US protests: Democrats block Republican police reform bill as too meagre

Three men indicted on murder charges in Ahmaud Arbery case

A Republican bill to rein in police misconduct after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis one month ago failed to pass in the US Senate on Wednesday.

Democrats blocked the bill and dismissed it as meagre, signalling the collapse for now of a congressional response after African-American Floyd's death in police custody set off weeks of worldwide protests against brutality.

Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, the chamber's top Republican, said he would schedule another vote if there were enough progress on settling Republican-Democratic differences.

The legislative fight over reform now moves to the House of Representatives, which plans to vote on a more sweeping Democratic bill on Thursday.

US President Donald Trump said he would not accept Democratic reforms and suggested the issue could end in stalemate.

"If nothing happens with it, it's one of those things," Mr Trump said. "We have different philosophies."

Floyd's death in Minneapolis on May 25, after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, stirred strong public sentiment against excessive force by police, especially against African Americans.

Civil rights leaders and activist groups, who called on the Senate to reject the Republican bill, have urged politicians for stronger measures.

The Republican and Democratic bills address similar issues: choke holds, permission to enter properties without notification, police body cameras and use of deadly force.

They also include training to ease confrontations with suspects and to encourage officers to intervene if colleagues go too far.

Democrats say the Republican bill relies on incentives to introduce reforms and seeks to collect data on issues such as warrants to enter without notification, rather than mandating changes.

Georgia

Three white men arrested last month after an African-American man was gunned down as he jogged through a suburban neighbourhood in Georgia four months ago were on Wednesday indicted on murder and other charges.

Video footage of the killing of Ahmaud Arbery, 25, emerged on social media and went viral in May, about 10 weeks after his death, stoking public outrage at the lack of arrests.

Days later, the two men confronting Arbery in the video – former police officer George McMichael, 64, and his son, Travis McMichael, 34 – were taken into custody and charged with murder.

William "Roddie" Bryan, 50, who videotaped the February 23 shooting, was later arrested and also charged with murder.

On Wednesday, a grand jury returned a nine-count indictment against all three men, charging each with malice murder, felony murder, aggravated assault and false imprisonment.

The three remain jailed without bond.

Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Governor on Wednesday activated the National Guard to protect state property after a night of violence that included the toppling of two statues outside the state Capitol.

One of the statues commemorated an abolitionist who died trying to end slavery during the Civil War.

Protesters also attacked a state senator, threw a Molotov cocktail into a government building and tried to break into the Capitol on Tuesday night.

They were repelled with pepper spray from police stationed inside.

The violence broke out as a group of between 200 and 300 people protested against the arrest of a black man who shouted at restaurant customers through a megaphone while carrying a baseball bat.

Governor Tony Evers, who toured the damage, said the violence was in “stark contrast” to earlier peaceful protests.

Mr Evers said he was activating the National Guard “to make sure people can exercise their First Amendment rights while ensuring the safety of members of the public and state buildings and infrastructure".

Hundreds of unarmed National Guard troops were also activated in Washington, where they are on standby to assist police in protecting historical monuments, US officials said on Wednesday.

Protesters earlier tried to tear down a statue of former President Andrew Jackson, a slave owner who systematically mistreated Native Americans, in a park near the White House.

Mr Trump on Wednesday warned protesters against attacking statues of prominent figures.

"Now they are looking at Jesus Christ, they are looking at George Washington, they are looking at Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson," he claimed, without evidence.

"Not going to happen. Not going to happen as long as I am here."

Mr Trump said that people damaging monuments could face 10 years in prison.

Updated: July 16, 2020 02:56 AM

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