Morning Brief

U.S. Protests Continue After Atlanta Police Shooting

The killing of Rayshard Brooks by Atlanta police sparked a new wave of protests against racist police violence.

People hold signs toward traffic outside a burned Wendy's restaurant on the second day following the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in the restaurant parking lot June 14, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia.
People hold signs toward traffic outside a burned Wendy's restaurant on the second day following the police shooting death of Rayshard Brooks in the restaurant parking lot June 14, 2020, in Atlanta, Georgia. Elijah Nouvelage / AFP

Here is today’s Foreign Policy brief: The police killing of Rayshard Brooks in Atlanta adds to further unrest in the United States, the Rappler ruling threatens press freedom in the Philippines, and what to watch in the world this week.

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Rayshard Brooks Killing Sparks Further Outrage

As the United States enters its fourth week of nationwide protests against racism and police violence, Americans were given another grim reminder of what has brought them out on the streets.

The killing of Rayshard Brooks—a 27-year-old black man—on Friday in Atlanta has led to further unrest as well as the resignation of the city’s police commissioner.

Police officers had accosted Brooks after responding to a complaint that he had fallen asleep in his car at a Wendy’s drive-through lane. After a conversation with police led to a scuffle, Brooks attempted to flee. Officer Garrett Rolfe—who has since been fired—then shot Brooks in the back. The Wendy’s restaurant was set alight by protesters in the aftermath of the shooting.

The killing has led to further outcry from Democratic lawmakers. “This did not call for lethal force. And I don’t know what’s in the culture that would make this guy do that.” Rep. James Clyburn, the House majority whip, told CNN on Sunday. “It has got to be the culture. It’s got to be the system.”

How “the system” goes beyond U.S. shores. In the past few weeks, Foreign Policy has looked at how racism overshadows the U.S. foreign policy apparatus.

On June 11, FP’s Robbie Gramer heard from black U.S. foreign service officers on the long-standing systemic problems within U.S. diplomacy exacerbated by the Trump administration. “I think that a lot of foreign service officers of color, particularly black officers, are at a point where they’re just fed up,” said one official. “We’re dissatisfied, we feel dehumanized, and I think enough is enough.”

FP’s Michael Hirsh spoke with retired U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Dana Pittard, one of the few black Americans to reach the rank of two-star general or higher, on the racism he experienced in the U.S. military over a three-decade-long career.

A racist foreign policy? Salih Booker, writing in Foreign Policy on June 12, condemned U.S. militarism on the African continent as an extension of the country’s racist domestic history. The increased U.S. military presence “inevitably results in the killing of unarmed civilians in Somalia and elsewhere in Africa, mirroring the police killings of black Americans in the United States,” Booker writes. “The growth of the U.S. military footprint in Africa is a white American knee on Africa’s neck. But Washington’s violent behavior in Africa is not captured on smartphone videos.”

What We’re Following Today

Press freedom in the Phillipines. The journalist Maria Ressa, the founder of news site Rappler, has been found guilty of criminal libel by a Manila court in a case Human Rights Watch described as a “devastating blow” to press freedom in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte.

Ressa and another Rappler journalist, Reynaldo Santos Jr., were sentenced to up to six years in prison under the country’s cybercrime prevention act of 2012, which includes libel. The article that was deemed libelous predated the law, but a later online update of a typo was enough for prosecutors to consider it worthy of an indictment.

Speaking after the verdict was announced, Ressa appealed to her fellow journalists not to lose heart. “We are meant to be a cautionary tale. We are meant to make you afraid. So I appeal again: Don’t be afraid. Because if you don’t use your rights, you will lose them.”

Nigeria attacks. At least 141 people were killed in two militant attacks in Northern Nigeria over the weekend, both have been claimed by Islamic State West Africa Province. The attacks in Monguno and Nganzai districts of Borno state killed at least 60 people, while a separate attack in Gabio district killed at least 81. The United Nations, which has a humanitarian base in Monguno, said it was “appalled” by the attacks.

Beijing records coronavirus surge. Beijing has seen a spike in the number of coronavirus cases in recent days after 51 people tested positive for the virus in an outbreak linked to the Xinfadi wholesale market. Authorities have ordered anyone who has visited the market since May 30 to get tested for the virus.

Intra-Afghan talks venue announced. The Afghan government and the Taliban have agreed to hold their first round of peace talks in Doha, Qatar, according to dual statements made on Sunday. A date for the talks has yet to be announced, although a Taliban spokesman said that they were prepared to talk within a week of the release of 5,000 prisoners. The Afghan government has released roughly 3,000 so far.

Ireland forms new government. Three Irish political parties are expected to sign off on a coalition deal today to form a new government, more than three months after national elections were held. The deal will bring together Fianna Fail and Fine Gael—the previous ruling party—in a governing coalition for the first time, with the Green Party as the third member.

Keep an Eye On

Poland’s presidential election. Polish President Andrzej Duda has accused international media of taking his comments out of context after a Saturday speech he gave describing the movement for LGBT rights as an “ideology” more destructive to the country than communism. “Yet again, as part of dirty political fight, my words are put out of context. I truly believe in diversity and equality,” Duda tweeted in English on Sunday. Ahead of a June 28 presidential election, Duda has signed on to the “Family Charter” of election plans, which includes pledges to prevent gay couples from marrying and adopting children and to ban schools from teaching about LGBT issues.

Sudan cash payments. Sudan is to begin trials of direct cash payments to its citizens in a bid to cut down on the cost of its current subsidy programs on fuel, bread, and medicine. The government will distribute approximately $9 per month to needy citizens, with a view to extending the program to 80 percent of Sudan’s households. The trial will begin in Khartoum’s West Soba district before being rolled out to four other areas of the country, according to a statement from Sudan’s finance ministry. 

Two meters too many? The two-meter social distancing rule that has become commonplace in public spaces has come in for criticism after scientists uncovered flaws in the report the recommendation was based on. The initial study was commissioned by the World Health Organization and published in the medical journal the Lancet. “I think they did it in such a rush—the authors, possibly the WHO, and the Lancet peer reviewers—that important things were missed,” said Kevin McConway, a statistician at the Open University. The criticism comes as the British government plans a review of social distancing guidelines, including the two-meter rule.

The World This Week

A second round of trade talks between the United States and United Kingdom begins today. The negotiating teams are led by Dan Mullaney, assistant U.S. trade representative for Europe and the Middle East and Oliver Griffiths, director for U.S. negotiations at the U.K. Department for International Trade.

Paul Whelan trial concludes. The verdict in the trial of Paul Whelan, a U.S. citizen held in Russia on charges of espionage, will be delivered today by a court in Moscow. Whelan has been in detention in Russia since December 28, 2018. Russian prosecutors are requesting an 18-year sentence.

On Tuesday, June 16, the Hungarian parliament will vote on whether to end the emergency powers granted at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, including the ability of Prime Minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree.

Odds and Ends

Polish forces made a brief incursion into the Czech Republic last month, it has recently emerged. The Polish soldiers overstepped the border of their fellow European Union member by 30 meters while setting up a perimeter as part of the country’s coronavirus measures—that included commandeering a local church. A local man attempting to photograph the church discovered the “invasion,” but was rebuffed by the Polish troops. “A soldier dressed in the uniform of a foreign state and carrying a sub-machine gun started giving me orders. It was a terrifying experience,” the man told a local newspaper. Eventually, Czech police were summoned and ordered the Poles to return to their side of the border. The Polish Ministry of Defense has dismissed the episode as a “misunderstanding.”

That’s it for today.

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Colm Quinn is the newsletter writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @colmfquinn

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