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WASHINGTON (AP) — Scores of retired military and defense leaders are denouncing President Donald Trump and accusing him of using the U.S. Armed Forces to undermine the rights of Americans protesting police brutality and the killing of George Floyd.

The condemnation Friday came in an op-ed in The Washington Post, signed by 89 former defense officials, and in a letter in support of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden, signed by 55 retired military leaders.

It comes days after law enforcement officers used tear gas and deployed flash bangs to disperse a peaceful protest near White House shortly before Trump walked to the area to pose with a Bible in front of a damaged church. The president also threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to deploy federal troops to quell the protests.

The Post op-ed accuses Trump of betraying his oath of office “by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.” The defense leaders want the president to end any plan to send active-duty forces into cities and to avoid using them in any way that would threaten the constitutional rights of fellow Americans.

The op-ed was signed by a mix of Republicans and Democrats, including former defense secretaries Leon Panetta, Chuck Hagel, Ash Carter and William Cohen; former national intelligence director James Clapper; former CIA director Michael Hayden; and former Navy secretaries Sean O’Keefe, Ray Mabus and Richard Danzig.

In the letter released by the Biden campaign, leaders including retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, an Air Force chief of staff in the 1990s, call on Trump to stop “tarnishing the military” by deploying its forces against peaceful protesters. They want the president to halt his “divisive rhetoric” and acknowledge the valid grievances of black Americans.

Separately, Trump’s former defense secretary James Mattis, a retired Marine general, and John Allen, a retired four-star general in the Marine Corps, have also denounced Trump’s behavior over the protests, with Allen saying the dispersal of protesters near the White House on Monday “may well signal the beginning of the end of the American experiment.”

The military leaders who signed the Biden letter say they are heartened by the courage of the demonstrators and by local leaders who have listened to the protesters and acknowledge the legitimacy of their cause.

“Those of us who have served believe the greatness of our military — and the greatness of our nation — depends upon the calls for change in the streets today becoming votes for change in November,” the 55 military leaders wrote.

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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He Is Not Wrong: Community, Faith Leaders Speak Out In Support Of Demoted MPD Employee

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Support is pouring in for a Minneapolis Police employee who was demoted after a comment some say is controversial.
Art Knight was demoted from deputy chief of staff to lieutenant after he was quoted in a printed news article saying “you’re just going to get the same old white boys” in reference to the department’s recruiting practices.

“We are incensed and outraged by the demotion of Art Knight,” Jerry McAfee said.

Community and faith-based leaders stood in solidarity in support of Knight. They believe his statement about MPD’s lack of recruiting women and minorities is valid and considers calls for an investigation into his comments unprofessional and unwarranted.

“Art Knight spoke the truth when he said that if we continue our same employment practices we will end up with the same white boy police officers. He is not wrong,” Michelle Gross, with Communities United Against Police Brutality, said.

What the group says is wrong is the letter sent by the Minneapolis Police Federation encouraging members who were impacted, offended or harmed by Knight’s comments to file a complaint with the city.

“They have yet to put out a statement about the countless black and brown people who have been traumatized or beaten at the hands of police, nor the murder of George Floyd who we all watched in that video, to go as far as to put out a letter to encourage police officers who may have been offended about the truth about the lack of racial diversity in the recruitment practices across the state of Minnesota is appalling,” Alicia Smith, with Minnesota Safe Streets, said.

Minneapolis Police Public Information officer John Elder says, “We are currently not aware and will not tolerate any threats of harm against any of our employees or their families.”

For now the group wants Knight’s reputation and position restored and the Minneapolis Police Federation to stand down against one of its own.

“I have concerns about his safety in returning to the Minneapolis Police Department in light of this letter that was signed by members of the federation,” Lisa Clemons, with A Mother’s Love, said.

This is not the first time Chief Arradondo has demoted members of his command staff. He demoted Kim Lund Voss from commander to lieutenant for a Facebook post that was considered insensitive to homicide victims, in a city where most are young black men. He also stripped former 4th Precinct commander Aaron Baird from his post for his handling of an incident where two officers decorated the station’s Christmas tree with racist ornaments.

In a statement, Minneapolis Police Federation president Bob Kroll said, in part, “The Minneapolis Police Department owes the citizens, visitors and people who work in Minneapolis the best qualified Police Officer, regardless of skin color, ethnicity, religion or creed. There is no room for racism in the Minneapolis Police Department.”

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