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How a common air freshener can cause high-stakes traffic shutdown

Phil Colbert was on his way to meet his father for lunch before his shift at an Arizona car dealership in 2019 when he saw the flashing lights of a sheriff’s patrol car in his mirror. He made sure his hands were on the steering wheel, planted at 10 and 2 as his parents had taught him, and asked why he was arrested.

“You can’t hang anything from your rearview mirror,” the La Paz county MP told him, wearing a Blue Lives Matter bracelet.

The agent was referring to the tree-shaped air freshener hanging near the windshield, but quickly moved on to other questions: Do you have any marijuana? Do you smoke marijuana? When was the last time you smoked marijuana? Do you have cocaine? To Mr. Colbert, who is black, the air freshener seemed nothing more than a pretext for the equivalent of driving a stop-and-frisk.

“At that point, I was like, ‘This guy comes up with anything. He just found anything to talk to or disturb me, ”said Mr Colbert, 23, who recorded the traffic stop on his cell phone and was eventually released with a warning.

Air fresheners that hang from mirrors have been a ubiquitous accessory in cars for decades. But they can be treated as illegal in a majority of states, which have laws prohibiting objects near the windshield that can obstruct motorists’ view. They are part of a string of low-level offenses, such as tinted windows or broken taillights, which civil rights activists complain about have become common pretexts for traffic stops that too often target people of color. selectively.

The encounter this week in Minnesota that led a police officer to fatally shoot Daunte Wright, a 20-year-old black man, began when officers issued a traffic stop and raised the issue of an air freshener suspended, according to Mr Wright’s mother, who spoke to her son on the phone moments before he was shot.

Pete Orput, the Washington County attorney, said officers noticed an expired registration tab on Mr. Wright’s license plate and decided to park his car. One of the officers later noticed the air freshener hanging from the mirror, which was a violation of the law, Mr. Orput said.

Racial prejudice in roadside checks has been a central concern of researchers and civil rights activists for years. As part of Stanford University’s Open Policing Project, researchers analyzing more than 100 million traffic stops nationwide have found persistent racial disparities, with black and Hispanic drivers more likely to be stopped and more likely to be searched. Collectively, officers found contraband at a lower rate among these searches than in searches of white drivers.

Traffic checks can also intensify, as in the case of Mr Wright, who was shot and killed by a police officer after getting back into his car as police attempted to arrest him on an unrelated warrant. The officer, Kimberly A. Potter, who had shouted that she was about to use her Taser, resigned and was charged with second degree manslaughter.

Paige Fernandez, an advocate for police policy at the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level infractions such as expired registrations and air fresheners on mirrors should not be dealt with by armed police.

“The danger of police roadside checks far outweighs any benefit of involving them,” said Fernandez.

Mayor Mike Elliott of Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, where Mr. Wright was killed, said police should not arrest people because of an expired recording during the coronavirus pandemic.

Bans on items hanging from mirrors can extend to fuzzy dice, graduation pom poms and rosaries. Last year, amid the pandemic, authorities in Maine warned of hanging masks.

A woman who answered the phone for the maker of one of the most common hanging air fresheners, Little Trees, said the company would have no comment on the legal debate. The company’s website shows the scented paper trees hanging from a rear-view mirror.

States have long questioned how best to deal with the obstruction problem. After court data showed more than 1,400 citations in a year for people driving on Maryland freeways with windshields obstructed by objects or materials, the state changed its law in 2017. The violation didn’t. is no longer a primary offense, which would justify stopping traffic, but a secondary offense, which can only be invoked after a motorist has stopped for something more serious, such as speeding.

Virginia has followed suit as part of a larger package of reforms limiting when police can conduct traffic stops.

Dana Schrad, executive director of the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police, said the group had supported some of the changes, including banning people from being arrested for recently expired records. When lawmakers changed the law to require that a driver’s view be “substantially” obstructed by objects to be considered a violation, law enforcement did not object.

Making windshield obstructions a secondary offense could allow some motorists to continue driving even with a significant obstruction that limits their view. Ms Schrad said this had raised concerns that the roads could become less safe.

Ms Schrad said that when officers arrest people for minor violations, they may also uncover other issues, including outstanding misdemeanor warrants or evidence of other crimes. “The more you limit a law enforcement officer’s ability to intervene in something that would violate the law, the more you limit his ability to uncover other criminal activity,” she said.

In places where air fresheners have been treated as a primary offense, traffic stops have faced legal challenges with varying results.

One evening in April 2008, Benjamin Garcia-Garcia was driving a van along Interstate 55 near Springfield, Ill., When a state soldier who had been parked in the median moved on the highway and stopped it. According to court records, the soldier claimed he saw the pink air freshener hanging from Mr Garcia-Garcia’s mirror and believed it was breaking state law prohibiting items that could obstruct the driver’s view.

The soldier later admitted that he did not stop all cars with an air freshener and did not observe any other traffic violations. The soldier issued a written warning, but in the process he also learned that Mr. Garcia-Garcia and his passengers were in the country illegally. This sparked a response from Immigration and Customs Enforcement which led to Mr. Garcia-Garcia facing a federal charge of illegally crossing the border. He was imprisoned and deported.

Mr Garcia-Garcia disputed the rationale for the stop in his criminal case, arguing that the soldier could not have seen the air freshener from a vehicle traveling at freeway speed and that he would not have could conclude that it was a material obstruction. The United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit rejected the argument.

“The object the soldier observed was small, but given its size and position relative to the driver, a reasonable officer could conclude that it was in violation of Illinois law prohibiting physical obstructions,” the judges wrote. .

In a more recent case, on the south side of Chicago, a police officer said he saw an air freshener in a vehicle and started following the car, then stopped it for violating a city code provision prohibiting obstructions. of the windshield. During the traffic stop, officers found guns in the vehicle and arrested the two men inside, who were black. The men challenged the legality of the traffic stop, but the same appeals court again ruled that the stop was constitutional.

But in Connecticut in 2010, after a traffic stop in which a driver had a chain and a cross hanging from his rearview mirror, the state Supreme Court sided with the driver, determining that the object was relatively small and that the soldier who triggered the stop did not express concern that the object was blocking the driver’s view.

The case of Mr. Colbert, the motorist stopped in Arizona in an unincorporated area between Parker and Lake Havasu, became public after posting a video of the traffic stopping online. He later obtained a lawyer, Benjamin Taylor, who said he believed the MP was engaging in racial profiling.

“Even if you are polite, calm, even if you have a university education, the bottom line is that at the end of the day you are still black,” Taylor said. “That’s all the cop sees and stereotypes.”

The Sheriff’s Department later determined that the Deputy Minister had no legitimate basis for his repeated questioning of Mr. Colbert. The deputy, Eli Max, was fired in part for his handling of the shutdown. Mr Colbert took steps to take legal action, but struck a deal with the county before it came to that, Mr Taylor said.

Even for those who are ultimately let go with a warning, being pulled over for a mirror violation can have a lasting effect. In Galesburg, Ill., Brittany Mixon was in high school when she was arrested by a police officer in 2003, apparently because of the air freshener hanging from her mirror. But when the officer approached the car, she said, her first question was whether the Toyota Corolla she was driving was hers.

“He kept asking me questions like he wanted to trip me up,” said Ms. Mixon, who is black.

Even now, at 35, she makes sure she doesn’t hang anything from her mirror – or the mirror of a car she’s in – because she doesn’t want to risk being arrested.

“If I get in a car with someone and they have something hanging on their mirror, I’m like, ‘Can you take it apart?’” Ms. Mixon said. “Being a black passenger can trigger something in a racist cop, so let’s just take that out of the situation.”

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Video: Video shows black army medic spraying black pepper at a traffic stop

“Keep your hands out of the window!” “My hands are here. What’s going on? “” Get out of the car now! ” “Get out of the car!” “What’s going on?” Right now I’m serving this country. And that’s how I’m being treated like this, what I’m about to go through depending on what’s going on right now, what’s going on, what’s going to fix it back to life. So I’m sorry, what? Get a car now, what’s going on? Now Get out of the car, sir. Get out of the car. Work with us and we’ll talk to you. Get out of the car. You got the order. Obey it. I’m really scared to go out. Can? Yeah, I was going to go out. What’s going on? I have to go out now. I haven’t committed any crime. You are stubborn. You are not cooperating at this point. Right now, you are in arrest for detained traffic. You are taken away. Traffic violation. I don’t need to get out of the vehicle. You didn’t even tell me you were arrested. the car. Let me go hands, please. Let go of my hand. You know what? Let go of my hand. Do not touch me. I did not do anything. Do not do that. You have to go do it now. Do not do that. I’m trying to tell you, OK, I’m trying to get out of my car. Can you please love, can you please relax. Get out of the car right away. That’s not how you treat him. I actively serve this country in this area. How are you going to treat me if I haven’t done an ingram? Whoa, whoa. What is happening? Wait. I am watching him. Take a car. Get out of the car now, because it’s the car now, sir. Get out of the car. I try to get out of the car. Now there isn’t, it’s really no. Yeah oh, get out of the car. Go to the field. Now get one again. I don’t even want to take your belt off. Get the keys to the car. Get out of the car. Now

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Black army medic pepper sprayed in traffic stop accuses officers of assault

Caron Nazario, a lieutenant in the US Army medical corps, was on his way to Petersburg, Va., After a weekend of exercise on the night of December 5, when he saw police lights flashing behind him .

Too nervous to stop on a dark road, Lt. Nazario, who is black and Latino, drove about a mile to a gas station, pulled over and placed his cell phone on his dashboard, according to one. trial and video footage of the meeting.

Immediately, two Windsor police officers were heard yelling orders at him.

“Get out of the car,” people shout as Lieutenant Nazario, remaining seated, repeatedly asks why he was arrested and why the officers drew their weapons. He places his empty hands outside the window.

“I’m really scared to get out of the car,” Lieutenant Nazario said.

“Yeah,” said one of the officers, Joe Gutierrez, from footage from his body camera. “You should be.”

Seconds later, Officer Gutierrez sprayed the lieutenant with pepper spray. Lieutenant Nazario’s hands remained up as he coughed and implored the officers to undo his seatbelt and make sure his dog, Smoke, was not choking on his back. The liquid from the spray trickled down his hands and face.

Lt. Nazario, 27, a Virginia State University graduate, filed a lawsuit this month in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. He accuses the police of illegally searching his car, of using excessive force and of violating his rights under the First Amendment. The lawsuit seeks $ 1 million in compensatory damages.

Lt. Nazario also accused the officers of threatening to destroy his military career by charging him with multiple crimes if he complained about their conduct, according to the complaint, reported this week by The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk.

Officer Gutierrez and the other officer named in the lawsuit, Daniel Crocker, did not respond to requests for comment on Saturday. Windsor Police Department Chief Rodney Daniel Riddle did not respond to the messages.

The Windsor Police Force, a rural town of about 2,700 people about 30 miles west of Norfolk, consists of six members: a chief, a first sergeant, a detective and three officers, according to the website of the city.

The police did not arrest Lieutenant Nazario and did not file a complaint.

In a report that night, officers said they arrested Lt. Nazario because his SUV did not have license plates. Lt. Nazario said he recently bought a Chevrolet Tahoe and was waiting for license plates. The temporary ones had been taped inside the rear window and were visible, according to the lawsuit.

The police report also stated that Lt. Nazario had “willfully and deliberately ignored” the police lights and sirens before stopping, and “actively resisted” when Constable Crocker attempted to open the door of the police station. SUV driver.

Lawyers for Lieutenant Nazario have deposited copies of video footage from his cell phone and police corps cameras showing the two officers approaching Lieutenant Nazario’s vehicle at the gas station with their guns in hand.

“I actively serve this country and this is how you are going to treat me?” he says in the pictures.

“What is happening?” Then asks Lieutenant Nazario.

“What’s going on is you’re about to ride lightning, my son,” cries Officer Gutierrez. (Later, after hitting Lt. Nazario behind his knees, the officer told him to “lie down or I will tease you”, as the officers seemed to have difficulty bringing Lt. Nazario to the ground.)

After being sprayed, Lieutenant Nazario began to cry and insult.

After two volunteers from the city’s emergency medical service arrived, Officer Crocker approached Lt. Nazario, who was standing handcuffed near his SUV, and asked him why he hadn’t complied. to their “simple” commands.

“What would have been a two-minute traffic stop turned into all of this,” Constable Crocker said in the footage. “I don’t want to hurt you and I know you don’t want to hurt me.

Lt. Nazario said when police arrested him before, he made a point of parking in well-lit areas.

“I never looked out the window and saw guns immediately,” he tells Constable Crocker in the video.

Officer Gutierrez later told Lieutenant Nazario that his boss gave him the discretion to let him go as long as the lieutenant did not “fight and argue”.

Officer Gutierrez said he would not have to write a subpoena for obstructing justice and failing to display a license plate “if you want to relax and let it go”.

If he wrote a summons, the military should be alerted, Officer Gutierrez told Lt. Nazario.

Lt. Nazario said he would alert his superiors to what had happened.

“I understand,” Constable Gutierrez said. “The media spits out racial relations between law enforcement and minorities, I get it.”

Lt. Nazario’s lawyer Jonathan Arthur said the lieutenant informed his superiors of the shutdown almost immediately.

“He’s still really upset,” Arthur said. “He’s very, very worried about the retaliation.”

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Video: “ We lost the line! ”: Radio Traffic reveals police under siege at Capitol Hill

“Can you move east to Third Street at the junction?” And just… ”It’s January 6 at 12:50 pm In a little over an hour, Trump supporters will be wandering the halls of the US Capitol. “Just be visible in this area, ready to respond.” What you hear are recordings of internal police radio traffic obtained by The New York Times that provide a rare window into the real-time tactics, decisions and fears of frontline police in a battle to which they weren’t expecting. “I just have a few minor issues in this area with a small crowd – or with a large crowd.” [Yelling] The crowd gathered outside the Capitol Lawn becomes more aggressive and pushes through barricades guarded by Capitol Police officers. [SHOUTING] “We are not here for you. We are here for America. The Capitol police are asking for a backup. “Can you advise if anyone -” These internal radio communications from reinforcements, DC Municipal Police officers, or MPDs, who were called in to assist the Capitol Police. “Cruiser 50, 64, 54, get on.” Cruiser 50 is the call sign for MPD response leader Inspector Robert Glover, a senior MPD veteran who specializes in crowd control and high-stakes clashes. “Has the mall cleared up, sir?” “Thank you. The crowd moves to the Capitol. We are supporting Capitol on the Western Front.” As President Trump speaks across the mall, Glover leads an MPD team to strengthen the Western Front of the Capitol. The main stairs are currently covered in scaffolding and bleachers. If the crowds overtake the police anywhere here, they will have easier access to the building. When Glover’s MPD team arrives, most dressed in bright yellow, this is the fight they get into. [Shouting] “Cruiser 50, allowing hard gear. Hard material at the Capitol. Glover, seen here, immediately sees that such a large, hostile crowd is going to require more manpower. “Cruiser 50, give me a DSO team. The DSO team must respond to the western front of the Capitol. The DSOs are munitions specialists. “Cruiser 50, get CDU 12. CDU 12 to help maintain the lines. They are throwing bicycle racks. They are throwing bicycle racks. CDU units are trained to subdue unruly crowds – “Hold Back”. – but the police will quickly learn that this is not your typical unruly crowd. “The Patriots are the only ones to give a [BLEEP] about you. ”Over the next 76 minutes, the MPD’s radio communications, synchronized with footage of the scene, analyzed by the New York Times, reveal the glove of Glover and his team trying to hold the line on Capitol Hill. “Multiple injuries on the Capitol. Several injuries on the Capitol.” It’s been five minutes since Glover’s team arrived, and he’s already calling wounded officers. He hears other police officers on the radio, warning that the situation is about to get worse. “Be warned, the talk is over.” Now that President Trump has left the state at the other end of the National Mall, crowds of people are flocking to the Capitol. “Intel 1, know that you have a group of about 50 people loading up the hill on the western front. “Glover still asks for the ammo unit.” Cruiser 50, give me DSO here now. DSO “Injuries were increasing.” Multiple law enforcement wounds. DSO, get up here. “Alright, we’re at 30 seconds.” [BANG] “Cruiser 50, DSO, get in here.” “OK, here we are. 12 to 50, here we are. Finally, one of the hard-equipped units Glover has been asking for arrives. “They should have [inaudible] stormed them when they had the chance. Like, they have all kinds of [inaudible] big riot cops coming down. “We just had a blast here. I don’t know if it’s fireworks or what, but they’re starting to throw explosives. Police are stepping up their response and starting to use more crowd control weapons. “They are shooting at their own people. We represent blue lives, and that’s what they do to us. “” Multiple deployments launched by Capitol, MPD “” Go back. ” “Go back.” “A sting bullet deployed and allowed to hold the line.” “We’re coming, motherfuckers.” “They have tear gas, but we will not stop. We won’t stop. “It’s been almost an hour since Glover and his team were called to the scene.” Blue lives matter. Every life matters. “” We don’t want to be here now. ” “We don’t want to be here.” “It’s not personal, man. The help they need isn’t coming. But the crowds keep coming. ‘Cruiser 50 to 8600, when do the tough squads come in?” “Sir, he’s 42. . This is the only other until later. ” [Yelling] “Let’s go. Let’s go.” “Cruiser 50, they are climbing the scaffold. They climb the scaffolding to the Capitol. Crowds enter the scaffolding, a critical position that gives them access to the stairs to the upper terraces where there are several key doors into the building. Things are so dire that Glover himself takes on crowd control armor, but that’s not enough. “Cruiser 50, they are behind our lines.” “You have to withdraw our resources. If you need to come back in or out – if they support you, you don’t have enough resources. “” If I give this up, they’ll have direct access. We’ll hold we have. “Let’s go.” Within minutes, crowds meander through the scaffolding, push more police, up the stairs and some reach the upper level, go through the windows and door to enter the Capitol. But for Glover and his team, this fight is not over. They are still on the lower terrace fighting to keep the sea of ​​people out. access other doors and windows. [Yelling] The password on the radio that more forces are sent to the scene. “8600. Pull more resources and send them to the Capitol to help 50. ”“ Before the copy. ” Glover even calls the park police on horseback. “Jock radio, can the park support us with horses?” “Copy, we’ll advise you right away.” “It is now a restricted area. According to a DC official – “But the forces are not arriving in time. At 2:28 p.m., sections of the police line began to warp. “Take it -” Then other parts of the line give way. “Push, push, push.” “Cruiser 50. We’ve lost the line. We have lost the line. The crowd invades the lower terrace. Some surround the police. The officers are attacked. [Shouting] “God is going to judge each of you all.” Glover ultimately has no choice but to order his officers to retreat. “All MPD, go up to the upper deck. All MPDs withdraw to the upper deck as soon as possible. Upper bridge.” [Shouting] “Take off their helmets. Take off their helmets. “” Cruiser 50. We’re flanked. 10-33. I repeat, 10-33, west face of the Capitol. We were flanked and we lost the line. “We own this shit.” 10-33 means Glover is calling for immediate emergency help. All hands. [Shouting] “Ask all units to respond to help him. Do what we are trained to do. “Ask all servicemen and sworn officers to come to the Capitol.” [Chanting]

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Plastic surgeon attends video traffic court from operating room

The California Medical Council said it was investigating a plastic surgeon who attended a traffic court video hearing from an operating room while dressed in scrubs and with a patient on the table surgical.

Surgeon Dr. Scott Green reported by video conference for a trial in Sacramento Superior Court on Thursday.

“Hello, Mr. Green?” Hello, are you available for a trial? A courtroom clerk said Dr Green, wearing a surgical mask and cap, appeared in a virtual plaza with operating room lights visible behind him. “Looks like you’re in an operating room right now.”

“I am, sir,” Dr Green replied as the machines beeped in the background. “Yes, I am currently in an operating room. I am available for a trial. Go for it.”

The clerk informed Dr Green that the hearing, reported by The Sacramento Bee, would be broadcast live on YouTube.

After Dr Green was sworn in, his camera briefly rotated and revealed a person on an operating table.

Gary Link, a Sacramento Superior Court commissioner, appeared on camera.

“If I am not mistaken, I see an accused who is in the middle of an operating room appearing to be actively engaged in providing service to a patient,” said Mr. Link. “Is that correct, Mr. Green?” Or should I say Dr Green?

Dr Green confirmed this to be the case.

Mr Link continued: ‘I don’t feel comfortable for the welfare of a patient if you are in the process of operating which I would submit to trial despite the officer being here today. hui. “

Dr Green explained that there was another surgeon in the room who could perform the surgery.

But Mr. Link disagreed.

“I do not think so. I don’t think it’s appropriate, ”he said, adding that he would postpone the trial to a time when Dr Green was not operating on a patient.

“We want to keep people healthy, we want to keep them alive. It’s important, ”said Mr. Link. He set March 4 as a new trial date.

The reason for Dr. Green’s appearance in court was unclear.

Dr Green, who has offices in Sacramento and Granite Bay, Calif., Did not respond to a request for comment on Sunday. Mr. Link could not be reached either.

Carlos Villatoro, a spokesperson for the California Medical Council, said the council is aware of the hearing and “will review it, as it does with any complaints it receives.”

The board, he said, “expects physicians to follow the standard of care when treating their patients.”

Mr. Villatoro declined to give further details, citing the legal confidentiality of complaints and investigations.

As legal proceedings unfolded online during the coronavirus pandemic, missteps abounded.

Judges complained about lawyers attending the proceedings topless and defendants logging into the hearings in bikinis and even naked.

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Texas Man Pepper Sprayed $ 200,000 Settlement While Recording His Son’s Traffic Stop

Constable Shimanek’s body camera footage shows Dillon being asked to exit the car and then quickly handcuffed. The footage shows his father recording the meeting with his smartphone from his truck, and Officer Shimanek shouting that Mr Puente was obstructing the roadway and threatening him with arrest.

When a second officer, Ankit Tomer, arrived, Constable Shimanek ordered him to arrest Mr. Puente.

A photo included in the lawsuit shows Officer Shimanek putting Mr. Puente in a headache. Mr Puente was then sprayed with pepper, according to video footage, Officer Tomer removing Mr Puente’s sunglasses before spraying him a second time.

After being pulverized, handcuffed and placed in a patrol car, Mr. Puente repeatedly asked, unsuccessfully, for help, according to the lawsuit. He asked for the irritant to be wiped from his eyes and said he was having trouble breathing.

After entering the prison exit port, Constable Tomer stopped the car and got out. Later, when the officer opened the car door, Mr. Puente could be heard shouting, “I beg you, please!”

At the jail, Mr. Puente sat for seven minutes asking for help as Constable Tomer “stood outside the vehicle having an informal conversation with other officers,” according to the lawsuit. Those seven minutes “amounted to sheer torture,” he says.

Mr Puente has been charged with resisting arrest and interfering with public office, said Mr Palmer, his lawyer. He was released the night of his arrest and the charges were subsequently dropped.

Dillon Puente was arrested and taken to jail for making an inappropriate large right turn. He was later released after paying a fine, Mr Palmer said.

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Minneapolis police kill man during traffic stop

Videos posted online by a reporter from the Star Tribune showed that people quickly descended on the scene, some shouting at the police.

Mayor Jacob Frey said in a statement he would share information about the shooting as soon as possible, saying transparency was needed to restore trust between police and people of color.

“We must all be determined to get the facts, to seek justice and to keep the peace,” Frey said.

Following Mr Floyd’s death on May 25 outside the Cup Foods convenience store, protesters tore the town apart, demanding that officers be charged. Some people set fire to a police station after the police withdrew and several businesses were set on fire; weeks later, a man’s body was found in a charred pawnshop.

The three Minneapolis officers who pinned Mr. Floyd to the sidewalk were soon fired, along with a fourth at the scene. Derek Chauvin, the former constable who held his knee to Mr. Floyd’s neck, was charged with second degree murder and second degree manslaughter, and the other three were charged with aiding him and encouraged. They all pleaded not guilty; a trial is scheduled for March, but a petition from lawyers asking some officers to delay the trial is pending.

In response to police killings this year of Mr. Floyd and other blacks, including Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky., And Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta, protests have spread across the country, reaching accustomed coastal towns at events, like Portland, Ore. , and New York, but also small towns in the Midwest and South.

Several cities have responded by continuing police reform and budget cuts. Minneapolis City Council voted this month to divert $ 8 million from the police department to other city departments, or about 4.5 percent of the department’s proposed budget, but early promises from many members of the advice to “end the police as we know it” collapsed.

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Air traffic control center shutdown for virus cleanup halts flights to Dallas

An air traffic control center serving Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport was closed for several hours on Wednesday for cleaning after an employee tested positive for coronavirus, failing flights at one of the busiest hubs. busiest in the world.

The Central Disturbance – which handles high-altitude air traffic for most of northern Texas, northwestern Louisiana, eastern New Mexico, and southern Oklahoma and Arkansas – caused ripples of delays and diverted flights across the country.

The Fort Worth air traffic control center suspended operations from 3:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. so that the facility could be disinfected, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, which said Wednesday evening that a single confluence of events and bad weather had led to the disruption.

The FAA said the employee last worked at the center on Christmas Day, which was in a seven-day window that required a more thorough level of cleaning in areas where the employee may have been.

“Because the cleanup required controllers to temporarily leave the control room, the FAA declared a ground stop, which held back traffic at the departure facilities,” the agency said on its Facebook page. He said other FAA facilities supported the closure and worked with traffic around the affected airspace.

Positive cases have been reported 22 times at the center, according to an FAA website. It was not immediately clear whether there had been any previous closures at the facility, which according to an FAA training manual is responsible for 140,000 square nautical miles of airspace.

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field have both reported significant disruptions to their operations.

“The FAA closed the airspace inside and outside of DFW Airport until 5:00 p.m. Central time,” Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport said in a statement. “This is due to a mandatory sanitation cleanup of the FAA offsite facilities that control the airspace in DFW. This will result in delayed or possibly canceled flights. “

The airport, which served around 75 million passengers last year before the pandemic, has urged travelers to check with airlines for changes to their flights.

A spokesperson for Love Field, which is operated by the city of Dallas, said departures and arrivals were temporarily suspended at the airport.

“The estimate we received for the return to normal operations was 1-2 hours and that was about an hour ago,” spokesman Chris Perry said in an email around 4:45 p.m. , local hour.

About an hour later, an FAA spokeswoman said a ground stop was lifted. It also noted that the flights crossing the airspace served by the control center had continued to operate and had been able to communicate with other control centers. The spokeswoman said air traffic could still be affected by the weather in the area, where there were thunderstorms Wednesday evening.

“The FAA takes the safety of its employees and the flying public very seriously,” the agency said on its Facebook page. “Please note that throughout this event, the pilots were always in contact with the air traffic control employees, whether at the Fort Worth air traffic control center or other air traffic control facilities. air traffic. “

Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport is a hub for American Airlines, which has released a barrage of social media posts from travelers expressing their frustrations. It was not immediately clear how many of the airline’s flights had been disrupted. The airline did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Isaak Thurber said his flight from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport at Dallas-Fort Worth Airport had been affected by the ground stop.

“Halfway through my flight, the pilot arrives on the intercom to tell us that DFW airspace has been closed due to ‘covid issues’ and we don’t know what to do”, Mr. Thurber said on twitter. “Now we have landed in Oklahoma City. I must love 2020. ”

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Trump defends Texas drivers who surrounded the Biden bus, while supporters of the president are blocking traffic in New York and New Jersey.

The battle for the presidency is on the road.

In several cases over the past few days, supporters of President Trump have disrupted traffic. On Friday in Texas, Trump supporters surrounded a Biden campaign bus, and on Sunday in New York and New Jersey, Trump supporters halted traffic on two major freeways.

On Sunday, the FBI said it was investigating the Texas incident, which Mr Biden described as an effort to get his team off the road.

But Mr. Trump defended the Texas pilots in a Twitter post on Sunday night, saying: “In my opinion, these patriots haven’t done anything wrong. Instead, the FBI & Justice should investigate the terrorists, anarchists and ANTIFA agitators, who are running and torching our Democrat-run cities and hurting our people!

And his spokesman Jason Miller, when asked about the New York and New Jersey incidents, made a similar plea, saying he was more concerned that “ businesses in downtown Washington need to shut down their windows in anticipation of the violent and lawless riots and riots by Biden supporters. looting Tuesday evening. ”

During the Texas incident on Friday, several vehicles carrying Trump flags and placards circled a Biden-Harris campaign bus going from San Antonio to Austin, forcing the Biden campaign to drop two events, according to reports from Democratic officials.

“We’re so much better than that,” Biden said during a campaign stop in Philadelphia on Sunday. “It’s not who we are. And we have to change it.

Then, on Sunday, caravans of Mr. Trump’s supporters blocked Governor Mario M. Cuomo’s Bridge and the Garden State Parkway, scolding traffic on two of the New York metro area’s busiest highways, just two days before. on polling day.

Videos taken by motorists showed the president’s supporters parked in the middle of the westbound lanes of the bridge, which crosses Interstate 287 over the Hudson River and is named after the current governor’s father, Andrew M. Cuomo.

A number of them got out of their vehicles in the rain and waved Trump banners and American flags as motorists honked their horns.

The episode occurred around mid-afternoon, with the trailer lining up on the shoulder of the freeway in Tarrytown, New York, before driving onto the span, which has replaced the Tappan Zee Bridge and connects the counties of Rockland and Westchester.

State Senator David Carlucci, a Democrat who represents Rockland County, called the blockade of the bridge “aggressive, dangerous and reckless” with individuals “causing danger to themselves and to others.”

“The New York State Police should work to identify these people and charge them,” Carlucci said. “We all have the right to show our support for a presidential candidate, but we do not have the right to endanger others and break the law.”

William Duffy, a spokesman for the New York State Police, said soldiers followed the protest but there were no arrests.

“The bridge has never been closed,” Duffy said, adding that traffic had been restored. Traffic had been briefly interrupted three times, state police said.

In New Jersey, a trailer of Trump supporters harassed traffic on the northbound lanes of the Garden State Parkway near the Cheesequake service area in South Amboy, according to local videos and media.

New Jersey State Police did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Sunday’s disruption came amid mounting tensions over the elections.

In Georgia, Democrats said they decided to hold a virtual press conference instead of an in-person event in Floyd County, where they intended to criticize Mr. Trump for hosting a large rally at the headquarters of the county, in Rome, during the coronavirus pandemic. Democratic officials said they chose not to host an in-person event because they were concerned about a possible “significant militia presence” in town drawn to Mr. Trump’s rally.

“It seems to pour gasoline on the fire of fear and hate,” said Wendy Davis, Democrat and City of Rome Commissioner. “We have reason to believe that there might be people looking for trouble today and our friends in law enforcement were busy protecting the president here locally as they should have been. Out of caution, we said we will defuse. “

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Impacting Travel

EU implements new traffic light system, airlines call it a failure

European Union (EU) member countries today agreed to adopt Europe’s new COVID-19 ‘traffic light’ classification system for cross-border travel. The proposal was approved during a meeting of the EU General Affairs Council, but the agreement is not binding and many of the minutiae are left up to member states to determine, Independent.ie reported.

Under the new system, countries will be individually classified as ‘green’, ‘orange’ or ‘red’ based on their test positivity rates, calculated on an average 14-day number of COVID-19 cases for each 100,000 residents. The European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) will be tasked with publishing a weekly map that reflects the current color-coded state of member countries.

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Green = Cumulative 14-day case rate of less than 25 per 100,000 people and test positivity rates below four percent.

orange = Either: 14-day case rate of less than 50 per 100,000 people with test positivity rates of four percent or more OR, 14-day case rate of 25 to 50 cases per 100,000 with test positivity rates of less than four percent.

Red = Either: 14-day case rate of more than 50 per 100,000 with positive test rates of four percent or more OR, 14-day case rate of more than 150 per 100,000 with test rates positives of less than four percent.

Being a trend now

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that are common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.

In a corresponding statement, the European Commission said: “We have learned our lessons: we will not overcome the crisis by closing borders unilaterally, but by working together.” He continued: “We now ask the Member States to ensure that the necessary data is provided so that the map can be updated weekly with accurate information on the epidemiological situation in the EU and its regions.”

The Council stipulated that member countries should not restrict the free movement of EU citizens traveling to or from ‘green’ countries, but will allow them to individually determine what kind of restrictions to impose on travelers from ‘orange’ and ‘red’.

“While Member States can still decide what restrictive measures they apply, such as quarantine or testing, we ask Member States to ensure that citizens receive clear and timely information on what to do and what restrictions are in place, depending on the agreement today. Member States also agreed on mutual recognition of the tests, and we will continue to work with them to better coordinate the tests and quarantine requirements. “

Critics say the new system does little to solve the challenges posed by the patchwork of border restrictions currently in place in Europe. A joint statement issued by aviation bodies Airports Council International (ACI) Europe, Airlines for Europe (A4E) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) called on the Council for its “failure” to recommend coordinated testing regimes to replace the quarantines. The statement said that this “effectively means that the borders remain closed” and continues to endanger millions of travel and tourism jobs.

“The inability of the Council to go beyond superficial coordination and establish a truly harmonized and workable framework is now beyond question,” the shared statement said. Representative organizations from the airline industry also argued that the new traffic light system does not offer travelers more certainty than before, as member countries only need to publish information about the new restrictions 24 hours in advance.

While widespread calls for the adoption of coordinated rapid COVID-19 testing requirements continue and the European Commission is working on developing an EU ride-sharing testing protocol, there have been no new developments on that front.

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