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Protesters locked arms and marched in Atlanta on Monday after the fatal shooting of Rayshard Brooks.Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times
The former Atlanta Police Department officer who fatally shot an African-American man after a confrontation outside a fast-food restaurant had been issued a written reprimand in 2016 for another use-of-force incident involving the use of a firearm, according to records released by the department.
The disciplinary history of the former officer, Garrett Rolfe, who was fired this weekend after the shooting, does not include details of the 2016 use-of-force case, or a number of other incidents he was involved in since being hired in 2013.
These include four citizen complaints, which resulted in no disciplinary action, and five vehicle accidents, which resulted in an “oral admonishment” in 2014 and a written reprimand in 2018.
Mr. Rolfe’s record also includes an August 2015 episode involving the discharge of a firearm, but there is no record of any disciplinary action taken in that case.
The department also released a file that showed no previous disciplinary record for Devin Brosnan, the other officer who responded to the fast-food restaurant Friday night after an employee called 911 and complained that Rayshard Brooks, 27, appeared to be intoxicated and asleep, and was blocking the drive-through lane.
Officer Brosnan, who joined the force in June 2019, has been placed on administrative duties pending the outcome of an investigation.
The fatal shooting of Mr. Brooks prompted demonstrations throughout the weekend in Atlanta, including one on Saturday night in which protesters burned down the Wendy’s restaurant where the shooting occurred. The city’s police chief, Erika Shields, stepped down in the wake of the incident, and on Monday, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced major revisions to the department’s use-of-force policies.
Video recordings show the two officers engaged Mr. Brooks in a long conversation that appeared to be respectful, and gave him field sobriety and breathalyzer tests. The officers concluded that Mr. Brooks was intoxicated, and when they moved to handcuff him, Mr. Brooks resisted. The three men wrestled on the pavement, and Mr. Brooks emerged with one of the officer’s Tasers. He ran away and fired the Taser at Mr. Rolfe, who was chasing him close behind.
It was at that point that Mr. Rolfe shot him. An autopsy report showed Mr. Brooks was shot twice in the back.
The Fulton County district attorney, Paul Howard, is investigating the case, but has not yet made a determination as to whether the officers should be charged criminally. On Sunday, he told a CNN reporter that Mr. Brooks “did not seem to present any kind of threat to anyone, and so the fact that it would escalate to his death just seems unreasonable.”
President Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to encourage changes in policing, including new restrictions on chokeholds. But the order will have little immediate impact, and does not address calls from activists and protesters nationwide for broader action and a new focus on racism.
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden and flanked by several uniformed police officials, Mr. Trump depicted police misconduct as rare and police officers as embattled American heroes who must be defended.
The order does not mandate any immediate action; rather, it lays out what a senior administration official called “guiding principles,” to be translated into specifics by the Justice Department and Congress. Mr. Trump said he was “encouraging police departments nationwide to adopt the highest professional standards to serve their communities.”
Mr. Trump said the Justice Department will “prioritize” federal grants to police departments that follow “the highest training standards regarding the use of force.” He said that will include banning chokeholds except when a police officer’s life is in danger.
Mr. Trump said the administration is also “looking at” new non-lethal weapons. And he said police departments will need to share information about abuse complaints filed against officers who might move from department to department without the records accompanying them.
He added that the federal government would “provide more resources” for other kinds of professionals, like social workers, to accompany police officers on calls involving matters like mental health, substance abuse and homelessness.
Mr. Trump said that he met privately just before the event with the families of nine black men and women whose deaths have stoked protests. They included relatives of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed near Brunswick, Ga., in February, as well as those of Botham Jean, Antwon Rose, Jemel Roberson, Atatiana Jefferson, Michael Dean, Darius Tarver, Cameron Lamb and Everett Palmer Jr.
Mr. Trump said he would “fight for justice for all of our people,” but he said nothing in his remarks about police racism, and scoffed at calls for major systemic changes to policing.
“I strongly oppose the radical and dangerous efforts to defund, dismantle and dissolve our police departments,” Mr. Trump said, adding, “Americans want law and order, they demand law and order.”
At least 96 law enforcement agencies — many in large cities — used some form of tear gas against civilians protesting police brutality and racism in recent weeks, according to an analysis by The New York Times. This brief period has seen the most widespread domestic use of tear gas against demonstrators since the long years of unrest in the late 1960s and early ’70s, according to Stuart Schrader of Johns Hopkins University, who studies race and policing.
“Thousands and thousands of utterly ordinary people who thought they were going to an ordinary protest event are finding themselves receiving a really aggressive police response,” he said. “That itself is a bit horrifying. The police have actually succeeded in making people more angry.”
If used appropriately, it drives people to flee the gas, which irritates their eyes, skin and lungs without causing serious, long-term injuries in most. But in cases where law enforcement misuses the agent, it can cause debilitating injuries.
The widespread use of tear gas has prompted pushback, with some lawmakers calling for a ban of its use in Massachusetts and New Orleans. Other cities, including Denver, Seattle, Dallas and Portland, Ore., have all temporarily banned the police from using tear gas.
Here Are the 98 U.S. Cities Where Protesters Were Tear-Gassed
The deployment of tear gas against civilians has not been this widespread since the period of unrest in the 1960s and ’70s, according to a New York Times analysis.
Gunfire broke out during a protest Monday night in Albuquerque to demand the removal of a statue of Juan de Oñate, the despotic conquistador of New Mexico whose image has become the latest target in demonstrations across the country aimed at righting a history of racial injustice.
As dozens of people gathered around a statue of Oñate, New Mexico’s 16th-century colonial governor, a scuffle broke out between protesters trying to take it down and others defending it. In a skirmish that ensued, a man was shot, prompting police officers in riot gear to rush in.
The injured man, who was not identified, was taken away to the hospital, where he was later listed in critical but stable condition. The police took into custody several members of a right-wing militia who were dressed in camouflage and carrying military-style rifles.
On Tuesday, the authorities in Bernalillo County filed a charge of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon against the man with the gun, identified as Steven Baca Jr.
“We are receiving reports about vigilante groups possibly instigating this violence,” Chief Michael Geier of the Albuquerque Police Department said on Twitter Monday night. “If this is true will be holding them accountable to the fullest extent of the law, including federal hate group designation and prosecution.”
The protest turned into pandemonium after the shooting, as protesters screamed and dove for cover and police officers attempted to secure the scene.
The police used chemical irritants and stun grenades to “protect officers and detain individuals involved in the shooting,” Gilbert Gallegos, a police spokesman, said. “The individuals were disarmed and taken into custody for questioning.”
Hours later, Mayor Tim Keller announced that the Oñate statue would be removed until “the appropriate civic institutions” could determine how to proceed.
There were clashes between police and protesters in other cities on Monday night. In Richmond, Va., the police used a chemical irritant, flash grenades, and rubber bullets to disperse a crowd of protesters gathered around the police headquarters, The Washington Post reported. It was the second night in a row that the police had used tear gas outside the building against protesters who were angry over an incident on Saturday in which a police vehicle hit several demonstrators. (No one was seriously injured in that incident, according to The Richmond Times-Dispatch.)
The police in Portland, Ore., reported firing crowd-control munitions, but not tear gas, to break up a demonstration after some people threw glass bottles and other projectiles at officers. (The Oregonian said the munitions were stun grenades.)
And in Nashville, 21 protesters were arrested at a demonstration at the State Capitol, the Tennessee Highway Patrol said. Protesters have been rallying at the Capitol since Friday, demanding the removal of Confederate monuments from the building, among other things.
The House of Representatives will vote later this month on statehood for the District of Columbia, Democrats announced on Tuesday, tapping into fresh anger over the Trump administration’s handling of street protests in the nation’s capital. The vote would be the first on the issue in more than a quarter-century.
More than 200 Democrats in Congress have signed on to statehood legislation, which gained momentum after Democrats secured a majority in the House in the 2016 elections. More recently, the Trump administration’s use of federal officers in the District to respond to Black Lives Matter protests, coupled with the health and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic, have intensified calls for the District to gain the same rights — including voting representation in Congress — as the existing 50 states.
“Over the past few weeks, we saw further examples of why the District of Columbia’s lack of representation in Congress is so damaging,” said Representative Steny H. Hoyer of Maryland, the majority leader. “We are the only free nation in the world whose capital doesn’t have voting representation in their parliament.”
Because Congress retains so much control over the District, Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington, had few options earlier this month when the Trump administration deployed National Guard troops from other states in the city’s streets and used them to forcibly clear protesters out of Lafayette Park near the White House.
The statehood legislation, put forward by Eleanor Holmes Norton, the district’s non-voting representative in the House, would create the “State of Washington, Douglass Commonwealth,” with two seats in the Senate and one in the House like other states with small populations (it has about 700,000 residents, more than Wyoming or Vermont).
There would continue to be a federal district, but it would be reduced to the National Mall, the White House, Capitol Hill and some other federal property in the city.
The bill is expected to pass the House, but is unlikely even to be taken up by the Republican-led Senate. The District’s voters are overwhelmingly Democrats.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. of the public imagination was a unifying figure who bridged America’s bitter racial divide and peacefully liberated the South from Jim Crow.
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who actually existed was spied on and blackmailed by the federal government, arrested roughly 30 times, beaten, stalked and assassinated, and died one of the most disliked people in America.
In life, despite his commitment to nonviolence, he was not seen as a model of socially acceptable protest. But in death, he is presented as such by opponents of newer movements, including the demonstrations that have spilled from Minneapolis into thousands of cities and towns in response to the police killing of George Floyd.
These sorts of transformations happen repeatedly in the accounting and recounting of social movements, historians say. As movements unfold, the most disruptive parts tend to get disproportionate attention, and critics often portray them as representative of the whole. In the retelling, the least confrontational parts get the same treatment: People sanitize the movement for public consumption, downplay its opposition and use the mythologized version to discredit its successors.
So it is that the Rosa Parks in many history textbooks just wanted to sit after a long day of work, when the real Rosa Parks was a longtime activist who sat as a calculated political act; that the suffragists most popularly memorialized are those who circulated petitions, not those who burned President Woodrow Wilson in effigy outside the White House; that the antiwar activists who went to Woodstock are better known than the ones who ransacked draft board offices and destroyed the files.
What emerges is not only an antiseptic image of individual activists, but an oversimplified division between “right” and “wrong” ways to protest that historians and social scientists say impedes understanding of how movements achieve their goals.
“The whole purpose of protest is to interrupt your daily life, to interrupt the previously scheduled programming so you pay attention to something new,” said Deva Woodly, an associate professor of politics at the New School who studies how movements use public discourse. “That’s not necessarily the same thing as condoning setting buildings on fire, but it’s certainly not the case that plain civility is something that would ever work.”
In the minutes before Manuel Ellis died in police custody, officers used neck restraints to try to subdue him, according to newly released video.
The video taken by a driver shows only a portion of the March 3 arrest in Tacoma, Wash., beginning as one officer and Mr. Ellis struggled on the ground while another appeared to deploy a Taser. The officer on the ground initially used an arm around Mr. Ellis’s neck for about 12 seconds before transitioning to use a knee on his back or neck.
It is unclear how long the restraint lasted. The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, which had initially investigated the matter before it was overtaken by state authorities, has said officers called for medical help in the few minutes after the encounter began and propped Mr. Ellis up on his side.
James Bible, a lawyer for the Ellis family, declined to identify the new witness but said the person began recording because they were alarmed by what was unfolding. Another driver, Sara McDowell, also witnessed part of the arrest and captured it on video, in which she shouts at officers to “stop hitting him.” She said in a previous interview that the police appeared to escalate the situation without provocation.
A medical examiner report listed Mr. Ellis’s death as “hypoxia due to physical restraint” and ruled his death a homicide. The report said it was unlikely his death would have occurred because of physical restraint alone, citing high levels of methamphetamine and heart disease as factors.
Four officers involved in the arrest have been placed on leave. Gov. Jay Inslee has ordered an independent investigation but has not identified an agency to lead it.
In the fall of 1870, Guilford Coleman, a black man, was abducted from his home in Alabama, beaten to death and thrown into a well for having voted at a political convention to nominate a Republican governor. The message was received, according to local newspaper accounts: Those in favor of Reconstruction dared “not canvass the district, lest they lose their lives.”
Mr. Coleman’s murder, one of thousands carried out by white mobs after the Civil War, is documented in a new report on violence in the Reconstruction era by the Equal Justice Initiative, a 31-year-old legal advocacy group based in Montgomery, Ala., that is dedicated to exposing the country’s legacy of lynching and white supremacist terror.
Reconstruction began after the end of the Civil War, and in its first years brought the registration of thousands of black voters and the election of hundreds of black officials. But it was met with fierce resistance, and, having been drained of resources, was abandoned in 1877.
An earlier report published in 2015 by the Equal Justice Initiative documented more than 4,400 lynchings of black people by whites in the 74 years following Reconstruction. The names of the victims were etched in stone and brought together in the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Ala. Since opening in 2018, the memorial and accompanying museum have drawn 750,000 visitors.
Reporting was contributed by Maggie Astor, Mike Baker, Emily Cochrane, Michael Crowley, Richard Fausset, K.K. Rebecca Lai, Bill Marsh, Simon Romero, Anjali Singhvi and Kate Taylor.