COHEN ASKS RNC ABOUT CROWD SIZE EXPECTED AT CHARLOTTE CONVENTION: Facing a looming deadline, North Carolina health officials Friday pressed Republican leaders for more detail on how they’d keep visitors and the city safe at this summer’s GOP National Convention. Among other things, state Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen asked convention officials how many people were expected each night of the convention in Charlotte’s Spectrum Center and whether they would be socially distanced. She also asked whether they have a plan for masks, social distancing and other safety measures at the hundreds of parties and events surrounding the convention. The Republican response could determine whether the convention, two years in the planning, will stay in Charlotte or go elsewhere. For now it’s scheduled to begin Aug. 24 at the Spectrum Center. Organizers plan to start a major renovation of the arena in mid-July.
DEM SENATOR ERICA SMITH ALLEGES HARASSMENT FROM MALE COLLEAGUES: A North Carolina state senator accused multiple colleagues Thursday of abusive behavior. Sen. Erica Smith, D-Northampton, who ran this year for the U.S. Senate, said three fellow Democrats made disparaging or sexual comments and that one of them – Sen. Paul Lowe, D-Forsyth, – was seconds away from physically assaulting her last year before colleagues stepped in. That incident generated a police report, and the investigating officer concluded that, while no physical contact took place, "a simple assault did occur" because "a reasonable person may have believed that an assault was about to take place." A reporter for NC PolicyWatch heard some of this argument from outside a closed committee room in the General Assembly building. Then Lowe exited, escorted by two other senators, grabbed the reporter's cellphone and threw it across the room. In her complaint, Smith asked that Fitch and Lowe be expelled from the Senate. She wanted Woodard censured, along with Senate Minority Leader Dan Blue, D-Wake, former Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham, and Senate Rules Chairman Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick.
ALAMANCE COUNTY COMMISSIONER COMPLAINS ABOUT ACE SPEEDWAY CRISIS: “No, Alamance County did not do this this,” County Commissioner Tim Sutton said. “It was one person. The board of commissioners didn’t do this.” Sutton criticized Board Chair Amy Galey, County Attorney Clyde Albright and county management for handling the situation behind closed doors without including the rest of the board. He also said it was not handled well. “I’ll say it’s an oligarchy — that’s how I feel about it when you have one person driving the bus and not letting you know where you’re going,” Sutton said. “At least the public ought to appreciate that we don’t rubber stamp anyone.” Albright told the Times-News it would violate the owner’s First Amendment right to peaceable assembly, and pointed to Gov. Roy Cooper’s changing COVID-19 protocols to “strong suggestions” rather than orders with Phase 2 of the lifting of restrictions, and a judge’s ruling allowing church services in spite of the governor’s order. Johnson said he would not enforce those orders based on Albright’s analysis. Sutton, one of the board’s most conservative members, dismissed that constitutional argument, saying it was not strong enough to base law enforcement action on. “A lot of that was based on Clyde Albright’s opinion, which I thought was a total joke,” Sutton said Thursday, May 28. “To base it on the religious ruling was laughable.”
CHIEF JUSTICE SWINGS IN SUPPORT OF CALIFORNIA LIMITING IN-PERSON CHURCH SERVICES: The Supreme Court late Friday rejected a California church’s challenge of the state’s new pandemic-related rules on worship services, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. joining the court’s liberals in the 5-to-4 vote. Roberts wrote that state officials such as California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) had leeway to impose restrictions to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and had not singled out places of worship for unfair treatment. “The notion that it is ‘indisputably clear’ that the government’s limitations are unconstitutional seems quite improbable,” Roberts wrote. He was referring to the standard that challengers must meet to enjoin enforcement of the state order. The court’s four most-consistent conservatives said they would have granted the request because the state’s new rules likely violate the Constitution’s protection of the free exercise of religion. “California’s latest safety guidelines discriminate against places of worship and in favor of comparable secular businesses,” wrote Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh. “Such discrimination violates the First Amendment.” Limits on houses of worship raise constitutional questions, Roberts said, but California had not shown bias against them. “Similar or more severe restrictions apply to comparable secular gatherings, including lectures, concerts, movie showings, spectator sports, and theatrical performances, where large groups of people gather in close proximity for extended periods of time,” the chief justice wrote.
COP WHO KILLED GEORGE FLOYD ARRESTED FOR MURDER AND MANSLAUGHTER: A white former Minneapolis police officer was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter on Friday after a shocking video of him kneeling for nearly nine minutes on the neck of a black man set off a wave of protests across the country. The former officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, was taken into custody on charges that carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence. Mr. Chauvin kept his knee planted even as the man, George Floyd, told all four officers involved in his arrest that he could not breathe. At times, Mr. Floyd begged “please” and cried out “mama,” according to a statement of probable cause released by prosecutors. “The defendant had his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in total,” the court document said. “Two minutes and 53 seconds of this was after Mr. Floyd was non-responsive.” By evening, protests were once again underway in cities across the country. In Atlanta, a demonstration grew tense as hundreds of protesters gathered outside CNN headquarters, some jumping on police cars and setting one on fire. In New York, protesters clashed with police around Barclays Center in Brooklyn. And in Washington, a large crowd gathered and chanted outside the White House, prompting the Secret Service to put the building on lockdown. On Friday, Ben Crump, a civil rights lawyer representing Mr. Floyd’s family, released a statement calling the arrest of Mr. Chauvin “a welcome but overdue step on the road to justice.” But he said the charges did not go far enough. “We expected a first-degree murder charge. We want a first-degree murder charge. And we want to see the other officers arrested,” said the statement, which was attributed to Mr. Floyd’s family and to Mr. Crump.