June 18 Black Lives Matter protest news

By Mike Hayes, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Helen Regan, Adam Renton and Peter Wilkinson, CNN

Updated 1:13 a.m. ET, June 19, 2020
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5:12 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

San Francisco removes Christopher Columbus statue near famed Coit Tower

From CNN’s Jenn Selva

The statue of Christopher Columbus that has stood near San Francisco’s famed Coit Tower was removed early Thursday after it was vandalized and protesters planned a rally to take it down.

The statue is just one of many coming down in cities across the US amid widespread protests decrying racism and oppression. Many say the statues — often of Confederate leaders — are considered racist symbols of America's legacy of slavery. 

San Francisco’s action came on the eve of a planned protest to forcibly take the Columbus statue down.

“A protest flyer circulating online advertised for citizens to remove the statue themselves at an action on Friday, June 19,” a spokesperson for the city’s Arts Commission said. “A 2-ton statue falling from its pedestal presented a grave risk to citizens.”

The statue, she continued, “was removed because it doesn’t align with San Francisco’s values or our commitment to racial justice. Doing it quickly was also a matter of public safety. The statue was vandalized three times last week and similar statues across the country have been brought down by citizens during protests.”

San Francisco Supervisor Aaron Peskin confirmed to CNN that the statue of Columbus had been vandalized three times last week. 

“At a time of great unrest and deep reflection by our country, we recognize the pain and oppression that Christopher Columbus represents to many,” Peskin, along with Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Catherine Stefani, said in a statement. “We believe that through public art we can and should honor the heritage of all our people, including our Italian-American community, but in doing so we should choose symbols that unify us.”

The city’s Arts and Recreation and Park Commissions will now lead a public process to decide what art will replace the statue of Columbus.

CNN’s Braden Walker contributed to this post.


5:08 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

New York City Council passes sweeping police reform bills

From CNN's Sonia Moghe

A sweeping package of bills that aims to reform the New York City Police Department passed the New York City Council Thursday, after a years-long battle for the bills to be voted on, some which have been in the works since the death of Eric Garner in 2014.

The six bills include one that requires officers’ badge numbers to be visible, an official ban on chokeholds or any other maneuver that restricts blood or air flow and one requiring the NYPD to disclose how they use surveillance technology. Also included are bills that create a penalty system for police officers with disciplinary issues, a way to intervene with training for officers who are deemed “problematic,” and a bill that puts into law the right to record police interactions.

Some of the bills have been in the works for years, including the city’s ban on chokeholds, which council members began working on in 2014, shortly after Garner’s death.

In a news conference before the vote, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson apologized for the bills not having moved more quickly.

“I think the conversation around policing and re-envisioning what public safety looks like, that conversation should have started a long time ago,” Johnson said at the news conference which was conducted using Zoom. “It should have started after all of these deaths that we’ve seen and sadly it didn’t. But this reckoning that we’re seeing now is now creating the moment for us to actually have that conversation again.”

Johnson became speaker of the City Council in 2018, but in 2015, he voted in support of a city budget that would expand the NYPD by 1,300 officers, a move that he and other council members have come under fire for recently.

“I want to apologize for that,” Johnson said. “And not make up excuses and not sit here today and give you a list of reasons why. This moment is a reckoning. It’s a reckoning for America, it’s a reckoning for our city.”

4:28 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

University of Florida to end "Gator Bait" cheer because of racist history associated with it

From CNN's Jill Martin

In this September 26, 2015 file photos, Florida Gators fans cheer during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida.
In this September 26, 2015 file photos, Florida Gators fans cheer during a game against the Tennessee Volunteers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

University of Florida President Kent Fuchs announced Thursday that the school will no longer use the “Gator Bait” cheer at sporting events because of “horrific historic racist imagery” associated with it, he said.

At sporting events, the band often performs a tune associated with that specific chant, to which fans would use their arms to do the Gator chomp while yelling, “Gator Bait!”

“While I know of no evidence of racism associated with our ‘Gator Bait’ cheer at UF sporting events, there is horrific historic racist imagery associated with the phrase,” Fuchs said. “Accordingly university athletics and the Gator band will discontinue the use of the cheer.”

4:08 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Kentucky attorney general says the law and facts will "lead to truth" in Breonna Taylor case

From CNN’s Rebekah Riess

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks during a roundtable discussion with US President Donald Trump and law enforcement officials on Monday, June 8, at the White House in Washington.
Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks during a roundtable discussion with US President Donald Trump and law enforcement officials on Monday, June 8, at the White House in Washington. Patrick Semansky/AP

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron held a news conference this afternoon, asking for people to be patient as his office works “to find the truth, and allow the law and the facts to lead to truth,” in the investigation into the death of Breonna Taylor.

The attorney general said a few weeks after being asked to serve as special prosecutor, his office began to receive material from the Louisville Metro Police Department's Public Integrity Unit (PIU), which was already in the process of conducting an investigation into the events involving Taylor's death.

According to Cameron, his office has continued to receive information from the PIU, and reviews the materials immediately each time.

Additionally, Cameron said his office is undertaking their own independent investigation to determine the truth, “we believe that the independent steps we are taking are crucial for the findings to be accepted, both by the community, and by those directly involved in the case. An investigation of this magnitude, when done correctly, requires time and patience.” 

“I don't want to get into specifics of any deadline, but know that we are working very diligently on this case we are working around the clock to make sure that we can have a thorough and fair investigation, and we are doing so expeditiously,” the attorney general said. “I can assure you that we understand the urgency, we understand the public outcry, and we understand the need for the truth, and the desire for justice.”


3:40 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Ex-Atlanta police officer who killed Rayshard Brooks turns himself in

From CNN’s Ryan Young and Devon Sayers

Former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe
Former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe Atlanta Police Department

Former Atlanta police officer Garrett Rolfe has turned himself in to authorities, according to the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.

Some context: Rolfe, 27, the former officer who shot Rayshard Brooks, is facing a total of 11 counts.

He faces a felony murder charge for Brooks' death and if convicted of that charge, he could face life in prison or the death penalty.

"The demeanor of the officers immediately after the shooting did not reflect any fear or danger of Mr. Brooks," District Attorney Paul Howard said Wednesday.

Arrest warrants were issued yesterday for Rolfe and Devin Brosnan, the other officer at the shooting, and they were asked to surrender by Thursday evening. Brosnan turned himself in earlier today. He faces an aggravated assault charge for standing on Brooks in the parking lot.

Hear more:

2:35 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Atlanta Police Foundation plans to give $500 bonus to every officer

From CNN’s Dianne Gallagher and Ryan Young

A police officer wearing a body cam is seen during a demonstration on May 31 in Atlanta.
A police officer wearing a body cam is seen during a demonstration on May 31 in Atlanta. Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

The Atlanta Police Foundation is giving every police officer a $500 bonus. Officers are expected to receive the money on Friday.

When asked about receiving the bonus on Friday, one Atlanta police officer told CNN’s Dianne Gallagher, “I’ll believe it when I see it”.

The officer went on to say, “this is the first time anything like this has been done and the foundation are good people as well, but it’s for APD only and it’s definitely about morale.”

1:39 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Pennsylvania Avenue in DC reopens to pedestrians for the first time since protests began

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

For the first time since the last weekend of May when protesters clashed with the Secret Service in front of the White House, Pennsylvania Avenue has been reopened to pedestrian traffic as fences and barricades continue to come down surrounding the White House Complex.

As recently as this morning, you still needed to walk past a checkpoint to get onto that stretch of street, but now Pennsylvania Avenue is open to foot traffic to the east and west of Lafayette Square between 15th and 17th streets — the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue directly in front of the White House remains closed. 

The monuments in Lafayette Square are still behind fences and streets surrounding St. John’s Church and Black Lives Matter Plaza are still closed to vehicles. 

The high fencing running the length of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building along 17th street has also been removed. 

2:54 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Lawyer for Atlanta officer says charges in Brooks shooting go "way too far"

From CNN’s Ryan Young, Devon Sayers and Pamela Kirkland

The attorney for Atlanta police officer Devin Brosnan, who was charged on Wednesday in the fatal shooting of Rashard Brooks, said the charges against his client go “way too far.” 

“Officer Brosnan is not charged at all with anything to do with the actual shooting. He’s not at fault at all with regard to the shooting,” attorney Don Samuel told CNN. “The only allegation in these charges is that he violated the oath of office by not following proper protocol. The use of force policy.”

Samuel went on to say that Brosnan put his foot on Brooks' arm after he was shot “for a matter of seconds, to stabilize.” Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard said in a news conference on Wednesday that Brosnan stood on Brooks' shoulders "while he struggled for his life." 

Samuel said the charges regarding a failure to render timely first aid is a dispute over a matter of seconds. He denied that Brosnan was acting as a state witness in the case, as Howard indicated during Wednesday's announcement.

“He’s cooperating. He’s not a witness for the state. He’s not a witness for the defense. He’s a witness. He is simply going to tell the truth about what happened," Samuel said.

Brosnan was released on bond after turning himself in to the Fulton County Jail on Thursday. 


4:43 p.m. ET, June 18, 2020

Juneteenth named a university holiday at growing number of schools

From CNN's Elizabeth Stuart

The Juneteenth flag, commemorating the day that slavery ended in the U.S., flies in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 17.
The Juneteenth flag, commemorating the day that slavery ended in the U.S., flies in Omaha, Nebraska, on June 17. Nati Harnik/AP

A growing number of colleges and universities nationwide say they will be closed Friday in honor of Juneteenth, the June 19 holiday which commemorates the end of slavery in the United States in 1865.

Harvard UniversityGeorgetown UniversityColumbia UniversityUniversity of VirginiaTowson UniversityDrake UniversityLoyola Marymount University and others will celebrate Juneteenth as a university holiday, closed for listening, learning, and reflection.

“All faculty and staff will have a full day of paid time off,” wrote Harvard President Lawrence Bacow in an email this week. “If you must work that day to support essential operations, your efforts will be acknowledged with other paid time off.”

Georgetown and Drake announced that Juneteenth will continue to be acknowledged as a holiday annually. 

“As we confront the challenges of this moment, I hope that this day will be a moment for reflection and renewed commitment to the work of racial justice,” wrote Georgetown President John J. DeGioia.

The announcements come as some universities are also considering removing statues, renaming buildings and swapping mascots as part of the country's larger call for changes to systemic racism and injustice.

“As I have said many times before, Columbia University is not innocent of the structures of racism that have afflicted America,” said Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger in an email Wednesday. “There is still much more to do.”

Other prestigious higher education institutions including Cornell University and University of Pennsylvania are honoring Juneteenth as a “day of reflection.”

University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann and other university leaders wrote in an email Tuesday that they ask the campus community to take the day to contemplate how to learn from the past in order to chart a more equitable path forward.

“At a moment when our country is reckoning with the racism and discrimination that permeated the history of our country and universities for centuries, we are called to reflect on what we can do individually and collectively to dismantle systemic and structural barriers to equality,” Gutmann wrote.