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Lockdowns return in India amid coronavirus surge: Live updates | Coronavirus pandemic News



  • India joins many other countries and cities across the globe in reimposing localised lockdowns following sharp spike in the number of new coronavirus cases in the country.
  • Researchers in the United States say that the first vaccine tested in the country had worked to boost patients’ immune systems and is set for final testing. This is as the number of cases nationwide rose by 65,682 for a total of 3.45 million with at least 919 new deaths added to the tally of around 136,000.
  • The blood from seriously ill coronavirus patients on ventilators was found by researchers to be highly inflammatory and harmful to the body, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing a study by Dutch scientists.
  • More than 13.29 million people around the world have been diagnosed with COVID-19, 7.37 million have recovered, and more than 577,900 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. The US, Brazil, the United Kingdom, Mexico and Italy have recorded the most deaths.


Here are the latest updates.

Wednesday, July 15

09:50 GMT – DR Congo gives mines month to end COVID restrictions

The Democratic Republic of Congo has given copper and cobalt mining companies a month to stop confining workers on site away from their families as part of COVID-19 restrictions and return to normal operations, the labour minister said in an open letter.

Workers have been told by managers to either stay and work or lose their jobs, civil society organisations said last month, citing miners and union representatives and demanding an end to the approach.

“All mining companies that have confined workers to the operating site are granted a one-month moratorium to return to normal operation,” Labour Minister Nene Ilunga Nkula said in the letter, dated July 13, which she shared on Twitter on Tuesday.

09:25 GMT – Hong Kong reports 19 new coronavirus cases

Hong Kong reported 19 new coronavirus cases, including 14 that were locally transmitted, as new social distancing measures came into force and as authorities warned that the risk of a large-scale outbreak remained high.

Wednesday’s toll dropped substantially from Tuesday’s 48 new cases. The city had registered a sharp increase in the number of cases in the past week with the majority of cases transmitted locally.

Since late January, the global financial hub has reported more than 1,500 cases and eight deaths. 

outside image - Hong Kong coronavirus curbs

Since late January, the global financial hub has reported more than 1,500 cases and eight deaths [AFP]

09:00 GMT – South Korean city seeks pre-arrival coronavirus tests for US soldiers

A South Korean city that is home to the largest US overseas military base has asked for coronavirus tests on American soldiers before they arrive, amid concerns over a recent spike in imported cases, officials said.

US Forces Korea (USFK) has reported at least 25 virus infections among its troops and employees in the past two weeks, including 11 on Monday. All were confirmed upon arrival or while spending two weeks in mandatory quarantine.

The surge has prompted Pyeongtaek, home to the sprawling Camp Humphreys south of Seoul, to ask the government to request a pre-departure test for incoming US soldiers, a city official told the Reuters news agency.

08:30 GMT – Asian Tour cancels Taiwan Masters golf tournament 

The Asian Tour said September’s Taiwan Masters golf tournament has been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The decision to cancel Taiwan Masters was based on health and safety concerns as well as international travel restrictions on players …” the Asian Tour said in a statement.

“The tournament will now be staged in 2021 in its traditional time slot.”

The tournament had been due to be held at the Taiwan Golf and Country Club from September 17-20. 

08:00 GMT – Russia reports more than 6,400 new coronavirus cases

Russia  reported 6,422 new coronavirus cases, pushing its confirmed national tally to 746,369, the fourth highest in the world.

Officials said 156 people had died of the virus in the last 24 hours, bringing the official death toll to 11,770.

Russia's coronavirus cases rise to 687,862

[Russian authorities say 156 people died of the new coronavirus in the last 24 hour[ Reuters] 

07:40 GMT – UK health minister says will not be recommending masks in office

British Health Minister Matt Hancock said that the government would not recommend that office workers wear face masks while at work.

“We will not be recommending masks in the office,” Hancock told Sky News on Wednesday.

07:15 GMT – India IT hub, other towns reimpose lockdown amid COVID-19 surge

Nearly a dozen Indian states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas after spikes in coronavirus cases, with the country’s infections topping 900,000 just three days after crossing the 800,000 mark.

India joins a number of countries and cities across the globe in reimposing localised lockdowns and other restrictions in the face of new outbreaks of the disease that has infected more than 13 million worldwide.

In all, India has more than 936,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 28,498 new infections reported on Tuesday, according to data from the federal health ministry, the third-highest total in the world behind Brazil and the United States.

Read more here.

India corona

India has more than 936,000 cases of the novel coronavirus, with 28,498 new infections reported on Tuesday [EPA] 

06:50 GMT – Australia weighs further coronavirus curbs as outbreak grows

Australia’s most populous states will impose harsher restrictions on movement if a COVID-19 outbreak is not quickly bought under control, state premiers said.

The country has been heralded as a global leader in containing COVID-19, but in the last week it has seen a surge in new cases.

Desperate to contain the outbreak, Victoria state last week forced about five million people into a six-week lockdown. Still, Victoria said it has found another 238 cases in the last 24 hours.

Nationally, Australia has now recorded about 10,500 cases, while the death toll rose to 111 on Wednesday after a woman in her 90s died from the virus. 

06:15 GMT – New Zealand must prepare for new outbreaks: PM

New Zealand must prepare for new coronavirus outbreaks as the pandemic spreads globally but will not drop its elimination strategy if community transmission was discovered, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

Ardern said the epidemic was now “exploding” outside New Zealand and countries that had been models in the fight against COVID-19 had now experienced further community outbreaks.

The South Pacific nation last reported a case of community transmission two-and-a-half months ago. It has recorded 22 deaths from nearly 1,200 confirmed cases as of Wednesday.

New Zealand Prime Minister AP Photo

The government has recently released a new framework on how it intended to fight the virus in the event of new cases [File: AP] 

05:45 GMT – US base on Japan’s Okinawa confirms 36 more cases: report 

Authorities have confirmed 36 more coronavirus infections at Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking to 136 the tally at US military bases on the island, Kyodo News said.

The outbreak emerged at the weekend, provoking the anger of the prefecture’s governor, who has called into question the US military’s virus prevention measures.

Hello, this is Umut Uras in Doha taking over from my colleague Ted Regencia.

05:03 GMT – Hong Kong reimposes restrictions amid COVID-19 resurgence

Hong Kong

The city of 7.5 million people has recorded 1,569 confirmed cases and eight deaths since the outbreak began [Lam Yik/Reuters]

Renewed restrictions took effect in Hong Kong on Wednesday, with restaurants limited to takeout after 6 pm, as the Asian financial center battles a resurgence of the coronavirus, Reuters news agency reported.

Mask-wearing has been made compulsory on public transport for the first time, with fines of up to 5,000 Hong Kong dollars ($650). Public gatherings are once again restricted to four people, after the limit was eased last month to allow up to 50.

The semi-autonomous Chinese territory has seen a return of locally transmitted cases in the past 10 days after a long spell without them. About 300 new cases have been reported since July 6, including more than 220 non-imported ones.

The city reversed plans to allow major public events, postponing a highly popular annual book fair slated to open Wednesday. Hong Kong Disneyland, which had reopened last month, shuttered again in accordance with the renewed restrictions.

The city of 7.5 million people has recorded 1,569 confirmed cases and eight deaths since the outbreak began.

04:50 GMT – Germany’s confirmed coronavirus cases rise by 351 to 199,726

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Germany increased by 351 to 199,726, Reuters news agency reported on Wednesday citing the latest data from the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) for infectious diseases.

The reported death toll rose by three to 9,071, the tally showed.

04:45 GMT – US bases on Japan’s Okinawa confirm 36 more coronavirus cases

Authorities have confirmed 36 more coronavirus infections at Camp Hansen on Japan’s Okinawa, taking to 136 the tally at US military bases on the island, Reuters reported on Wendesday citing Kyodo News.

The outbreak emerged at the weekend, provoking the anger of the prefecture’s governor, who has called into question the US military’s virus prevention measures.

04:25 GMT – China to ease restrictions on domestic tourism

China - tourist

The Ministry of Culture and Tourism said that tourist sites should allow 50 percent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 percent, and that interprovince group tours should be resumed as well [File: Andy Wong/AP]

China is further easing restrictions on domestic tourism after reporting no new local cases of COVID-19 in nine days, Associated Press news agency reported on Wednesday.

A directive from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism dated Tuesday said that tourist sites should allow 50 percent of their daily visitor capacity, up from 30 percent, and that interprovince group tours should be resumed.

The National Health Commission said that six new cases were recorded as of the end of Tuesday, all in people who had arrived from overseas. It has not reported any domestic cases since an outbreak in Beijing that infected more than 330 people before it faded early this month.

China has reported 83,611 confirmed cases and 4,634 deaths since the outbreak began. It does not include people who test positive but show no symptoms in its case count.

04:05 GMT – China reports six confirmed COVID-19 cases

Chinese health authority said Wednesday that it received reports of six new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland as of the end of Tuesday, and all of them were imported.

No new suspected cases or deaths related to the disease were reported Tuesday, the National Health Commission said in its daily report, quoted by Reuters news agency.

Of the six imported cases, three were reported in Shanghai and the other three were reported in Shanxi, Chongqing and Yunnan respectively.

As of Tuesday, the overall confirmed cases on the mainland had reached 83,611, including 284 patients who were still being treated, with three in severe condition. Altogether 78,693 people had been discharged after recovery, and 4,634 had died of the disease, the commission said.

03:40 GMT – Venezuela reports new cases surpass 10,000

Venezuelan officials say new coronavirus cases have surpassed 10,000 nationwide, with an alarming number of recent illnesses found in the capital of Caracas.

President Nicolás Maduro on Tuesday ordered strict enforcement of quarantine measures in Caracas where most of the 303 new daily cases were diagnosed.

Venezuela has been in a nationwide quarantine for 121 days starting shortly after the first cases were diagnosed in mid-March. Officials report fewer than 100 deaths.

The South American nation has not been overrun by the virus like neighbouring Brazil and Ecuador, which experts attribute to the Venezuela’s isolation after years of economic and social crisis.

Maduro does not consider Caracas a focal point, but he says the recent surge in the capital and neighbouring state of Miranda has “set off an alarm.”

03:15 GMT – Mexico reports 7,051 new cases of coronavirus, 836 more deaths

Coronavirus - Brazil

Mexico ranks fourth among nations with the highest number of coronavirus deaths and seventh in the number of infections worldwide [Carlos Jasso/Reuters]

Mexico’s Health Ministry has reported 7,051 new confirmed coronavirus infections and 836 additional fatalities, bringing the total in the country to 311,486 cases and 36,327 deaths, according to Reuters news agency.

The government has said the real number of infected people is likely significantly higher than the confirmed cases.

02:58 GMT – New coronavirus cases in South Korea below 40 for second day

South Korea’s new coronavirus cases stayed below 40 for the second day in a row on Wednesday, but imported cases continued to rise, hampering the country’s efforts to contain the disease, according to Yonhap state news agency.

The country added 39 cases, including 11 local infections, raising the total caseload to 13,551, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

Meanwhile, of the 28 additional imported cases reported, 23 were detected at quarantine checkpoints of airports and sea ports. 

No additional fatalities were reported and the country’s death toll stayed at 289.

02:45 GMT – Schools partially reopen in Malaysia

After almost four months of absence, some students from the secondary and primary levels have returned to school in Malaysia, as the country’s coronavirus cases have significantly dropped.

During the lockdown in mid-March, students were forced to study at home as part of the effort to contain the spread of the deadly disease that infected more than 8,700 people, and claimed the lives of 122 others. More than 8,500 of the patients have recovered.

State news agency Bernama quoted Senior Education Minister Mohd Radzi Md Jidin as saying that the decision to re-open “is seen as timely to motivate students to follow the learning process in schools”, given the constraints students and teachers face with online classes.

Schools and students are required to follow some safety protocols at school to help avoid the spread of the disease, the education ministry said.

02:25 GMT – Maternity ward workers test positive of coronavirus in Kenya

Coronavirus - Kenya

Kenyan health officials wearing personal protection equipment prepare to bury coronavirus victim, Dr Doreen Adisa Lugaliki, in Ndalu, Bungoma county last Monday [Odhiambo Omuoro/AP]

Some 41 workers at Kenya’s largest maternity hospital have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Ministry of health Director General Dr Patrick Amoth said 19 cases involve health care workers and 22 are hospital support staff.

He says those infected are asymptomatic and undergoing medical care under home-based isolation. Three mothers at the facility also tested positive for COVID-19, but Amoth says no babies have been affected.

He says services at the hospital will continue and measures have been put in place to protect the health workers and the public visiting the hospital.

Nurses Association of Kenya President Alfred Obengo says infection control prevention measures at the hospital weren’t followed.

The first doctor in Kenya to die of COVID-19 was buried Monday, amid calls by health professionals for better insurance coverage and compensation. Kenya has recorded 10,791 coronavirus cases and 202 confirmed deaths.

02:05 GMT – More than 300 students, tutors test positive at Ghana high schools

More than 300 students and tutors have tested positive for coronavirus at high schools in the West African nation of Ghana, AP news agency reported.

Health officials confirm the Accra Girls Senior High School has been hardest hit, with 55 students and staff contracting the virus. Its campus remains under quarantine. Parents have thronged the school protesting the government’s refusal to grant them access to their children, the report said.

Classes resumed June 22 for senior high school students, and education officials maintain infection rates at schools are still comparable to those for the general population.

Ghana has 139 confirmed deaths from COVID-19 and confirmed more than 25,000 total infections since the pandemic began.

01:50 GMT – Trump calls COVID school closures a ‘terrible decision’ as deaths rise

US President Donald Trump has criticised the state of California’s two largest school districts for making students learn from home for the upcoming term in the face of the resurgent coronavirus pandemic.

The Republican president, in an interview with CBS News, said it was a mistake for the Los Angeles and San Diego school districts to provide only on-line education for the academic year beginning in August.

“I would tell parents and teachers that you should find yourself a new person, whoever’s in charge of that decision, because it’s a terrible decision,” Trump said.

Trump made the comment as the number of cases surge by over 10,700 in one day, bringing the state’s total to more than 346,000, with 137 new deaths added to the tally of over 7,000. 

01:30 GMT – Cyprus to double random tests at two main airports

Cyprus is doubling the number of random coronavirus tests that will be carried out on arriving passengers at its two main airports each day, AP news agency reported.

The Cypriot government said in a statement that 600 random tests will be performed on passengers arriving from a total 39 countries whose citizens are not required to undergo a 14-day quarantine.

Travelers arriving from 17 of those countries are required to obtain health certificates declaring them coronavirus-free 72 hours prior to boarding a flight.

The Transport Ministry says approximately 5,500 passengers currently fly in and out of the east Mediterranean island nation’s airports daily.

Tourism is a key industry for Cyprus, directly accounting for 13 percent of the economy. Officials are projecting that this year, the country will receive less than a quarter of 2019’s tourist arrivals.

01:15 GMT – France aims to reopen schools amid lingering COVID-19 concerns

France - Schools

Frances school reopening was driven in part by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy [File: Jean-Francois Badias/AP]

France is aiming to reopen all schools for the new academic year under as “normal” conditions as possible, President Emmanuel Macron announced Tuesday, despite lingering virus concerns from some parents and teachers.

France gradually reopened schools in May and June as the country emerged from virus lockdown, and most children returned to class. While new infections prompted a few schools to close again, the vast majority stayed open until the school year wrapped up earlier this month.

“We have learned a lot” from that period, Macron said. “We developed a new way of teaching” to take the virus into account.

France’s school reopening was driven by concerns about getting parents back to work to restart the economy, as well as widespread worries about disadvantaged children who couldn’t access online classes, who need special help or whose families depend on subsidized school lunches.

Schools adjusted schedules to keep children from mingling freely and kept students in one classroom instead of having them move around for different subjects. They were required to air out classrooms regularly, and masks were necessary for middle and high school students.

01:00 GMT – Tokyo to lift coronavirus alert to highest level – report

Tokyo will lift its alert level for coronavirus infections to the highest of four levels on Wednesday, Reuters news agency reported quoting Asahi newspaper, after a recent spike in cases to record levels in the Japanese capital.

Daily coronavirus cases exceeded 200 in four of the last six days, touching an all-time high of 243 cases last Friday as testing among workers in the metropolis’s red-light districts turned up infections among young people in their 20s and 30s.

The highest alert level suggests that “coronavirus infections are likely spreading”, the Asahi newspaper said.

Tokyo - coronavirus

The Japanese capital of Tokyo has confirmed more than 100 new coronavirus infections last Monday [Eugene Hoshiko/AP]

00:26 GMT – Coronavirus antibodies ‘highly inflammatory’ – Dutch scientists

The blood from seriously ill coronavirus patients on ventilators was found by researchers to be highly inflammatory and harmful to the body, the South China Morning Post reported on Wednesday, citing a study by Dutch scientists.

The scientists, led by Professor Menno de Winther from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands, found that the blood from COVID-19 patients struggling for their life on ventilators was highly inflammatory.

They observed during a series of experiments that this could trigger an overreaction of the immune system, destroy crucial barriers in tissues and cause water and blood to spill over in the lungs, the South China Morning Post report said.

00:16 GMT – COVID-19 vaccine test moves forward in the US

The first COVID-19 vaccine tested in the United States revved up people’s immune systems just the way scientists had hoped, researchers reported – as the shots are poised to begin key final testing.

“No matter how you slice this, this is good news,” Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government’s top infectious disease expert, told The Associated Press news agency.

The experimental vaccine, developed by Fauci’s colleagues at the National Institutes of Health in partnership with Moderna Inc, will start its most important step around July 27: a 30,000-person study to prove if the shots really are strong enough to protect against the coronavirus.

But Tuesday, researchers reported anxiously awaited findings from the first 45 volunteers who rolled up their sleeves back in March. Sure enough, the vaccine provided a hoped-for immune boost.

Those early volunteers developed what are called neutralising antibodies in their bloodstream – molecules key to blocking infection – at levels comparable to those found in people who survived COVID-19, the research team reported in the New England Journal of Medicine.

00:01 GMT – US state of Nevada reports record high cases in one day

Officials of the US state of Nevada say a record high in the daily number of positive COVID-19 tests in the state may be the result of people failing to wear masks and keep distances apart during the Fourth of July Independence Day holiday, AP news agency reported.

State coronavirus response chief Caleb Cage said Tuesday that a resurgence in hospitalisations continues less than a week after Governor Steve Sisolak cited a spike in cases and again closed bars and restaurants in the Las Vegas and Reno areas.

The more than 1,100 new cases reported statewide on Tuesday brings the total to nearly 30,000. Cage blamed the Fourth of July weekend. The US has 3.4 million cases and over 136,000 deaths.


Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. I’m Ted Regencia in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Read all the updates from yesterday (July 14) here.

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Indigenous man faces up to 10 years in prison for Facebook posts | Black Lives Matter News



An Indigenous man faces up to 10 years in prison over “threats” allegedly made on social media at the height of the Black Lives Matter protests that swept across the United States last year, drawing outrage from activists and observers who say the case is part of a “heavy-handed” law enforcement response to the protest movement.

Loren Reed, 26, of Page, Arizona, was arrested on June 2, after the FBI and the Page Police Department (PPD) investigated comments on public social media and in a private group chat surveilled by police.

The complaint against Reed, filed on June 2, outlines the case and accuses him of making “a threat to unlawfully damage or destroy” the Page Magistrate Court Building by “fire”.

Facebook post

The arrest stemmed from a Facebook status posted on Reed’s account on May 30 asking people to “React to my status if you didn’t get my invite to the Page riot happening tomorrow”.

Someone responded asking him not to “torch the bars”, to which he replied: “nah. Just the courthouse”.

Following the post, a “Concerned Citizen” alerted the police about Reed’s public comments on the “Page riot” on May 30, according to documents obtained by Al Jazeera through a public information request, leading to a PPD officer to go undercover and join a private Facebook group, wherein Reed allegedly stated a desire to burn the Page courthouse, “riot” and “loot”.

Reed has been in pretrial detention since June 2. The court ruled he was a flight risk on July 14, citing the length of his possible sentence, his previous non-violent criminal history of failure to comply with court orders and providing false information to law enforcement, and his “unknown” social history.

He was formally indicted on September 29, after prosecutors filed two extensions to indict due to the coronavirus pandemic. Grassroots activist groups have urged for Reed’s release. The Tucson Anti-Repression Crew said his arrest for “organizing a protest” means his “repression is a political act”. Illinois’s Flyover Social Center urged people to “[f]ight for his release, and the release of all political prisoners.”

The conversation in the Facebook group is documented in more than 90 pages attached to the criminal complaint. It is peppered with memes and apparent humour and covers topics like systemic racism in the US, police violence, and comments by Page’s mayor about alcoholism among Indigenous communities, for which he later apologised.

Michael German, a fellow with the Brennan Center for Justice’s Liberty & National Security Program and former FBI agent, reviewed the Facebook conversation referenced in the indictment and said law enforcement took “an overwrought response to” what appears as “a private group of people engaging in shock talk”.

Private chat

The complaint says an undercover police officer received a private message from Reed that read: “I wanna burn down the courthouse” before inviting the officer to the private group. Throughout the chat, Reed expressed a desire to burn down the courthouse, the complaint says.

The publicly available documents do not show that Reed was in possession of fuel or supplies necessary to burn the courthouse.

Hoax threats are also illegal, German noted, “but … this is a private group, so it’s not as if they were articulating a threat that the public could have been alarmed by.”

The complaint says members of the private group also expressed “dislike for police and their willingness to engage in violence” towards police and mentions a “photograph of a box of rocks with anti-law enforcement messages painted on the rocks”.

The document further alleges that a similarly painted rock was found by PPD after being “thrown” at an officer’s house on June 2. Neither the PPD incident report nor officer body camera footage of the rock being collected obtained by Al Jazeera show allegations of it being thrown.

The complaint also mentions Reed going to a bar and yelling anti-police slogans. German noted this and other allegations of anti-police attitudes have “nothing to do with the charge of burning down the courthouse”.

The arrest and investigation came as US President Donald Trump and then-Attorney General William Barr were adopting tough, “law and order” rhetoric against sometimes violent racial justice protests in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis police custody. Trump vowed to designate Antifa – a decentralised movement of far-left protesters – as a “terror” organisation.

German said he feared the “hyperbolic” rhetoric surrounding “so-called ‘Antifa’” from Trump and Barr “would spark an over-aggressive police response, and this case seems to be an example of that”.

Reed’s lawyer, Doug Passon, declined to comment on the case and said he instructed Reed to do the same.

Al Jazeera spoke with several of Reed’s friends and coworkers, none of whom said Reed posed a serious threat.

One of the allegations included in the complaint covers plans to “loot” during the riot and appears to stem from this exchange in the private chat. A member writes: “people ask, why do they drink? can’t they just go home … it’s trauma at a young age that’s causing these sorts of problems”.

Another member – not Reed – responds “What pharmacies we looting tho?”, to which people responded with laughing face emojis. Reed responds: “There’s only safeway and walmart”, with more laughing reactions.

Johnathan Michael Yellick, 24, has known Reed for 10 years and described him as “spontaneous”, “open” and “talkative”. They bonded through their teen years as parts of a friend’s group, worrying about relationships and school, and going on impromptu hiking trips.

Yellick said Reed was a reliable friend and recalled driving with him for up to four hours to visit sites in Arizona and Utah like Hite Marina and Lake Powell, talking for hours about issues in their personal lives.

He said that Reed “loves making people laugh” and that dark humour was a part of Reed’s sense of humour.

Loren Reed is seen during a hiking trip in this undated photo [Al Jazeera courtesy of Johnathan Yellick]

When portions of the chat included in the complaint were described to Yellick, including the section about “looting” a pharmacy, Yelick said “that was definitely dark humour.”

Yellick was not involved in the Facebook conversation, but from his experience speaking to Reed, when serious topics arose, Reed was “talking with emotion more than anything”.

When asked if he thought Reed would engage in “terroristic threats”, Yellick replied: “Absolutely not. It would come down to the dark humour kind of thing. Never have I thought Loren would do that kind of thing.”

Reed was quoted by Forgive Everyone, an artists’ collective that does advocacy work for prisoners, as saying that the summer’s uprising opened the door to discussing issues around race and policing.

“It gave me an opportunity to say what I’ve wanted to say for years … If I tried to have these arguments beforehand, I would immediately get shut down. These things never really got brought to light until recently,” he reportedly said.

Other threats

Reed is not the only person to be arrested for comments made on social media during the racial justice protests that swept the US last year.

In July, Ebon Ellis, 25, an organiser in Evansville, Indiana, was arrested after posting a video on Facebook threatening the lives of local police and elected officials, motioning with his hand as if it were a gun and pulling the trigger.

Ellis, who is Black, was sentenced to two years’ probation and a psychiatric evaluation on November 13 after pleading guilty to three counts of felony intimidation.

Samuel Mara, a Black man reportedly commonly seen at Black Lives Matter protests in Buffalo, New York, was arrested on July 11 and accused of threatening to kill a person related to a rumoured racist counterprotest during a live video on social media. He faces a maximum of five years in prison if convicted.

When compared to other charges related to making threats and their maximum sentences, including the five-year penalty for mailing the US president a threat, Reed faces “really serious charges, a potential 10-year sentence for essentially mouthing off on the internet”, James Clark, a member the progressive National Lawyers Guild, told Al Jazeera.

Clark noted the statute under which Reed is charged, colloquially known as the federal arson statute, “is one of a series of federal criminal statutes that came out of the civil rights movement in the 1960s” used to discourage protests.

“The Federal Riot Act was passed in 1968, as part of the Civil Rights Act, after [Martin Luther King Jr] was assassinated. The civil disorder statute was passed in 1968,” Clark said. “Then the federal arson statute was passed in 1970.”

The civil disorder statute was cited in dozens of cases against protesters over the summer.

The federal riot act, informally known as the “H Rap Brown law” in reference to a then-non-violent Black activist who led the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was cited by Barr over the summer when he promised to arrest “instigators” during the wave of unrest.

A man takes part in a march with veterans to Backwater Bridge just outside of the Oceti Sakowin camp during a snowfall as ‘water protectors’ continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline adjacent to the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in 2016 [Lucas Jackson/Reuters]

Four Indigenous protesters at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation were charged with civil disorder and use of fire to commit a federal felony offense, under the federal arson statute. They all agreed to non-cooperating plea deal, which dropped the use of fire charges.

Clark said it appears these laws “sit idle until there’s another really serious … Black and Indigenous protest movement, and then they get weaponised against those movements.”

Courts have recently ruled that portions of the federal riot act, formally called the Anti-Riot Act of 1968, are unconstitutional, including those that make it a crime to “encourage” or “promote” riots, as this is protected speech.

German, who has studied far-right militancy within police forces, raised the example of social media groups on the far right, such as the “Boogaloo bois” where “you’d hear hot political rhetoric like this” with little reaction from the FBI.

German described law enforcement’s response to the summer protests as “heavy-handed”. Regarding Reed’s case, only the discovery of an “actual weapon” could “alter [his] perception”, German concluded.

When asked for comment, PPD said it acted in a “supporting role” to the FBI and directed Al Jazeera to “contact the United States Attorney’s Public Information Office for any questions you have regarding this case”.

Esther Winne, a spokeswoman for the US attorney’s office handling the case, declined to comment due to it being an ongoing case and referred Al Jazeera to a press release and public documents.

Reed’s trial is scheduled for April 6, 2021, following a January 12 continuance filed by Passon to review documents. He will have been in pretrial detention for 10 months.

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