Protests spread into the heartland, newsrooms grapple with how to cover them and prominent Republicans consider ditching Trump. It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet.
Hundreds of thousands of protesters gathered this weekend across the country — and around the globe — in two of the most widespread days of protest since the death of George Floyd two weeks ago. In Washington alone, over 10,000 people assembled just north of the White House, which had been newly fortified with a high fence and a retinue of security forces wearing unmarked uniforms.
The Dallas Morning News confirmed late last week that many of those unidentified enforcers in Washington were in fact guards from federal prisons; they had been shipped to the capital from other parts of the country. Observers noticed that underneath their body armor, many of the riot forces were wearing shirts and jackets bearing the insignia of the federal prison in Beaumont, Texas. That facility, like many prisons, has been hit hard by the coronavirus; at least five guards there have tested positive for it, The Morning News reported.
Outside Beaumont, in nearby Vidor — a small Texas town known for its long history of Ku Klux Klan violence — over 100 protesters gathered on Saturday for an anti-racism protest. It was one of many examples of protests this weekend stretching into smaller towns and rural areas. All told, anti-racism demonstrations occurred in every state in America, and in countries around the world.
Mitt Romney, the Republican senator from Utah, joined a group of roughly 1,000 Christian protesters yesterday in the march on Washington. He is the most prominent Republican politician to have joined the marchers, and his appearance further bolstered the ties between the current movement and the civil rights struggles of the 1960s: Romney has often spoken of the fact that his father, the former governor of Michigan, participated in a march in the late ’60s. “We need to stand up and say that black lives matter,” Romney told a reporter as he walked yesterday.
Romney is one of a growing number of prominent Republicans who have started to publicly break with President Trump before the November election. The senator has said he won’t vote to re-elect Trump, though he hasn’t committed to backing Joe Biden either.
People close to George W. Bush and Jeb Bush say they’re also considering voting against the president. Colin Powell, who served as secretary of state in George Bush’s administration, has said that he will vote for Biden. And some former Republican leaders — including Paul Ryan and John Boehner, both onetime speakers of the House — have refused to say publicly how they’ll vote.
In Minneapolis, a majority of the City Council pledged on Sunday to entirely disband the city’s police force. It would be the first example of a major city replacing its police department, presumably with a new and fundamentally different system of public safety.
The announcement came just a day after the city’s mayor, Jacob Frey, was shouted down and chanted out of an enormous protest in downtown Minneapolis when he refused to commit to dismantling the police force. The nine council members who now say they will support the move represent a veto-proof majority, effectively rendering Frey’s opposition moot.
Democrats in Congress are preparing to unveil sweeping legislation today that would institute nationwide standards for police accountability. The bill does not take up the idea of dismantling or defunding police departments, but it would force states and municipalities to embrace practices like mandatory bias training in order to qualify for federal funds, according to a draft summary obtained by The New York Times.
“I don’t believe that you should disband police departments,” Karen Bass, the Democratic chairwoman of the House’s Congressional Black Caucus, said Sunday on CNN. “But I do think that in cities and states, we need to look at how we are spending resources and invest more in our communities.”
The unrest sweeping the country has also caused strife in many newsrooms, which have historically skewed white, and have often struggled to fairly address stories involving protesters and the police without privileging the narratives of those in uniform. At The Philadelphia Inquirer, the executive editor, Stan Wischnowski, resigned on Saturday after receiving blowback after his newspaper published an article last week under the headline “Buildings Matter, Too.” In that piece, the paper’s architecture critic bemoaned the defacing of buildings by demonstrators.
In nearby Pittsburgh, The Post-Gazette’s newsroom is in an uproar after two black reporters said they were barred from covering the protests because editors thought they had shown bias.
And The New York Times’s opinion section was intensely criticized — both publicly and internally — after publishing an incendiary Op-Ed last week by Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, who argued for the use of military force against protesters. Many of the newspaper’s own reporters went on Twitter to publicly express their shame and outrage at the decision.
Yesterday, The Times’s editorial page editor, James Bennet, resigned. And Jim Dao, the deputy editorial page editor who oversees Op-Eds, is also leaving his position, though he will take a new job in the newsroom.