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The Latest on protests over racial inequality:

BALTIMORE — Baltimore protesters have pulled down a statue of Christopher Columbus and thrown it into the city’s Inner Harbor.

News outlets reported that demonstrators used ropes to topple the monument in the Little Italy neighborhood on Saturday night.

Protesters mobilized by the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police have called for the removal of statues of Columbus, Confederate figures and others.

They say the Italian explorer is responsible for the genocide and exploitation of native peoples in the Americas.

According to The Baltimore Sun, the statue was dedicated in 1984 and is owned by the city.

Statues of Columbus have also been toppled or vandalized in cities such as Miami; Richmond, Virginia; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Boston, where one was decapitated.

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BALTIMORE — Johns Hopkins University is investigating the discovery of a rope tied into a noose at a construction site in a building it owns off its Baltimore campus.

Johns Hopkins officials also notified federal authorities about what the university calls a potential hate crime, the Baltimore Sun reports.

“Johns Hopkins University condemns this act of hate,” President Ronald J. Daniels said in a message emailed to university community Friday. “We find such racist imagery horrifying and repugnant and a direct threat to the Black community at Johns Hopkins and in Baltimore, standing in stark opposition to the values of equity, justice, and humanity to which we are firmly committed.”

Representatives of general contractor Plano-Coudon told university officials Thursday that a noose had been found at a site in Baltimore where the firm is renovating a laboratory that is part of the university’s Whiting School of Engineering.

The university’s Office of Institutional Equity is investigating in coordination with the general contractor, Johns Hopkins spokeswoman Karen Lancaster said. Lancaster said the company “has offered its full cooperation and support.”

Daniel Ennis, the university’s senior vice president for administration and finance, said the school has shut down the construction site.

“We take this matter extremely seriously,” he said. “Acts like this have no place in our society.”

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PHOENIX — Phoenix officials are set to begin the process of changing the names of two streets — one seen as demeaning to indigenous Native American women and the other glorifying the Confederacy.

The Phoenix City Council voted unanimously this week to rename Squaw Peak Drive and Robert E. Lee Street. In a letter to the city manager last month, Mayor Kate Gallego and Councilwoman Thelda Williams wrote that squaw is a “demeaning and degrading word.”

Meanwhile, Lee represents historical institutions of racism and slavery. Councilman Sal DiCiccio says the city should cover fees for residents impacted by the change.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Virginia officials ordered the removal of a large American flag from a construction site ahead of the Fourth of July, calling it a potential target for people protesting racial injustice and police brutality.

Dena Potter, spokeswoman for the state Department of General Services, said officials asked a contractor to take down the flag from a new office building for state lawmakers under construction in Richmond. She said in an email that buildings have been vandalized and flags, dumpsters and a bus have been set on fire during demonstrations in recent weeks.

Potter said the state doesn’t object to a standard-sized flag that’s still flying on a crane at the site. But she said the larger one would have been easier to reach.

The Washington Post reports that the decision angered a subcontractor whose fireproofing company used tarps to make the flag.

“Since when is this flag, on this weekend, IN THIS COUNTRY, a Target!!” Eric Winston of American Coatings Corp. wrote in a Facebook post, according to the newspaper. “Let me guess, if I had a black lives matter flag it would be ‘ok’!?”

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AUSTIN, Texas — A conservative power broker told Texas’ governor to have National Guard troops “shoot to kill” amid protests last month against racial injustice and police brutality.

The Texas Tribune reports that Steve Hotze left that message in a voicemail to Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s chief of staff on the weekend of June 6.

Hotze acknowledged the comment in a Facebook post Saturday, writing “it’s not about race.”

Republican Sen. John Cornyn called the voicemail “absolutely disgusting and reprehensible.”

Abbott’s office declined to comment to the Tribune and did not immediately respond to a public records request for the voicemail.

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GRAHAM, N.C. — Civil rights groups have sued to block a North Carolina city from enforcing an ordinance that requires permits for protests.

The Herald-Sun reports that a federal judge scheduled a hearing Monday on a request for a temporary restraining order against city officials in Graham, the county seat of Alamance County.

The lawsuit argues that the ordinance unconstitutionally requires protesters to have a permit to march while carrying a sign. It also says the ordinance illegally restricts the size and conduct of permitted protests.

Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the lawsuit on behalf of the NAACP’s Alamance County branch and eight people.

A Confederate monument in front of the Alamance County Historic Courthouse has been the target of protests for years. Calls to bring down the century-old soldier statue have intensified since George Floyd’s May 25 death in Minneapolis.

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SEATTLE — Authorities say a 27-year-old man suspected of driving onto a closed freeway in Seattle early Saturday and barreling into a crowd of protesters has been arrested and booked on two counts of vehicular assault.

Two women were critically injured. Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said Dawit Kelete of Seattle was being held without bail at the King County Correctional Facility.

It was not immediately clear if Kelete had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as point of entry onto the interstate.

Mead said protesters had shut down the interstate for 19 consecutive days and the State Patrol responded by closing sections of the interstate to keep drivers and protesters safe.

Mead said Kelete was suspected of having driven the wrong way on a ramp. Troopers did not know whether it was a targeted attack, but impairment was not considered a factor.

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LOTHIAN, Md. — A privately owned Confederate statue at a Maryland church has been toppled and vandalized, according to police.

The Capital Gazette reports that photos provided by Anne Arundel County police show that the statue at Mt. Calvary Anglican Church in Lothian was ripped off its concrete platform.

The word “racist” was written in red spray paint on the platform and descriptive plaque for the statue of Private Benjamin Welch Owens, who served in a Confederate Maryland artillery unit during the Civil War.

Police said the statue was last seen undamaged late Thursday. No suspects were immediately identified.

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RICHMOND, Va. — Former Virginia Gov. L. Douglas Wilder is accusing the state’s library agency of racism for its slow pace in processing and publicly presenting records from his tenure as the nation’s first elected Black governor.

Wilder, 89, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch on Friday he doesn’t understand why the Library of Virginia has been processing papers from his gubernatorial successors before finishing work on his.

“Why isn’t it racism?” Wilder asked.

State Librarian Sandra Gioia Treadway acknowledged that the processing of Wilder’s records had “fallen off the radar,” a lapse that she attributed to budget cuts and turnover in key positions, including the state archivist.

“This is devastating for me, but we are addressing it,” Treadway said.

Wilder, a grandson of slaves, served as Virginia’s governor from 1990 to 1994. All of Wilder’s successors in the governor’s office have been white.

The library agency has finished work on the collections of former Govs. George Allen, Jim Gilmore and Mark Warner. Former Gov. Tim Kaine’s remains a work in progress.

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SEATTLE — Authorities say a 27-year-old man drove a white Jaguar onto a closed freeway in Seattle early Saturday and barreled through a panicked crowd of protesters, injuring two women.

The driver was in custody, Washington State Patrol Capt. Ron Mead said. Charges had not been filed as of Saturday morning.

Officials were trying to determine the motive as well as point of entry onto the interstate.

Video taken at the scene by protesters showed people shouting “Car! Car!” before fleeing the roadway.

Summer Taylor, 24, of Seattle and Diaz Love, 32, of Bellingham were in critical condition with multiple injuries, according to Harborview Medical Center spokeswoman Susan Gregg.

Seattle has been the site of prolonged unrest following the May 25 police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which sparked nationwide protests.

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Virginia Governor Faces New Hurdle In Bid To Remove Lee Statue

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A judge dismissed a legal challenge Monday that had been blocking Virginia officials from removing a towering statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from the state’s capital city, but he immediately imposed another injunction against dismantling the figure.

The new 90-day injunction bars Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration from “removing, altering, or dismantling, in any way” the larger-than-life statue of Lee on a prominent Richmond avenue while claims in a lawsuit filed by local property owners are litigated.

Now covered in graffiti, the Lee monument has become a focal point and gathering spot amid Richmond’s sustained anti-racist protests since the police custody death in Minnesota of a Black man, George Floyd. Northam announced plans in June to remove the statue, citing the pain felt around the nation by Floyd’s killing.

Floyd’s death sparked a renewed wave of Confederate monument removals across the U.S., just like a violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville before it and a mass shooting at a historic African American church in South Carolina before that.

Should a court eventually clear the way, it won’t be a simple task to take down the 21-foot (6.4-meter) equestrian statue of Lee, the military commander of the Confederacy that for nearly all of the Civil War had its seat in Richmond. The statue weighs about 12 tons (11 metric tonnes) and sits on a massive pedestal. Removal plan calls for cutting it into three sections for eventual reassembly elsewhere.

Richmond Circuit Court Judge W. Reilly Marchant wrote in the decision released Monday that “the public interest does weigh in favor” of a temporary injunction barring the statue’s removal.

Separately, Marchant dismissed entirely as not “legally viable” the claims filed by a descendant of signatories to an 1890 deed that transferred the statue to the state, and he dissolved an existing injunction in that case.

Plaintiff William C. Gregory, the great-grandson of land donors, had argued the state agreed to “faithfully guard” and “affectionately protect” the statue on historic Monument Avenue that is among the most prominent Confederate tributes in the U.S. His attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The governor appreciates the dismissal of the Gregory case and “looks forward to another victory in court as soon as possible,” his spokeswoman, Alena Yarmosky, said in a statement.

“This statue will come down — and Virginia will be better for it,” she said.

In the property owners’ case, Marchant found that the plaintiffs have the general standing to sue.

Four of the plaintiffs own property near statue; another is a trustee of a property owner. Among them is Helen Marie Taylor, a longtime Monument Avenue resident and defender of the statues. The group argues that removing the Lee statue — the last Confederate statue now standing on Monument Avenue — could result in the loss of the neighborhood’s National Historic Landmark designation, “which will have a substantial adverse impact, “ including the loss of ”favorable tax treatment and reduction in property values.”

In deciding whether to issue an injunction, Marchant considered one of their five claims — that they have a right to enforce restrictive covenants contained in deeds from 1887 and 1890 dealing with the statue and land it rests upon. The judge found that the plaintiffs are likely to succeed on that issue “under the common law doctrine of restrictive covenants running with the land.”

He said he would hear evidence and arguments on all five counts at another hearing. Court records did not indicate such a hearing has been scheduled.

University of Virginia law professor Richard Schragger said the judge’s ruling was “favorable” for the property owners.

“That doesn’t mean the state can’t prevail but that the judge has at least taken the basic facts and read them in a favorable light for the plaintiffs,” said Schragger, who teachers property law and whose scholarship includes a focus on the intersection of constitutional law and local government law.

He said he expects the case to end up before the Supreme Court of Virginia on appeal.

Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring has filed a motion to dismiss the property owners’ lawsuit, and “remains committed to ensuring this divisive, antiquated relic is removed as soon as possible,” according to a statement from his spokeswoman, Charlotte Gomer.

Patrick McSweeney, an attorney for the property owners, has said he does not comment on pending litigation.

(© Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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