TIME justice

Federal Judge Overturns Arkansas’ Marriage Ban

Could pave the way for county clerks to resume issuing licenses

(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — A federal judge struck down Arkansas’ gay marriage ban on Tuesday, which could pave the way for county clerks to resume issuing licenses.

U.S. District Judge Kristine Baker ruled in favor of two same-sex couples who had challenged a 2004 constitutional amendment and earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman, arguing that the ban violated the U.S. Constitution and discriminated based on sexual orientation.

But Baker put her ruling on hold, and the state is expected to appeal it to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in St. Louis.

Baker wrote in her ruling that the state’s marriage laws violate the U.S. Constitution by “precluding same-sex couples from exercising their fundamental right to marry in Arkansas, by not recognizing valid same-sex marriages from other states, and by discriminating on the basis of gender.”

Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel could not immediately be reached.

The ruling comes as the state Supreme Court weighs a separate case challenging the ban. Justices are weighing whether to uphold Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza’s decision in May striking down the 2004 amendment and earlier state law as unconstitutional. Piazza’s decision led to 541 same sex couples getting married in the week before the state Supreme Court suspended his ruling.

Justices have not indicated when they will rule in that case. The lawsuit before the state Supreme Court also argues the ban violates Arkansas’ constitution.

Attorney General Dustin McDaniel’s office had argued in federal court that same-sex marriage was not a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution. McDaniel, a Democrat who is leaving office in January due to term limits, has said he personally supports allowing gay couples to marry but will continue defending the ban — approved by voters by a 3-1 margin — in court.

Judges across the country have ruled against bans similar to Arkansas’ since the U.S. Supreme Court struck part of a federal anti-gay marriage law in June 2013, and gay marriage is legal in more than half of the U.S.

TIME

Cosby Philanthropy Shadowed by Sexual Allegations

(LOS ANGELES) — Bill Cosby’s record of big donations to colleges and other institutions has been a key part of his rosy public image. But even his generosity can’t stand apart from the rising tide of allegations made by women accusing him of sexual assault.

A North Carolina school, High Point University, removed the 77-year-old entertainer from its National Board of Advisors, a panel that includes retired Gen. Colin Powell. The university referred to Cosby as “one of the most influential performers of our time” when it announced his appointment last July.

The Berklee College of Music said in a statement Monday that it is “no longer awarding an online scholarship in Mr. Cosby’s name. The college has no further comment at this time.”

More telling would be a decision by an institution to publicly renounce any of the tens of millions of dollars that he and his wife, Camille, have given over the years, or rejection of a new donation. Neither has occurred.

“I don’t want to belittle the implications of the accusations, but nothing has been proven and he has not been charged,” said Michael Chatman, a philanthropy expert and founder of a speakers’ bureau on the field. Recipients of Cosby largesse are likely to adopt a wait-and-see attitude because of that, he said.

If there was to be a verdict in a criminal or civil case, “I think you would see a devastating effect in terms of his philanthropic and charitable legacy,” Chatman said. It’s unlikely an institution would return a donation, he said, but new recipients could be expected to carefully weigh the implications of accepting money.

There was no response from Cosby’s publicist to a request for comment. His attorney, Martin Singer, has called the growing number of sexual assault allegations “unsubstantiated” and “discredited” and accused the media of vilifying the actor and comedian once known as “America’s dad” for his role as a loving patriarch on the hit sitcom “The Cosby Show.”

Cosby’s legacy of giving is decades-old and extensive, topped by a $20 million gift to Spelman College in 1988 and including, among many other donations, $3 million to the Morehouse School of Medicine; $1 million in 2004 to the U.S. National Slavery Museum in Fredericksburg, Virginia; and $2 million from Cosby’s wife, Camille, to St. Frances Academy in Baltimore in 2005.

According to Internal Revenue Service filings, more than $800,000 in scholarship grants were given through the William and Camille Cosby Foundation from July 2000 to June 2013.

Earlier this month, the Cosbys loaned works from their extensive collection of African-American art to the Smithsonian Institution as part of a National Museum of African Art exhibit scheduled to remain on view through early 2016.

In a statement, the museum said it was aware of the controversy surrounding Cosby.

“Exhibiting this important collection does not imply any position on the serious allegations that have been made against Mr. Cosby. The exhibition is centrally about the artworks and the artists who created them,” the museum said.

There have been no discussions about any changes surrounding Cosby’s gift to Spelman, the woman’s college in Georgia, according to Audrey Arthur, spokeswoman for Spelman. At the time, it was the largest donation ever by a black donor to a historically black college, which later established an academic center named for Camille Cosby and an endowed professorship for visiting scholars in Bill Cosby’s name.

A recent report on donations to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where Cosby received his doctorate, indicates Bill and Camille Cosby have given the school between $250,000 and $499,999. Cosby also did a benefit performance in 2004 that raised $1.5 million for UMass-Amherst, and last year was named an honorary co-chair of the school’s $300 million fundraising campaign.

Cosby’s status with the campaign has not changed, the university said.

Temple University said Bill Cosby remains a trustee of the Philadelphia institution, a position he’s held since 1982. He’s considered its most famous alum and has often spoken at commencement, drawing huge cheers.

A Temple spokesman confirmed the campus has no buildings named for Cosby but does offer a $3,000 science scholarship named for Cosby and his wife. He declined further comment on Cosby’s philanthropy.

In 2006, Cosby settled a lawsuit filed by a former Temple employee who alleged he drugged and fondled her at his suburban Philadelphia mansion. Cosby was represented by Patrick O’Connor, chairman of Temple’s board of trustees.

___

AP Writer Kathy Matheson in Philadelphia and AP Television Writer David Bauder and AP researcher Judy Ausuebel in New York contributed to this report.

TIME Environment

High Court to Review EPA Mercury Limits

Will hear arguments from industry groups and states challenging EPA rules designed to clean up dangerous toxins

(WASHINGTON) — The Supreme Court is stepping into a new case about Obama administration environmental rules, agreeing to review a ruling that upholds emission standards for mercury and other hazardous air pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants.

The justices on Tuesday said they would hear arguments from industry groups and states that are challenging Environmental Protection Agency rules designed to clean up chromium, arsenic, acid gases, nickel, cadmium as well as mercury and other dangerous toxins.

The pollutants contribute to respiratory illnesses, birth defects and developmental problems in children.

The federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., upheld the rules in April.

One judge on the appeals court complained then that the EPA didn’t consider costs in deciding whether regulation of hazardous air pollutants from power plants is appropriate.

“The problem here is that EPA did not even consider the costs,” wrote Judge Brett Kavanaugh of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. “And the costs are huge, about $9.6 billion a year — that’s billion with a b — by EPA’s own calculation.”

The other two judges on the appellate panel said in response that the EPA properly looked only at health risks, not compliance costs, in deciding that mercury and the other pollutants should be regulated. But the agency did factor in costs and benefits at the next step, when it wrote the standards that the plants need to meet, the court said.

EPA determined that when the rules are fully in effect in 2016, their benefits will exceed the costs by a factor of at least 3 to 1. Some industry groups have said the EPA was overstating the benefits.

The Supreme Court said it wants to know whether EPA unreasonably refused to consider costs in the first place.

About half the coal-fired power plants in the United States were built more than 40 years ago and have never installed advanced pollution-control technology, EPA said.

The agency first decided to go ahead with the limits on power plant emissions in 2000, the final year of the Clinton presidency.

But after President George W. Bush took office in 2001, EPA tried to undo its earlier decision. The circuit court, however, blocked EPA from doing so. And when Barack Obama became president in 2009, the agency again decided to move forward. It issued final rules in 2012.

Twenty-one states are taking part in the Supreme Court appeal. They are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming.

The case will be argued in late March, with a decision expected by the end of June.

TIME Crime

Michael Brown Family Criticizes Ferguson Grand Jury, Prosecutor

Lesley McSpadden Michael Brown's mother and other protestors demonstrate amidst tear gas and smoke in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014
Michael Brown's mother, Lesley McSpadden, covers her face while standing alongside other demonstrators in Ferguson, Mo. on Nov. 24, 2014 Barrett Emke for TIME

"We could see what the outcome was going to be"

ST. LOUIS — Attorneys for Michael Brown’s family say the process that led to a white officer not being indicted in the fatal shooting of the unarmed, black 18-year-old was unfair and broken.

Attorney Benjamin Crump said Tuesday that the family’s attorneys objected to St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCullough’s decision to call a grand jury in the case and not appoint a special prosecutor.

Crump also said, “We could see what the outcome was going to be, and that is what occurred last night.”

Attorney Anthony Gray said the decision was a “direct reflection of the presentation of the evidence,” and criticized what he called “cynicism” in the questions found in the grand jury documents, which were released Monday night.

Brown’s father, Michael Brown Sr., and the Rev. Al Sharpton were onhand.

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TIME United Nations

ISIS Got Up to $45 Million in Ransoms in Past Year, U.N. Says

A member loyal to the ISIL waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa
A member loyal to ISIS waves an ISIS flag in Raqqa, Syria on June 29, 2014. Reuters

(UNITED NATIONS) — The Islamic State group which controls a large swath of Syria and Iraq has received between $35 million and $45 million in ransom payments in the past year, a U.N. expert monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida said Monday.

Yotsna Lalji told a meeting of the U.N. Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee that an estimated $120 million in ransom was paid to terrorist groups between 2004 and 2012.

Kidnapping for ransom “continues to grow,” she said, as demonstrated by the money the extremist group calling itself the Islamic State has collected, up to $45 million in just the past year.

She said in recent years that al-Qaida and its affiliates have made kidnapping “the core al-Qaida tactic for generating revenue.” She pointed to an October 2012 recording in which al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri incites militants worldwide to kidnap Westerners.

Lalji said al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, which operates from Yemen, received $20 million in ransom between 2011 and 2013, and al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, which operates in North Africa, received $75 million over the past four years.

She said the al-Qaida-linked extremist groups Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabab in Somalia also “have collected millions of dollars over the past years,” and the Abu Sayyaf militant group in the Philippines has received about $1.5 million in ransom.

According to the al-Qaida sanctions committee, although the media focuses on international hostages who have generated the largest ransom payments, the vast majority of victims are nationals kidnapped within their own country.

Lalji said terrorist groups either carry out kidnappings themselves or in the case of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula they work with tribesmen in Yemen who deliver hostages for a fee.

Last week, President Barack Obama ordered a review of how the United States responds when its citizens are taken hostage overseas in light of the beheadings of Americans by Islamic State militants, but it will not include changing the longstanding U.S. policy of refusing to pay ransom. Many governments do pay ransom and some family members of those killed have complained that the U.S. did not take enough action in an attempt to save their loved ones.

TIME Crime

Fires Burn in Ferguson, Gunshots Heard in Streets

APTOPIX Ferguson
People walk away from a storage facility on fire after the announcement of the grand jury decision Monday, Nov. 24, 2014, in Ferguson, Mo Jeff Roberson—AP

Smashed window glass littered sidewalks and many businesses were ablaze

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — Flames engulfed at least a dozen businesses in Ferguson early Tuesday and gunfire kept firefighters at bay after protests over the decision not to indict a police officer in Michael Brown’s death turned violent, despite pleas for peace from Brown’s family and others.

Protesters smashed windows out of police cars and buildings, several of which were later looted and set ablaze, and officers lobbed tear gas from inside armored vehicles to disperse crowds in scenes reminiscent of the early days of unrest that followed the Aug. 9 shooting.

But the violence that followed Monday’s decision to not indict Officer Darren Wilson, who is white, in the death of the unarmed black 18-year-old quickly took a more destructive turn — a storage facility, two auto parts stores, a beauty supply store and pizza shop were just some of the businesses that burned.

An Associated Press photographer saw firefighters arrive at one scene only to be turned back by gunfire.

St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said during an early morning news conference that he “personally heard about 150 shots fired” during the course of the night, but said police did not fire a shot. He said most of at least a dozen burned businesses were “total losses” and noted two police cars were “basically melted.”

“I don’t think we were underprepared,” Belmar said. “But I’ll be honest with you, unless we bring 10,000 policemen in here, I don’t think we can prevent folks who really are intent on destroying a community.”

Smashed window glass littered the sidewalks around many other businesses, from mom-and-pop shops to a McDonalds along the main drag. The Ferguson Market — where surveillance video had recorded Brown stealing cigars minutes before he was killed — was ransacked.

At least one building and several vehicles in a used car lot also burned in the neighboring city of Dellwood.

The vast majority of protesters had left the streets by late Monday, but looting and gunfire still were reported well after midnight.

Hundreds of people had gathered outside the Ferguson Police Department ahead of St. Louis County Prosecutor Bob McCulloch’s news conference to announce the grand jury’s decision.

As McCulloch read his statement, a crowd gathered around a car from which the news conference was broadcast on a stereo. Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden, sat atop the car. When the decision was announced, she burst into tears and began screaming before being whisked away by supporters.

A short time later, Brown’s family issued a statement asking people to keep their protests peaceful, echoing pleas they had issued several times in the days and weeks leading up to the decision.

“Answering violence with violence is not the appropriate reaction,” the statement said.

But some protesters overran barricades and taunted police. Some chanted “murderer” and others threw rocks and bottles. The windows of a police car were smashed and protesters tried to topple it before it was set on fire, though some in the crowd tried to stop others from taking part in the violence.

Officers responded by firing what authorities said was smoke and pepper spray into the crowd. St. Louis County Police later confirmed tear gas also was used.

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TIME Crime

County Police Chief: Fabric of Ferguson Torn Apart

Jon Belmar "personally heard about 150 shots fired"

(FERGUSON, Mo.) — St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar says at least a dozen businesses are burning after protests in Ferguson turned violent.

Belmar said early Tuesday morning that two police cruisers also were burned and that he “personally heard about 150 shots fired” over the course of the night.

Belmar says the protests that followed the announcement that a Ferguson police officer wouldn’t be indicted in Michael Brown’s shooting death were “probably much worse than the worst night we ever had in August” after Brown was killed.

He says police did not fire a shot during Monday night’s protests. But he says the fabric of the community has been torn apart.

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TIME Crime

Thousands Rally Across U.S. After Ferguson Decision

Ferguson Nationwide Protest
Marching in Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, after the Ferguson verdict on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014 Steven M. Falk—The Philadelphia Daily News/AP

Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown

Thousands of people rallied late Monday in U.S. cities including Los Angeles and New York to passionately but peacefully protest a grand jury’s decision not to indict a white police officer who killed a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri.

They led marches, waved signs and shouted chants of “hands up, don’t shoot,” the refrain that has become a rallying cry in protests over police killings across the country.

The most disruptive demonstrations were in St. Louis and Oakland, California, where protesters flooded the lanes of freeways, milling about stopped cars with their hands raised in the air.

Activists had been planning to protest even before the nighttime announcement that Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The racially charged case in Ferguson has inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations even in cities hundreds of miles from the predominantly black St. Louis suburb. For many staging protests Monday, the shooting was personal, calling to mind other galvanizing encounters with local law enforcement.

Police departments in several major cities braced for large demonstrations with the potential for the kind of violence that marred nightly protests in Ferguson after Brown’s killing. Demonstrators there vandalized police cars and buildings, hugged barricades and taunted officers with expletives Monday night while police fired smoke canisters and tear gas. Gunshots were heard on the streets and fires raged.

But police elsewhere reported that gatherings were mostly peaceful following Monday’s announcement.

As the night wore on, dozens of protesters in Oakland got around police and blocked traffic on Interstate 580. Officers in cars and on motorcycles were able to corral the protesters and cleared the highway in one area, but another group soon entered the traffic lanes a short distance away. Police didn’t immediately report any arrests.

A diverse crowd of several hundred protesters marched and chanted in St. Louis not far from the site of another police shooting, shutting down Interstate 44 for a time. A few cars got stuck in the midst of the protesters, who appeared to be leaving the vehicles alone. They chanted “hands up, don’t shoot” and “black lives matter.”

“There’s clearly a license for violence against minorities, specifically blacks,” said Mike Arnold, 38, a teacher. “It happens all the time. Something’s got to be done about it. Hopefully this will be a turning point.”

In Seattle, marching demonstrators stopped periodically to sit or lie down in city intersections, blocking traffic before moving on, as dozens of police officers watched.

Groups ranging from a few dozen to a few hundred people also gathered in Chicago, Salt Lake City, and Washington, D.C., where people held up signs and chanted “justice for Michael Brown” outside the White House.

“Mike Brown is an emblem (of a movement). This country is at its boiling point,” said Ethan Jury, a protester in Philadelphia, where hundreds marched downtown with a contingent of police nearby. “How many people need to die? How many black people need to die?”

In New York, the family of Eric Garner, a Staten Island man killed by a police chokehold earlier this year, joined the Rev. Al Sharpton at a speech in Harlem lamenting the grand jury’s decision. Later, several hundred people who had gathered in Manhattan’s Union Square marched peacefully to Times Square.

In Los Angeles, which was rocked by riots in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, police officers were told to remain on duty until released by their supervisors. About 100 people gathered in Leimert Park, and a group of religious leaders held a small news conference demanding changes in police policies.

A group of about 200 demonstrators marched toward downtown.

The marchers shut down the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 110 in downtown Los Angeles late Monday night, according to City News Service. People stood and lay in the northbound lanes and the center divider.

Another splinter group of about 30 people marched all the way to Beverly Hills, where they lay down in an intersection.

Chris Manor, with Utah Against Police Brutality, helped organize an event in Salt Lake City that attracted about 35 people.

“There are things that have affected us locally, but at the same time, it’s important to show solidarity with people in other cities who are facing the very same thing that we’re facing,” Manor said.

At Cleveland’s Public Square, at least a dozen protesters’ signs referenced police shootings that have shaken the community there, including Saturday’s fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a fake gun at a Cleveland playground when officers confronted him.

In Denver, where a civil jury last month found deputies used excessive force in the death of a homeless street preacher, clergy gathered at a church to discuss the decision, and dozens of people rallied in a downtown park with a moment of silence.

___

Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez in San Francisco; Jim Salter and Alan Zagier in St. Louis; Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles; Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio; Sean Carlin in Philadelphia; Deepti Hajela in New York; Michelle L. Price in Salt Lake City; and Joshua Lederman in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.

TIME Health Care

VA Ousts Hospital Chief in Phoenix Scandal

As the Veterans Affairs department continues its crackdown in the wake of a nationwide scandal over long wait times

(WASHINGTON) — The head of the troubled Phoenix veterans’ hospital was fired Monday as the Veterans Affairs Department continued its crackdown on wrongdoing in the wake of a nationwide scandal over long wait times for veterans seeking medical care and falsified records covering up the delays.

Sharon Helman, director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System, was ousted nearly seven months after she and two high-ranking officials were placed on administrative leave amid an investigation into allegations that 40 veterans died while awaiting treatment at the hospital. Helman had led the giant Phoenix facility, which treats more than 80,000 veterans a year, since February 2012.

The Phoenix hospital was at the center of the wait-time scandal, which led to the ouster of former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and a new, $16 billion law overhauling the labyrinthine veterans’ health care system.

VA Secretary Robert McDonald said Helman’s dismissal underscores the agency’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and ensure that veterans have access to high-quality, timely care.

An investigation by the VA’s office of inspector general found that workers at the Phoenix VA hospital falsified waiting lists while their supervisors looked the other way or even directed it, resulting in chronic delays for veterans seeking care. At least 40 patients died while awaiting appointments in Phoenix, the report said, but officials could not “conclusively assert” that delays in care caused the deaths.

About 1,700 veterans in need of care were “at risk of being lost or forgotten” after being kept off the official waiting list in Phoenix, the IG’s office said.

“Lack of oversight and misconduct by VA leaders runs counter to our mission of serving veterans, and VA will not tolerate it,” McDonald said in a statement late Monday. “We depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of veterans first.”

Helman is the fifth senior executive fired or forced to resign in recent weeks in response to the wait-time scandal.

Helman did not immediately respond to telephone messages Monday from The Associated Press.

Helman, who has worked at the VA since 1990, has been on paid leave since May 1, shortly after a former clinic director at the Phoenix site alleged that up to 40 patients may have died because of delays in care and that the hospital kept a secret list of patients waiting for appointments to hide the treatment delays.

Dr. Samuel Foote, who had worked for the Phoenix VA for more than 20 years before retiring last December, brought the allegations to light and says supervisors ignored his complaints for months.

Foote called Helman’s dismissal “a good first step,” but said the VA still needs to show it is serious about changing its culture. “I think there are a lot of others who need to follow her out the door,” he said Monday.

In an interview with the AP in May, hours before being placed on administrative leave, Helman denied any knowledge of a secret list and said she had found no evidence of patient deaths due to delayed care.

Helman told the AP that she takes her job seriously and was personally offended by the claims of misconduct. “I have never wavered from the ethical standards that I have held my entire career, and I will continue to give these veterans what they deserve, which is the best health care,” Helman said.

Rep. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., said Monday that firing Helman was the right decision and long overdue, noting that the director has been paid more than $90,000 since being placed on administrative leave. Sinema called that “a completely unacceptable use of taxpayer dollars that should instead go to providing care for veterans.”

Helman’s dismissal “finally sends the message to our veterans and VA employees that misconduct and mismanagement will not be tolerated,” said Republican Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona.

“The VA has a long way to go to win back veterans’ trust, but today’s action represents a positive step in the right direction,” the senators said.

Glenn Grippen, a longtime VA administrator who retired in 2011, has been named interim director of the Phoenix VA Health Care System.

___

Associated Press writer Brian Skoloff in Phoenix contributed to this story.

TIME Crime

Rallies Planned Across U.S. Before Ferguson Decision

US-CRIME-POLICE-RACISM-PROTEST
Demonstrators attend a protest in anticipation of the grand jury decision on whether to indict Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of Michael Brown on Nov. 24, 2014, in New York. Kena Betancur—AFP/Getty Images

Grand jury decision in Michael Brown case expected Monday evening, 9 p.m. ET

Police departments in several major cities were bracing for large demonstrations as people across the country planned to hold protests even before they know whether a grand jury has indicted a white police officer who killed a black 18-year-old in Ferguson, Missouri.

Activists from Los Angeles to New York scheduled marches and rallies to coincide with Monday evening’s expected announcement of the grand jury’s decision. The panel was considering whether Officer Darren Wilson should be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown.

The racially charged case has inflamed tensions and reignited debates over police-community relations in many cities. In Ferguson, the shooting led to nightly protests that sometimes turned violent, with demonstrators throwing Molotov cocktails and police firing smoke canisters, tear gas and rubber bullets.

In Los Angeles, which was rocked by riots in 1992 after the acquittal of police officers in the videotaped beating of Rodney King, Police Chief Charlie Beck said the department had reached out to the community and was ready to send more officers to the streets if needed.

“We believe the outreach we have done will ensure that people are not only able to protest if they so desire, but will protest in a lawful manner,” Beck said.

Denver Mayor Michael Hancock urged protesters to be peaceful in that city, where a civil jury last month found deputies used excessive force in the death of a homeless street preacher. Clergy were planning a gathering at a church, and others scheduled a rally downtown.

At Cleveland’s Public Square, at least a dozen protesters held signs Monday afternoon and chanted “Hands up, don’t shoot,” which has become a rallying cry since the Ferguson shooting. Their signs references police shootings that have shaken the community there, including Saturday’s fatal shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who had a fake gun at a Cleveland playground when officers confronted him.

Los Angeles Community activist Najee Ali said he met with police last week to discuss plans for a peaceful gathering in response to the Ferguson decision. The plans include having community members identify any “agitators” who may be inciting violence so officers can remove them from the crowd, he said.

“It was kind of unprecedented,” Ali said of the meeting. “We never collaborate with the LAPD. They do what they do, and we do what we do.”

But since violence erupted at the city’s rallies protesting the shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida, Ali said there was an effort to avoid repeat problems.

“We told them our plans of protest and we were demanding our First Amendment rights be protected,” Ali said. “They said they’re taking a hands-off approach,” but they’d be in the wings if outside agitators try to stir up violence in the crowds.

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Associated Press writers Tami Abdollah in Los Angeles, and Kantele Franko in Columbus, Ohio, contributed to this report.

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