TOP OF THE HOUR:
— Georgia man facing upgraded charges for ramming his ATV into an Atlanta policeman during a protest.
— Group of Minneapolis police officers say they’re ready to back police chief’s promised overhaul of the department.
— Lafayette Park fencing near White House being taken down.
ATLANTA — Charges have been upgraded against a 42-year-old man accused of deliberately running his ATV into an Atlanta police officer during a protest of police brutality and the death of George Floyd.
In a statement Thursday, Atlanta police spokesman Carlos Campos said Avery Goggans, of Stone Mountain, faces new charges of aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony.
Campos said the new charges were filed because Goggans had tried to hit two other officers at different intersections before he rammed into Officer Maximilian Brewer in downtown Atlanta on the night of May 30. Brewer suffered significant injuries to his legs.
Goggans was initially charged with DUI, reckless driving, possession of marijuana, and other traffic offenses including serious injury by vehicle, Campos said.
HOUSTON — Two statues that pay tribute to the Confederacy will be removed from Houston city parks, Mayor Sylvester Turner announced Thursday.
The statue of a Confederate soldier called “Spirit of The Confederacy” will be moved from Sam Houston Park to the Houston Museum of African American Culture. Ann Stern, president of a museum benefactor, says the statue will be able to be interpreted in a way that promotes an inclusive and anti-racist community,
A statue of a Confederate artillery commander prominent in the naval victory against two Union vessels in the Battle of Sabine Pass will be moved from Hermann Park to the Sabine Pass Battleground State Historic Site near Port Arthur, Texas.
The relocations were recommended by a city task force Turner appointed to consider the issue.
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Kentucky’s governor has asked a state commission to vote to remove a statue of Jefferson Davis from the Capitol’s Rotunda, a day after another statue of the Confederate president was toppled by protesters in Virginia.
Gov. Andy Beshear’s request comes amid a rapidly unfolding protest movement to pull down Confederate monuments around the U.S. after the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minnesota.
The Davis statue is one of several in the Rotunda and is located not far from a bronze likeness of Abraham Lincoln. Both Civil War adversaries were born in Kentucky.
The Democratic governor calls the statue a divisive symbol, saying it has to go and expects a vote Friday in favor of moving it.
MINNEAPOLIS — A group of Minneapolis police officers is condemning the officer charged with murder in George Floyd’s death and say they’re ready to back the police chief’s promised overhaul of the department.
Fourteen officers signed an open letter Thursday addressed to “Dear Everyone — but especially Minneapolis citizens.”
The letter said Officer Derek Chauvin “failed as a human” and “stripped George Floyd of his dignity and life.”
Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder in Floyd’s May 25 death for pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes as he lay handcuffed. The letter makes no mention of three other officers charged with aiding and abetting.
The officers signing the letter said they represent “hundreds” of other officers.
NEW ORLEANS — The New Orleans police chief steadfastly defended his department’s use of tear gas against protesters last week and said tried to forcefully cross a police line and cross a Mississippi River bridge.
Under sharp questioning Thursday from New Orleans City Council members, Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said from 100 to 200 protesters had tried to force the issue when police blocked passage on an approach to the bridge.
Ferguson said during an online meeting that violence erupted after the protesters tried to break the front line.
The virtual meeting was held as about 300 people gathered outside City Hall for a “Defund the Police” rally.
Police abuse has long resounded in New Orleans, where the deaths of unarmed civilians at the hands of police following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 led to federal investigations and court-ordered reforms.
MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said at a news conference Thursday afternoon that there will be legal consequences for the people who lassoed and pulled down a statue of Columbus on the Minnesota state capitol grounds in St. Paul on Wednesday evening.
But lieutenant governor Peggy Flanagan, a Native American from the White Earth Band of Ojibwe, made clear that she was glad to see it go. She chairs a board with oversight over the Capitol grounds and had been trying for years to get it removed.
She later said the explorer’s legacy was “setting in motion generations of violence, rape, and genocide against indigenous people. Placing a statue of a historical figure on the Minnesota state capitol grounds confers honor to their legacy. There is no honor in the legacy of Christopher Columbus,” she said.
WASHINGTON — Workers on Thursday began removing the tall black chain-link fence from the north side of Lafayette Park, allowing access to the historic protest space directly in front of the White House.
A senior member of DC Mayor Muriel Bowser’s staff tweeted a video Thursday afternoon showing the fence being removed in sections. Bowser’s government has repeatedly requested the removal.
The fence was erected late at night on June 1, a few hours after U.S. Park Police and other security forces used smoke bombs, pepper pellets, and officers on horseback to violently clear peaceful protesters so President Donald Trump could stage a brief photo opportunity in front of St. John’s, a historic church that had been damaged in the protests.
The fence instantly became a forum for hundreds of signs, portraits, and pieces of protest art. Earlier this week volunteers began removing and preserving the artwork and signs.
The National Park Service confirmed the removal of the fencing around the park’s perimeter but said some temporary fencing would remain until damaged areas can be repaired.
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — An Alabama comedian who spoke at a rally following the police killing of George Floyd was arrested on a charge of inciting a riot by police who contend he helped spark a night of violent unrest in Birmingham.
Jermaine Johnson surrendered to police on the misdemeanor charge on Tuesday and paid a $500 bond before being released, his lawyer, Emory Anthony, told al.com.
Anthony said he was surprised that police decided to charge Johnson, who’s known for his videos about the University of Alabama football team.
Johnson spoke at a peaceful rally in a downtown park on May 31 before a crowd went a few blocks away to Linn Park, where a Confederate monument was badly damaged. People later spread out through the area, smashing windows, setting fires and looting despite cautionary words in Johnson’s speech.
The damaged obelisk was removed.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — The South Dakota town where George Floyd’s uncle lives is seeing a renewed controversy over its police department logo amid calls for the removal of the Confederate flag across the country.
Floyd’s uncle Selwyn Jones tells the Rapid City Journal that he’d like his hometown of Gettysburg to change the logo that adorns police cars and officer patches. It’s been in place since 2009 and features an American flag alongside a Confederate flag.
Mayor Bill Wuttke says he will not remove the flag from the logo and maintains it represents history. He says the reason it was put on had nothing to do with racism.
SEATTLE — Police have largely withdrawn from an area of the Capitol Hill neighborhood in Seattle that has been transformed into a festival-like scene of murals, street merchants, and a rotating group of public speakers.
The “Capital Hill Autonomous Zone” sprung up after police on Monday removed barricades near the East Precinct and basically abandoned the structure after officers used tear gas, pepper spray and flash bangs over the weekend to disperse demonstrators they said were assaulting them with projectiles during demonstrations in the wake of the death of George Floyd.
Across several blocks, dozens of people now show up to listen to speakers calling for police reform, racial justice, and compensation for Native American groups on whose land the city was founded.
BOSTON — Statues and historic sites in Boston that are seen as symbols of oppression are being targeted for change.
Mahtowin Munro, a spokeswoman for United American Indians of New England, said in a statement Thursday that a park with a statue of Christopher Columbus “should be a public place that feels welcoming to everyone in Boston, not a place that is a tribute to a genocidal monster.”
Mayor Marty Walsh told protesters he’s open to at least considering a name change for Faneuil Hall, where rebellious colonists plotted independence from Britain. The meeting hall and its marketplace are major tourist draws and were built with financing from merchant Peter Faneuil, who owned and traded slaves.
Activists are lobbying to have the site renamed to honor Crispus Attucks, a black man widely considered to be the first American casualty of the Revolutionary War. Kevin Peterson, the founder of the New Democracy Coalition that’s pushing for the name change, calls the building “a symbol of white supremacy.”
NEW YORK — Democratic lawmakers are again calling on the military to rename two streets at a base in Brooklyn.
A letter to Defence Secretary Mark Esper says soldiers “deserve to serve on bases that honor their ancestors’ contributions to our nation, not those who fought to hold those same ancestors in bondage.”
The streets are General Lee Avenue and Stonewall Jackson Drive at Fort Hamilton, the city’s last remaining active-duty military base.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said Thursday that “nothing should be named after Robert E. Lee at this point in history.”
ALBANY, N.Y. — New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he supports the statue of Christopher Columbus that stands in the middle of Columbus Circle in Manhattan.
Cuomo, who is Italian-American., says he understands “the feelings about Christopher Columbus and some of his acts, which nobody would support.”
But Cuomo says the statue has come to represent and signify appreciation for the Italian American contribution to New York,” and for that reason he supports it.
MADISON, Wis. — The mayor of Madison has apologized for a private message to the city’s police force in which she sympathized with officers dealing with the civil unrest that followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
The private video was made public Tuesday when it was posted on Facebook and drew criticism from social justice advocates.
On Wednesday, Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway apologized publicly saying she failed to make it clear in her message to police that black lives matter, the State Journal reported.
Peaceful protests in Madison following Floyd’s death May 25 were marred by several nights of looting and break-ins near the Capitol.
MIAMI — The head of Florida’s largest police department says his agency will stop using chokeholds.
Alfredo Ramirez, director of the Miami-Dade Police Department, says the applied carotid triangle restraint won’t be used, and the decision was based on feedback from the community and police professionals.
He says: “As a progressive agency, we must remain in a constant state of review and open to emerging best practices and community feedback.”
Demonstrators around the U.S. have been calling for police reforms following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In 2014, Eric Garner died in New York City after being placed in a chokehold by a police officer.
MIAMI — Miami police say seven people have been arrested for vandalizing statues of Christopher Columbus and Juan Ponce de León.
The arrests happened Wednesday when several police cars pulled up and had a confrontation with protesters, the Miami Herald reported. Some demonstrators in Bayfront Park had spray-painted statues of Columbus and Ponce de León with “George Floyd,” “BLM” (Black Lives Matter), and a hammer and sickle.
Miami police say officers who responded to the scene were assaulted and a car was damaged. Video from the Herald shows police chasing protesters and several being shoved by police, some to the ground.
Police say in a news release there’s “zero tolerance” for property damage or hurting the public or officers.
Richard Dombroff, a demonstrator, told officers with a bullhorn, “We’ve been peaceful all week long and you just broke that peace.”
The rally was held to honor 18-year-old Israel “Reefa” Hernandez, who died after police used a stun gun on him in 2013.
The Associated Press