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activists African

Activists want an African American horse owner to boycott the Kentucky Derby. Here’s why he won’t do it – CNN

(CNN)Civil rights activists are calling on an African American horse owner participating in the 146th Kentucky Derby to pull out of the race to protest the police killing of Breonna Taylor.

Greg Harbut, 35, is one of the industry’s few African American owners. But Louisville activists say the celebratory nature of America’s most famous horse race, set for Saturday, is inappropriate at a time when its hometown residents are reeling from Taylor’s death and calling for justice.
Louisville Metro Police Department officers fatally shot Taylor on March 13 while executing a “no-knock” search warrant at her apartment. Gunfire broke out after her boyfriend fired a warning shot because he thought the plainclothes officers were intruders. The 26-year-old EMT, who was unarmed, was killed in the barrage of gunfire.
Taylor’s case — along with other high-profile killings of Black people by police — helped spark nationwide protests over racial injustice this summer. Protesters want the officers involved in her death to be charged; an investigation is pending.
Meanwhile, activists who have organized protests in Louisville since Taylor’s death are calling for the Kentucky Derby to be canceled and for Harbut to boycott the race. Celebrities and athletes across the US have already walked out of their own events in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Harbut, who told CNN he was asked to sit out the race, said that while he supports the protesters’ cause, he cannot oblige their request.
“I stand with Black Lives Matter, and I stand for justice for Breonna Taylor,” he said. “But as an African American man involved in an industry that’s not very inclusive to people who look like me, there’s no way that I could sit out on one of the largest race days in the US and not bring awareness to the contributions that African Americans have given to horse racing.”
The Kentucky Derby, one of the three legs of the American Triple Crown, is set to be held at Churchill Downs in Louisville. Usually a crowded affair, this year’s race will be run with no fans in the stands due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The contest has never been postponed or canceled because of bad weather but was delayed by weeks in 1945 because of World War II.

Activists plan to protest the Kentucky Derby

A founder of the Justice and Freedom Coalition, one of several organizations planning to protest the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, penned an open letter on July 15 calling for a boycott of the race to “put much-needed pressure on the state to not only complete a thorough investigation of Ms. Taylor’s case, but to send a clear message that we will not allow these injustices to continue.”
Churchill Downs said in a statement Thursday that the race would be held as planned in the hopes that it could bring the community together.
“We know there are some who disagree with our decision to run the Kentucky Derby this year,” racetrack officials’ statement asserts. “We respect that point of view but made our decision in the belief that traditions can remind us of what binds us together as Americans, even as we seek to acknowledge and repair the terrible pain that rends us apart.”
Pastor Timothy Findley, the coalition founder who signed the July letter, said protesters would meet Saturday at South Central Park, less than a mile from the track, a few hours before post time. Organizers expect at least 2,000 people to attend, he said.
Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the city supports the First Amendment rights of protesters but asked that they remain peaceful and not block traffic.
“Racial justice is a goal we all support. And we support First Amendment rights,” Fischer said Wednesday. “We just have to balance the right to protest with our essential duty to preserve public safety.”
Police will cite or arrest anyone blocking traffic, creating dangerous roadway conditions or trespassing on private property against the wishes of the property owner, the city advised Friday on its website. Anyone committing violence or vandalism will be arrested, it added.
Findley said protesters will aim to shift attention from the Kentucky Derby to Taylor’s case.
“Anyone who stands opposed to protesting and stands with Churchill Downs in this moment will be show in an unfavorable light when this becomes history,” he told CNN, speaking specifically of Harbut.
But for Harbut, it’s not that simple.

Strong ties to the world of horse racing

Harbut comes from a long line of horse racing legends who struggled for recognition in the sport due to the color of their skin.
His late grandfather, Tom Harbut, owned and bred a horse that ran in the 1962 Kentucky Derby, Greg Harbut said. But because he was African American, he was not allowed to attend the race or have his name listed on the program, he noted.
His great-grandfather, Will Harbut, cared for Man o’ War, an American thoroughbred considered one of the greatest racehorses of all time.
Given his family’s history in the sport, Greg Harbut says boycotting the Kentucky Derby is simply not an option. Instead, he believes that his participation could highlight African American contributions to the industry.
“The history of the Kentucky Derby started with African Americans. The first horse, Aristides, was trained by an African American named Ansel Williamson and ridden by an African American jockey named Oliver Lewis,” Harbut said.
“But we are the only Black representation in the Kentucky Derby this year. There hasn’t been any representation of us for the past 13 years.”
Harbut’s horse, Necker Island, is a viable contender, having never finished worse than fifth place in its 10-race career, according to Kentucky Derby records. The chestnut colt is also the son of Kentucky Derby alumnus Hard Spun.
However Harbut’s horse finishes Saturday, he believes his own participation is a win for the African American community and hopes to use his position to bring others into the sport.
“We hope to strategically bring other African Americans into this industry and onto the national stage,” he said.

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African mediators

West African mediators arrive in Mali to push for coup reversal – Al Jazeera English

A delegation of West African leaders has arrived in Mali in a bid to push for a swift return to civilian rule following a military coup staged after weeks of anti-government protests.

Jubilant opposition supporters took to the streets of the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday to celebrate after military officers detained Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other top government officials. But the coup was universally condemned abroad amid fears the unrest could plunge a country plagued by worsening insecurity into further instability.

ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc that led the chorus of international criticism, said on Thursday the high-level mission to Bamako will work “to ensure the immediate return of constitutional order” as it demanded Keita’s reinstatement following the resignation of the president and his government after the coup.

Led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the envoys on Saturday are due to hold talks with the coup leaders, including Colonel Assimi Goita, who has declared himself the group’s leader. The regional delegation will then meet Keita, former Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other detained officials, according to the ECOWAS programme.

“As ECOWAS, we appreciate what is happening in Mali and ECOWAS wants the best for the country,” Jonathan told reporters after arriving in Bamako. “We are here to discuss with all the key stakeholders and I believe at the end of the day we can get something that’s a success for the people and is good for ECOWAS and good for our community.”

Mali’s president resigns amid military mutiny

Following the coup, ECOWAS swiftly shut borders and ended financial flows this week – a move diplomats said was as much about warning opponents at home as stabilising Mali.

“They cannot tolerate this taking place. They are taking it very personally. It is on their doorstep and they think they are next,” one regional diplomat told Reuters news agency.

The regional bloc has also said it is mobilising a regional military force, an indication that it is preparing for a military intervention in case its negotiations with the coup leaders fail.

Adding to the international pressure, the United States on Friday suspended military aid to Mali, with no further training or support of the Mali armed forces.

‘We won’

But on Friday, Bamako’s central square exploded in celebration when thousands of people attended a rally that was originally organised as an anti-Keita protest by a protest movement that has led the mass rallies against him, but was recast to “celebrate the victory of the Malian people” in the wake of the coup.

MALI DEMONSTRATION

A man holds a banner against the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) and Barkhane, an operation started on August 1, 2014, which is led by the French military against Islamist groups in Africa’s Sahel region, during a protest to support the Malian army and the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) in Bamako, Mali [Annie Risemberg/AFP]

“I am overjoyed! We won,” said Mariam Cisse, 38, surrounded by people draped in the national flag and blasting on vuvuzela horns.

Speaking at the rally, Ismael Wague, spokesman for the group of coup leaders which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, paid tribute to the public.

“We merely completed the work that you began and we recognise ourselves in your fight,” he said.

Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, speaking from Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, said “the military authorities in Bamako can easily count on the support of these young men and women in Mali who have been protesting over the past few weeks”.

‘Transitional council’

The coup leaders have said they welcome the ECOWAS visit but have not talked of restoring Keita to power. The military officers have promised to oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” amount of time.

“A transitional council, with a transitional president who is going to be either military or civilian” would be appointed, Wague told France 24 television on Thursday.

Keita, first elected in a 2013 landslide the year after a similar military coup, saw his popularity plummet after his 2018 re-election amid a rapidly deteriorating security situation in parts of the country where armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIL are active.

Thousands of UN and French troops, along with soldiers from five Sahel countries, have been deployed to try to stem the bloodshed that has rendered vast swaths of Mali ungovernable and spilled into neighbouring countries including Burkina Faso and Niger.

Although dissatisfaction over the conflict, along with alleged corruption and Mali’s financial troubles, has been simmering for a while, the spark for the current crisis was a decision by the Constitutional Court in April to overturn the results of parliamentary polls for 31 seats, in a move that saw candidates with Keita’s party get re-elected.

Demonstrators under the umbrella of the so-called June 5 Movement began taking to the streets calling for Keita’s resignation. The protests turned violent in July when a crackdown by security forces during three days of unrest killed at least 14 protesters and bystanders, according to rights groups.

Keita, meanwhile, offered concessions and regional mediators intervened, but the opposition coalition made it clear it would accept nothing short of his departure.

The ECOWAS visit to Mali comes after the UN’s peacekeeping mission in the country said a human rights team had gained access to Keita and other detainees on Thursday.

The coup leaders also released former Economy Minister Abdoulaye Daffe and Sabane Mahalmoudou, Keita’s private secretary, calling the move “proof that we respect human rights”.

While Keita and Cisse have no television, radio or phone, other detainees are in a training centre, where they are sleeping on mattresses and have a TV, according to witnesses to the visit.

Keita, 75, looked “tired but relaxed,” they said, describing his conditions as “acceptable”.

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