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‘O Little Town of Ferguson’: NYC carolers serenade shoppers with revamped Christmas classics

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NEW YORK (Reuters) – Amid a sea of holiday shoppers, about 30 protesters, among them professional opera singers, gathered on Sunday in midtown New York to sing Christmas carols modified with lyrics lamenting recent cases of police violence against African American males.

The event, which drew smiles from onlookers, was in contrast to more charged protests, including a night earlier in Seattle, where people threw rocks at police, and in Berkeley, California, where looters smashed store windows.

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In the reimagined songs, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” became “O Little Town of Ferguson,” the Missouri city where Michael Brown, an unarmed 18-year-old, was shot dead in August by a white police officer. A grand jury declined last month to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, sparking a nationwide wave of protests.

Other songs included “All I Want for Christmas is an Indictment” and “Little Drummer Boy,” which was remade into a dirge for Eric Garner, who died in July after being choked by a New York police officer in Staten Island. That officer also avoided indictment in a decision handed down last week.

Organizer Cassandra Oliveras, 35, a self-described “choral freak,” said the idea of adapting carols to the current controversies came to her after a recent protest in Manhattan aimed at stopping the lighting of the city’s Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Police blocked protesters from reaching the site.

“I was so angry and I felt so incredibly hopeless,” she said. “I couldn’t sleep that night and I just stayed up writing these things because they just poured out of me.”

The carolers, who began singing at Penn Station before shifting locations, ranged from sign-bearing activists to professional opera singers.

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Susanna Mentzer, a mezzo soprano who will perform in “Marriage of Figaro” on Monday at the Metropolitan Opera, said the event marked her first protest.

“I think what’s so unique about current protests is that everyone I know seems outraged,” said Mentzer, 57, who attended with a fellow cast member after learning of the protest on social media.

For some more experienced protesters, the singing represented a welcome change of pace.

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“Friday there was a definite sense of anger. All you could do is scream,” said Katie Carman, 33, a Manhattan filmmaker, referring to protests in New York.

“Today I wanted to come out and show people we can deliver this message in other ways. But I may be back on the streets shouting.”

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(Editing by Jonathan Kaminsky and Eric Walsh)


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Confederate battle flag banned — Marine Corps declares it a ‘threat to our core values’

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The United States Marine Corps banned the public display of the Confederate battle flag on Friday.

"Depictions of the Confederate battle flag are unauthorized in public and work spaces aboard an installation," the Marine Corps wrote in guidance to the troops.

The ban applies to bumper stickers, clothing and flags among other items.

"The Confederate battle flag has all too often been co-opted by violent extremist and racist groups whose divisive beliefs have no place in our Corps," the Marines explained.

"Our history as a nation, and events like the violence in Charlottesville in 2017, highlight the divisiveness the use of the Confederate battle flag has had on our society," the continued. "The presents a threat to our core values, unit cohesion, security, and good order and discipline."

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BUSTED: Police arrest Anthony Brennan III on assault charges after viral video of attack on teenage protesters

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On Friday, The Washington Post reported that authorities have arrested Anthony B. Brennan III, a man suspected of being the attacker caught on camera in Maryland attacking teenagers putting up posters protesting the death of George Floyd, and charged him with second-degree assault.

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Trump is ‘a soulless man with a broken mind’: George Conway calls out his wife’s boss in scathing op-ed

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George Conway, the prominent Republican attorney married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, blasted his wife's boss in a new Washington Post op-ed published online on Friday evening.

"Until three brief months ago, President Trump never faced a serious crisis, at least one not of his own making. But now he has faced two, and is failing two, in short order: the covid-19 pandemic, with its concomitant economic devastation; and now social unrest, and rioting, stemming from the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody," Conway wrote. "Lacking in humanity, Trump has had no idea how to handle either one."

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