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2020 Daily Trail Markers: Black faith leaders tackle what's next after George Floyd's death

It's been two weeks since demonstrators first took to the streets in response to the death of George Floyd while in police custody. As elected officials and community leaders weigh solutions to combat police brutality, CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell spoke with black faith leaders about what people are demanding, what's different about this wave of demonstrations and how to begin tackling systemic issues of racial inequity.

Reverend Nelson Rivers, vice president of Religious Affairs for the National Action Network, participated in his first march more than four decades ago. He believes the recent wave of protests will persist. "Brutality won't stop it and criticism won't stop it because it is righteous and it's overdue," said Rivers, who also pastors Charity Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. "Folk are marching all over the world for a man they never met. For a man they did not know because of what he represented." Faith leaders suggested fixes for the country's broken criminal justice system include: creating civilian review boards that have enforcement power to hold police officers accountable, increasing police sensitivity training, conducting routine racial bias audits of police departments, and changing the police Bill of Rights so that police officers can be held accountable immediately for abuse or misconduct. Southern Christian Leadership Conference President Charles Steele, Jr. offered next steps should also include increasing access to capital for black Americans because "you can't have a quality life" without it.

Calls for racial equity have coincided with a public health crisis that has also illuminated racial inequities in health care. Pew Research data shows that in eight states, the percentage of coronavirus deaths among black people is at least twice as high as the black share of the population in those states. Dr. Marybeth Sexton, an assistant professor of infectious diseases at Emory University, says higher rates of COVID-19 cases in minority communities can likely be attributed to factors including housing conditions, health care access and trust in the health care system. And if there's a surge in COVID-19 cases related to protests, she points out, it could affect already vulnerable communities at disproportionate rates. Sexton suggests protesters bring their own food, water and hand sanitizer and pack extra masks because once a mask is wet — from sweat or any other liquid — it becomes ineffective. She also advised that protesters self-isolate from vulnerable family members and consider getting tested after participating in demonstrations. As people across the country continue to demonstrate, Reverend Raphael Warnock — pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta — told Mitchell that protesters are concerned about more than the coronavirus. "They're also concerned about what I call 'COVID-1619,' the long legacy of slavery in our country."

FROM THE CANDIDATES

JOE BIDEN

During a telephone town hall with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, Joe Biden again tried to mock President Trump's next campaign rally, planned for next week in Tulsa. But instead of saying the president was going to Oklahoma, Mr. Biden said the event was being held in Arizona. On Thursday, Biden said the rally was going to be in Texas. Biden also gawked that Mr. Trump rally-goers will have to sign a waiver to not sue the campaign if they contract COVID-19 at the rally and said he was getting "angry" about the idea, CBS News campaign reporter Bo Erickson reports. Asked by a union member about the HEROES Act,  the stalled second round of pandemic relief legislation, Biden said those who are not supporting the legislation are "so damn stupid," before quickly correcting himself to "so darn stupid," because he said the country has to protect those working during the outbreak or the virus will get worse. Biden also continued to pitch his eight-point plan to safely reopen the economy. It is uncertain if any of his suggestions will take hold in Congress, but Biden speaking about reopening businesses is an important rhetorical shift in the past 24 hours because he was previously unwilling to do so. The tea leaves may show the campaign is acknowledging there is broader support now by Americans to start returning to more-normal work structures. And while his main focus is on tackling racial inequality and the pandemic, Biden continues to hold virtual fundraisers.  Thursday night he was joined by a lineup of A-list stars. He was seemingly star stuck by one: Watch Erickson on CBSN to find out who it was.

PRESIDENT TRUMP

President Trump is spending the weekend at his New Jersey golf club for the first time in nearly a year. The president will host an in-person fundraiser at his Bedminster resort on Saturday. An RNC official tells CBS News correspondent Nikole Killion approximately 15 guests will be in attendance. The White House Medical Unit and U.S. Secret Service will evaluate all attendees in order to gain access to the event. Each guest will have to test negative for COVID-19, complete a wellness survey and pass a temperature screening. Trump Victory will cover the testing costs.  His campaign is also encouraging supporters to participate in a "National Weekend of Action" to celebrate the President's birthday on Sunday and the start of the summer campaign season. In a statement, Trump campaign deputy press secretary Ken Farnaso said "thousands of supporters around the nation are fired up to make phone calls and — where states allow – resume in-person volunteer field operations such as voter registration, door knocking, trainings, and meet-ups."  

Mr. Trump will also hold his first campaign rally in months on June 19, the date that commemorates the end of slavery in the United States, according to CBS News digital politics reporter Grace Segers. Mr. Trump's decision to hold a rally on the date commonly known as "Juneteenth" has stirred controversy, particularly since the event will take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where one of the nation's deadliest race massacres occurred nearly 100 years ago. In an interview with Fox News correspondent Harris Faulkner that aired on Friday, Mr. Trump commented on the timing of his rally, saying it would be a "celebration." Touting the size of his campaign events Mr. Trump said, "Think about it as a celebration. My rally is a celebration. We're starting — in the history of politics, I think I can say, there has never been any group or any person that has had rallies like I did." The president's supporters insist that the timing and location of the rally were deliberate decisions. Katrina Pierson, senior adviser to the Trump campaign, said in a statement Thursday that "Republicans are proud of this history of Juneteenth." Pierson also noted that Joe Biden held a fundraiser on Juneteenth last year. Meanwhile, a white major at the Tulsa Police Department said Monday that systemic racism in policing "just doesn't exist," according to Public Radio Tulsa. In a statement responding to those comments, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said the major's words "goes against everything we are trying to achieve in community policing."

In the same Fox interview Friday, Mr. Trump said that he "generally" supports banning law enforcement use of chokeholds although he then backtracked, seeming to suggest there could be a time and a place for the practice. CBS News White House reporter Kathryn Watson reports lawmakers from both parties have been debating banning the practice amid calls for police reform after Floyd's death. Mr. Trump said the "concept of chokeholds" seems "perfect" and "innocent" at first, but also said he "generally" supports ending it. CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga says Mr. Trump, who has repeatedly tweeted "LAW AND ORDER" in the last several weeks since the protests over Floyd's death began and campaigned on a tough-on-crime approach, has struggled to find his footing in a country where the vast majority of Americans want to see sweeping policing reforms. A  new Reuters poll found 82% of Americans want to ban the police from using chokeholds. "I think the concept of chokeholds sounds so innocent, so perfect, and then you realize if it's a 1-on-1 — now if it's 2-on-1 that's a little bit of a different story, depending, depending on the toughness and strength. You know, we're talking about toughness and strength. We are talking — there's a physical thing here also. But if a police officer is in a bad scuffle..." the president said before Faulkner interjected for clarification. "So you have to be careful," the president continued. "With that being said it would be I think a very good thing that generally speaking it should be ended."

Vice President Mike Pence told CBS News Radio White House correspondent Steven Portnoy that he didn't join Mr. Trump at St. John's Church last Monday "out of an abundance of caution." As thousands demonstrated in Washington D.C. in response to the killing of George Floyd, police and National Guard troops used tear gas and rubber bullets to clear out protestors from Lafayette Square in order to create a path for President Trump to walk from the White House to St. John's Episcopal Church. The President held a bible in front of the church for a photo-op and minutes later walked back to the White House. During the interview on Friday evening in Pittsburgh, the vice president described last week's situation outside the White House as volatile and said he was "encouraged" not to go. "I was actually encouraged to stay at the White House out of an abundance of caution," Pence said. "I would have been happy to walk shoulder to shoulder across Lafayette Park with President Trump."

On Thursday, General Mark Milley, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff,  apologized for appearing in that photo-op with Mr. Trump. Milley called the move a "mistake" and said his presence "created a perception of the military involvement in domestic politics." Pence refused to weigh in on Milley's admission of a "mistake." Pence said he has "great respect" for Milley, adding, "I respect his ability to speak for himself about his presence there."  Pence acknowledged that there is racism in America "just as there is in every nation on Earth." Pence said "we've obviously had a great challenging history for African Americans over the last 400 years. But, I truly believe that every American can be proud of the progress that we have made over the life of this nation." And as some cities around the country are starting to ban the use of chokeholds by their police officers, Pence said "I think it has to be considered."

Pence also defended a now-deleted photo from his Twitter account showing his visit to the Trump campaign headquarters in Virginia on Wednesday. The staffers in the photo were not wearing masks and neither was the vice president. Pence said there was a "brief" gathering while he was walking through the room and "very confident that all the actions there were appropriate."

Pence made another church visit on Friday, sitting down for a listening session with faith leaders at the Covenant Church of Pittsburgh. CBS News campaign reporter Musadiq Bidar says the vice president visited Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Maryland, last Friday, where he praised the efforts of law enforcement in helping quell violence on the streets amid nationwide protests. In Pittsburgh, the vice president said churches have played a pivotal role in the history of America's march toward a more perfect union, and claimed "you cannot understand the abolition of slavery without understanding the moral voice of the church in the generations that preceded the great conflict and the end of slavery in this country." Pence committed to working on reforms that would allow "African Americans to avoid the criminal justice system entirely," while also addressing the inequalities that exist for minority communities in healthcare and education. "We're going to address it with the kind of reforms that expand the kind of choices and access to healthcare that our minority communities have." The vice president also made another promise: Defunding the police will not be an option. "Let me say one thing that we will not do is, we are not going to defund the police," Pence said. "Most of the men and women who put the uniform of law enforcement are the best of us." Pence said he's been in communication with law enforcement leaders across the country on finding ways to raise standards with regards to use of force, providing additional training and sources, and making sure officers are trained in de-escalation efforts.

On a press call ahead of Pence's visit, CBS News campaign reporter Zak Hudak says Democratic leaders in Pennsylvania bashed the Trump Administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic and asked residents to remember effect the virus has had on the state. "[Pence] and Trump are claiming victory despite the fact that thousands of Pennsylvanians have lost their lives, and over 2 million Pennsylvanians have filed for unemployment in the recent months," said Nancy Patton Mills, the chairwoman of the state Democratic party. "What's worse the Trump Administration still doesn't have this virus under control." 

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM

PARTY PLANNING

After weeks of public squabbling between North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and the Republican National Committee, the party has announced that Mr. Trump will accept the GOP nomination in Jacksonville, Florida, in August. CBS News Political unit associate producer Eleanor Watson and campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell report that the official business of the convention will remain in Charlotte but the events typically associated with conventions — like the acceptance of the nomination—will be in Florida. In an emailed statement, RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said the party is "thrilled to celebrate this momentous occasion" in Jacksonville. "Not only does Florida hold a special place in President Trump's heart as his home state," said McDaniel in the statement. "It is crucial in the path to victory in 2020."

Convention officials toured several possible cities in recent weeks and, according to an RNC official, all of the cities promised more participants and attendees than Cooper would commit to allowing in Charlotte. Former GOP convention officials say the RNC could face legal challenges if it packed up the convention and took it out of North Carolina completely, since the party signed a contractual agreement with the city of Charlotte upon accepting its bid to host the convention in July 2018. But Mitchell reports that the Charlotte Host Committee said in a statement on Friday that "good faith efforts to carry out" commitments made two years ago, were met with broken promises. The statement continued that the move is "devastating news for the thousands of people" in Charlotte who were hoping for an economic boost from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. "We need to stop pretending there's any part of the convention that will remain in Charlotte," the Host Committee said in the statement. "Unfortunately, the convention has moved to Jacksonville due to decisions beyond our control." The party has pared down the number of delegates attending in Charlotte from over 2,000 to just around 336. Only six delegates from each state and territory will travel to North Carolina. The committee also voted to keep the 2016 platform until 2024 with no changes allowed. But CBS News campaign reporter Nicole Sganga notes that Mr. Trump tweeted Friday that his party hasn't voted on a platform. He added that there's "no rush" and that he prefers a new "short form" updated platform.

Biden intends to be in Milwaukee to accept his party's nomination for president in August, despite some uncertainties about how the national convention will be conducted, according to CBS News campaign reporter Adam Brewster. "Democrats are going to have a convention this August where Joe Biden will accept the party's nomination and we will begin the final stretch to ending the Trump Administration," Biden campaign spokesman Bill Russo said in a statement. "Decisions about the scope and the format will be made based on the best public health and safety considerations that the DNCC (Democratic National Convention Committee) and the Biden campaign get from experts." The Democratic National Convention is scheduled to take place the week of August 17. In April, Democrats pushed back the event back a month due to the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier this week, Democratic National Committee (DNC) members passed a resolution that allows the Democratic National Convention Committee to make changes to the convention, which could lead to delegates voting remotely.  "As is the case with many other businesses and families around the country dealing with our new normal, we are considering a variety of formats for this to take place, but we are certain that in the end it will capture the enthusiasm and spirit that we have to making Donald Trump a one term president and transforming our country," Russo said.  

ISSUES THAT MATTER

BREONNA'S LAW

CBS News affiliate WLKY reports that the Louisville Metro Council unanimously voted Thursday to pass "Breonna's Law," an ordinance that will ban the city's law enforcement officers from using "no-knock" search warrants in Jefferson County. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that Saturday will mark three months since Breonna Taylor, the bill's namesake, was fatally shot by police officers after they entered her apartment with a warrant to search for drugs. CBS News previously reported officials claimed that the officers involved in Taylor's death knocked on the door and announced themselves before entering. But Taylor's family alleged in a wrongful death lawsuit that the officers didn't identify themselves and that Taylor and her boyfriend believed intruders were trying to break in. An FBI investigation into Taylor's death was launched in May. WLKY reports that the officers have been placed on administrative assignment. Taylor's family and protesters, however,  have called for the firing and arrest of the three officers involved. Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer tweeted Thursday that after suspending the use of "no-knock warrants" in May, he plans to sign Breonna's Law as soon as it hits his desk. Mitchell also reports that Republican Senator Rand Paul on Thursday introduced a law that would prohibit the use of "no-knock" warrants and "require federal law enforcement officers to provide notice of their authority and purpose before they could execute a warrant." The Justice for Breonna Taylor Act would also apply to state and local law enforcement agencies that receive funds from the Department of Justice. Advancement Project Executive Director Judith Browne Dianis said in a statement that there have been cases in other states like Texas, Georgia, California, and South Carolina, where people have been hurt and killed "by cop's dangerous and unnecessary raids." Dianis warned that there's more work to be done saying, "Unless we end no-knock rage around the country, the next Breonna Taylor is around the corner."

VOTER REGISTRATION

Progressive groups and nonprofits focused on voting are saying they are seeing more registration requests amid the nationwide protests and calls for racial justice, reports CBS News political unit associate producer Sarah Ewall-Wice. "We've seen thousands of people flooding our website to get more information on how to vote, and I think that is a direct response to this moment that we're in and people looking for outlets to channel their rage right now," said Jennifer Edwards, Color of Change senior director of digital engagement and democracy. The uptick in voter registrations comes as activists examine how to turn the growing calls for police reforms and spotlight on systemic racism into long term  transformations. While the Color of Change's voter registration effort was conceived in 2016, about a third of all people who have visited its online platform have done so in the past month. The highest levels of engagement they're witnessing have come from battleground states such as Florida, Georgia and Texas, as well as California. At the same time, the Voter Participation Center is seeing a 250% increase in online voter registration applications after registrations initially dropped off in March and April amid the pandemic. And 88% of the activity VPC is seeing is coming from unmarried women, people of color and young people. Meanwhile, the website Vote.org has seen increases in voter registrations and registration verifications for at least five consecutive days. Last week alone, more than 211,000 people registered to vote through the platform, including one day where 60,000 people signed up.  Another 264,600 opted into their list for text reminders for the November election. And Rock the Vote is acknowledging both the activism outside and on social media as it sees increases in numbers. In a week starting June 1, the organization saw more than 101,000 new voters register, the most in a single week during the 2020 election cycle so far.

STATE-BY-STATE

ARIZONA

Students for Trump announced this week that Mr. Trump is planning to speak later this month at their convention in Phoenix on June 23, marking his second visit to the state since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. Though Arizona Governor Doug Ducey, a Republican, sought this week to downplay the surge in cases, CBS News campaign reporters Alex Tin and Nicole Sganga report the announcement comes as Arizona is posting the worst trend of among all states in average new infections and local officials are urging residents to avoid gatherings of more than 10 people. Joe Pitts, president of the Arizona State University College Republicans, told CBS News he was looking forward to the event but planned to don a mask, citing concerns over catching the virus. "I do hope that that's recommended because coronavirus is still out there. And if we want to reopen fully, we're going to have to hold ourselves to higher health standards," said Pitts.

FLORIDA

State flags in Florida were ordered to be flown at half-staff on Friday, as residents mourn and remember the 49 people who were killed during the Pulse night club shooting in Orlando in 2016. CBS News campaign reporter LaCrai Mitchell reports that during a press conference on Friday, Governor Ron DeSantis said the state continues to recognize the anniversary of what he described as "one of the most dastardly deeds that's ever been done in the state of Florida." Four years ago, a gunman opened fire on patrons at the LGBTQ nightclub Pulse during "Latin Night" in what was then the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Less than two years later, the state was rocked by another shooting when a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland fatally shot 17 people in February 2018. In a Twitter thread posted Friday, Congresswoman Val Demings of Florida encouraged voters to honor the victims and survivors of the Pulse night club shooting with action. "49 lost friends. 53 carrying wounds temporary or permanent. Four years after #Pulse, I remain assured that '#OrlandoStrong' was never just a slogan. It was a promise," said Demings. "I draw faith from the quiet strength of those who have continued on in the face of such unbearable loss, even if it's just one day at a time. I stand with you. We all stand with you."

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf's legal team today pushed back on an attempt by state Senate Republicans to force him to end the pandemic emergency order he issued three months ago. In a Pennsylvania Supreme Court filing, the state attorney general's office argued that the governor had veto power over a resolution the Republican-controlled Pennsylvania House and Senate passed earlier this week to end the disaster declaration. "The General Assembly cannot act unilaterally, as it has attempted to do in this instance," the filing read. "Rather, it must play by all the rules and precedents governing concurrent resolutions." The litigation, which asked the court to use it's King's Bench or Extraordinary Jurisdiction to make a ruling, came after a petition filed in the lower Commonwealth Court by the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus Wednesday asking the state court to compel Wolf to follow their resolution.

CONGRESSIONAL COVERAGE

IN THE HOUSE

Congressman Denver Riggleman of Virginia is at risk of losing his seat Saturday in an adapted drive-thru delegate vote/convention reports CBS News political unit broadcast associate Aaron Navarro. Riggleman was almost censured by local Republicans last year after officiating a gay wedding between two of his campaign staffers, and then in September 2019, Liberty University employee Bob Good was recruited to run against him. Republicans in the 5th district pushed for a convention instead of a primary, which will be held in the parking lot of the Tree of Life Church in Lynchburg, Virginia, near Good's home. About 3,500 delegates will be voting in their cars through three steps according to the VA-05 Republican committee rules. Riggleman is a freshman Republican who won by 7 points in 2018. He's received Mr. Trump's Twitter endorsement and has raised more money than the other candidates, Republican or Democrat, in the district. 

On Friday afternoon, Riggleman's campaign said that Good had not actually submitted a "certificate of candidate qualification" by the Tuesday deadline, meaning that even with a victory on Saturday, Good's name wouldn't be on the November ballot. "By not filing a simple form, Bob Good has put the district's conservative representation at risk and showed his campaign to be incompetent," Riggleman campaign spokesman Joe Chelak told ABC 13. The district's Republican committee did not respond for comment. Congressman Riggleman told Navarro that based on their data, "it would be a miracle" for him to be beat on Saturday. He called tomorrow a "Dairy Queen convention" that is corrupted by "pay-to-play" operatives, but regardless, felt confident he'd win.  "I'm going to win tomorrow and it's going to show that the Republican party can be a big tent party. And not just small enough to fit in everybody's bed room," he said. 

Editor's note: An earlier version of this newsletter incorrectly identified the court in which the Pennsylvania attorney general filed the application. It was the Commonwealth Court, not the state Supreme Court. This article has been updated. 

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