Central Park Racially Charged Incident Followed By Firing

Amid news that George Floyd, a black man in Minnesota, was killed in the custody of police, another racially-charged controversy sparked in Central Park on Monday when a white woman called police on a black man who was out birdwatching.

Though the outcome of the Central Park incident was peaceful, it is just as important a case-study in American race relations at a time when social tension has become historically terse. Questions of who police serve and who can rely on law enforcement for protection are at the heart of this now-viral skirmish in the park.

Racially Motivated Confrontation

Amy Cooper, a white woman who had worked as a portfolio manager at Franklin Templeton until this recent episode, encountered Christian Cooper (no relation), a black man who was birdwatching in The Ramble, a wooded region of Central Park. The area has a strict rule requiring dogs to be kept on a leash for the sake of protecting the local ecosystem. “That’s important to us birders because we know that dogs won’t be off leash at all and we can go there to see the ground-dwelling birds,” said Christian Cooper, the Harvard-educated avid birdwatcher.

But Amy Cooper had ignored the well-labelled restriction, allowing her dog to run around Monday morning. When Christian Cooper politely asked her to put her dog on the leash, she refused, leading to an increasingly contentious interaction.

As their confrontation became more heated, Christian Cooper began recording Amy Cooper on his cellphone camera, maintaining a calm voice as the dog-owner emboldened her tone, threatening to call the cops and “tell them there’s an African-American man threatening my life.”

Amy Cooper followed through on the threat, yelling into the phone “There’s a man, African-American, he has a bicycle helmet… He is recording me and threatening me and my dog.” Her voice became emotional as she continued to plead into her phone, “Please send the cops immediately!” By the time the police showed up, both parties had left the area.

Response to the Incident

After his video went viral, Christian Cooper spoke out about why he felt it was important to document the interaction. “Unfortunately, we live in an era with things like Ahmaud Arbery, where black men are seen as targets,” he said, referring to a Georgia man whose murder by a white ex-cop and his son was the subject of a recent viral video. “This woman thought she could exploit that to her advantage, and I wasn’t having it.”

The Central Park incident, while not physically violent, highlights a subtle, but consequential disparity between the way white communities and communities of color relate to law enforcement.

Amy Cooper’s eagerness to use the police against a fellow park-goer is symbolic of the comfort many white Americans feel around police officers. Without bracing for suspicion or consequence, Amy Cooper was able to dial 911 to quickly resolve what she deemed to be imminent danger.

But as proven by the highly-publicized deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, who was publicly killed by police on Memorial Day, many black Americans feel they cannot rely on law enforcement to protect them. Arbery, Floyd and Christian Cooper were all perceived as threats because of the color of their skin, and while Cooper was able to walk away unharmed, such inequality in the eyes of power cost Arbery and Floyd their lives.

Asked whether he views Amy Cooper as a racist, Christian Cooper says he is in no place to make that determination, but didn’t shy from calling her actions racist. Still, he says he accepts her apology: “If it’s genuine and if she plans on keeping her dog on a leash in the Ramble going forward, then we have no issues with each other.”

 

The Public Death of George Floyd

George Floyd died Monday after a police officer cuffed him and pinned him to the ground by the neck. Video footage of the incident, clearly depicting a white officer pushing his knee into the black victim’s throat while he lies flat on the ground, has incited fierce online backlash and has resulted in the termination of four officers involved. On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters flooded the streets of Minneapolis, where the apparent injustice occurred, many of whom shouted the now-infamous refrain, “I can’t breathe.”

The words evoke memories of the death of Eric Garner, a black New York man who similarly died by asphyxiation by a white police officer in 2016. Garner’s final words as depicted in a video of his death, “I can’t breathe,” eerily echo in the now-viral footage of George Floyd’s final moments, where he begs the officer to remove the knee from his neck, begging, “Please, I can’t breathe.”

But the devastating last words are not the only things that these incidents share in common. As many have declared online, Floyd’s death is not a standalone instance, but rather one in a long, dark history of violent law enforcement against Americans of color. Just three weeks ago, Georgia authorities came under national scrutiny after the publication of a video depicting the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger killed by white neighbors.

“Being black in America should not be a death sentence,” said Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in a statement in which he called upon the FBI to conduct an investigation of Floyd’s death. “For five minutes, we watched a white officer press his knee into a black man’s neck. Five minutes.”

Floyd’s Arrest and Death

On Monday evening, the Minneapolis Police Department says that it was responding to a call about a man suspected of forgery, when officers found Floyd sitting in top of a blue car. The statement says that Floyd “appeared to be under the influence.”

The statement then says he “was ordered to step from his car” and “after he got out, he physically resisted officers. Officers were able to get the suspect into handcuffs and noted he appeared to be suffering medical distress.” It says that officers then called for an ambulance.

Little is known about the moments between Floyd’s cuffing and his death, but at some point Floyd was physically pinned to the ground by an officer who forced his knee onto Floyd’s neck. As Floyd begged for mercy, bystanders can also be heard in the video imploring the officer to stop, pointing out that Floyd could not breathe and that his nose was bleeding. An ambulance medic then arrives and checks Floyd for a pulse before lifting him onto a stretcher and taking him to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead at 9:25 PM.

Authorities have confirmed that all officers involved were wearing body cameras, so additional footage illustrating the moments leading up to Floyd’s death may ultimately be available.

Fallout and Investigation

Mayor Frey has since announced that the four officers involved have been fired and that his office will do its best to be “as transparent as possible.”

“It’s the kind of thing where you don’t hide from the truth, you lean into it, because our city is going to be better off for it, no matter how ugly, awful it is,” Frey said. “If it points out the institutional racism that we are still working through right now, well, good — it means that we’ve got a lot of work to go.”

At Frey’s behest, the FBI is now conducting a federal civil rights investigation into the incident.

The Minneapolis police union has made no official statement at this time, though the head of the union, Lt. Bob Kroll, told a local media outlet that people should not rush to a conclusion while the investigation is still under way. “Our officers are fully cooperating,” Kroll said. “We must review all video. We must wait for the medical examiner’s report.”

Protests in the street

Hundreds of protesters gathered on Tuesday at the intersection where Floyd was abused, calling out the police’s conduct and demanding justice for the victim’s family. Some chanted “No justice, no peace,” while others cried “I can’t breathe!” One protester explained the demonstration to a local reporter, “We’re here to let them know this can’t be tolerated, there will be severe consequences if they continue to kill us. This will not go on another day.”

Some demonstrators grew unruly, vandalizing police vehicles with graffiti and targeting the precinct house where the four involved officers had been assigned. Authorities at the scene used tear gas and foam bullets on the crowd as a means of breaking up the protest.

Public Response

Presumed Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden condemned the episode in no ambiguous terms on Twitter. “George Floyd deserved better and his family deserves justice. His life mattered,” the former Vice President wrote on Twitter. “I’m grateful for the swift action in Minneapolis to fire the officers involved — they must be held responsible for their egregious actions. The FBI should conduct a thorough investigation.”

Minnesota Governor Tim Walz called the incident “sickening,” insisting, “we will get answers and seek justice.”

Meanwhile, Floyd’s family is calling his death “heart-stopping.” The 45-year-old restaurant employee originally hailed from Texas, but had lived and worked in St. Louis Park, Minnesota for several years leading up to his death.

“He was a good dude,” said Floyd’s cousin, Zackery Terrell. “Whenever you were around him, you felt nothing but just good energy.”

 

Republican Voters Against Trump to Launch $10 Million Ad Campaign

It may be hard to remember, but when Donald Trump first rode the escalator down to the political stage in 2015, most in the Republican establishment scoffed at the idea that he would ever lead their party. But by the time the former reality star clinched the party’s presidential nomination after an arduous primary in which he bested over twenty Republican candidates, the GOP decided that it would be better to support Trump’s candidacy than to allow Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent, anywhere near the White House.

But as the 2020 election nears, some in the Republican Party have decided that removing Trump from office is more important than winning another election. A new group called Republican Voters Against Trump is now gearing up for a $10 million TV and internet ad campaign to convince white, college-educated conservatives that it is in the country’s best interest to make Joe Biden president, and prevent Trump from permanently damaging the Republican Party.

“What was missing in 2016 was a real concerted effort to take the voices of real people who have deep reservations about Trump, but who identify as Republicans, and allow them to be the messengers,” said Sarah Longwell, a lifelong conservative and a prominent Never Trump Republican. Longwell is one of three founders of Republican Voters Against Trump, along with conservative commentator Bill Kristol, and former Jeb Bush aide Tim Miller.

The organization has spent three years hosting focus groups and conducting research on what messaging would be most effective in persuading on-the-fence conservatives to vote against their own party. This week, it unveiled a website that features a hundred video testimonials, each featuring an everyday Republican voter explaining in personal terms why they will not vote to reelect Donald Trump.

Few of the videos flaunt an overwhelming endorsement of Joe Biden, the presumed Democratic nominee. But most of the messages explain how Trump has hijacked the true conservative values of the Republican Party, and why electing Joe Biden—even for a single term—outweighs the danger of renewing Trump’s contract.

One participant says, “I suppose I’ll be voting for Joe Biden,” while another says Biden’s “not a perfect candidate” but “a decent man.” Yet another speaker says of the Democratic nominee, “This guy has one term written all over him. Let him win. We’ll have four years to rebuild the base, re-educate the party, bleach out the Trump cult stain and then come back,” adding, “I wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump with a gun to my head and neither should you.”

Though the passion for Biden is nowhere as intense as the hatred for Trump, the lukewarm enthusiasm for Biden is part of the organization’s strategy. Longwell says that the subdued support for Biden’s candidacy makes for a more authentic pitch to persuadable Republicans than an overly-enthusiastic endorsement would. “People who have been Republicans their entire lives aren’t super excited about voting for a Democrat,” she said. “The way they talk about it is more in sorrow than enthusiasm.”

Still, Republicans Voting Against Trump thinks that with the proper marketing, it can convince a certain sector of the party to consider casting a ballot for Biden, a goal that is far more plausible than convincing the same group to ever vote for Hillary Clinton. “You can’t overstate what the Clintons represent for Republicans,” Longwell said. “Donald Trump’s corruption was offset by what they saw as her corruption.” She believes that it will be easier to sell Biden as a level-headed man of integrity.

The ad blitz will hit the key swing states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida, North Carolina, and Arizona through the summer, and will target college-educated, white voters who live in the suburbs. Longwell says she feels optimistic that there are indeed persuadable Republicans out there.

 “I was surprised by how many people had just decided because of the coronavirus response,” she said. “They for the first time started watching the press conferences.”

 

“Love & Hip Hop” Star Arrested for PPP Fraud

lovestarhiphop_Maurice Fayne, a star on the VH1 reality series Love and Hip Hop, was arrested and charged Monday for allegedly defrauding the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the federal government’s massive effort to assist ailing small businesses amid coronavirus shutdowns. Federal authorities made the arrest public on Wednesday.

Any business owner who received money through the PPP had to certify that they would use it to “retain workers and maintain payroll or make mortgage interest payments, lease payments, and utility payments, as specified under the Paycheck Protection Program Rule.” Fayne, allegedly, spent his check on $85,000 worth of fine jewelry and approximately $40,000 on child support.

The reality TV star owns a company called Flame Trucking in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and in seeking the PPP loan, he had claimed to have a monthly payroll of about $1.5 million, for 107 employees. But the $2.04 million that he received in federal relief money almost instantly went toward personal treats, including a Rolex watch, a diamond bracelet, and a 5.73 carat diamond ring for himself.

On Monday, agents raided Fayne’s residence in Dacula, GA, seizing about $80,000 in cash, as well as his jewelry collection and a 2019 Rolls-Royce Wraith that the reality star had recently leased. It still had the temporary dealer tags on it. When asked whether he had used PPP money to pay for the car’s lease, Fayne had responded, “kinda, sorta, not really,” according to an affidavit.

Prosecutors say that an additional $503,000 of PPP funds were seized from three separate bank accounts under Fayne’s name.

“The defendant allegedly stole money meant to assist hard-hit employees and businesses during these difficult times, and instead used the money to bankroll his lavish purchases of jewelry and other personal items,” said Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.

But it seems that, for now, Fayne is claiming ignorance as a defense for his spending spree. When asked for comment, his lawyer, Tanya Miller, defended her client’s actions this way: “There has been considerable confusion among small business owners about PPP guidelines — particularly around the question of whether and how business owners are permitted to pay themselves a salary or take an owner’s draw. I hope these issues to be better fleshed out in the weeks and months to come.”

According to court documents, Fayne had told agents that he “believed he had the right to use part of the PPP loan proceeds for ‘other business purposes’ and for ‘working capital.”

Fayne was released Wednesday on $10,000 bail.

 

News Release – North Carolina’s Major Venues Team Up to Plan for Return of Concerts, Broadway, and Comedy Events

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

May 19, 2020

Press Contact: Josette Roten

jroten@dpacnc.com919-281-0815

North Carolina’s Major Venues Team Up to Plan for Return of Concerts, Broadway, and Comedy Events

DPAC Joins Coalition of Performing Arts Centers, Amphitheaters and Arenas in New Safety Initiative

(Durham, NC) — North Carolina is home to many of the largest and most popular arts and entertainment venues in the country, and now industry leaders from many of these facilities are joining together to plan for the return of concerts, Broadway, and comedy events.

The newly formed “NC LIVE” coalition will provide guidance and best practices to ensure safe reopening of these facilities. The group has an executive committee of representatives from Blumenthal Performing Arts, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Durham Performing Arts Center, Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Live Nation Carolinas, Spectrum Center, and Red Hat Amphitheater.

Many patrons visit arts and entertainment facilities across NC each year, among the coalition, 18 of the venues saw over 3.3 million guests during more than 2,500 performances in 2019.

The temporary suspension of these venues has leaders actively discussing and developing procedures to safely re-open their doors to fans, when the time comes. Specific plans are still in the works but will include venue and fan experience modifications such as cashless transactions, venue disinfection, staggered fan arrival time, and temperature checks. The safety of our artists, fans and staff is our top priority as we move forward to reopening our arts and entertainment facilities.

Full list of NC LIVE Members:

Charlotte: Blumenthal Performing Arts, Bojangles Entertainment Complex, Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheatre, Live Nation Carolinas, PNC Music Pavilion, and Spectrum Center.

Durham: Carolina Theatre of Durham, DPAC – Durham Performing Arts Center, and Durham Convention Center.

Greensboro: Greensboro Coliseum Complex, Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts, and White Oak Amphitheatre.

Raleigh/Wake County: Coastal Credit Music Park at Walnut Creek, Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, Koka Booth Amphitheatre, PNC Arena, and Red Hat Amphitheater.

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When you get sick from Covid 19…

So when you really think about…is it worth it? Please read! Seems fairly accurate.

When you get sick from the Covid 19 virus, you first experience a constant cough, loss of taste, and a fever. Your head aches, you’re hot, you have chills, and you have an unrelenting fever. Your fever is so high and consistent, Tylenol offers little relief. Your body aches in every joint, and the lethargy, lost of taste and sore throat make eating unbearable. This may even feel like the typical flu, except it doesn’t get better. It gets worse. As the virus takes over your body, you began to have shortness of breath. You realize that you’re breathing slowly, and the breathes are hard, heavy, like you have a sponge stuck in your throat and nose. When you try to fill your lungs with air, you cannot. And that scares you. Your lungs are on fire with each inhale, and paired with the coughs, it’s almost impossible to breath. With every breath, your chest, arms, back, fingers, toes, everything…hurts. You are terrified now. So, you go to the hospital, and no one can go in with you. They’re not allowed in. So you go in by yourself, sick, and scared. The medical team gives you oxygen, and it burns the entrance to your nose. You are now so sick that even the forced oxygen is no relief. So a team of medical professionals in protective gear (you can hardly make out their faces) enter your isolated room, and put a couple of half-inch tubes down your throat to get past the bronchi and into your lungs. They are working to save your life. You are now on an artificial respirator, because you can no longer breathe on your own. To be intubated is painful, and if you’re conscious, you will not be able to speak or eat. You will be alone. With no family, friends, loved ones…no one. You’ve become a risk to others because if around, you’d infect them with the same thing that is killing you. But understand, it’s no party for those who love you, either. Because of you, they get to be at home, without you there, scared, and in constant worry about you. And as you lay in your hospital bed, feeling so alone, you begin to cry, and you realize that you’re afraid of dying. You wonder why God is doing this to you, but then you remember that “thing” you just had to attend last week. All those events, with all those people, that beautiful weather, the beach, and you remember how many people you kissed or hugged or took pics with. It was so much fun, right? It seemed harmless. No one there was sick…or were they? It is then that you’ll wish you hadn’t gone out, hadn’t risked your life, you’ll even hope that you havent infected others, and THIS IS WHEN YOU WILL UNDERSTAND WHY THEY TOLD YOU TO STAY AT HOME. 😐

SO PLEASE STAY HOME FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR LOVED ONES ❤

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