At a time when the US stands in front of a confluence of historic crises, former President Barack Obama has started stepping forward, emerging from his political hibernation and taking on an increasingly public role.
The US has been rocked by a series of crises that has exposed deep racial and socioeconomic inequalities in America and reshaped the November election, reports AP.
Obama is signalling a willingness to sharply critique his successor, President Donald Trump, and fill what many Democrats see as a national leadership void. On Wednesday, he held a virtual town hall event with young people to discuss policing and the civil unrest that has followed the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
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“We both have to highlight a problem and make people in power uncomfortable, but we also have to translate that into practical solutions and laws that could be implemented and monitored and make sure we’re following up on,” he said.
Obama called for turning the protests over Floyd’s death into policy change to ensure safer policing and increased trust between communities and law enforcement. He urged the mayors to review their use of force policies with their communities and “commit to report on planned reforms” before prioritising their implementation.
Valerie Jarrett, a longtime friend and adviser to Obama, said the former president is not going to shy away from dialogue simply because he’s not in office anymore.
During the round table, Obama drew parallels between the unrest sweeping America currently and protest movements of the 1960s.
He warned that the attention moves away at some point and “protests dwindle in size” and so “it’s important to take that moment that’s been created as a society, as a country, and say let’s use this to finally have an impact.”
‘It can’t be normal’
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Obama was beginning to emerge from political hibernation to endorse the Democratic presidential bid of Joe Biden, who served as his vice president, when the coronavirus pandemic swept across the US, killing over 100,000 people, and the economy began to crater.
The crises gave Obama a clear opening to start publicly arguing what he has signalled to friends and associates privately for the past three years: that he does not believe Trump is up for the job.
Addressing graduates of historically black colleges and universities last month, Obama said the pandemic had “fully, finally torn back the curtain on the idea that so many of the folks in charge know what they’re doing.”
In a nationally televised broadcast celebrating graduating high school seniors, Obama said many “so-called grown-ups, including some with fancy titles and important jobs,” do only what’s convenient and feels good.
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Floyd’s death has drawn a more visceral and personal reaction from the nation’s first black president. Floyd, a black man, died after a white police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes even after he stopped moving and pleading for air.
In a lengthy written statement last week, Obama said that while he understood that millions of Americans were eager to “just get back to normal” when the pandemic abates, it shouldn’t be forgotten that normal life for people of colour in the US involves being treated differently on account of their race.
“This shouldn’t be ‘normal’ in 2020 America. It can’t be ‘normal,’” Obama wrote.
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Tensions across the country have escalated further with Trump backing harsh crackdowns on protests and threatening to deploy active-duty military to the states but Defence Secretary Mark Esper said that he did not believe such action was warranted.
Biden’s campaign welcomed Obama stepping forward during this moment.
“President Obama’s voice is a reminder that we used to have a president who sought to bridge our divides, and we can have one again if we elect Joe Biden,” said TJ Ducklo, a campaign spokesman.
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Obama grappled with police brutality against minorities as president, including in Ferguson, Missouri, where clashes broke out after the death of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old. After Brown’s death, Obama’s Justice Department moved to enact broad policing reforms, though most were halted under the Trump administration.
Biden called this week for restoring some of the previous administration’s actions in the wake of Floyd’s death and the killing of other black Americans.
The number of globally confirmed coronavirus cases has gone up to 6,377,596 while the death toll reached 380,205 on Wednesday morning, according to the Centre for System Science and Engineering of the Johns Hopkins University.
JHU data show that Brazil has 555,383 confirmed coronavirus cases, the second highest in the world after the USA. The South American country lost 31,199 lives to Covid-19 till date.
The US has the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths. It recorded 106,180 deaths and 1,831,806 cases so far. In the US, New York State alone counted 29,968 deaths till date.
The UK has the second-highest death toll at 39,452, followed by Italy with 33,530, France 28,943 and Spain 27,127, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Some countries like China and New Zealand seem to have the pandemic under control. Besides, Europe is in the process of lifting lockdown.
Coronavirus cases were first reported in China in December last year.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the coronavirus crisis a pandemic on March 11.
Situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh confirmed its first cases on March 8 and the first death on March 18 but it has been seeing a sharp rise in both new cases and deaths in recent weeks.
The country on Tuesday saw the biggest jump in cases in a day with the detection of record 2,911 new cases in the span of 24 hours. So far, the health authorities confirmed 52,445 cases.
During the same period, 37 more patients died of Covid-19, raising the death toll to 709.
Among the total infection, 11,120 people have so far recovered.
US President Donald Trump on Monday threatened the governors that he would deploy the military to states if they did not stamp out violent protests over police that have roiled the nation over the past week.
If Trump truly sends troops against protesters, this will be an exercise of his federal authority.
Trump’s announcement came as police under federal command forced back peaceful demonstrators with tear gas so he could walk to a nearby church and pose with a Bible, reports AP.
Trump's bellicose rhetoric came as the nation braced for another round of violence at a time when the country is already buckling because of the coronavirus outbreak and the Depression-level unemployment it has caused.
The US President demanded an end to the heated protests in remarks from the White House Rose Garden and vowed to use more force to achieve that aim.
Trump said the U.S. military would step in to "quickly solve the problem for them," if state governors throughout the country do not deploy the National Guard in sufficient numbers to "dominate the streets,"
"We have the greatest country in the world," the president declared. "We're going to keep it safe."
Minutes before Trump began speaking, police and National Guard soldiers began aggressively forcing back hundreds of peaceful protesters who had gathered in Lafayette Park, across the street from the White House, where they were chanting against police brutality and the Minneapolis death of George Floyd. As Trump spoke, tear gas canisters could be heard exploding.
Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man's neck until he stopped breathing. His death set off protests that spread from Minneapolis across America. His brother Terrence pleaded with protesters on Monday to remain peaceful.
Five months before Election Day, the president made clear that he would stake his reelection efforts on convincing voters that his strong-arm approach was warranted to quell the most intense civil unrest since the 1960s.
He made little effort to address the grievances of black Americans and others outraged by Floyd's death and the scourge of police brutality, undermining what his campaign had hoped would be increased appeal to African American voters.
The scene in and around the White House on Monday night appeared to be carefully orchestrated. As the crowd of protesters grew, Attorney General William Barr arrived in Lafayette Park to look over at the demonstrations and the swarm of law enforcement.
The sudden shift in tactics against the protesters was initially a mystery. Then, after finishing his Rose Garden remarks, Trump emerged from the White House gates and walked through the park to St. John's Church, where an office had been set on fire the previous night.
Trump, who rarely attends church, held up a Bible and gathered a group of advisers — all white — to pose for photos.
The moment was quickly decried by Trump's critics, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo saying the president "used the military to push out a peaceful protest so he could have a photo op at a church."
"It's all just a reality TV show for this president," he said on Twitter. "Shameful."
The country has been beset by angry demonstrations for the past week in some of the most widespread racial unrest in the U.S. since the 1960s. Spurred largely by Floyd's death, protesters have taken to the streets to decry the killings of black people by police. Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin has been charged with murder, but protesters are demanding that three of his colleagues be prosecuted, too. All four were fired.
While most of the demonstrations have been peaceful, others have descended into violence, leaving neighborhoods in shambles, stores ransacked, windows broken and cars burned, despite curfews around the country and the deployment of thousands of National Guard members in at least 15 states.
On Monday, demonstrations erupted from Philadelphia, where hundreds of protesters spilled onto a highway in the heart of the city, to Atlanta, where police fired tear gas at demonstrators, to Nashville, where more than 60 National Guard soldiers put down their riot shields at the request of peaceful protesters who had gathered in front of Tennessee's state Capitol to honor Floyd.
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across America again Sunday, with peaceful demonstrations against police killings of black people overshadowed by unrest that quickly ravaged parts of cities from Pennsylvania to California.
City and state officials had deployed thousands of National Guard soldiers, enacted strict curfews and shut down mass transit systems, but that did little to stop many cities from again erupting into unrest.
Protesters in Philadelphia hurled rocks and Molotov cocktails at police, officials said, while masked crowds broke into upscale stores in a San Francisco suburb, fleeing with bags of merchandise. In Minneapolis, a truck driver drove into a massive crowd of demonstrators nearly a week after the death of George Floyd, a black man who pleaded for air as an officer pressed a knee into his neck.
Tensions mounted outside the White House, where police fired tear gas and stun grenades into a crowd of more than 1,000 chanting protesters across the street in Lafayette Park. They scattered, piling up road signs and plastic barriers to light a raging fire in a street. Some pulled an American flag from a nearby building and threw it into the blaze. Others added tree branches. A cinder block building housing bathrooms and a maintenance office in the park was engulfed in flames.
The entire Washington, D.C., National Guard — roughly 1,700 soldiers — was being called in to help control the protests, according to two Defense Department officials who insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter.
As the protests grew, President Donald Trump retweeted conservative commentator Buck Sexton who called for “overwhelming force” against violent demonstrators.
At least 4,100 people have been arrested over days of protests, according to a tally compiled by The Associated Press. Arrests ranged from looting and blocking highways to breaking curfew.
In Salt Lake City, a leading anti-police brutality activist condemned the destruction of property but said broken buildings shouldn’t be mourned on the same level as black men like Floyd.
“Maybe this country will get the memo that we are sick of police murdering unarmed black men,” said Lex Scott, founder of Black Lives Matter Utah. “Maybe the next time a white police officer decides to pull the trigger, he will picture cities burning.”
Yet thousands still marched peacefully, with some also calling for an end to the fires, vandalism and theft, saying it weakened calls for justice and reform.
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz brought in thousands of National Guard soldiers to help quell violence that had damaged or destroyed hundreds of buildings in Minneapolis over days of protests. On Sunday, in a display of force, long lines of state patrolmen and National Guard soldiers lined up in front of the Capitol, with perhaps a dozen military-style armored vehicles behind them.
Disgust over generations of racism in a country founded by slaveholders combined with a string of recent racially charged killings to stoke the anger. Adding to that was angst from months of lockdowns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, which has disproportionately hurt communities of color, not only in terms of infections but in job losses and economic stress.
The droves of people congregating for demonstrations threatened to trigger new outbreaks, a fact overshadowed by the boiling tensions.
The scale of the coast-to-coast protests rivaled the historic demonstrations of the civil rights and Vietnam War eras.
Curfews were imposed in major cities around the U.S., including Atlanta, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. About 5,000 National Guard soldiers and airmen were activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C.
Thousands of demonstrators marched peacefully through Boston in several protests during the day, but some clashed with officers as night fell, throwing rocks, bricks and glass bottles and torching a police vehicle.
Authorities fired volleys of tear gas to disperse hundreds of demonstrators in downtown Atlanta as a curfew took hold. Some on the fringes of a largely peaceful protest set off fireworks and burned construction materials near a park where police and National Guard troops turned out in force.
In Indianapolis, two people were reported dead in bursts of downtown violence this weekend, adding to deaths reported in Detroit and Minneapolis in recent days.
Secret Service agents rushed President Donald Trump to a White House bunker on Friday night as hundreds of protesters gathered outside the executive mansion, some of them throwing rocks and tugging at police barricades.
Trump spent nearly an hour in the bunker, which was designed for use in emergencies like terrorist attacks, according to a Republican close to the White House who was not authorized to publicly discuss private matters and spoke on condition of anonymity. The account was confirmed by an administration official who also on condition of anonymity.
The abrupt decision by the agents underscored the rattled mood inside the White House, where the chants from protesters in Lafayette Park could be heard all weekend and Secret Service agents and law enforcement officers struggled to contain the crowds.
Friday's protests were triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after he was pinned at the neck by a white Minneapolis police officer. The demonstrations in Washington turned violent and appeared to catch officers by surprise. They sparked one of the highest alerts on the White House complex since the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001 .
“The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere. The Secret Service said it does not discuss the means and methods of its protective operations. The president's move to the bunker was first reported by The New York Times.
The president and his family have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds, according to the Republican. It was not immediately clear if first lady Melania Trump and the couple’s 14-year-old son, Barron, joined the president in the bunker. Secret Service protocol would have called for all those under the agency's protection to be in the underground shelter.
Trump has told advisers he worries about his safety, while both privately and publicly praising the work of the Secret Service.
Trump traveled to Florida on Saturday to view the first manned space launch from the U.S. in nearly a decade. He returned to a White House under virtual siege, with protesters — some violent — gathered just a few hundred yards away through much of the night.
Demonstrators returned Sunday afternoon, facing off against police at Lafayette Park into the evening.
Trump continued his effort to project strength, using a series of inflammatory tweets and delivering partisan attacks during a time of national crisis.
As cities burned night after night and images of violence dominated television coverage, Trump’s advisers discussed the prospect of an Oval Office address in an attempt to ease tensions. The notion was quickly scrapped for lack of policy proposals and the president’s own seeming disinterest in delivering a message of unity.
Trump did not appear in public on Sunday. Instead, a White House official who was not authorized to discuss the plans ahead of time said Trump was expected in the coming days to draw distinctions between the legitimate anger of peaceful protesters and the unacceptable actions of violent agitators.