In Brief: June 20, 2020

Juneteenth takes on new meaning amid push for racial justice

DETROIT — Protesters marched over the Brooklyn Bridge, chanted “We want justice now!” near St. Louis’ Gateway Arch, stopped work at West Coast ports and paused for a moment of silence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, as Americans marked Juneteenth with new urgency Friday amid a nationwide push for racial justice.

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The holiday, which commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans, is usually celebrated with parades and festivals but became a day of protest this year in the wake of demonstrations set off by George Floyd’s killing at the hands of Minneapolis police.

In addition to traditional cookouts and readings of the Emancipation Proclamation — the Civil War-era order that declared all enslaved people free in Confederate territory — Americans of all backgrounds were marching, holding sit-ins or taking part in car caravan protests.

Thousands gathered at a religious rally in Atlanta. Hundreds marched from St. Louis’ Old Courthouse, where the Dred Scott case partially played out, a pivotal one that denied citizenship to African Americans but galvanized the anti-slavery movement. Protesters and revelers held signs in Dallas, danced to a marching band in Chicago and registered people to vote in Detroit.

“Now we have the attention of the world, and we are not going to let this slide,” Charity Dean, director of Detroit’s office of Civil Rights, Inclusion and Opportunity, said at an event that drew hundreds and called for an end to police brutality and racial inequality.

Trump embraces immigration court fight as election boost

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court’s rejection of one of Donald Trump’s key immigration measures reignites a hot-button issue in a presidential campaign already scorched by pandemic, economic collapse and protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

The president is betting that he can energize his most loyal supporters by fighting the Supreme Court, which decided on procedural grounds Thursday that he couldn’t end legal protections for young immigrants. Trump, who often attempts to shift the nation’s focus to immigration when forced to defend himself on other fronts, said Friday he would renew his legal effort.

His immigration push is risky, even for someone who has built his political career on defying conventional wisdom. It could allow Trump to fire up his base on an issue that was a centerpiece of his 2016 victory while highlighting Democratic challenger Joe Biden’s struggle to win over Latino voters. But it could also further alienate swing voters including suburban women who could decide the election.

Some Republicans say that, with less than five months before November, it’s not a fight worth having.

“It doesn’t make any political sense, or moral sense or ethical sense,” said Republican strategist Tim Miller, a frequent Trump critic and veteran of Jeb Bush’s unsuccessful 2016 presidential run. “Anybody that likes (Trump) because of his willingness to ‘go there’ on racial and immigration issues is already with him, and he’s not picking up anybody else.”

‘Why not a Black woman?’ Consensus grows for Biden’s VP

WASHINGTON — Joe Biden is facing growing calls to select a Black woman as his running mate as an acknowledgement of their critical role in the Democratic Party and a response to the nationwide protests against racism and inequality.

The shifting dynamics were clear late Thursday when Amy Klobuchar took herself out of contention for the vice presidency. The Minnesota senator, who is white, told MSNBC that “this is a moment to put a woman of color on that ticket.”

Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, has already pledged to select a woman as his vice president to energize the party’s base with the prospect of making history. But following the outrage over the police killing of George Floyd last month, many Democratic strategists say there’s growing consensus that the pick should be a Black woman.

“Like it or not, I think the question is starting to become, ‘Well, why not a Black woman?’” said Karen Finney, a spokesperson for Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign.

From wire sources

Finney, who was one of 200 Black women who signed a letter to Biden encouraging him to select a Black woman for his ticket, warned that the former vice president could face a backlash if he chose a white woman.

US attorney who oversaw cases of Trump allies is resigning

WASHINGTON — The U.S. attorney who oversaw key prosecutions of allies of President Donald Trump and an investigation into Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani abruptly left his post Friday.

Geoffrey S. Berman is stepping down as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. The office is one of the nation’s premiere districts, trying major mob cases and terror cases over the years.

It was unclear why Berman was leaving his position after serving more than two years. The announcement was made late Friday and came after Barr visited New York City to meet with local police officials. And Trump is nominating the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission to the job, a lawyer with virutally no experience as a federal prosecutor.

But the departure comes days after allegations surfaced from former Trump national security adviser John Bolton that Trump sought to interfere in an Southern District investigation into the Turkish Halkbank in an effort to cut deals with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The shakeup was likely to raise additional questions from congressional Democrats who have accused Barr of politicizing the Justice Department and acting more like Trump’s personal attorney than the nation’s chief law enforcement officer.

Brazil tops 1 million cases as coronavirus spreads inland

SAO PAULO — Brazil’s government confirmed on Friday that the country has risen above 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, second only to the United States.

The country’s health ministry said that the total now stood at 1,032,913, up more than 50,000 from Thursday. The ministry said the sharp increase was due to corrections of previous days’ underreported numbers.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro still downplays the risks of the virus after nearly 50,000 deaths from COVID-19 in three months, saying the impact of social isolation measures on the economy could be worse than the disease itself.

Specialists believe the actual number of cases in Brazil could be up to seven times higher than the official statistic. Johns Hopkins University says Brazil is performing an average of 14 tests per 100,000 people each day, and health experts say that number is up to 20 times less than needed to track the virus.

Official data show a downward trend of the virus in Brazil’s north, including the hard-hit region of the Amazon, a plateau in cases and deaths in the countries’ biggest cities near the Atlantic coast, but a rising curve in the south.

AMC Theaters reverses course on masks after backlash

LOS ANGELES — The nation’s largest movie theater chain changed its position on mask-wearing less than a day after the company became a target on social media for saying it would defer to local governments on the issue.

AMC Theaters CEO Adam Aron said Friday that its theaters will require patrons to wear masks upon reopening, which will begin in mid-July. Customers who don’t wear masks won’t be admitted or allowed to stay.

“We think it is absolutely crucial that we listen to our guests,” Aron said. “It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks.”

Rival chain Regal followed AMC’s lead. Spokesman Richard Grover said Friday that moviegoers must wear masks in all its theaters as well.

AMC Theaters wasn’t the first to say it would defer to officials on the mask issue. That policy was identical to what Cinemark announced earlier this month. Cineplex Inc., which has a 75% box office market share in Canada, said they will leave it up to moviegoers to decide if they wear a face mask inside their theaters. Company spokeswoman Sarah Van Lange said they are taking the lead from public health authorities and provincial guidelines. She said employees will be required to wear masks.

Barber offers hope in Peruvian barrios devastated by virus

LIMA, Peru — Once a week, barber Josué Yacahuanca makes his way up the dusty hills of Peru’s capital, heading into its poorest neighborhoods carrying a treasured golden briefcase that holds his life’s passion — five clipper blades, 20 combs, four scissors and a bottle with alcohol.

Yacahuanca seeks out clients devastated by a coronavirus lockdown that has gone on for nearly 100 days in an attempt to stem the wave of new infections. He does it for free.

“I want them to look in the mirror and see a bit of hope,” said Yacahuanca, who though just 21 years old is a veteran barber, having started cutting hair at age 13.

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With ease, he moves between clients who want a clean, classic cut to those who ask for modern styles. Most recently he set up shop at the “December 24” neighborhood, where almost everybody has lost their jobs because of the pandemic, forcing many to work as street vendors.

Yacahuanca had a rocky start in life himself. Abandoned by his mother, he was raised by his godmother, Gloria Alvarez. Despite obstacles, he discovered a business savvy at a young age. He hustled at odd jobs, selling sweets, cleaning houses, working in outdoor markets and at a bus station.

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