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Trump praises Secret Service and threatens protesters with ‘vicious dogs’ | US news


Donald Trump has praised the US Secret Service for confronting protesters who massed outside the White House on Friday night, tweeting that had any of the crowd breached the fence, they “would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen”.

It was the president’s latest potentially inflammatory response to protests which have erupted across the US over the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man who died while being arrested by police in Minneapolis.

A white officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck was charged with murder but violent protests have prompted national guard deployments, raising tensions everywhere.

On Friday, Trump tweeted, “When the looting starts, the shooting starts”, a phrase with racist origins which was censored by Twitter.

Trump then claimed he hadn’t known the inflammatory nature of the phrase, let alone had intended to call for violence against his own citizens. He also expressed his “deepest condolences and most heartfelt sympathies to the family of George Floyd”.

Those words were more in keeping with those of Joe Biden, Trump’s presumptive opponent in the presidential election in November. The former vice-president spoke to Floyd’s family and issued a video address in which he said: “This is no time for incendiary tweets. This is no time to encourage violence. This is a national crisis, and we need real leadership right now.”

On Friday night, as protests reached the White House gates, Trump turned back to incendiary tweeting, electioneering on the back of protests, riots and looting in cities across the US.

Outside the White House, people hurled bricks, bottles and other objects at Secret Service and US park police officers in riot gear behind barricades.

The crowd of hundreds chanted “No justice, no peace” and “Say his name: George Floyd”. The protest went on for several hours before police declared it “unlawful” and ordered everyone to leave. Dozens of officers pushed forward with their shields and fired off streams of pepper spray at protesters.

In a statement on Saturday, the Secret Service said it made six arrests and “multiple” officers and agents were injured.

Trump said he watched the events from the White House and that the Secret Service did a “great job”.

The president added: “They let the ‘protesters’ scream and rant as much as they wanted, but whenever someone got too frisky or out of line, they would quickly come down on them, hard – didn’t know what hit them.”

Without evidence, the president claimed the protesters were “professionally” organized but had failed to breach the White House perimeter.

“If they had they would have been greeted with the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons, I have ever seen. That’s when people would have been really badly hurt, at least,” Trump tweeted.

Trump rounded off the flurry of tweets by attacking Muriel Bowser, the mayor of Washington DC, for not sending DC police to help.

This followed a theme, in which the president has responded to the turmoil by blaming riots on Democratic mayors and state governors and lamenting the damage caused to businesses during the unrest.

In subsequent tweets, the president again claimed without evidence the protest was “professionally managed” and involved “organised groups”. The protesters, he said, “had little to do with the memory of George Floyd. They were just there to cause trouble … Tonight, I understand, is MAGA NIGHT AT THE WHITE HOUSE???”

It was not immediately clear if the president was calling for a counter-protest by his supporters, an event which would be likely to enflame tensions already running high.

Trump and the first lady, Melania Trump, were due on Saturday to fly to Florida for the rescheduled launch of a manned SpaceX mission, their public schedule bringing them back to the White House at 8.15pm.





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Government hopes for breakthrough in Wet’suwet’en blockades this week


The federal and provincial governments want to meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs this week in a bid to stop a series of crippling blockades in support of those chief’s anti-pipeline stance.

The move comes as local protesters prepare for an unknown action starting in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside on Tuesday afternoon.

On Monday, Scott Fraser, B.C.’s Minister of Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation, and Carolyn Bennett, federal Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, met in Victoria to “talk about finding a peaceful resolution to the blockades across the country and other issues arising from the concerns of Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs.”

In a joint statement, Fraser and Bennett said last week’s string of Canada-wide blockades of rail-lines, government buildings and political offices were “a significant challenge.”

“We have reached out through a joint letter to the Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs about meeting with us at the earliest opportunity and are hopeful we can all work together to establish a process for ongoing and constructive dialogue and action to address the issues at hand. Our primary focus is everyone’s safety and ultimately, a peaceful resolution to the situation.”

Postmedia News has seen the letter dated Feb. 16, 2020, sent to Wet’suwet’en Hereditary Chiefs (c/o Office of the Wet’suwet’en) in Smithers.

The letter states that it was the result of a request by Gitxsan hereditary chief Spookw to arrange a meeting between the two senior levels of government and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs opposed to the Coastal GasLink pipeline being put through the Wet’suwet’en’s 22,000 square kilometre territory. Spookw is acting as a broker – the Gitxsan’s 33,000 square kilometre territory is north of the Wet’suwet’en.

Five of the six Wet’suwet’en reserve bands have signed on with Coastal GasLink, but 10 of the 13 Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs have rejected the Coastal GasLink’s pipeline project outright. The hereditary chiefs opposed to the pipeline are Woos, Smogelgem, Knedebeas, Samooh, Way tah K’eght, Hagwilnegh, Madeek, Kloum Khun and Na’moks. All 10 chiefs are men.


Georgia St. blocked during an Indigenous led march to Victory Square in support of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation in January, 2019.

Nick Procaylo /

PNG

According to the Council of the Wet’suwet’en (that represents the nation’s reserve bands, five clans and 13 hereditary chiefs) three chief seats are vacant. There are roughly 5,000 Wet’suwet’en. 

At least three wing chiefs (the deputy to the chief) are in favour of the pipeline and there are claims that two former hereditary chiefs were deposed because they supported the pipeline.

The Feb. 16 letter goes on to state: “We agree that dialogue is the best and preferred way to deal with these issues,” suggesting the government is not prepared at this point to use force against a well-organized nationwide protest movement. 

Local protest spokesperson Natalie Knight told Postmedia News that Wet’suwet’en chiefs were not responsible for the course of action the Metro Vancouver protesters took.

Knight said protestors were meeting on Tuesday at 2 p.m. at 380 East Hastings Street and would commence an action from there. She would not reveal what that action would be, however, last week her group blocked rail lines and two busy intersections.


Approximately 100 people march in support of the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs in their opposition to the GasLink pipeline project, along Grandview Highway Saturday, February 15, 2020.

Jason Payne /

PNG

The Feb. 16 letter came three days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrote to chief Spookw saying a cabinet minister would meet with Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, and two days after B.C. Premier John Horgan made the same promise — although as part of that deal Horgan said the “blockade of the CN line will be removed to allow for a period of calm and peaceful dialogue.”

The blockade of the main CN Rail line in Northern B.C. (near New Hazelton) was taken down the same day. However, later in the week the West Coast Express commuter train was blocked, as was an East Vancouver rail line.

Protesters also continued to block rail lines as well as highways and bridges in different parts of the country on Monday.

Those included shutting down for the first time the Thousand Islands Bridge border crossing near Kingston, Ont. and a CN Rail crossing on Highway 75 in southern Manitoba.

Trudeau held an emergency, closed-door meeting with cabinet ministers in Ottawa on Monday to discuss the blockades.

He did not answer reporter’s questions after leaving the meeting.


The RCMP set up a checkpoint on the Morice West Forest Service Road on Jan. 13, 2020.

Submitted /

RCMP

Jen Wickham, a Wet’suwet’en band member who belongs to the Grizzly House of the Gitdumden Clan, has been active in ground zero of the conflict — the Morice Forest Road that leads to a Coastal GasLink work camp southeast of Houston.

Wickham said she was not surprised that the protest had become so widespread.

“I think that Indigenous people have been suffering colonization and the exploitation of our lands and resources since contact and Wet’suwet’en are in a very unique position because we have the Delgamuukw court decision that other nations have used to successfully gain title recognition,” Wickham said, referring to the 1997 Supreme Court of Canada decision that established Aboriginal title to unceded land.

Wickham said she was unsure how the three hereditary chiefs of her clan would respond to the letter issued on Sunday.

However, she said they “want a nation to nation discussion and they want the RCMP and CGL out of our territories.”

Related

Knight said that the Coastal GasLink pipeline protest was about more than the Wet’suwet’en and pipeline fight, and had spread to “the shared history of violence experienced by Indigenous people, and Punjabi and Chinese communities in so-called B.C. Both Punjabi and Chinese people were displaced from their own lands due to the violence of British colonialism and the parallels between this colonial violence and the violence experienced by Indigenous people here is clear and ongoing.”

The protest movement is backed by the David Suzuki Foundation, B.C. Civil Liberties Association and the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

Coastal GasLink is building the 670km underground pipeline to ship fracked natural gas to the LNG Canada plant being built in Kitimat. The pipeline is scheduled to be complete in 2023.

The company has promised to spend $1 billion of its $6.6 billion budget on contracts, grants and training opportunities for the 20 First Nations bands along the route that it has signed agreements with.

— with files from Canadian Press

[email protected]

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Hong Kong protesters pin hopes on the ballot box after weeks of violence | World news


Clarisse Yeung believes the road to full democracy in Hong Kong will pass through a dog park. Specifically a dog park that she has promised to build if her coalition sweeps local elections today.

The district council elections held in Hong Kong every four years are normally a sleepy affair, with low turnout, mostly because councillors have very limited powers and budget, as well as a reputation for graft.

But this year’s poll has come to be seen as a de-facto referendum on the nearly six-month-old protest movement, sparked by opposition to an extradition law that would have destroyed Hong Kong’s legal protections, but which has morphed into a broader pro-democracy campaign.

Yeung, an energetic young artist, says she spent a dispiriting four years as the sole opposition member of a 13-strong council controlled by pro-Beijing representatives in central Wan Chai, battling inertia and outright opposition to even modest plans for the neighbourhood, from pet-friendly gardens to better buses.

Now she hopes a wave of protest-driven outrage, which has mobilised both voters and candidates, combined with her track record of commitment to local issues, could swing control of the council.

“I had been questioning if I should run again. It’s been so heavy, being the only pro-democracy representative in Wan Chai,” she said, as she campaigned on a street corner with a band of supporters, handing out leaflets, stroking dogs and chatting to toddlers. “I’m glad all these friends are coming out after the [protest] movement: they are my hope.”

While Hong Kong enjoys civil rights such as freedom of assembly and the press, its residents do not choose their leader, or all members of its mini-parliament, the legislative council. The district council poll is the only direct election.

For the first time, pro-democracy candidates are challenging every one of the 452 wards up for grabs, and have coordinated campaigns so they don’t split the vote. Former one-person campaigns are newly flush with volunteers. Young people in particular have raced to register to vote, to volunteer on campaigns and even to run for office themselves.

Yeung has taken advantage of this city-wide political awakening to recruit nine other candidates to stand in neighbouring wards on a “kickstart Wan Chai” platform. They range from a graphic designer to the veteran former policewoman Cathy Yau, who resigned her post in June as the protest movement kicked off, shocked by colleagues’ brutality.

Louis Mak, who gave up his job as a data analyst to campaign, canvassing in Canal Road, Wan Chai district.



Louis Mak, who gave up his job as a data analyst to campaign, canvassing in Canal Road, Wan Chai district. Photograph: Miguel Candela/The Observer

All are novice candidates, and many decided to stand only in the past few months, despite the very real threat of physical violence; several pro-democratic candidates have been attacked, with one losing his ear after an attacker bit him and stabbed others. A pro-Beijing candidate was also stabbed. The attacks have led to fears about voter intimidation or fraud, particularly after authorities announced riot police would guard all polling stations. In a hint at the febrile atmosphere, the government sent out an official press release stating “the ballot is secret”, apparently to counter rumours that facial recognition software might be used, and voters would be filmed.

“I always wanted to go into politics eventually, after becoming expert in my field. But I was inspired by the protests, and realised I can’t wait any longer,” said Louis Mak, a data analyst who has given up his job to campaign full time for the Canal Road ward.

“Maybe in four years or eight years, we won’t have real elections any more. China may take actions against our civil society. And so that’s why I have stood in this election.”

Deep pockets, a powerful electoral machine, lack of voter interest and a fractured opposition have meant pro-Beijing parties control all but one of the city’s 18 district councils.

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In Wan Chai, the battlegrounds are tiny, densely populated areas, and the margins small. Mak says his district is just a couple of blocks, where the winner in 2015 claimed victory with 1,000 votes and a margin of 200.

Mak put his chance of winning office at “around 50-50”, and is campaigning more than 10 hours a day. “We have to pull voting rates up to historical levels so we can take over Wan Chai.”

Pro-Beijing politicians have been open about concerns they might be swept from power. One of the most prominent, the lawmaker Regina Ip, warned against voting for pro-democracy candidates in a column in the South China Morning Post. “Hong Kong’s story doesn’t have to end in tragedy”, she told readers.

An opposition landslide would have little immediate political effect, as the councils are fairly toothless. But longer term, it could slightly shift the balance of power, because district councils have a role in arcane, complex elections to choose the city’s leader and part of its legislature.

Another well-known establishment politician defending a seat in Wan Chai said he remained optimistic, but admitted that a loss would be devastating.

“The people here are the pillars, the ones who uphold the establishment. If we lose this constituency that means something is really, really wrong and troubled in HK,” said the lawyer Paul Tse, who also holds a seat in the city’s legislative council. “It sounds very serious, but it’s very difficult to have so many people against the government.”

At one point there were widespread fears that the poll would be delayed amid unrest and unprecedented disruption. But China appears to have decided that would be so inflammatory in a city already on edge,that a possible drubbing at the ballot box is the lesser of two evils.

“Its not the right sort of atmosphere for a fair election, but in a way we are constrained,” Tse said. “If we don’t do the election they will blame us for being afraid.”

Candidates Arthur Yeung (blue jacket) and Tse Wai Chun Paul canvassing for votes in Broadwood district.



Candidates Arthur Yeung (blue jacket) and Tse Wai Chun Paul canvassing for votes in Broadwood district. Photograph: Miguel Candela/The Observer

But where Tse sees a canker at the heart of Hong Kong, his challenger in the prosperous Broadwood district – part of the “Kickstart Wan Chai’” slate – sees hope.

Arthur Yeung, who is no relation to Clarisse, turned 24 the day before the poll. He spent his birthday at a campaign stand on the main road, waving to drivers, thrusting leaflets through windows and chatting to any who stopped.

Dawn and her dog Chicco, his collar bearing a rosette supporting Yeung, campaigned beside him for hours. “I want to support youth, and passion for change,” she said.

Yeung always hoped to run for office and spent much of the last year in Broadwood organising against an unpopular development, canvassing support for Clarisse’s dog park plans – easy in an area famous for dog lovers – and running other grassroots projects.

But until the protests kicked off, most of his friends thought he was crazy. Councils were widely seen as irrelevant, incompetent, self-serving political machines. There is even a Cantonese shorthand for the corruption, a list of the local delicacies that candidates ply supporters with to secure votes.

Dawn with her dog Chicco who is in favour of a proposed dog park supports candidate Arthur Yeung.



Dawn with her dog Chicco who is in favour of a proposed dog park supports candidate Arthur Yeung. Photograph: Miguel Candela/The Observer

“Half a year ago, people would say to me: ‘Why don’t you get a normal job,’” he says with a wry smile. “Now they say: ‘You are very inspiring to our generation. Your mission is very clear and passionate, so thank you for bringing some good things for Hong Kong’. Its a very big change.”



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