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SEATTLE — Seattle police turned out in force early Wednesday at the city’s “occupied” protest zone, tore down demonstrators’ encampments, and used bicycles to herd the protesters after the mayor ordered the area cleared following two fatal shootings in less than two weeks.

Television images showed police, many in riot gear, confronting dozens of protesters at the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone that was set up near downtown following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Wearing helmets and wielding batons and rifles, officers converged on the area at dawn. Officers stood shoulder-to-shoulder on several streets while others created a makeshift fence with their bicycles, using it to push protesters back away from the center of the zone.

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As residents of the neighborhood near the city’s downtown watched from balconies, police cleared out the protesters’ tents from a park within the zone and made sure no one was left in the park’s bathrooms. At one point, a loud bang was heard in the park, followed by a cloud of smoke.

One man dressed in black was peacefully led away in handcuffs, and other demonstrators sat on the ground until their small group was handcuffed and detained. Police Chief Carmen Best said there were at least 23 arrests.

“Our job is to support peaceful demonstration but what has happened on these streets over the last two weeks is lawless and it’s brutal and bottom line it is simply unacceptable,” Best told reporters.

Police also tore down fences that protesters had erected around their tents and used batons to poke inside bushes, apparently looking for people who might be hiding inside.

After police dispersed the protesters, heavy equipment was brought in to remove the concrete barriers that demonstrators had erected in to block roads. Debris from the encampments was carted away on flatbed trucks as officers strung yellow caution tape from tree to tree warning people not to reenter.

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Associated Press

Trump says painting BLM ‘denigrates’ 5th Avenue

WASHINGTON — President Trump on Wednesday said painting ‘‘Black Lives Matter’’ on New York’s Fifth Avenue would be ‘‘a symbol of hate’’ and wind up ‘‘denigrating’’ the street outside Trump Tower, as he ratcheted up objections to a plan that he suggested the city’s police could stop.

Trump’s comments, in morning tweets, were his latest volley directed at New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, who last week ordered that the tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement be painted in large yellow letters in a move designed in part to antagonize the president.

It was also the second time in as many weeks that Trump has lashed out at the Black Lives Matter movement as polls show a majority of Americans disapproving of his response to the nationwide protests that emerged following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The movement rose up in recent years against racial profiling and police violence and it has played a prominent role in demonstrations for which Trump has expressed disdain despite claims that he supports peaceful protests.

In his tweets, Trump decried a move by New York officials to shift about $1 billion from the city’s police budget in a bid to respond to calls to ‘‘defund the police’’ that resonated following the recent deaths of Floyd and other African Americans in police custody.

Washington Post

Florida sheriff warns he may deputize all gun owners

GREEN COVE SPRINGS, Fla. — A Florida sheriff says he will deputize every gun owner in his county to put down any violent protests his deputies can’t handle alone.

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Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels gave no indication in a three-minute video released Wednesday that any demonstrations are planned in his suburban Jacksonville county. Daniels also said he would protect any peaceful protests, but added that if anyone starts “tearing up Clay County, that is not going to be acceptable.”

“If we can’t handle you, I’ll exercise the power and authority as the sheriff and I’ll make special deputies of every lawful gun owner in the county and I’ll deputize them to this one purpose: to stand in the gap between lawlessness and civility,” said Daniels, sporting a white cowboy hat as he stood in front of 18 deputies.

Daniels, who is Black, said in the video that his department has a “great relationship” with its residents, but “if you come to Clay County and think for one second we’ll bend our backs for you, you’re sadly mistaken.”

Daniels, a Republican finishing his first term, is being challenged by six opponents in the upcoming election. He is under investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement after his former employer, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, announced last year that he’d had an affair with a co-worker when he was running its jails. Daniels, who is married, was accused of later having the woman falsely arrested. He issued an apology, but said he wouldn’t discuss specifics.

Associated Press

Incident with armed couple and protestors creates buzz

As demonstrators marched along their private street in St. Louis, Mark and Patricia McCloskey emerged barefoot from their mansion, brandishing loaded weapons at the crowd in what many read as an act of intimidation. Video of the scene instantly went viral, at one point even being retweeted — and then deleted — by President Trump.

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But in an interview with CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Tuesday night, McCloskey, a 63-year-old personal injury attorney, said they were in fact the ones being threatened.

‘‘I was a victim of a mob that came through the gate,’’ he said. ‘‘I didn’t care what color they were. I didn’t care what their motivation was. I was frightened, I was assaulted, and I was in imminent fear that they would run me over, kill me, burn my house.’’

Protesters in the crowd of about 500 people, who passed by the McCloskeys’ residence on their way to St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson’s house nearby, have disputed accounts they were being violent or threatening. One organizer said marchers were merely conducting an act of civil disobedience, and there is no proof they physically harmed the McCloskeys or their house.

Yet this week, the incident has become a kind of Rorschach test for the state of the country. Conservative commentators have painted the McCloskeys as an innocent couple who were using their Second Amendment rights to stand up against an unruly mob of trespassers. Liberals, meanwhile, have labeled the couple as a pair of racists and accused them of breaking the law, a ‘‘Ken and Karen’’ riled up by the mere presence of a largely docile crowd.

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Washington Post

Richmond, Va. mayor orders Confederate staues removed

RICHMOND, Va. — Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney on Wednesday ordered the immediate removal of all Confederate statues in the city, saying he was using his emergency powers to speed up the healing process for the former capital of the Confederacy amid weeks of protests over police brutality and racial injustice.

Work crews began removing a statue of Gen. Stonewall Jackson early Wednesday afternoon. Flatbed trucks and other equipment were also spotted at several other Confederate monuments along Richmond’s famed Monument Avenue.

Stoney said he was moving quickly because protesters have already toppled several monuments and is concerned that people could be hurt trying to take down the gigantic statues.

Associated Press