looting and calls to defund police are unquestionably motivating factors of why this trend is increasing," said Mark Oliva of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a firearm industry trade association.

"Americans are right to be concerned for their personal safety. It's entirely reasonable that law-abiding citizens are exercising their Constitutional right to purchase a firearm to protect themselves," he said in a written statement to NPR.

NSSF's own figures, which it says are adjusted to reflect the background checks "that are coded for the sale of a firearm" show that June 2020 represented a 135.7% increase compared to June 2019.

Oliva expects that this year will see the highest number of background checks ever recorded.

"For years, the gun lobby has marketed guns using baseless, unwarranted, and exaggerated fear — fear of crime, fear of the government, even fear of a zombie apocalypse," said David Chipman, a senior policy advisor at Giffords, which promotes gun control.

"There is no doubt that this is driving the record-breaking surge in gun sales we've seen over the last few months in this country," he told NPR.

Kris Brown, the president of Brady, which is focused on ending gun violence, said pro-gun groups "have promulgated a fear of uncertainty laced with racist overtones and tropes for years."

"That this occurred during a month where we saw nationwide, peaceful demonstrations against police violence and gun violence inflicted on Black Americans and other people of color in this country cannot go overlooked," Brown said in a statement to NPR.

She added that bringing a firearm into the home does not necessarily make it more secure, and pointed out that unintended shootings claim hundreds of lives annually.

Gun sales do not precisely correspond to the number of background checks. "Multiple guns can be sold in a single check, and many checks are conducted for purposes other than sales, such as permit applications," as The Trace pointed out. The federal government does not track firearms sales, it added, so the FBI's figures provide "the best available proxy for firearms commerce."

The system also does not account for private gun sales, which do not require a background check in some states.

Research from Small Arms Analytics, a firm that studies the economics of small arms and ammunition markets, estimated the FBI's June figures translates into roughly 2.4 million unit sales.

As NPR reported last year, the federal background check system functions much the same way it has when it was first established. When a person wants to purchase a firearm, a federally-licensed gun dealer contacts the system and typically within a few minutes federal investigators begin looking for indicators to approve or deny the purchase.

If additional research needs to be conducted, the purchase can be delayed for up to three business days. If those investigators cannot complete the additional background check within three days, the firearm transfer can go through, in what is known as a "default proceed."

Boston officials have decided to remove the sculpture Emancipation Monument which has stood in Park Square since 1879. It depicts a formerly enslaved man kneeling before Abraham Lincoln. Jesse Costa/WBUR hide caption

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Jesse Costa/WBUR

Boston officials have decided to remove the sculpture Emancipation Monument which has stood in Park Square since 1879. It depicts a formerly enslaved man kneeling before Abraham Lincoln.

Jesse Costa/WBUR

Members of the Boston Art Commission voted unanimously Tuesday evening to remove Boston's copy of Thomas Ball's sculpture Emancipation Memorial from Park Square. The work depicting a formerly enslaved man at the feet of Abraham Lincoln has stood there since 1879.

As with Confederate memorials around the country, this sculpture has been controversial for years. The original in Washington, D.C., was funded by formerly enslaved people, but designed without their input.

The commission heard nearly two hours of public comment for and against removal.

Boston artist Tory Bullock said the sculpture is a whitewashed portrayal that denigrates an entire group of people.

"This is a frozen picture. This man is kneeling, he will never stand up," Bullock said. "This image is problematic because it feeds into a narrative that Black people need to be led and freed. A narrative that seems very specific to us for some reason. Why is our trauma so glorified?"

A Howard University student and Massachusetts resident named Hannah Bessette called the statue demeaning. "Regardless of what the intentions were," she said, "It is important to note the intentions were white based intentions. As it was a white created statue."

A handful of people who spoke at the meeting were in favor of keeping the sculpture where it is and adding context. But, commission member Robert Freeman said he had changed his mind after listening to two mothers in another recent virtual meeting. They spoke of bringing their sons to see the sculpture. The boys immediately noticed the shirtless Black man with broken shackles on his wrists and ankles.

"And their son said, 'that statue looks like dad. And the other said it looks like me,'" Freeman said. "And then I realized that changing the inscription is not going to change the visual power of what art does. So I have changed my mind. I am for now the removal of the statue to a safe place."

Brandeis University Emeritus Professor Ibrahim Sundiata believes the sculpture belongs in a museum. He's a scholar who's written extensively on West African and African-American history. He grew up in Washington, D.C., and says he used to walk past the statue nearly every day. As a kid, Sundiata said he thought it was creepy.

"I'm for preserving this statue, which troubled my five-year-old mind, my six-year-old mind, and is still in my memory at the same time," Sundiata said. "It needs to have people talk about where the pose came from, why the statue was paid for by freed men, and basically how that pose, those attitudes continue, how this sort of white paternalism informs us."

Commission Vice Chair and artist Ekua Holmes says she imagines the newly emancipated people who funded this sculpture would have chosen different imagery for themselves, if they'd had the choice. Something more aspirational, more self-determining, she said. Something timeless.

"Public art is storytelling at the street level. As such, the imagery should strike the heart and engage the mind," Holmes said. "...What I heard today is that it hurts to look at this piece, and in the Boston landscape we should not have works that bring shame to any groups of people, not only in Boston but across the entire United States."

The city hasn't decided where to store the statue and what will replace it.

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, outside the White House in Washington, D.C., last week. Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images hide caption

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Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Chad Wolf, acting secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, outside the White House in Washington, D.C., last week.

Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The federal agency charged with preventing terrorist attacks and securing the border announced Wednesday that it would deploy personnel across the country to carry out President Trump's orders to protect statues and monuments from vandalism amid ongoing protests for racial justice.

Acting Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf said the department has established a Protecting American Communities Task Force to secure historic landmarks against "violent anarchists and rioters."

"DHS is answering the President's call to use our law enforcement personnel across the country to protect our historic landmarks," Wolf said in a statement. "We won't stand idly by while violent anarchists and rioters seek not only to vandalize and destroy the symbols of our nation, but to disrupt law and order and sow chaos in our communities."

"As we approach the July 4th holiday, I have directed the deployment and pre-positioning of Rapid Deployment Teams (RDT) across the country to respond to potential threats to facilities and property," he said. "While the Department respects every American's right to protest peacefully, violence and civil unrest will not be tolerated."

The announcement follows Trump's executive order issued last week after protesters attempted to pull down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson near the White House.

"I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues - and combatting recent Criminal Violence," Trump tweeted Friday afternoon.

Wolf said the task force "will conduct ongoing assessments of potential civil unrest or destruction and allocate resources to protect people and property."

"This may involve potential surge activity to ensure the continuing protection of critical locations," he said, adding that DHS and the Departments of Justice and Interior would share intelligence for the purpose.

Earlier this week, Wolf tweeted that the effort to protect monuments was being coordinated among DHS agencies, including the Federal Protective Service, Secret Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protection and the Transportation Security Administration.

Last month, ICE and CBP personnel were dispatched to respond to unrest resulting from the police killing of George Floyd.

Work crews remove the statue of Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson on Wednesday in Richmond, Va. The city's mayor, Levar Stoney, has ordered the immediate removal of multiple Confederate statues in the city, saying he was using his emergency powers to speed up their removal for public safety. Steve Helber/AP hide caption

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Steve Helber/AP

Updated at 4:53 p.m. ET

Virginia's capital city began taking down its statue of Stonewall Jackson after Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the immediate removal of multiple Confederate statues in Richmond.

A crane and a cherry picker swiftly arrived on the city's Monument Avenue to remove the statue of the Confederate general. Crowds gathered to watch and cheer the crew's work, reported Mallory Noe-Payne of NPR member station WVTF.

Stoney says he has the powers to remove the statues immediately because of powers he holds during a declared state of emergency.

In an interview Wednesday afternoon with NPR, Stoney said he had moved quickly to remove the statue for public safety and other reasons.

"We've had 33 days of unrest," the mayor said. "It's time. It's time to move beyond the lost cause and embrace the righteous cause. We can be more than just the capital of the Confederacy. It's time for us to be the capital of compassion."

Earlier in the day, Stoney had sought approval from the Richmond City Council for the immediate removal of the city-owned Confederate statues, arguing that they posed a threat to public safety.

While many council members voiced full support for the mayor's proposal, procedural issues caused them to push a vote on the matter until Thursday, to allow enough time for public notice. Interim City Attorney Haskell Brown warned that the mayor's going ahead with emergency statue removal would be contrary to the legal advice he has offered previously.

Stoney says that he will work with the council in the coming weeks on a public process to determine the ultimate fate of the statues. Until then, the monuments will go into storage.

Monument Avenue's Robert E. Lee statue is owned by the state. Gov. Ralph Northam is trying to remove it, but that effort has been blocked by an injunction from a Richmond judge. A statue of Jefferson Davis was toppled by protesters last month, leaving Monument Avenue with two other city-owned statues of Confederate figures still standing: J.E.B. Stuart and Matthew Fontaine Maury.

City Council member Michael Jones was among those watching the statue come down on Wednesday. He said the protesters who have been rallying for racial justice in Richmond are a manifestation of what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the beautiful community."

"That's what he was shooting for," Jones told CBS station WTVR. "Out here in the streets protesting you have black young men and women, white young men and women, Latinx young men and women, Asian. Everyone is gathering together to say, 'Black Lives Matter' and that white supremacy cannot exist and should not exist in this country."

"I'm proud of everything young Richmonders have done to get us to this point, to where we can truly say that Virginia is for lovers."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown here at an event last month, defended the move to shift funds away from the city's police department. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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John Minchillo/AP

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, shown here at an event last month, defended the move to shift funds away from the city's police department.

John Minchillo/AP

The New York City Council approved an $88.1 billion budget overnight that includes shifting roughly $1 billion away from the New York Police Department.

For the past week, the city has seen "defund NYPD" demonstrations, where crowds have gathered at City Hall and outside of the residences of some members of the city council.

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Bill de Blasio defended the budget cuts to the city's police department, saying he's "very comfortable we struck the right balance."

"We are reducing the size of our police force by not having the next recruit class. We are reducing our overtime levels. We're shifting functions away from police to civilian agencies," de Blasio said.

"We think it's the right thing to do. It will take work. It will take effort and we're going to be reforming that work in the meantime," he added.

Protesters signs hang on the gate in City Hall Park during the Occupy City Hall protests that say, "Defund NYPD" and "BLM" with NYPD police officers in the background. Ira L. Black - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images hide caption

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Ira L. Black - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

Protesters signs hang on the gate in City Hall Park during the Occupy City Hall protests that say, "Defund NYPD" and "BLM" with NYPD police officers in the background.

Ira L. Black - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

The mayor also noted that $500,000 that was earmarked for NYPD major projects will now be redirected to youth centers and expanded access to high speed internet for public housing residents, something he called "a huge reinvestment in communities while we still stay safe as a city."

President Trump blasted the city's move to slash the NYPD's budget, tweeting Wednesday, "This will further antagonize New York's Finest, who LOVE New York." He added, "Spend this money fighting crime instead."

The president also described the city's plan to paint of "Black Lives Matter" along Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as a "symbol of hate."

During the city council meeting, which started Tuesday and lasted until early Wednesday, members passed the budget in a vote of 32-17.

New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson disputed that the reductions to the police department actually amounted to $1 billion, "because he didn't consider fringe benefits and other items cited by the mayor to be actual reductions," as WNYC's The Gothamist reported.

"To everyone who is disappointed we did not go farther, I am disappointed as well," Johnson said about the NYPD's budget, the member station reported. "I wanted us to go deeper. I wanted larger headcount reductions, I wanted a real hiring freeze. But this budget process involves the mayor, who is not budging."

The overall fiscal 2021 budget is a reflection of the stark realities brought on by a $9 billion loss in revenue amid the coronavirus pandemic, which forced most the city's economy to shut down in the spring.

The move to cut NYPD's budget follows nationwide protests calling for policing reforms after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

Justice Committee, one of the many advocacy groups calling for defunding of the NYPD, called the budget a "racial and economic justice litmus test." It said that both de Blasio and Johnson "have demonstrated that they don't value Black and Brown lives."

The budget will eliminate two of the usual four new classes of police officers this year, reducing the department's officers by more than 1,100. It also shifts school safety and homeless outreach away from police.

The mayor urged those who say city officials should have gone further to "be more honest in their assessments" of the budget.

"It's not easy to say we're going to have 1,163 fewer police officers and we're going to have to make it up a lot of efficiencies and redeployments," de Blasio said.

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin speaks onstage during the 11th Annual Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on October 27, 2019 in Hollywood, Calif. Kevin Winter/Getty Images hide caption

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin speaks onstage during the 11th Annual Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on October 27, 2019 in Hollywood, Calif.

Kevin Winter/Getty Images

After longstanding criticism over its lack of diversity, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is continuing to invite more women and minorities to its membership.

Of the 819 artists and executives invited to join in 2020, the Academy says 45 percent are women and 36 percent are from underrepresented ethnic and racial communities. Among those invited to join are actors Awkwafina, Cynthia Erivo and Eva Longoria, Native American director Sterlin Harjo and executive Ozzie Areu who, along with his brother Will, are the first Latinxs to own and operate a film and TV studio in the United States.

In 2019, of the 842 invited to join the Academy, 50 percent were women and 29 percent were minorities.

In a statement, Academy President David Rubin says, "The Academy is delighted to welcome these distinguished fellow travelers in the motion picture arts and sciences. We have always embraced extraordinary talent that reflects the rich variety of our global film community, and never more so than now."

"Always" is a bit of a stretch. Eddie Murphy joked about the Oscars' lack of recognition of Black people as far back as 1988. Kim Basinger called it out in 1990. Halle Berry in 2002. In 2012, the Los Angeles Times surveyed some 5,000 Academy members and discovered that 93 percent were white, 76 percent were male and the average age was 63 years old.

Five years ago, calls to boycott the Oscars and the #OscarsSoWhite campaign seemed to be the tipping point for the Academy to face the glaring disparity. In 2016, the Hollywood institution announced an initiative to double the number of women and underrepresented ethnic/racial communities by 2020. While this week's announcement moves the Academy closer to that goal, it remains largely white and male overall. According to The New York Times, "only 19 percent of the current members are people of color while just 33 percent of Oscar voters are female."

April Reign, the founder of #OscarsSoWhite, says that despite having five years "to show meaningful commitment to issues of inclusion and diversity, the Oscars nomination and voting process still results in little more than a popularity contest amongst older white men."

One of the Academy's new members, writer, director and producer Lulu Wang tweeted that she is "honored" to join the Academy. "Though there is still much work to be done," Wang writes, "this class looks more like an actual jury of our PEERS than ever before."

"Black Lives Matter" has already been added to Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Manhattan may be next up in New York City, but President Trump has denounced a plan to have the words painted on Fifth Avenue. John Minchillo/AP hide caption

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John Minchillo/AP

"Black Lives Matter" has already been added to Fulton Street in Brooklyn. Manhattan may be next up in New York City, but President Trump has denounced a plan to have the words painted on Fifth Avenue.

John Minchillo/AP

Updated at 5:18 p.m. ET

President Trump rebuked New York City's plan to paint "Black Lives Matter" on Fifth Avenue, calling it a "symbol of hate" in a Wednesday morning tweet.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio spoke about the plan in an interview Wednesday with MSNBC, saying he intends to have the words painted on the street where Trump Tower sits.

Trump said doing so would amount to "denigrating this luxury Avenue" and would "further antagonize" police.

On MSNBC, de Blasio also announced changes to the city's police department.

"We're taking a billion dollars out of the NYPD. We're reducing the size of the NYPD, we're reducing overtime, we're moving some of the functions NYPD does now — they will be replaced by civilians handling those functions who can do them better. And we're going to take that money and put it into youth initiatives," he said.

As for painting "Black Lives Matter" on the famous street — an action that has sprung up elsewhere amid nationwide protests, including near the White House — de Blasio said he intends to send a message to Trump.

"It's an important message to the whole nation, and obviously we want the president to hear it because he's never shown respect for those three words. When he hears 'Black Lives Matter,' he presents a horrible, negative reality of something that doesn't exist, and he misses the underlying meaning that we're saying we have to honor the role of African Americans in our history and in our society," he said. "We have to make it come alive today so we're going to make it really clear to the president, it's going to be right outside his doorstep."

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters during a briefing on Wednesday that the president was referring to the organization "Black Lives Matter" when he called it a symbol of hate.

"All black lives do matter, he agrees with that sentiment, but what he doesn't agree with is an organization that chants 'pigs in a blanket, fry 'em like bacon' about our police officers, our valiant heroes that are out on the street protecting us each and every day," she said.

Late Tuesday night, Trump threatened to veto a must-pass defense bill over an amendment to rename military bases named after Confederate generals.

The bipartisan amendment was approved last month in the Senate Armed Services Committee and is part of legislation that also includes a pay raise for troops and improvements to military housing.

The annual defense bill typically passes with broad bipartisan support, and it's possible it could be approved later this month by the Senate with a veto-proof majority. The House version is expected to include a similar provision.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., dared Trump to make the threat hours before the president tweeted.

"I dare President Trump to veto the bill over Confederate-base naming," Schumer said at a press conference. "I think the bottom line is what's in the bill will stay in the bill."

Trump has recently defended the existence of Confederate monuments and statues as demonstrators across the country have taken to the streets to protest white supremacy and police brutality following the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other Black Americans at the hands of police.

On Sunday, Trump retweeted a video, apparently taken at The Villages retirement community in Florida, in which a man who appears to be a Trump supporter shouts "white power" to a group of protesters.

Trump deleted the tweet a few hours later.

White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere did not condemn the racist term in the tweet but instead said, "President Trump is a big fan of The Villages. He did not hear the one statement made on the video. What he did see was tremendous enthusiasm from his many supporters."

A protester and a police officer shake hands during a June 2 solidarity rally in New York calling for justice over the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

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