Memphis: 6th officer relieved of duty in Tyre Nichols case.
NY grand jury probes Trump’s hush money payments to Stormy Daniels.
Sec. of State Blinken appeals for calm in Israel amid escalating violence.
Memphis: 6th officer relieved of duty in Tyre Nichols case
Over the weekend, the release of the Tyre Nichols police bodycam video provoked shock and sadness for many. It did not, however, provoke rioting or outbursts of violence as many had feared. Protests in several cities in the US were well-attended, emotional but peaceful. Demonstrators seemed determined to keep the focus on their goals, namely justice for Tyre Nichols and deeper police reforms in Memphis and throughout the country.
It was announced on Saturday that Memphis’ special enforcement unit, with the Orwellian name SCORPION (an acronym for Street Crime Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods), would be permanently disbanded. All five of the officers so far charged in Nichols’ death belonged to this unit. There had been previous citizen complaints about seemingly organized brutality by members of this unit, complaints which went unaddressed until Nichols’ death.
Additionally, Memphis Police announced today that a 6th officer, Preston Hemphill, has also been suspended, with pay, pending an administrative hearing. It’s unclear whether Hemphill, who is white, was also a SCORPION.
The bodycam footage authorities released from Nichols’ initial traffic stop was Hemphill’s. As Nichols ran in fear from the first scene, Hemphill unsuccessfully attempts to Tase him. Hemphill did not follow the other officers to the second scene where Tyre was fatally beaten. In the footage, Hemphill can be heard saying twice “I hope they stomp his ass”.
Hemphill’s attorney says Hemphill is cooperating with the investigation of Nichols’ death. He has not been fired or charged with anything.
NY grand jury probes Trump’s hush money payments to porn star
Four months after his wife Melania had given birth to their son Barron, Donald Trump allegedly had a brief affair with porn star Stormy Daniels in Las Vegas. In 2016, while Trump was running for president, Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen gave Daniels a $130,000 payment to cease discussing her affair with Trump. Cohen later pleaded guilty to federal campaign finance violation charges over his role in the hush money payment to Daniels. In that proceeding, Cohen alleged that the payment was made “in coordination with, and at the direction of” Trump.
Cohen did some time in prison and there was no further legal movement on the case for a long time. Now, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has empaneled a grand jury to probe the matter further. Cohen disclosed that he has met this month with Manhattan prosecutors investigating the matter. Other figures involved in the hush money payment including David Pecker, the former publisher of the tabloid National Enquirer, have been seen entering the building where the jury is empaneled.
Sec. of State Blinken in Israel amid violence
This week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has the unenviable task of encouraging cooler heads to prevail in Israel amid runaway violence. Last week, an Israeli military raid in the West Bank killed 9 Palestinians, including a 61-year-old woman. At a protest following that incident, Israeli security forces shot and killed another Palestinian. Hamas militants in Gaza then fired some rockets into Israel, all of which were intercepted with no reported injuries. Israel retaliated by firing its own rockets into the densely populated territory, but it’s unclear whether those attacks resulted in any deaths or injuries.
Friday night, a 21-year-old Palestinian shooter killed at least 7 Israelis and injured several others outside a synagogue. In a separate attack, a 13-year-old Palestinian boy shot and seriously wounded an Israeli father and son in a Jerusalem neighborhood. The boy was shot and is in hospital, condition unknown.
Israeli authorities arrested 42 people in connection with the synagogue attack. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s far-right government announced it would be making it easier for Israeli citizens to carry guns, apparently anticipating the violence to continue escalating.
Netanyahu also announced punitive measures against Palestinians, which seem to amount to collective punishment. Among other things, the new measures would deny the families of attackers any citizenship rights and have their homes bulldozed. Any Palestinian believed to “support terrorism” can now be fired with no formal review. The measures also aim to speed up building of illegal Israel settlements in the West Bank.
During his remarks in Jerusalem, Blinken expressed concerns about these measures. Blinken say the US had “an enduring goal of Palestinians and Israelis enjoying equal measures of freedom, security, opportunity, justice and dignity”, which these measures undermine. He also reiterated the US commitment to a two-state solution in Israel as the only peaceful way forward.
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