May 30, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Situational awareness: As unrest spread across dozens of American cities yesterday, the Pentagon took the rare step of ordering the Army to prepare several active-duty U.S. military police units for deployment to Minneapolis, AP's James LaPorta reports.

  • Backstory: The get-ready orders were sent verbally yesterday, after President Trump asked Defense Secretary Mark Esper, on a Thursday night call from the Oval Office, for rapid-deployment options to help quell the unrest in Minneapolis.
1 big thing: America's unfinished business

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The fury over George Floyd's killing is erupting as the U.S. faces a wave of bankruptcies, "avalanche of evictions" and pandemic that are all hitting African Americans disproportionately, Axios Markets Editor Dion Rabouin reports.

Why it matters: What these seemingly disparate issues have in common is that they emanate from systemic abuses that calls to action and promised reforms have yet to meaningfully address.

  • Consider the extrajudicial killings in the past decade of Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland and numerous other black Americans for which there was no fundamental legal resolution.
  • The overwhelming majority of their killers went free and some retained their jobs in law enforcement.

Likewise, much of the economic fallout we're seeing because of the coronavirus stems from unresolved issues left over from the 2008 Great Recession.

  • After the recession, none of the top executives who had originated, boxed or sold the collateralized debt obligations and improperly rated mortgage-backed securities faced criminal charges.

The root cause of the 2008 crisis — rampant corporate greed — was never sufficiently contained.

  • Many of the meager protections created for everyday Americans through the Dodd-Frank financial reform act have since been clawed back by the Trump administration and the Fed.

Between the lines: The swift action from the Federal Reserve and Congress that saved the financial system had the unintended effect of exacerbating the nation's growing income inequality.

  • Last year, the Census Bureau reported the U.S. had its highest level of income inequality ever.

What's next: The coronavirus pandemic looks to be heading in much the same way.

  • A new recession has left at least 34 million people on government unemployment assistance and likely millions more without a job — and the difference between the reality for working- and middle-class African Americans and wealthy white Americans is stark.
  • The virus has affected black Americans at a much higher rate, largely a result of widespread economic inequality that has kept black folks in less affluent neighborhoods with more people packed into less space.

Keep reading.

2. Deaths without consequences

Last August, activists demand police accountability at a rally in Grand Central Terminal marking the fifth anniversary of Mike Brown's killing by Ferguson, Mo., officer Darren Wilson. Photo: Erik McGregor via Getty Images

Seven years after the launch of the Black Lives Matter movement, it's still rare for police officers to be charged in the deaths of African Americans — and even more rare for an officer to go to jail, Axios' Ursula Perano writes.

  • The big picture: The Minneapolis police officer who was captured on video kneeling on George Floyd's neck was charged yesterday with third-degree murder and manslaughter — which is already a step beyond the consequences other officers have faced. But it's no guarantee that he will serve time.

The backstory: The Black Lives Matter movement took off in 2013 when George Zimmerman, a civilian, was acquitted of shooting Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager. The case kickstarted the international movement to address the controversial deaths of black people, particularly at the hands of police.

  • But since then, the cases have usually ended with either no charges or no jail time for police officers.

Explore how prominent cases ended.

3. America erupts: Police overwhelmed, coast to coast
Outside CNN Center in Atlanta yesterday. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images

Prime time in America was filled last night with live images of furious confrontations between protesters and police in Minneapolis ... Brooklyn ... outside the White House ... Atlanta ... Louisville ... Cincinnati ... Dallas ... L.A. ... San Jose ... Bakersfield (!) ... Portland, Ore. ... and more.

  • Why it matters: A day of peaceful protests sparked by George Floyd's killing by a white Minneapolis police officer degenerated into a night of looting, arson and rage.

CNN showed captivating live pictures from behind a line of riot police in the lobby of CNN Center, one of Atlanta's top tourist attractions, as a guy with skateboard bashed in the massive front window while a crowd cheered and pelted officers with water bottles, smoke grenades and large objects.

  • Nick Valencia, a CNN correspondent who works in the building and narrated live from inside the mayhem, estimated that demonstrators outnumbered police by at least 4-to-1: "This is not peaceful at all. This is a crowd that is out for revenge. ... We saw some fear in the eyes of those officers."
  • Valencia said he and his team were being careful: "I’ve got a daughter and a wife I want to get home to tonight."

When one demonstrator was arrested, Valencia pushed toward him and asked why he was there. The man complained about the country's black-white divide, and said: "Officers need to be trained better."

  • As one protester was carried into custody by four officers, he yelled: "Minneapolis, we're here for y'all."
Vandalized NYPD cruiser this morning after last night's Brooklyn protest of the killing of George Floyd. Photo: Andrew Kelly/Reuters
4. What they're saying
Photos (clockwise from upper left): Michael Ciaglo/Getty Images, Mike Stewart/AP, Frank Franklin II/AP, Mike Stewart/AP

Scenes from America yesterday (clockwise from upper left):

  • Makeda Gebre was among those gathering on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol to protest the death of George Floyd.
  • Protesters packed Centennial Olympic Park in downtown Atlanta.
  • Demonstrators rally in New York.
  • Another scene from Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta.
5. Freeze frame: Behind the photo that rocketed around the world
Photo: Julio Cortez/AP

We brought you this instantly iconic photo in Friday's Axios AM.

  • AP's David Crary takes us behind the frame:

AP photographer Julio Cortez was working Thursday night near the burning Minneapolis precinct house, growing uneasy as word spread that a gas line had been severed and might explode.

  • Cortez recalls that he saw a lone protester carrying an upside-down U.S. flag:
We'd been working that scene for about two hours when this particular moment happened. The police abandoned the precinct — there was just chaos and fires and people throwing stuff.
When I saw the man walking up with the flag, I started getting closer. I could tell this was going to be very visual, so I just followed along. I wanted to silhouette him, so I waited for him to walk where it was burning.

Taken at 11:59 p.m. CT and transmitted a few moments later, the photo swiftly produced powerful reactions — perhaps the most indelible image yet of the racial divisions and violent protests flaring after the death of George Floyd.

  • The protester is silhouetted against the flames of a burning liquor store, the light of the fire glowing through the fabric of the flag.

David Ake, AP's director of photography, said: "The upside-down flag is the universal signal of distress and is framed perfectly and backlit by the flames."

  • "One foot in either direction and the image would lose that backlight."

Ake noted that the person holding the flag is unrecognizable: "It could be any person of any age, race, or gender."

6. The text a CNN reporter got from his mom
Screenshot via CNN

The Minnesota State Patrol arrested CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez, who's based in Chicago — along with the producer and photojournalist with him — live in Minneapolis during the 6 a.m. ET hour of CNN's "New Day."

  • CNN President Jeff Zucker called Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz (D), who apologized. The journalists were quickly released and went back to work.
Screenshot via CNN

Jimenez, 26, was cool and respectful, continuing to narrate the scene calmly as a trooper put his hands on him:

We can move back to where you'd like. We can move back to where you'd like here. We are live on the air at the moment. ...
Just put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way, so just let us know.
Wherever you'd want us, we will go. We were just getting out of your way when you were advancing through the intersection. So just let us know, and we gotcha.

Jimenez, telling the story during last night's coverage, said the team was in a transport van for a good 30 minutes, and in custody for 60-90 minutes.

  • Jimenez said his mother, who watched the arrest live with his grandmother, had texted while he was being held that she "feared she would be another mother that lost a black son who quote-unquote died in police custody. That was the fear that was going through her mind. These are the conversations that stories like this George Floyd story provoke."

See the video.

7. Picturing Minneapolis

Stunning scenes from Thursday night/Friday morning:

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct burns.

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Arby's engulfed.

Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Minnehaha Liquors alight.

  • "Opens soon," Google promises.
  • About that jug of milk: Protesters around the world use milk as an antidote to tear gas. Experts recommend water.
Photo: John Minchillo/AP

Massive crowd outside burning Minneapolis 3rd Police Precinct.

  • That's the liquor store ablaze in the background.
8. Remember the pandemic?

Here are the leading causes of death in the U.S. for 2018, with a projection of COVID-19's rank for 2020, if deaths stopped at this week's milestone of 100,000:

Graphic: AP
9. Launch America set for 3:22 p.m.
Workers prepare the Crew Dragon spacecraft atop the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center on Tuesday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Despite more storms in the forecast, SpaceX is pressing ahead today with its historic attempt to launch astronauts for NASA, a first by a private company.

  • Forecasters put the odds of acceptable conditions at 50-50 for a 3:22 p.m. ET liftoff. (AP)

President Trump and Vice President Pence are scheduled to attend.

10. "I can breathe now"
Photo: Dave Schwarz/St. Cloud Times via Reuters

In Minneapolis, this memorial to George Floyd has been drawn on the wall of the Cup Foods store at the corner of Chicago Avenue and East 38th Street.

Mike Allen

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