• Mon. Apr 12th, 2021


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Kenosha Shooting: NBA Cancels Thursday’s Games

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N.B.A. players pledge to return, but the timing is still unclear.

N.B.A. players have pledged to resume the season after their walkout of playoff games to protest the police shooting of Jacob Blake triggered a far-reaching work stoppage that stretched across professional basketball, baseball, tennis and soccer.

The plans were confirmed on Thursday by two people who were part of the discussions who spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing about several details, including when to return to play.

The athletes’ protests began with a walkout by Milwaukee Bucks players, leading the N.B.A. to postpone all the playoff games scheduled for Wednesday. On Thursday, the league also postponed three playoff games scheduled for that day.

“We are hopeful to resume games either Friday or Saturday,” Mike Bass, the league’s executive vice president, said in a statement. He said players and team management were meeting by video conference to decide how to proceed.

It was not immediately clear how the playoffs schedule would change to accommodate the missed games.

Athletes from the N.B.A., W.N.B.A., Major League Baseball and Major League Soccer and the professional tennis tour sat out games and matches Wednesday in protest against police brutality, escalating a season of demonstrations for social justice.

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The W.N.B.A. postponed three games scheduled for Thursday evening. The matchups — Chicago vs. Indiana, Dallas vs. New York and Las Vegas vs. Seattle — were postponed as the league’s players “continue discussions and reflections on recent events,” the W.N.B.A. said in a statement. The league did not immediately say when the games would be played.

In the tennis world, matches at the Western & Southern Open, which is being played in New York, were suspended on Thursday, organizers said, with matches for men and women scheduled to resume on Friday.

Naomi Osaka, the tennis star and winner of two Grand Slam titles, said Wednesday she would sit out the Western & Southern Open’s semifinals to protest racial injustice. But on Thursday she said that because tennis officials had agreed to move the matches to Friday, she would participate.

“They offered to postpone all matches until Friday, and in my mind that brings more attention to the movement,” Osaka said, adding that she was, and remained, prepared to concede her match to Elise Mertens.

Federal agents deployed to Kenosha amid continued protests.

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More than 200 federal agents and marshals have been deployed to Wisconsin, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department said late Wednesday, adding that the agency would “continue to surge Kenosha with federal resources as needed and necessary.”

The unrest in Kenosha this week prompted Gov. Tony Evers of Wisconsin to order hundreds of National Guard troops into the city, and earlier Wednesday, President Trump said he planned to send federal law enforcement officials as well.

Protests in Kenosha appeared to be largely peaceful on Wednesday, following a chaotic night Tuesday during which a shooting killed two men, 26 and 36, and seriously injured a third. The shooting took place as demonstrators scuffled with a group of men carrying long guns who said they were protecting the area from looting. The authorities announced the arrest Wednesday of a white 17-year-old, saying he had been charged with first-degree intentional homicide in the shooting.

The Justice Department said Wednesday that it would investigate the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha, its second investigation this year into a white officer’s arrest of a Black man. In May, the department opened an inquiry into the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Protesters also took to the streets Oakland and other cities to condemn the police shooting of Mr. Blake. In Portland, Ore., demonstrators continued their nightly protests that have lasted for three months, with Wednesday night’s march billed as being in solidarity with Kenosha. A crowd of about 200 marched to a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement building, where federal officers came out to confront the crowd.

To the south, in Oakland, Calif., hundreds of protesters of protesters took to the streets in solidarity, with a march that began peacefully with a few hundred people calling for justice.

Later, some protesters set small fires in the streets, breaking windows and flipping trash cans. The police shared video footage showing a small fire inside the shattered glass doors of the Alameda County courthouse in Oakland, and video footage also showed plumes of smoke rising near Lake Merritt after a car was set ablaze.

Conway says the more violence erupts, the ‘better it is’ for Trump’s re-election prospects.

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Kellyanne Conway, President Trump’s departing counselor, said on Thursday that Mr. Trump stood to benefit politically from the kind of unrest that erupted this week in Kenosha, Wis., after the police shooting of an unarmed Black man, Jacob Blake.

“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” Ms. Conway said on “Fox & Friends.”

She had been asked on the program to respond to criticism from the Biden campaign and Pete Buttigieg, the former Democratic presidential candidate, that Mr. Trump was responsible for societal divisions that have been magnified by the protests this summer over police brutality and racial injustice. She told the interviewers she had seen a quote from a Wisconsin restaurant owner to the effect that protesters were actually helping to get Mr. Trump re-elected.

Mr. Biden took issue with Ms. Conway’s remarks in an interview on MSNBC Thursday afternoon. “He views this as a political benefit to him,” Mr. Biden said of the president. “You know, he’s rooting for more violence, not less, and is clear about that.”

Symone Sanders, a senior adviser to the Biden campaign, condemned Ms. Conway’s comment on a Zoom call with reporters, saying, “Donald Trump has stoked this climate for years because of the sick mentality that she just displayed, thinking it will help him somehow politically.”

In light of the Kenosha protests, a Wisconsin college called off a speech by Mike Pence.

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A college in Milwaukee announced on Thursday that it had canceled plans to have Vice President Mike Pence deliver its commencement address this weekend, in light of the clashes rocking nearby Kenosha.

Wisconsin Lutheran College said in a statement that “after further review with careful consideration of the escalating events in Kenosha,” it had decided that Mr. Pence — who was the headline speaker at the Republican National Convention on Wednesday night — should not speak to graduates on Saturday. It said that the Rev. Mark Jeske of St. Marcus Lutheran Church had agreed to speak in his place.

The police shooting of a Black man in Kenosha on Sunday has led to days of unrest, with clashes involving anti-racism protesters and armed civilians supporting the police, and a pro-police teenager has been accused of killing two demonstrators.

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Political reactions to the athletes’ walkouts appeared to be largely divided along partisan lines.

On Wednesday, former President Barack Obama commended the N.B.A. and W.N.B.A. “for setting an example” and praised the Bucks “for standing up for what they believe in.”

“It’s going to take all our institutions to stand up for our values,” he said on Twitter.

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat from New York, said in a tweet that the N.B.A. players were “courageously on strike,” adding that the choice of words was important because a “strike,” as opposed to a “boycott,” referred to withholding labor and emphasized the players’ power as workers.

“The courage this takes is profound,” she added. “W.N.B.A. organizing in this moment MUST be recognized too.”

Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, said the N.B.A. players had “the luxury of taking a night off from work” when asked about the strike in an interview with Politico.

“Most Americans don’t have the financial luxury to do that,” he added, “I think it’s nice that they’re standing up for the issue, but I’d like to see them start moving into concrete solutions.”

Mr. Kushner made almost identical comments in another interview on Thursday, with CNBC.

Asked in a Thursday interview on CNN whether Vice President Mike Pence would weigh in, Marc Short, his chief of staff said: “I don’t know that you’re going to see the administration weigh in on that one way or the other. In my mind, it’s absurd. It’s silly.”

As of Thursday afternoon, President Trump had not tweeted about the walkouts. In recent years, he has been a vocal critic of other protests against racism in professional sports, posting dozens of tweets criticizing National Football League players kneeling during the playing of the national anthem.

Social media calls for armed vigilantes and violence went out before Kenosha protesters were shot.

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Hours before three protesters were shot in Kenosha, two of them fatally, calls went out on social media for armed vigilantes to flock to the city and use force against demonstrators they described as thugs and arsonists, according to a group that monitors internet disinformation.

“The seeds of potential violence were planted over the course of the day,” the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab said in a blog post on Wednesday, “as multiple threads on Facebook and Reddit encouraged militiamen and other armed individuals to head to Kenosha, ostensibly to protect local businesses from protesters.”

It added: “In some cases, these discussions encouraged acts of violence. The conspiracy website InfoWars, meanwhile, amplified the call to arms, potentially encouraging additional people with weapons to attend the event.”

A 17-year-old, Kyle Rittenhouse, was arrested and is being held in nearby Lake County, Illinois, where he lives, in connection with the shootings, according to court documents. He can be seen in multiple videos taken that night, carrying a semiautomatic assault rifle, and some videos appear to show him shooting people. It was not clear whether Mr. Rittenhouse had seen the social media appeals.

In an interview conducted that night before the shootings, Mr. Rittenhouse told a video editor at The Daily Caller, a conservative news and opinion site that he and other armed people were present because protecting businesses was “our job.”

On the day of the shooting, the Atlantic Council researchers found, a Facebook page was created, calling for people to “gear up” and protect Kenosha. One person posted on the page, which has since been deleted, “shoot to kill.”

Another now-deleted Facebook page, claiming to represent a local militia group, asked people to “take up arms” and defend Kenosha from “evil thugs” who were “planning on the next part of the City to burn.” That invitation was promoted by Infowars, leading to it being repeated on hundreds of other Facebook pages.

On a Reddit discussion thread, one poster wrote that 75 people were en route from Green Bay, adding: “We have lots of guns. Lots of pipe bombs.” Another Redditer demanded that “all non-whites and degenerates leave Kenosha.”

Facebook has removed Mr. Rittenhouse’s accounts on that network and Instagram, removed praise for him on other accounts, and blocked searches for his name, said Brian Fishman, Facebook’s director of Counterterrorism and Dangerous Organizations.

In a Twitter thread, Mr. Fishman said the company had also removed the account of the militia group for violating Facebook’s rules, but that it had found no evidence that Mr. Rittenhouse had seen the group’s posts.

Kenosha officials voiced relief that things were calmer and blamed outsiders for violence.

Kenosha County officials sought to distance themselves and their community from the recent unrest on Thursday, praising residents for following a curfew overnight and blaming violence on outsiders who they said were intent on causing trouble.

“My message to the world, which we know is watching, is that Kenosha County is made up of good, caring people,” Jim Kreuser, the county executive, said during a news conference on Thursday afternoon. “I am confident that what we saw Sunday, Monday and Tuesday night isn’t who we really are.”

The leadership of the city and county, which is largely white and male, took no questions during the brief news conference, and did not address specifics about the police shooting of Mr. Blake or the fatal shooting during unrest that killed two people and resulted in the arrest of a white 17-year-old who lives just over the state line in Illinois.

The crowd that gathered on Wednesday night was smaller and more peaceful than those of the previous nights, after officials released some basic information about the shooting of Mr. Blake. He was paralyzed after a police officer shot him seven times in the back on Sunday; the officer, Rusten Sheskey, and two other officers on the scene have been placed on administrative leave.

Daniel Miskinis, Kenosha’s police chief, said of the people demonstrating against the police, “most of those people want change, they want accountability,” not violence.

Sheriff David Beth thanked those who protested peacefully on Wednesday, saying, “I think the people who were here last night were Kenosha’s people.”

“We didn’t see streams of cars from out of Kenosha County,” he said. “A huge part of me thinks a lot of our issues start when different people with different agendas come here.”

“We know there are still people out there, instigators that are trying to cause trouble and fire things up,” he added.

N.F.L. teams cancel practice for a day and focus on ‘reflection instead.’

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In the wake of the cancellations of N.B.A. and M.L.B. games, several N.F.L. teams chose to sit out practice on Thursday.

Ron Rivera, the coach of the Washington Football Team, said Wednesday night that the day would be reserved for “reflection instead” of football. The New York Jets, the Indianapolis Colts and the Green Bay Packers were among the many other teams that also canceled practice.

The Packers said in a statement that the team was “deeply troubled at what again has become a painful example of the significant challenges we face with respect to police brutality, systemic racism and injustices against Black people.”

Troy Vincent, a former defensive back who is now the head of football operations at the N.F.L. and the highest-ranking Black person at the league office, spoke tearfully on ESPN Radio about his fears for his three sons and his support for all the players who sat out games Wednesday to highlight the need to fight social injustice.

“I’m sitting up here every day having a conversation about contact tracing and how we’re going to play ball,” Vincent said of the league’s preparations for the coming season. “And I’ve got a 22 year old and a 20 year old and a 15 year old that I’m trying to prevent from being hunted.”

Protests flared again in Minneapolis.

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A curfew in Minneapolis was lifted Thursday morning after a new round of demonstrations and looting, the authorities said, in the city where a police killing first set off global demonstrations this summer against racial injustice.

On Wednesday afternoon, a Black man who was wanted in a homicide fatally shot himself as the police closed in on a downtown Minneapolis street, which helped to prompt the latest protests in the same city where George Floyd was killed three months ago.

City and state officials emphasized that the death on Wednesday was a suicide. “It did not involve a police shooting,” Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota said at news conference on Wednesday night. “The situation has gotten to the point now where it’s absolutely unacceptable.”

Video footage of demonstrators showed people criticizing the police for escalating the situation, and for using tear gas or pepper spray on protesters. Some said that the unrest there was a reaction to police brutality more broadly, not to the suicide on Wednesday.

Mr. Walz said the State Patrol had been deployed in the city to help restore order, and Mayor Jacob Frey of Minneapolis said he had ordered an immediate curfew and had requested additional help from the National Guard.

“What our city needs right now is healing,” Mr. Frey said at a news conference with the city police chief, Medaria Arradondo, on Wednesday night. “We do not need more destruction. We do not need property damage that is unacceptable in every way, shape and form, and I want to be very clear: It will not be tolerated.”

On Thursday morning, the Minneapolis Fire Department said it had responded to four buildings on fire overnight, adding that the cause of the blazes was still under investigation. Two people were rescued from the fires, and none were reported injured.

On Wednesday, the police released video of the man shooting himself, saying it was important to quell rumors that he had been killed by the police. “People need to know the facts,” Chief Arradondo said. By Thursday morning, they had removed the video “due to the graphic nature and out of respect to the individual, his family and the community.”

In a tweet on Thursday morning, Jeremiah Ellison, a member of the City Council, reiterated that the man had killed himself, and that police had not shot him. “But people assuming they did is rooted in a steep distrust,” Mr. Ellison said. “That distrust is our failure to own.”

Reporting was contributed by Ken Belson, Alan Blinder, Michael Cooper, Jacey Fortin, Sarah Mervosh, Richard Perez-Peña, Marc Stein, Neil Vigdor and Alan Yuhas.