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Minneapolis police chief pulls out of union negotiations in steps toward reform

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KEREM YUCEL/AFP via Getty ImagesBy MEREDITH DELISO, ABC NEWS

(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) — Saying they have to “evolve,” Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo announced steps to reform the embattled Minneapolis Police Department.

Effective immediately, the department is withdrawing from contract negotiations with the police union, Minneapolis Police Federation, Arradondo said Wednesday at a press briefing. The chief said he plans to conduct a review of how the contract can be restructured “to provide greater community transparency and more flexibility for true reform.”

The department will also introduce a system that tracks police behavior, Arradondo said. Through a new partnership with Benchmark Analytics, it will monitor officer behavior in real-time to “identify early warning signs of misconduct and provide strategies to intervene,” he said.

“It’s going to be some hard work, but I am determined that we are going to be on the right side of history,” Arradondo said.

The announcement comes following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died on May 25 after he was pinned down by a white Minnesota police officer. In a 10-minute cellphone video, Floyd, 46, was seen pleading with former officers Derek Chauvin, Tou Thao, Thomas Lane and J. Alexander Kueng, telling him that he could not breathe as Chauvin’s knee pressed against the back of his neck.

The four former officers have all since been charged in Floyd’s death, and protests have erupted across the country calling for an end to police brutality.

Arradondo said addressing race “head-on” when it comes to policing in America will be the only way to move forward and “evolve.”

“Communities of color have paid the heaviest of cost, and that is with their lives,” he said. “And our children must be safeguarded from ever having to contribute to the horrific and shameful chapter of this country’s history.”

Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey voiced his support of the chief’s decision to withdraw from the union contract negotiations.

“It shows courage, it shows integrity,” Frey said Wednesday at a press briefing.

The two measures come as local activists and organizers echo yearslong calls for drastic changes to policing. The Minneapolis City Council has been at the forefront of those demands. On Friday, it voted unanimously in an emergency hearing for immediate reforms within the police department, including banning chokeholds and other neck restraints.

On Sunday, the city council also announced its intent to disband the Minneapolis Police Department in favor of a more community-oriented agency, with the backing of a veto-proof majority. The city council said it plans to redirect funds from the police department to other community-safety strategies.

“Our commitment is to end our city’s toxic relationship with the Minneapolis Police Department, to end policing as we know it and to recreate systems of public safety that actually keep us safe,” City Council President Lisa Bender said at a rally Sunday afternoon.

Following the police chief’s briefing Wednesday, Bender responded on Twitter saying, “Let’s be clear: the path forward for our city requires transparent leadership and meaningful, effective change.”

In response to calls to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department, Arradondo said that until it happens, he will continue working to reform the department.

Frey has also spoken out against disbanding the police department.

ABC News’ Rachel A. Katz and Alex Perez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Thomas Lane, police officer involved in Floyd's death, released from jail on bail

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kali9/iStockBy ROSA SANCHEZ, ABC NEWS

(MINNEAPOLIS, Minn.) — Thomas Lane, one of the four Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of George Floyd, has been released from jail on bail.

Lane, 37, who had been held on $750,000 conditional bail, was freed from the Hennepin County jail at 5:08 p.m. Wednesday, according to jail records.

His lawyer, Earl Gray, confirmed Lane was released Wednesday afternoon after posting bail and told ABC News he had no further comment at this time.

He is one of three officers charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter in connection with the death of Floyd.

The fourth officer, Derek Chauvin, who was caught on camera pinning Floyd down with his knee while he cried out, “I can’t breathe,” has been charged with second-degree murder and has not entered a plea.

All four officers were fired following Floyd’s murder.

Lane, who was a rookie on the force, was being held on $1 million without conditions, but was released on conditions at $750,000. He will be monitored during release, may not carry a gun and must not take part in any law enforcement activities.

Lane’s next hearing is scheduled for June 29, and his attorney, Gray, told the Star Tribune that the fired cop is planning to file a motion to dismiss the charges against him.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

NASCAR announces ban on Confederate flags at races and events

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Jared C. TIlton/Getty ImagesBy KELLY MCCARTHY, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — The infield and grandstands will look very different at NASCAR races after the sport announced it has banned the presence of the Confederate flag at all events.

NASCAR released a statement on Twitter Wednesday, saying, “The presence of the confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all fans, our competitors and our industry.”

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The flag has long been displayed at races on camper trailers, RVs, coolers and even hats of NASCAR fans since the sport’s inception.

The flag, also known as “stars and bars,” was used by the Confederacy after seceding from the Union in 1861 — prompting the Civil War — in a bid to uphold slavery.

“The Sons of Confederate Veterans adopted the flag as a symbol of Southern heritage but the flag also served as a potent symbol of slavery and white supremacy, which has caused it to be very popular among white supremacists in the 20th and 21st centuries,” according to the Anti-Defamation League.

NASCAR’s announcement comes on the heels of calls for racial justice and systemic change around the county in the wake of George Floyd’s death.

Bubba Wallace, the only black driver in NASCAR’s highest level, had called for the flag to be banned from events earlier this week.

This is a developing story please check back for updates.

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Christopher Columbus statue debate rises as controversial statues fall across the country

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Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesBy IVAN PEREIRA, ABC NEWS

(NEW YORK) — As cities and organizations across the country continue to take down monuments, memorials and other symbols of hate, one controversial historical figure has come back into the spotlight: Christopher Columbus.

While the debate over the controversial European explorer reignited, some of his opponents have already taken bold action to his memorials.

On Tuesday night, a Columbus statue in Richmond, Virginia, was torn down by protesters, set on fire and then submerged into a lake, police said. Overnight Tuesday, another Columbus statue in Boston was decapitated, according to Boston police.

In New York City, Columbus’s opponents are re-upping their calls to the city to remove the 14-foot marble statue that stands above a pedestal in Columbus Circle outside Central Park.

Melissa Iakowi:he’ne’ Oakes, the executive director of the nonprofit American Indian Community House, said now is the right time to remove the 128-year-old statue, because the city did not need a monument to a figure who had a history of destroying and enslaving indigenous people.

“I think with everything that is going on now … I don’t see why (the city) would have an argument against keeping the Christopher Columbus statue,” she told ABC News.

Proponents for the statue acknowledge that Columbus’ history was far from the heroic, noble explorer portrayed in some history books; however, they said the history behind the New York statue is more nuanced.

Richard Alba, a distinguished professor of sociology at the Graduate Center of CUNY, who was part of a special commission that reviewed controversial monuments in New York City, noted that the New York statue was erected mostly to honor Italian Americans persecuted during the 19th century.

“The history of that statue is different from the Confederate statues of the south, which were put up to symbolize the triumph of whites over blacks in the south,” Alba told ABC News.

Experts say that the future of the New York statue and other Columbus monuments will have to have some changes to educate the public on the figure’s nuances and help people understand the nation’s history.

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office did not immediately return messages for comment about the Columbus statue, however, in the past, he has spoken in favor of its current placement. In 2018, after the monument commission turned in its report, de Blasio ordered that new signage be placed around the statue that explained Columbus’s history and the specific history behind the monument.

A spokeswoman for the mayor reiterated that the city decided not to remove the Columbus statue based on the commission’s report and will work on other measures to “add context to the monument and honor Indigenous Peoples.”

Oakes said for her and other indigenous Americans, that wasn’t enough. Having a tall statue of Columbus look down on the community from a 27-foot pedestal is degrading, even if there is signage describing his history, according to Oakes.

“They don’t care, and they don’t accept it,” she said.

Alba, who said he supports the removal of Confederate statues across the country, said that he and other commission members listened very carefully to the statue opponents and acknowledged their concerns. In the end, the commission contended that the best move forward was to supplement Columbus’ monument with new memorials of diverse historical figures.

“I think, again, our monuments have to represent our diversity, and part of that diversity is Italian Americans who came in as the most disparaged of those European groups,” Alba said.

In 2018, the city removed a statue of J. Marion Sims, a 19th-century surgeon who conducted experimental operations on female slaves, from Central Park, following the commission’s report. It also has plans to erect statues of minority women figures including Rep. Shirley Chisholm and Billie Holiday, based on feedback from New Yorkers.

Saul Cornell, the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at Fordham University, said statues of historical figures are problematic for educational purposes since most classical statue designs are made to glorify the figure. In Columbus’s case, the statues on their own do not help with the debate about the explorer’s complicated legacy to indigenous and Italian Americans.

“We don’t have a good public record of dealing with our history thoughtfully and engagingly,” Cornell told ABC News. “A statue is a very specific form of the past.”

Cornell said such memorials could be instructive if they are in a setting like a museum that is filled with historical literature that paints a full picture to the public. He suggested that cities with Columbus statues bring all the stakeholders together and work out a solution.

As for the reports of vandalism of other Columbus statues, Cornell noted that this type of protest has been going on throughout history, especially when figures are revealed to be less than heroic.

He said those who own those Columbus memorials should address the concerns from the public and work quickly on a solution for all parties.

“History is a powerful wave and those who try to hold it back will be crushed,” Cornell said. “The question is how do you control the wave so that it has positive results and not destructive results.”

Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Matthew McConaughey joins Emmanuel Acho's 'Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man'

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Photo by Amy E. Price/Getty Images for SXSW(LOS ANGELES) — In the wake of George Floyd’s death and protests calling for racial justice, former NFL star-turned broadcaster Emmanuel Acho is tackling tough conversations about race in America off the field.

The former Philadelphia Eagle-turned-broadcaster recently released a new YouTube series called Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, and in its second episode, he was joined by Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey.

“I’m here … to learn, share, listen, understand,” the actor said when asked why he joined the athlete.

“Here to discuss some common ground between us, but also [be] exposed [to] the differences between us…I’m here to have conversation, hopefully promote more conversations, and, with the end goal being that we take the time we’re in now [to] constructively turn a page in history through some righteous and justifiable change.”

About 22 million people saw Acho’s first episode of Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man, and, since its debut last night on Acho’s social media, more than five million have already seen the second video with McConaughey, according to Acho.

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

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