A Killing in Atlanta Stirs Fresh Anger

Good morning and welcome to On Politics, a daily political analysis of the 2020 elections based on reporting by New York Times journalists.

Sign up here to get On Politics in your inbox every weekday.


Streets say “defund,” Dems hear “restructure.” It’s Monday, and this is your politics tip sheet.

  • If you were a politician asking what it might take to calm the protests — wondering if a round of federal legislation might do it, or a shift toward focusing on voting rights and electoral opportunities ahead — this weekend’s events served a reminder: Until police killings of unarmed black people are no longer a fact of life, regularly caught on video and streamed around the world, an opposing wave of unrest seems unlikely to let up either.

  • Another video of a fatal police shooting captured on Friday incited new outrage as protests continued in cities across the country. In this case, an officer killed Rayshard Brooks, a black man who had dozed off in his car outside a Wendy’s in Atlanta; he was fatally shot after firing a stun gun at an officer and fleeing, according to a New York Times analysis of videos shot by security cameras and bystanders.

  • The officer who shot him, Garrett Rolfe, has lost his job; another officer at the scene, Devin Brosnan, was put on administrative leave; and Atlanta’s police chief has resigned. Still, frustration in Atlanta spilled over into destruction on Saturday: Demonstrators set flame to the Wendy’s where Brooks was shot, and smaller fires were reported in other parts of the city.

  • In interviews on Sunday morning talk shows, Democratic leaders including Stacey Abrams and James Clyburn said that Brooks’s killer had clearly used unnecessary force. “The fact that they were either embarrassed or, you know, panicked led them to murder a man who they knew only had a Taser in his hand,” Abrams, who until 2017 represented parts of Atlanta in the Georgia House of Representatives, said on the ABC program “This Week.”

  • The House last week passed a bill that would strengthen oversight and accountability for police officers, but by now it’s clear that the youth-led protest movement is after larger, paradigmatic change — articulated in the words “defund the police.”

  • On the CNN program “State of the Union,” Clyburn argued that a sustained push to defund could “hijack the movement.” Still, you can tell from the language they’ve begun to use that Democrats feel obliged to frame their proposed changes as a big, structural shift. Instead of defunding, “we can restructure the police forces,” Clyburn said. “You’ve got to restructure our judicial system,” he added later. Abrams used similar language on ABC: “Reformation is absolutely important.”

  • Moments after Clyburn’s interview, Ilhan Omar, a Democratic member of Congress from Minnesota and part of the so-called Squad, said on “State of the Union” that Democrats who stood against defunding and revolutionizing police departments were “not paying attention to what the people are asking for.”

  • Tim Scott, the Republican senator from South Carolina, has rejected the House’s police-overhaul bill as an overreach, and on Sunday he issued only a qualified condemnation of the police’s killing of Brooks. “That video is disturbing to watch, but I’m not sure that it’s as clear as what we’ve seen around the country on some of the other issues,” Scott said on the NBC program “Meet the Press.”

  • But as the lone African-American in the Senate’s Republican caucus, Scott is spearheading the G.O.P.’s response to the protests. On NBC he offered few specifics, and called for more investigation into the problem of police force before drafting legislation. He said a federal use-of-force standard would be “difficult to establish,” adding that he would prefer to assemble “best practices around use of force around the country, and provide that clarity and guidance for those departments who may need to have a better perspective.”

  • Scott indicated on Sunday that he thinks June 19, or Juneteenthan unofficial holiday among African-Americans celebrating the end of slavery — should be nationally recognized. President Trump announced last week that he would hold a comeback rally on Juneteenth (this coming Friday) in Tulsa, Okla., where white vigilantes killed hundreds of black people in an infamous massacre exactly 99 years ago this month. On Friday night, the president said on Twitter that he would move the rally back a day, out of “respect for this Holiday.”

  • Scott told the NBC host Chuck Todd that the president had been unaware of the day’s significance. “If there was a national holiday,” he said, “we would all know about Juneteenth. We’d all have an opportunity to celebrate it and frankly there would be fewer mistakes on that day.” Scott said he was in talks with the White House about making it a federal holiday.

  • Videos from a speech that Trump gave on Saturday raised new questions from some observers about the president’s health. In the videos, he seemed to struggle to raise a glass of water to his mouth, and descended a staircase noticeably more slowly than he usually walks. He defended himself on Twitter on Saturday after political commentators began to speculate about the implications of the footage. “The ramp that I descended after my West Point Commencement speech was very long & steep, had no handrail and, most importantly, was very slippery,” he wrote. Yesterday, Trump turned 74, the oldest a president has ever been in his first term.

Credit…Joshua Rashaad McFadden for The New York Times

Ashley Dopson, an artist in Atlanta, protested on Sunday by painting in front of the Wendy’s restaurant where the police killed Rayshard Brooks.


National Democrats are lining up behind the Rev. Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, who is running for Senate in Georgia in hopes of ousting Kelly Loeffler, a Republican incumbent who is under pressure from within her party and has faced scrutiny over her wealth.

On Monday morning, Mr. Warnock announced endorsements from five former presidential candidates: Senators Kamala Harris of California, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Michael Bennet of Colorado, and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York.

“Georgia families deserve someone in the U.S. Senate who will expand their access to health care, fight for working people, and combat voter suppression,” Ms. Harris said in a statement provided by the campaign. “Raphael speaks truth to power about our country’s dark history of discrimination and I’m proud to endorse him in this campaign.”

Georgia is taking an increasing role in the national psyche of Democrats. The state has two open Senate seats and a changing demographic landscape that could be helpful to Democrats, but long lines during last week’s primary elections again raised questions about ballot access and voting rights.

Ms. Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp but has failed to take root among the state’s Republican base. Representative Doug Collins, a Republican, is also running for the seat, and is leading both Ms. Loeffler and Mr. Warnock in polling. Under the rules of Georgia’s voting system, the top two finishers will compete in a runoff election if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote in November.

Competing for the state’s other Senate seat are David Perdue, the Republican incumbent, and Jon Ossoff, the young Democrat and former House candidate.

Matt Lieberman, the son of former Senator Joe Lieberman, is also running against Mr. Warnock. However, Monday’s endorsements made it clear that national Democrats are siding with the Atlanta pastor.

In a statement, Ms. Warren said, “as a champion for Medicaid expansion and fair wages, Reverend Raphael Warnock has stood up for working families for years.”

On Politics is also available as a newsletter. Sign up here to get it delivered to your inbox.

Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

Continue reading at New York Times