Changes coming faster in South, elsewhere: Racial justice updates

Published: Jun. 29, 2020 at 8:14 AM EDT
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History is being made this week in the South, between Georgia’s hate crimes bill taking effect and Mississippi lawmakers’ decision to remove the Confederate battle symbol from the state’s flag.

New flag in Mississippi

In Mississippi, the flag change comes more than a century after white supremacist legislators adopted the design a generation after the South lost the Civil War.

Voters will pick a new design in the November election.

A commission will design that flag, which cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the words “in God we trust.”

Cheers rang out at the state Capitol after lawmakers voted for the change Sunday, with many legislators saying the state needs a flag that unifies rather than divides.

The bill will go to the desk of the governor, who said he will sign it.

New law in Georgia

Georgia’s new hate crimes law will go into effect this week after being signed by Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday.

Starting Wednesday, the law will penalize those who perpetrate crimes motivated by a race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or disability.

It also will create a new policy for policing, meaning deputies must complete bias reports and detailed documents on alleged hate crimes.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation will be in charge of maintaining the database to track numbers statewide.

“We stand together as Republicans and Democrats, black and white, male and female, from rural, urban and suburban communities, to affirm a simple but powerful motto: Georgia is a state too great to hate,” Gov. Brian Kemp said.

The governor said that this bill “does not fix every problem, or right every wrong. but this bipartisan legislation is a powerful step forward. it’s a sign of progress, and it’s a milestone worth applauding.”

Also in the news ...

  • Today in Minneapolis, the four police officers charged in George Floyd’s death will be in court. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao each face one count of aiding and abetting murder. The fourth suspect, Derek Chauvin faces multiple charges, including second-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin will be the only one to appear remotely from where he’s being held on a $1 million bond. All four could be asked to enter pleas.
  • The Minneapolis police chief and mayor have begun their push for sweeping policy changes with a new rule that prevents officers involved in using deadly force from reviewing body camera footage before completing an initial police report. The new standards come after a proposal by the Minneapolis City Council to dismantle the police force after the death of George Floyd. Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo and Mayor Jacob Frey say the move is first of what will be a series of new public safety policy reforms.
  • Violins played a tribute for Elijah Mcclain in Colorado over the weekend. It was in honor of his love for the instrument. Not too far away, thousands of protesters shut down roads, demanding charges against the police officers involved in McClain’s death. The governor has signed an executive order for a new investigation into the August death of the 23-year-old. His family says he was getting iced tea for his brother when police stopped him after receiving a call about a suspicious person “acting weird.” Police put McClain in a chokehold, and he suffered cardiac arrest on the way to the hospital and was later declared brain dead and removed from life support.
  • After President Donald Trump tweeted approvingly of a video showing one of his supporters chanting “white power,” South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott called it “indefensible.” Trump ultimately deleted it with the White House saying the president had not heard “the one statement” on the video.
  • Here at home, a community meeting on police reform will take place Tuesday. The Burke County Sheriff’s Office and prosecutors will lead a discussion on reform and answer any questions or concerns from the public. Local officials are expected to be there, as well. The event will be from 6-8 p.m. at the Burke County Office Park.

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