Jun 1, 2020

Axios AM

Good Monday morning, and welcome to June. Here's to a better month!

Situational awareness: Target, CVS, Apple and Walmart all said yesterday that they had temporarily closed or limited hours at some locations for safety reasons, AP reports.

  • In some places, their stores have been burned, broken into or looted.
  • Amazon said it has adjusted its routes and suspended deliveries to keep its drivers safe in some cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle and Minneapolis.
1 big thing: The technology of witness

Charging Alabama state troopers pass by fallen demonstrators in Selma on March 7, 1965. Photo: Bettmann Archive via Getty Images

The ways Americans capture and share records of racist violence and police misconduct keep changing, while the pain of the underlying injustices they chronicle remains constant, Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes.

  • Why it matters: From news photography to TV broadcasts to camcorders to smartphones, improvements in the technology of witness over the past century mean we're more instantly and viscerally aware of injustice.

For decades, still news photography was the primary channel through which the public became aware of incidents of racial injustice.

  • A horrific 1930 photo of the lynching of J. Thomas Shipp and Abraham S. Smith, two black men in Marion, Ind., brought the incident to national attention and inspired the song "Strange Fruit."
  • Photos of the mutilated body of Emmett Till catalyzed a nationwide reaction to his 1955 lynching in Mississippi.
  • In the 1960s, TV news footage brought scenes of police turning dogs and water cannons on peaceful civil rights protesters in Birmingham and Selma, Ala., into viewers' living rooms.

In 1991, a camcorder tape shot by a Los Angeles plumber named George Holliday captured images of cops brutally beating Rodney King.

  • In the pre-internet era, it was only after the King tape was broadcast on TV that Americans could see it for themselves.

Over the past decade, smartphones have enabled witnesses and protesters to capture and distribute photos and videos of injustice quickly — sometimes, as it's happening.

  • This power helped catalyze the Black Lives Matter movement beginning in 2013, and has played a growing role in broader public awareness of police brutality.

The bottom line: Smartphones and social media deliver direct accounts of grief- and rage-inducing stories.

  • But they can't provide any context or larger sense of how many other incidents aren't being reported.
  • And they don't offer any guidance for how to channel the anger these reports stoke — or how to stop the next incident from happening.

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2. Minneapolis police chief says other three officers are complicit

Screenshot via CNN

In a spontaneous moment carried live on CNN, Minneapolis Police Chief Medaria Arradondo doffed his cap in a sign of respect and told the family of George Floyd, through a reporter, that he believes the other three officers are as guilty as the one who has been charged: "Silence and inaction, you're complicit."

  • It was the first time the chief had spoken to the family.

Why it matters: Besides the assurance for people around the world demanding justice in the case, the chief's concession — unheard of, at a stage when top officials are usually vague or silent — could have immense legal significance if he's a witness at future trials.

Here's how it happened: CNN anchor Don Lemon was interviewing Philonise Floyd, the brother of George Floyd, remotely from Houston as part of a prime-time special on "black men living and dying in America" called "I Can't Breathe."

  • CNN's Sara Sidner, an experienced protest and combat correspondent who has been providing fascinating coverage all week from Minneapolis, was near the spot where George Floyd died.
  • As she later recounted the moment, someone said as she talked to community members: "That's the police chief." Arradondo had come to pay respects to George Floyd, and wound up kneeling and praying.
  • Sidner buttonholed the chief for a live interview. Then Lemon prodded Philonise Floyd to ask a question, relayed through Sidner's earpiece.

Sidner: "The Floyd family has asked if you are going to get justice for George Floyd by making sure that the other officers are arrested and ... eventually convicted."

The chief: "And this is the Floyd family right now?"

Sidner: "This is the Floyd family."

The chief, removing his cap: "To the Floyd family, being silent or not intervening, to me, you’re complicit. So I don't see a level of distinction."

  • "So, obviously, the charging and those decisions will have to come through our county attorney's office. Certainly, the FBI is investigating."
  • "But to the Floyd family, I want you to know that my decision to fire all four officers was not based on some sort of hierarchy."

"Mr. Floyd died in our hands," the chief continued.

  • "Silence and inaction, you're complicit. You’re complicit. If there were one solitary voice that would have intervened, that's what I would have hoped for. ... And that did not occur."
3. Lessons from the lockdown

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

We're nowhere near finished with the coronavirus. But if we do the next phases of the response right, they'll be more targeted and risk-based than the sweeping national lockdown we’re emerging from, Axios health care editor Sam Baker writes.

Where it stands: The national lockdown is easing and the pandemic is no longer the single dominant storyline of our lives. But nothing has really changed — we didn’t develop a treatment and the virus didn’t get naturally weaker.

  • Tom Frieden, who led the CDC under President Obama, told Axios he thinks there will be another 20,000 coronavirus deaths within the next month.

What we’ve learned: This coronavirus doesn’t survive on surfaces as long as once feared, and it appears to transmit much more easily indoors than outside.

  • Both of those scientific lessons have already helped develop more nuanced guidelines about which activities are and aren’t safe, like the elevated the importance of wearing a face mask.

Among the most important things to figure out next: Whether exposure to the virus confers immunity, and if so, how strong that immunity is.

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4. What I saw in downtown D.C.
Photo: Mike Allen/Axios

When I took a stroll in the Sunday sunshine to check out the area around the White House after the mayhem the night before, I saw the day-night dichotomy of so many of this weekend's protests around the country.

  • Above, people demonstrated peacefully, with the classic chant of: "What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!" NBC's Garrett Haake, who was in Lafayette Park into last night, estimated 98% of the action was peaceful.
  • Below, you can see the sad results of the Saturday night anarchy that led D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser to order a citywide curfew for last night. At upper left, that's Joe's Seafood. Teaism and The Oval Room, White House neighborhood spots where I've met so many aides over the years, were being boarded up.
Photos: Mike Allen/Axios
5. Anger in America

Last evening in Washington. Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images

At least 4,400 people have been arrested around the country since Thursday in connection with protests of the death of George Floyd, according to an AP tally, with charges ranging from stealing to blocking highways to breaking curfew.

  • The big picture: America heads into the new week with neighborhoods in shambles, urban streets on lockdown and shaken confidence about when leaders will find the answers to control the mayhem.
  • The context: All of it smashed into a nation already bludgeoned by a death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surging past 100,000, and unemployment that soared to levels not seen since the Great Depression.
Demonstrators kneel in a moment of silence yesterday outside the Long Beach (Calif.) Police Department. Photo: Ashley Landis/AP

By day, more than 1,000 people marched peacefully in Lafayette Square across from the White House, the WashPost reports:

  • "Then came darkness, and with it, another night of mayhem. In the park, protesters faced the familiar pop, pop, pop of pepper bullets and stinging clouds of tear gas meant to push back hundreds of them as they tried ... to break through the police barricades set up around President Trump’s home."
  • "Later, American flags and parked cars and buildings were lit ablaze — including St. John’s Church, a historic landmark opened in 1816 and attended by every president since James Madison. Firefighters quickly extinguished the basement fire, which police said was intentionally set."

⚡ Amid the rock-throwing chaos of Friday night, the Secret Service rushed Trump down to a White House bunker for nearly an hour.

Near the White House yesterday. Photo: Evan Vucci/AP
6. Comparing climate change and coronavirus

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Over the past few months, people have made many comparisons — some biased — about society's divergent responses to climate change and the coronavirus crisis, and Axios' Amy Harder uses her "Harder Line" column to provide an objective look at them.

  • Both are massive risks that were downplayed or ignored despite being entirely predictable — more "gray rhinos" than "black swans."
  • The pandemic is not climate change on warp speed, since it's fast-moving and relatively equal in how it affects different parts of the world.

Go deeper.

7. Journalists caught in the crosshairs

HuffPost reporter Christopher Mathias being arrested in Brooklyn on Saturday. Photo: Phoebe Leila Barghouty/Twitter

Dozens of journalists across the country tweeted videos over the weekend of themselves and their crews getting arrested, being shot at by police with rubber bullets, targeted with tear gas by authorities or assaulted by protesters, Axios' Sara Fischer reports.

  • Why it matters: The incidents show how easy it can be for journalists to become entangled in the stories they cover, especially during a time of civil unrest.

In response, the U.S. Press Freedom Tracker said it was "working to verify and document reports" of aggression toward journalists during the protests.

8. "I don’t even know what he tweets"
Photo: Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times

Attorney General William Barr "has long held an expansive view of presidential power. With multiple crises converging in the run-up to the 2020 election, he is busy putting his theories to work," Mattathias Schwartz writes in a 9,000-word profile in next week's New York Times Magazine.

During an interview with Barr, Schwartz asked about some tweets by President Trump about former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

"I haven’t seen any of his tweets about Flynn, so I’m not sure what he's saying," Barr replied.
I asked if he would like to see them. "Not particularly," Barr said. "I don’t pay any attention. I don’t even know what he tweets."

Keep reading (subscription).

9. 📺 CNN is 40 today

Screenshot via CNN

CNN first signed on 40 years ago today with the husband-and-wife team of David Walker and Lois Hart anchoring the broadcast sans teleprompter. Watch.

  • 🥊 And today, CNN President Jeff Zucker isn't shutting down the idea of running for mayor of New York, telling the N.Y. Times' Ben Smith: "New York City is going to need a very strong mayor in the aftermath of this, and I always like a challenge."

A look at 40 years of CNN.

10. You need a smile
Drawing: Avi Steinberg/The New Yorker via The Cartoon Bank

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