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Hong Kong police watchdog to release report on protest response

Hong Kong’s police watchdog will release a much-anticipated report on Friday afternoon into the force’s handling of months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in the Chinese-ruled city. The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) studied officers’ behaviour in the months after June 2019, during a time of some of the biggest and most violent demonstrations to…

Hong Kong police watchdog to release report on protest response

Hong Kong’s police watchdog will release a much-anticipated report on Friday afternoon into the force’s handling of months of sometimes violent anti-government protests in the Chinese-ruled city.
The Independent Police Complaints Council (IPCC) studied officers’ behaviour in the months after June 2019, during a time of some of the biggest and most violent demonstrations to roil the city in decades.
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The report is expected to be released at 2pm (06:00 GMT).
Rights groups including Amnesty International have accused police of a disproportionate use of force and other abuses in handling the pro-democracy demonstrations.
Police have repeatedly said they were reactive and exercised restraint in the face of high levels of violence.
The protests started as a campaign against a now-shelved extradition bill that would have allowed criminal suspects to be sent to mainland China for trial but soon evolved into broader calls for greater democracy and an independent inquiry into police action, separate from the IPCC’s.

In some of the most intense clashes, protesters, many clad in black and wearing masks, threw petrol bombs at police and central government offices, stormed the Legislative Council, vandalised metro stations and blocked roads.
Police responded with tear gas, water cannon, rubber-coated bullets and several live rounds fired in the air, in many cases warning the crowds beforehand with a series of coloured signal banners.
Anthony Neoh, head of the police watchdog, has said the report did not investigate allegations of misconduct against individual officers.
Credibility questioned
The credibility of the investigation was dealt a blow in December when a panel of five foreign experts quit from advisory roles to the watchdog because of doubts about its “independent investigative capability”.
Among the police operations under review were events on July 1 when protesters stormed the Legislative Council and an incident in the New Territories district of Yuen Long on July 21 when protesters and bystanders were attacked in the station by a group of men wearing white T-shirts.
The IPCC is tasked with reviewing the work of the Complaints Against Police Office, an internal police department.
More than 8,300 people have been arrested since the protests began and more than 1,600 charged mainly with rioting, possession of an offensive weapon and unlawful assembly, the Hong Kong Police Force said in a series of tweets on Friday headed “Telling Right from Wrong”. 

Riot police disperse anti-government protesters during a protest at Mong Kok in Hong Kong on Sunday [Tyrone Siu/Reuters]

An independent inquiry into police handling of the unrest is one of the protesters’ five demands, but Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam has insisted that the IPCC is capable of conducting an independent investigation rejecting calls for a separate body.
The outbreak of the novel coronavirus and strict rules to curb its spread brought a lull in anti-government protests this year but there have been signs in recent days that the movement is gearing up again, with police saying on Monday they had arrested more than 200 people in disturbances over the weekend.
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Minneapolis

Minneapolis police reviewing Project Veritas allegations of voter fraud benefiting Rep. Ilhan Omar

The Minneapolis Police Department said that voter-fraud allegations were being “evaluated” as Project Veritas dropped Tuesday a second bombshell video in its investigation into ballot harvesting on behalf of Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Democrats. “ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER FRAUD BEING EVALUATED,” the department tweeted on Monday. “The MPD is aware of the allegations of vote…

Minneapolis police reviewing Project Veritas allegations of voter fraud benefiting Rep. Ilhan Omar

The Minneapolis Police Department said that voter-fraud allegations were being “evaluated” as Project Veritas dropped Tuesday a second bombshell video in its investigation into ballot harvesting on behalf of Rep. Ilhan Omar and other Democrats.

“ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER FRAUD BEING EVALUATED,” the department tweeted on Monday. “The MPD is aware of the allegations of vote harvesting. We are in the process of looking into the validity of those statements. No further information is available at this time on this.”

Project Veritas released Tuesday a second video in its “cash for ballots” investigation, this one showing a man speaking Somali allegedly telling another man how to fill out either a voter registration form or an absentee ballot application, then paying him $200 in “pocket money.”

Project Veritas President James O’Keefe said that he received the undercover footage, but did not identify the source.

The latest video also included a recorded conversation with a man identified as a ballot harvester who said he was paid $800 for his ballot, adding, “We don’t care if [it’s] illegal.”

“A lot of people will go to jail if this continues this way,” the man said. “If this continues this direction, many people will go to prison, or no one will vote in the city of Minneapolis. It is very, very corrupt.”

He and a man identified as a Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party member said that ballot harvesters would walk with voters into the booth under the guise of being translators, then tell them how to vote, or mark the ballots themselves.

ALLEGATIONS OF VOTER FRAUD BEING EVALUATED. ✅ The MPD is aware of the allegations of vote harvesting. We are in the process of looking into the validity of those statements. No further information is available at this time on this.
— Minneapolis Police (@MinneapolisPD) September 28, 2020

NEVER SEEN BEFORE: Cash-For-Ballot EXCHANGE caught on camera#CashForBallots pic.twitter.com/DCSLfjHeD6
— Project Veritas (@Project_Veritas) September 29, 2020

President Trump weighed in Monday with a call for an investigation after Project Veritas released a 16-minute video alleging that campaign operatives were rounding up absentee ballots from elderly Somali immigrants, and driving other voters to the polls, then paying them after they voted.

Liban Mohamed, brother of newly elected Minneapolis city councilman Jamal Osman, bragged on Snapchat about having 300 absentee ballots in his car, as shown in the video.

Two of those on the video said the operation was being run by a top member of Ms. Omar’s campaign, while the Omar camp denied any wrongdoing, saying that “amplifying a coordinated right-wing campaign to delegitimize a free and fair election this fall undermines our democracy.”

Ballot harvesting — the collection and turning in of absentee ballots — is legal in Minnesota, but the limit is three ballots per person per election. Filling out ballots for others is illegal under federal law, as is paying for votes.

The state ballot-harvesting law was in flux this summer after a court invalidated the three-ballot limitation in July, a ruling that was overturned by the Minnesota Supreme Court in September, after the Aug. 11 primary, as Fox9 in Minneapolis reported.

The MPD announcement came after the Hennepin County Attorney’s office said that it had “no information” about alleged illegal ballot harvesting, and said any evidence should be turned over to police.

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Portland police deputized as U.S. Marshals ahead of clashing demonstrations

Portland police were deputized as U.S. Marshals Saturday morning, meaning federal prosecutors can now bring charges against anyone who assaults them as they respond to what’s expected to be clashing demonstrations later in the day. That could up the consequences for rioters on a day when both far-right and left-wing activists have planned gatherings in…

Portland police deputized as U.S. Marshals ahead of clashing demonstrations

Portland police were deputized as U.S. Marshals Saturday morning, meaning federal prosecutors can now bring charges against anyone who assaults them as they respond to what’s expected to be clashing demonstrations later in the day.

That could up the consequences for rioters on a day when both far-right and left-wing activists have planned gatherings in the Oregon city.

The last time there were dueling gatherings, a far-right activist was shot and killed by an Antifa supporter, who was later killed when he resisted arrest.

Police officials said their officers have faced “unspeakable violence” over the last few months. Racial justice protests have occurred throughout Portland, mostly peacefully, but on a near-nightly basis some of those protesters will arm themselves with shields and weapons and confront the police.

The local district attorney has been reluctant to pursue cases in many instances, so the U.S. attorney has stepped in to make federal cases where he can. Deputizing police makes that process much easier.

“I want violent individuals thinking about the enhanced penalties they may face if they harm a Portland Police Bureau Officer,” said Travis Hampton, superintendent of the state police.

U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams, in a statement Friday, recounted some of the more recent violence against first responders, including a firefighter being shot in the chest with a steel ball bearing launched from an arm-mounted slingshot, and a man who splashed “high-powered bear deterrent spray” on officers.

He said the high-profile clashes have become a self-fulfilling cycle, drawing “outsiders” traveling to the city to be part of the clashes.

“Make no mistake: those who commit violence in the name of protest, will be investigated, arrested, prosecuted, and face prison time,” he said. “Already more than 100 people have been arrested and more than 80 people are facing federal charges related to protest violence.”

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Greece: Police move refugees to new Lesbos camp after Moria fire |NationalTribune.com

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities. Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have launched an operation to rehouse thousands of refugees and migrants who have been sleeping rough after their camp was destroyed by fire. Officers on Thursday morning woke people in their tents to take them to a…

Greece: Police move refugees to new Lesbos camp after Moria fire |NationalTribune.com

Names marked with an asterisk* have been changed to protect identities.
Police on the Greek island of Lesbos have launched an operation to rehouse thousands of refugees and migrants who have been sleeping rough after their camp was destroyed by fire.
Officers on Thursday morning woke people in their tents to take them to a temporary centre that was hastily set up after Europe’s largest camp for asylum seekers at Moria burned down last week.   
The new Kara Tepe camp, near the island’s main town Mytilene, was made on a former military firing range and is close to the remains of the Moria site.
But many have refused to go, fearing living conditions would be as bad or worse than at Moria, which was notoriously unsafe, and worried they would be left waiting for months to have their requests for asylum processed and transferred to the Greek mainland or another European country.
Riot police and police vans were parked on either side of a street where thousands who fled the Moria camp have been living.
Quietly, with the sounds of children crying and under an already hot sun, people folded their blankets, picked up bags containing whatever belongings they had saved from the fire and dismantled their tents.   

More than 12,000 people including entire families with elderly people and newborns were left homeless when fire tore through the overcrowded and unsanitary Moria camp [Elias Marcou/Reuters]

Women and children with bundles on their backs were seen gathering by a barricade police had set up on the road.
Some mothers pushed their babies in prams up the road as other refugees took shelter from the morning sun in the shade of a large building, or washed with water bottles on the roadside.
“The aim is to safeguard public health,” police spokesman Theodoros Chronopoulos told AFP news agency, confirming that “an operation is under way” which “responds to humanitarian aims.”
But Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which opened an emergency clinic in the area, said it was barred from accessing its facility during the night, as rumours of the police operation spread.
“A police operation is under way to take refugees to the new camp. This should not prevent medical aid,” MSF complained on Twitter.
More than 12,000 people including entire families with elderly and newborns were left homeless when fire tore through the overcrowded and unsanitary Moria camp – built five years ago at the height of Europe’s refugee crisis – on the night of September 8.
Thousands have been sleeping under tarpaulins or tents at roadsides and in the car parks of closed supermarkets since the blaze.     
Late Wednesday, around 1,000 tents, each able to accommodate between eight and 10 people, had been erected at the new site.

The UN refugee agency has urged Greece to speed up asylum processes on Lesbos [Elias Marcou/Reuters]

The atmosphere on Thursday morning was calm, with people exhausted from spending a week on the street. Families collected their belongings, some pushing them in large bins or supermarket trolleys, in preparation for the move.
At the start of the operation, single men were not allowed to enter the new camp.
Farhad*, is 20 and alone in Greece, having fled war in Afghanistan.
Even if he was allowed in, he told Al Jazeera he does not want to enter Kara Tepe.
“I’ve been in Moria for nine months and again, if we enter the camp, [maybe] it will be for a year, too. I’m losing my youth just waiting.”
Other families have accepted their new reality.
“We hear there is food and water there,” said Abdul*, who has five children.
His family is tired of living on the street waiting for help that never seems to arrive and believes there is no other option.
Six young Afghans have been arrested in connection with the incident, with four of them brought before a Lesbos magistrate on Wednesday.

A general view of the temporary camp for refugees and migrants near Mytilene town, on the northeastern island of Lesbos, Greece, on September 13 [Petros Giannakouris/The Associated Press]

Medical tents were to be set up, and two quarantine zones were planned for the several dozen people who have tested positive for coronavirus.
“We have seen a lot of people come in hazmat suits trying to talk to people, to convince them to go to the camps. People are moving. Not everyone is moving, but people are moving,” said Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Lesbos. 
“A lot of people we have been speaking to this morning still don’t want to go. They say they are hearing the situation is bad, they are are going to be stuck in there, there are calling it a jail.
“Certainly the message from the authorities is that they have to move to the camp, and if they are not going to do so willingly … they will use the police to move people forcefully.”
The Greek migration ministry said on Tuesday that around 1,200 people had entered the new camp.
Aid groups said a few hundred more arrived on Wednesday, forced by exhaustion after sleeping rough under a hot sun for a week.
The UN refugee agency has urged Greece to speed up asylum processes on Lesbos.
“The idea is not that people remain forever on the island of Lesbos, but that processes are accelerated so that people can leave gradually and in an orderly way” to the capital Athens or elsewhere on the mainland, the UN agency’s chief in Greece Philippe Leclerc told reporters.
Meanwhile, anger is growing among local Lesbos residents, who complain overcrowding on the island is affecting its tourism possibilities.
“We have two human dramas here. Unfortunately, it is the drama of the migrants living here that is constantly talked about, and never the locals who have gone through a very hard time, since 2015, and are very frustrated. These people should be put in a controlled camp and far away from the local population,” Moria village resident Stratis Kokkinellis told Al Jazeera.
Greece’s police minister Michalis Chrysochoidis this week said that half the refugees and migrants on Lesbos should be able to leave by Christmas and “the rest by Easter”.
With reporting by Katy Fallon in Lesbos.
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