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'CMT Celebrates Our Heroes' with TR, Kane, Luke Combs, Sam Hunt, FGL and more

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CMTIf 2020 had gone as planned, the annual CMT Music Awards would’ve been passed out at Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on Wednesday night. The COVID-19 pandemic, however, made that impossible, bringing the virtual CMT Celebrates Our Heroes: An Artists of the Year Special in its place. 

The two-hour extravaganza featured much-loved covers appropriate to the times, as well as several songs inspired by life during coronavirus.

Darius Rucker lent his baritone to Randy Travis‘ “Forever and Ever, Amen,” while Kelsea Ballerini took on the Carole King/James Taylor classic, “You’ve Got a Friend.” Sam Hunt did a deep dive into Bruce Springsteen‘s catalog for “Jack of All Trades,” tipping his hat to “American resolve.” 

Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire highlighted the contributions of educators, while Thomas Rhett gave a shout-out to his daughters’ teachers before doing his uplifting single, “Be a Light.” Luke Combs reminded us to stay “Six Feet Apart,” while Florida Georgia Line got patriotic on “U.S. Stronger.” 

Keith Urban thanked those who keep the food cycle going, while Blake Shelton profiled the town of Kodiak, Alaska, where they’ve transformed schools into food pantries. Brothers Osborne gave two frontline workers in their Delaware hometown $25,000 each. 

Performances by Little Big TownLady AntebellumMiranda Lambert and Tim McGraw rounded out the night, with Jason AldeanZac Brown, and actor Sean Penn making appearances as well.  

Kane Brown closed the evening with “Stand by Me.” 

You can visit CMTOneCountry.com to find out more about how you can help, as America continues to battle COVID-19. 

By Stephen Hubbard
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

 

What is antifa? Behind the group Trump wants to designate as a terrorist organization

No Comments National News

Jennifer Kovalevich/iStockBy ALEXANDER MALLIN, ABC NEWS

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump’s repeated threats to formally designate antifa as a terrorist group have generated new questions about the nature of the movement and how, or even whether, officials could clearly define members of what has been described by experts as more of an ideology than an organization.

“It’s not one specific organization with a headquarters and a president and a chain of command,” said Mark Bray, a history professor at Rutgers University and author of “The Anti-Fascist Handbook.” “It’s a kind of politics. In a sense, there are plenty of antifa groups, but antifa itself is not a group.”

That description is largely in line with how federal law enforcement has interpreted the antifa movement, leading up to this week’s protests, which in certain instances have devolved into violence, looting and vandalism. Experts on antifa, which is shorthand for “anti-fascism,” say the movement originates with groups that opposed World War II-era dictators like Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler.

While Attorney General William Barr in a statement Sunday denounced “violence instigated and carried out by antifa and other similar groups,” the Justice Department as of Wednesday has not made public direct evidence showing widespread involvement by avowed antifa supporters in instigating the violent scenes that have unfolded throughout the U.S.

In the several federal cases brought thus far against those involved in riots or arsons, antifa has not yet been cited as among the affiliations or inspirations of the individuals charged.

In an appearance before the Senate last year, FBI Director Christopher Wray was pressed as to why federal agents haven’t sought to mount an organized crime investigation of antifa related to its members’ attacks at rallies and other alleged criminal acts.

“For us, antifa we view as more of an ideology than an organization,” Wray said. “We have quite a number though, I should tell you, of properly predicated investigations of what we categorize as ‘anarchist extremists,’ people who are trying to commit violent, criminal activity that violates federal law, and some of those people do subscribe to what we would describe as — to what we would refer to as kind of an antifa-like ideology.”

Though the FBI has said it is seeking information on “violent instigators who are exploiting legitimate, peaceful protests and engaging in violations of federal law,” it has not issued a public statement since the start of the national unrest singling out antifa.

Antifa movements in the U.S. can be traced back as early as the 1970s, according to historians, but Bray writes in his book that the Anti-Racist Action (ARA) groups in the late 1980s and 1990s — with their actions to directly confront racists, neo-Nazis and white supremacists and stymie their recruitment efforts — were the primary precursors for antifa in its current iteration.

While antifa’s political leanings are often described as “far-left,” experts say members’ radical views vary and can intersect with communism, socialism and anarchism.

Antifa has attracted more public attention in recent years both in the U.S. and abroad for its militant followers’ provocations and, in some cases, violent attacks at political rallies and protests.

“Essentially there’s this belief that the only way to prevent fascism from rising and taking charge is to combat those who support fascism, physically and often in the street,” said Oren Segal, the vice president of the Center on Extremism at the Anti-Defamation League. “There’s a lot of people who don’t like Nazis and fascists — most people I would argue. What makes [antifa] different is that there are some guiding principles, if you will, and that’s the concept of, you know, a physical confrontation in order to combat a fascist.”

A 2018 Congressional Research Service report outlined four “obligations” that antifa groups typically encourage of their followers, including, “(1) track the activity of fascist groups, (2) oppose their public organizing, (3) support antifascist allies attacked by fascists or arrested by police, and (4) not cooperate with law enforcement.”

“Antifa followers tend not to accept that the conventional capacities of American society will thwart the rise of fascist movements,” the report says. “They lack faith in the ability of federal, state, or local governments to properly investigate or prosecute fascists who break the law, especially during shows of force at public marches.”

Perhaps the most famous confrontation came during 2017’s Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., when violence erupted between white nationalists, neo-Nazis and counter protesters, which included some supporters of antifa.

President Trump’s first public mention of antifa came just two weeks after the rally as he faced major backlash over his response to the protests and the killing of Heather Heyer by an avowed neo-Nazi.

“You know, they show up in the helmets and the black masks, and they’ve got clubs and they’ve got everything — antifa!” Trump said during a campaign rally that month.

In the two years since, antifa supporters have engaged in similar skirmishes typically targeting far-right or alt-right protests at Berkeley, California, Stone Mountain, Georgia, and Portland, Oregon, among other cities.

But antifa supporters’ activities are far from restricted to political rallies, Bray said.

“Most of what they do entails researching who far-right groups are, figuring out who their leaders are and notifying their employers and their communities,” Bray said. “So it’s a lot of a kind of private investigator work that sometimes spills out into the streets with confrontations.”

Even as antifa has generated an increasing amount of attention and scrutiny in recent years, Bray said its lack of an official structure makes it difficult to estimate how many Americans it might count among its “members,” who are mostly spread out across secretive local chapters.

“These groups tend to be very small, in large part because they’re concerned about infiltration from law enforcement or the far right,” Bray said. “Some groups don’t even allow new members in order to prevent that, and the ones that do heavily vet the new members over the course of months and years to make sure that they have a full commitment, just to keep the numbers small.”

Such an approach, though, has created opportunities that groups opposed to antifa can try to exploit. Just this week, Twitter moved to disable an account that appeared to represent a violent antifa group after it was determined to be a front account for a white nationalist group. Prior to being taken down, U.S. law enforcement had called out the group specifically as an example of a left-wing group trying to incite violence.

Bray said, however, that he believes that the president’s efforts to try and attribute the violence and looting around the country almost exclusively to antifa vastly overstates both the membership numbers and capabilities of its followers.

“It seems like a rather transparent attempt for him to deflect away from the underlying white supremacy behind the murder of George Floyd,” Bray said. “That’s not to say that there aren’t members of antifa groups participating in the various aspects of these protests, but their numbers are so minuscule nationally that they wouldn’t even be able to logistically do nearly as much as he’s blaming them for.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

US protests map shows where curfews and National Guard are active

No Comments National News

ABC News(NEW YORK) — BY: JACK ARNHOLZ and IVAN PEREIRA

Thirty-one states and the District of Columbia have activated their National Guards, with nearly 80 localities implementing curfews in response to the nationwide protests following the death of George Floyd.

The historic orders follow a weekend that saw protests erupt across dozens of U.S. cities. At least 9,300 people have been arrested as of Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.

“As of Wednesday morning, a historic 74,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated for domestic operations across the United States,” the National Guard Bureau said in a press release Wednesday.

The number surpasses the 50,000 National Guard troops that were activated during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. By comparison, there are roughly 9,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Afghanistan and 5,000 in Iraq.

Approximately 39,400 National Guard members are continuing to support the COVID-19 response efforts in all 50 states, three territories, and the District of Columbia.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz first initiated the National Guard on Thursday after protests in his state descended into violence the night before. Since then, more than half of the country’s states have activated the National Guard to aid local law enforcement.

Washington, D.C., has approximately 1,300 guard members from 10 states covering the nation’s capital, according to the National Guard Bureau.

While New York state has not deployed the National Guard, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference Sunday that the Guard is on “standby.” He said Tuesday that he did not send any New York troops to Washington, D.C.

In addition to the nationwide National Guard deployments, localities across the country have implemented curfews.

New York City, the site of some of the country’s largest demonstrations, announced Monday afternoon that the city would enact a curfew taking effect at 11 p.m.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio later extended the curfew until Monday, June 8, with the curfew running from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night.

Several municipalities have also extended curfews.

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser moved the city’s curfew to 7 p.m. on Monday — four hours earlier than what it was on Sunday.

Los Angeles also announced that its curfew would begin at 6 p.m. on Monday. The city of Santa Monica began its downtown lockdown at 1 p.m., with the entire city under lockdown at 4 p.m.

Despite Miami-Dade County maintaining a curfew earlier, Miami officials announced Monday afternoon that the city would lift its curfew order.

Minneapolis, the site of Floyd’s death, announced a shorter curfew for Monday night, starting at 10 p.m. and expiring at 4 a.m., and later extended that curfew to run nightly through Friday morning.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

ACLU files lawsuit alleging attacks on journalists covering George Floyd protests

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Twitter/@JaredGoyette(WASHINGTON) — BY: CATHERINE THORBECKE

The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota filed a lawsuit on behalf of journalists that it says were attacked by law enforcement while covering the protests over the killing of George Floyd.

The suit was filed on behalf of journalist Jared Goyette who was shot in the face with a rubber bullet on May 27 while covering the demonstrations in Minneapolis. The ALCU is seeking class action status.

“Actions like this make protesters, people trying to advocate for change, more vulnerable because journalists provide a witness and police are aware of that,” Goyette said in a statement. “Without journalists there, police or other people in power can feel a sense of impunity that no one will see what’s happening anyway.”

“Everyone needs to know people are watching,” he added.

Goyette repeatedly told police that he was a member of the press there to cover the demonstrations, according to the ACLU of Minnesota.

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“The power of the people is rooted in the ability of the free press to investigate and report news, especially at a time like this when police have brutally murdered one of our community members,” Teresa Nelson, the ACLU-MN legal director, said in a statement.

“Police are using violence and threats to undermine that power, and we cannot let that happen,” Nelson added. “Public transparency is absolutely necessary for police accountability.”

The suit was filed overnight on Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota against the city of Minneapolis and some of its police and department of public safety officials. It seeks an order declaring the actions unconstitutional and prohibiting law enforcement from attacking journalists again as well as damages for injuries.

“We will review the allegations and take them seriously,” Minneapolis city attorney Erik Nilsson said in response to the lawsuit. “We continue to support the First Amendment rights of everyone in Minneapolis.”

The Minnesota State Patrol told ABC News in a statement that it “recognizes the importance of the media in covering the civil unrest that is occurring in our communities.”

“When conducting law enforcement operations to restore order and keep people safe, it can be difficult for officers to distinguish journalists from those who are violating a curfew order or not complying with commands to leave an area,” the agency said. “During the past week, the State Patrol has worked hard to ensure journalists who have been arrested have been released promptly upon identification.”

The statement added that they are reviewing incidents involving their troopers in an effort to prevent similar incidents in the future, but are unable to discuss specifics of pending litigation.

As protests over the killing of Floyd roil the nation, a number of journalists covering the news say they have been indiscriminately arrested, tear gassed or shot with rubber bullets by local law enforcement.

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The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker, an advocacy and research group that records reported attacks on journalists, says it is investigating hundreds of instances of attacks on members of the press covering the Floyd protests. The group says the majority of those aggressions have been from police.

Brian Hauss, a staff attorney with the ACLU, said it is the “first of many lawsuits the ACLU intends to file across the country.”

“We are facing a full-scale assault on the First Amendment freedom of the press,” Hauss said in a statement. “We will not let these official abuses go unanswered.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

'Mythic Quest' co-star Charlotte Nicdao talks about the cast donating $600,000 to COVID relief

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AppleTV+(LOS ANGELES) – The cast of Apple TV+’s workplace comedy series Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet centered on its characters in lockdown, and while a subplot of the episode has the characters competing to raise money for COVID-related charities, its cast actually donated a real-life $600,000.

The cast passed the hat for half that amount, and show co-creator and star Rob McElhenney and his wife, Always Sunny co-star Kaitlin Olsen, matched the sum.

“[Rob] came up with this idea…because…most people that have something to give have been giving,” Charlotte Nicdao, who plays frazzled project manager Poppy on Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet, tells ABC Audio. “And we thought it would be nice if we could say, ‘Yes, we raised the amount of money that in the episode we say we raised, and…if you don’t have anything left to give. That’s fine. We’ve done it.'”

The show was shot by each cast member themselves, and Charlotte says they had to do “location scouting” in their own homes with the producers. “I…showed them different parts of my house. And I mean, this is going to seem like weird had flex that I think that my home is like more beautiful than what Poppy’s would be.”

Nicdao says, giggling, “I put work into my space. You know, it’s a small space, but I’ve tried to make it look nice. And so I was like, “Well, we can’t do it in here. It’s too nice. Poppy wouldn’t live here.'”

However, her wardrobe was a snap. “I felt really lucky, actually, that Poppy is having a rough time and she’s not looking her best…So I felt absolutely no pressure to…look good or pick out good clothes to wear or even really wash my hair.”

By Stephen Iervolino
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

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