Beyond the county: Family of black man shot 14 times by police wants charges; Dad let son die in hot SUV to ‘escape’; Hurricane Matthew drenches Haiti and Jamaica with heavy rain | TheUnion.com
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Beyond the county: Family of black man shot 14 times by police wants charges; Dad let son die in hot SUV to ‘escape’; Hurricane Matthew drenches Haiti and Jamaica with heavy rain

Attorney John Burris, center, comforts Robert and Deborah Mann, family members of Joseph Mann, who was killed by Sacramento Police in July, after a news conference Monday, Oct. 3, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The Mann family is demanding that the officers involved in shooting of Joseph Mann, 50, be charged with murder and that the U.S. Department of Justice open a civil rights investigation of the Sacramento Police Department. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
AP | AP

STATE

Family of black man shot 14 times by police wants charges

SACRAMENTO — The family of a man killed in July by Sacramento police after 911 callers reported he was waving a knife and acting erratically demanded Monday that two officers face murder charges after dash-cam video revealed they talked inside their police cruiser about running him down. He dodged the cruiser twice and was shot 14 times less than a minute later by the same two officers.



The officers “behaved like big game hunters closing in on an animal,” said John Burris, a lawyer for the family of Joseph Mann, who was mentally unstable and homeless.

The demand for the murder charges came as Los Angeles police chief Charlie Beck defended his officers in the fatal shootings of a black man Saturday who police say was armed with a loaded semi-automatic gun and a Hispanic man on Sunday who officers say was wielding replica handgun.




The latest police shootings happened amid heightened tensions over police actions involving black people and other minorities across the country, and followed two more police shootings by California police last week of black men in San Diego and Pasadena.

In the Sacramento case, police have said Mann was waving a knife in the air and doing karate moves in the streets just before police responded. But Burris told reporters he was not threatening anybody and that the two officers who shot him, John Tennis and Randy Lozoya, should face a U.S. Justice Department civil rights investigation in addition to murder charges.

The officers can be heard on the recording saying “I’m gonna hit him” and “OK, go for it” before appearing to drive their cruiser twice at Mann, who managed to scramble out of its way both times. The officers then stopped the cruiser, got out of it, pursued him on foot and opened fire.

“Mann was standing stationary on a sidewalk with no one in close proximity when the officers unloaded their guns,” Burris wrote in a letter he said he sent U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.

Sacramento police spokesman Matthew McPhail said he could not immediately comment on whether officers are trained to use squad cars as weapons. But he said the law and police protocol allow any person to use reasonable means to defend themselves under extreme circumstances.

“Our officers are encouraged to assess each circumstance and think critically about the tools at their disposal,” McPhail said.

Tennis and Lozoya were put on a brief leave after the July 11 shooting and returned to work on desk duty instead of patrol the following week. An administrative review of their actions is underway.

“It doesn’t service anybody’s interest with the public or the city, even the officers themselves or the family of the deceased, to have any sort of determination to be made before the investigation is complete,” McPhail said.

Surveillance videos show Mann doing the karate moves, zigzagging as he walked around a down-and-out commercial neighborhood in north Sacramento where many businesses are shuttered.

Police 911 recordings released previously included callers who said a man was waving a knife in the air, had a gun in his waistband and appeared to be mentally ill.

Family members have described Mann as a college graduate who was smart, loved politics and economics, and succeeded in several careers before deteriorating into mental illness about five years ago. They said he had been living on the streets and struggled with drugs before his death.

Toxicology tests revealed Mann had methamphetamine in his system the day he died, according to Police Chief Sam Somers.

A special team of officers that can assist other officers in dealing with mentally ill people was not sent to the area where callers reported Mann was acting erratically.

The first police cruiser that arrived rolled up alongside Mann as he was walking down a street. Mann turned away from that vehicle when the car with the two officers approached him, talking inside their cruiser about hitting Mann.

When Mann ran out of the cars way, the officer driving the cruiser backed it up and turned to aim in Mann’s direction again. It accelerated toward Mann, who ran across a median. The cruiser stopped and the officers got out.

About 15 seconds later, 18 shots were fired — 14 hit Mann.

Los Angeles chief defends 2 fatal weekend shootings

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles police chief on Monday defended the use of deadly force against two men in separate fatal shootings over the weekend, saying one turned toward officers with a gun and the other pointed what looked like a real gun at police.

LAPD Chief Charlie Beck released new details of Saturday’s shooting of 18-year-old Carnell Snell in South Los Angeles and a fatal police shooting of an unidentified Hispanic man on Sunday.

The shootings come amid heightened tensions over police actions involving black people and other minorities across the country.

In Snell’s shooting, officers tried to pull over a car he was in because it had paper plates that didn’t match the year of the vehicle — a possible indication of a stolen car and something commonly seen in drive-by shootings, Beck said.

Snell, seated in the back, looked at officers and then ducked down “as if to hide from them,” Beck said.

When officers tried to pull the car over, Snell jumped out holding his waistband and the foot pursuit began, he said.

After a chase of several hundred yards, Beck said, Snell took a gun from his waistband and turned in the direction of the pursuing officers, prompting the shooting.

Snell died at the scene and police recovered a fully loaded semi-automatic gun with one round in the chamber within 5 feet of where Snell lay, Beck said, adding that the weapon had not been fired.

Beck did not say whether one or more officers fired, how close they were to Snell, or whether the car turned out to be stolen.

The officers were not wearing body cameras, but a surveillance video from a business clearly showed Snell was armed, Beck said.

The shooting occurred in a Los Angeles neighborhood where nearly 450 people have been shot this year, making it the worst in the city for gun violence, Beck said.

“We are doing our absolute best to take guns out of the hands of those that would use them against others, and sometimes that leads to circumstances where Los Angeles police officers are put into peril and have to defend themselves,” the chief said.

A group of people protested outside Beck’s news conference, chanting, “No justice, no peace, no racist police.” Three were arrested for unlawful assembly after refusing orders to leave police headquarters and take their demonstration to a public street.

The protesters rejected the police department’s description of the shooting and called on them to release the video if they have nothing to hide, something Beck said was being considered but could only happen when all the evidence has been collected and analyzed.

“We’re so tired,” said protester Jade Daniels, 24. “These kids don’t want to die. What black person would point a gun at a group of cops?”

Snell was on probation after pleading no contest to one felony count of assault likely to produce great bodily injury, according to court records.

If Snell did turn toward police with a gun, then the fatal shooting would be justified, said Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

“A reasonable person could assume he’s going to shoot,” Walker said. “He has a gun, he’s turning to face the officer. That shooting would be justified at every police department I’m aware of.”

Officers are trained to shoot to kill when they perceive an imminent threat, rather than aim for the hand holding a gun or other extremities, Walker added.

“Hitting them in the arm or leg, that only happens in the movies,” he said. “It’s pure Hollywood.”

In the other shooting Beck addressed, a man was shot when he pointed what turned out to be a replica handgun at police in another high-crime area on Sunday, the chief said, adding that an orange tip had been colored black to make the replica look real.

The man remained unidentified. He was only described as Hispanic.

Beck said both officers involved in that shooting were wearing body cameras and the footage supports their accounts while refuting claims that the man was shot on the ground.

The officers were responding to reports of a man with a gun.

“In both these instances the officers feared for their lives because of the actions of the individuals that they were pursuing,” Beck said.

Snell was the third black man in five days to die in confrontations with police in Southern California.

Last Tuesday, Alfred Olango was fatally shot by an officer in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon when Olango took a “shooting stance” and pointed at an officer with what turned out to be a 4-inch vape pen — an electronic cigarette device.

On Friday, Reginald Thomas died after being shot with a Taser by police in Pasadena. He was armed with a knife and his wife described him as mentally ill.

Arrests made in attack on police vehicle in Fresno

FRESNO — Authorities say three men have been arrested for attacking a California Highway Patrol vehicle and causing an estimated $12,000 in damage to it after the officer tried to stop a racer.

The officer, who has not been identified, was not injured.

The Fresno Bee reports that police are searching for several other suspects, including the man responsible for smashing two of the vehicle’s windows in the Sept. 25 incident.

Federico Gonzalez, 20, Gabriel Deanda, 18, and Milton Rodriguez, 29 have been arrested. It was not immediately known if the men have attorneys.

The California Highway Patrol officer had been patrolling the area outside downtown Fresno when he came across about 40 people surrounding a Chevrolet Tahoe doing doughnuts, Fresno police Lt. Mindy Casto said. The officer went to approach the SUV, but the driver sped off.

The officer returned to his vehicle to follow the driver when the crowd began damaging the patrol car, Castro said.

A motive for the attacks on the police vehicle are unclear.

“This kind of unruly behavior, which borders on animal, has to be addressed in our society or we will have a lawless society,” Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer said Friday. “And we need law and order in our society.”

Dyer continued: “We know what the environment is across the nation today with protests, riots and police officers being attacked and a lot of the criticism that law enforcement faces. I believe this is the symptom of that. And there appears to be a willingness on the part of people to attack law enforcement.”

Rodriguez, the racer, has a criminal history, including a prior conviction for reckless driving, the newspaper reported.

Gonzalez was arrested after his fingerprints were lifted from the CHP vehicle. He is a known Bulldog gang associate, Dyer told the newspaper.

Deanda, seen in a video kicking the patrol car, allegedly told investigators that he was upset at the CHP for towing his car. He is a known Bulldog gang member.

The incident comes at a time when tensions are high between law enforcement and communities across the country, from Charlotte in North Carolina, to Dallas and several cities in California.

In Fresno, the June shooting death of an unarmed 19-year-old man shot and killed by police also sparked demonstrations. Dylan Nobel’s family has said that officers used excessive force when they opened fire and killed Noble. Officers stopped him in his pickup truck soon after getting a report of a man walking along a street with a rifle or shotgun.

Dyer has said officers believed Noble, who is white, was about to shoot them, but they later learned he was unarmed.

NATION

Trump angers with suggestion that vets with PTSD are weak

HERNDON, Virginia — Donald Trump is drawing scorn from veterans’ groups after he suggested that soldiers who suffer from mental health issues might not be as strong as those who don’t.

Trump was speaking at an event organized by the Retired American Warriors political action committee Monday when he was asked about his commitment to faith-based programs aimed at preventing suicides and helping soldiers suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and other issues.

“When you talk about the mental health problems — when people come back from war and combat, and they see things that maybe a lot of the folks in this room have seen many times over, and you’re strong and you can handle it. But a lot of people can’t handle it,” he said.

“And they see horror stories. They see events that you couldn’t see in a movie, nobody would believe it,” he added.

The comment drew condemnation from critics as well as veterans’ groups that have been working for years to reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues in an effort to encourage soldiers to seek treatment.

David Maulsby, the executive director of the Texas-based PTSD Foundation of America, told The Associated Press that, at first, he hoped Trump’s remarks had been taken out of context. But after watching a recording of the exchange, he said the Republican nominee’s words were detrimental to veterans struggling with PTSD symptoms.

“At the very least, it’s a very poor choice of words. PTSD is basically a rewiring of the brain as the result of trauma or prolonged trauma. That is not a reflection of a person’s strength, character, stamina — any of that,” Maulsby said.

“Our veterans who are struggling with post-traumatic stress as a result of their combat need to be encouraged to seek help, and not be told they are weak or deficient in character in any way, shape or form,” he said.

Zach Iscol, a Marine veteran and executive director of the nonprofit Headstrong Project, which helps provide free care for veterans suffering from PTSD, said Trump’s comments weren’t “just wrong, they’re dangerous.”

“The biggest barrier we have to people getting help is the stigma of getting help,” he said. “It just shows a complete misunderstanding of what post-traumatic stress disorder is.”

Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a top Trump adviser, responded with a statement that accused the media of taking the GOP nominee’s words out of context “to deceive voters and veterans.”

Flynn said Trump has been highlighting the challenges veterans face when returning home and “has always respected the service and sacrifice of our military men and women.”

Trump has vowed to make improving veterans’ mental health services a top priority if he makes it to the White House.

Trump previously angered veterans when he suggested that Sen. John McCain, a former POW, was only considered a war hero because he was captured.

Ohio not a must-win on Clinton’s path to the White House

TOLEDO, Ohio — Returning to Ohio for the first time in a month, Hillary Clinton tried to make up for lost time Monday with a fiery populist pitch aimed at upending rival Donald Trump in a battleground state where he’s tapped into voters’ economic anxieties.

“He abuses his power, games the system, and puts his own interests ahead of the country’s,” Clinton said during a rally in Toledo, one of two stops she was making in Ohio.

Clinton was away from Ohio nearly all of September. During that time, Trump displayed strength in the state in public opinion polls, helped along by his appeal with Ohio’s white working-class voters. In another blow for Democrats, party groups have cut funding for their Senate candidate, Ted Strickland, the former Ohio governor who has struggled in a race that was once expected to be among the most competitive in the nation.

In previous election years, any sign of shakiness in Ohio — long a crown jewel of presidential politics — would have a campaign on edge. But Democrats’ increasing reliance on minority voters to win presidential elections has opened new avenues to the White House for Clinton, and turned Ohio — where about 80 percent of the state’s population is white — into a less essential state.

In a memo to supporters last month, Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook outlined several scenarios in which the Democratic nominee can win the election without carrying Ohio. “Hillary has a lot of paths,” he said confidently.

While Clinton aides concede Ohio’s demographics are less favorable than other political battlegrounds, they dispute any suggestion that they’re not treating the state as a top-tier target.

Clinton arrived in Toledo Monday armed with a new endorsement from the state’s biggest star: LeBron James, an Ohio native who plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“I hope to be elected president, but I know here in Ohio, LeBron will always be the king,” Clinton said.

In her economic appeal to Ohio voters, Clinton condemned big corporate actors who she said protect their own profits at the expense of workers and their communities.

She also seized upon revelations reported by The New York Times that Trump may not have paid income taxes after a more than $900 million loss in 1995, seeking to undercut his appeal to workers. “What kind of genius loses a billion dollars in a single year?” she asked incredulously.

During stops in Toledo and Akron, she accused Trump of indifference to the auto industry when it teetered on the brink of collapse in 2009, reprising an argument that President Barack Obama used effectively against Mitt Romney in 2012. “At the time of the worst financial crisis in Ohio in 2009, he would have let you twist and fall,” she said.

With big cities and sprawling suburbs, booming college towns and Appalachian poverty, Ohio has long been viewed as a bellwether for the nation’s political mood. It also has a storied place in presidential political lore: No Republican has ever won the White House without carrying the state.

In 2004, it was Ohio that tipped the election toward Republican George W. Bush in his close race against Democrat John Kerry. In 2012, the state was seen as a litmus test for whether economically frustrated voters were willing to give Obama another four years to bolster the post-recession recovery.

As a result, Obama was a constant presence in Ohio. He held five rallies there in September 2012 and another five in October. He also headlined six events in Ohio in the final four days of campaigning, going on to win the state by three points.

Curt Steiner, an Ohio Republican who worked for the state’s former governor and senator George Voinovich, said that pattern seems unlikely to replicate itself in the final stretch of the 2016 race.

“I don’t think we’re going to see the candidates as often as we have in the past,” said Steiner, though he believes the race between Clinton and Trump remains competitive in Ohio.

A flood of Clinton surrogates has spent time in Ohio during the candidate’s September absence. Former President Bill Clinton will roll through on a two-day bus tour this week and Obama will headline the state’s Democratic Party dinner later this month.

Clinton’s campaign has spent more than $17 million on television and radio advertising in Ohio during the general election — nearly 6 times more than Trump, according to data from Kantar Media’s political ad tracker. The Democrat also has about 400 paid staffers working in the state and 61 campaign offices, with a few more opening this week, according to her campaign.

“No one wins Ohio without hard work and we invested in Ohio early — and continue to do so,” said Chris Wyant, Clinton’s Ohio state director.

Prosecutor: Georgia dad let son die in hot SUV to ‘escape’

BRUNSWICK, Ga. — A Georgia man intentionally left his toddler son to die in a hot SUV as he sought to escape the responsibilities of family life and focus on sexual liaisons with prostitutes and young women — even teenagers — he met online, a prosecutor told jurors as the father’s murder trial opened Monday.

Justin Ross Harris, 35, is charged with malice murder and other crimes in the June 2014 death of his 22-month-old son, Cooper. The case captured national attention two years ago after authorities revealed the father had been sending lewd messages to a woman as his son sweltered for seven hours in a parking lot outside Harris’ metro Atlanta workplace.

Prosecutor Chuck Boring told the jury in his opening statement Monday that Harris sent an online message minutes before locking his door with his son still strapped in his car seat.

Boring said the message read: “I love my son and all, but we both need escapes.”

“Hold this man responsible for trying to escape from one life into another by killing a child in one of the most horrible, unimaginable ways possible,” Boring told the jury.

Harris’ defense lawyers won’t deliver their own opening statement until Tuesday morning. Superior Court Judge Mary Staley Clark recessed court Monday evening after a 90 minute delay. She did not say what caused it.

Harris’ attorneys have previously called the boy’s death a tragic accident. Harris told police he watched cartoons with his son that morning, took him to breakfast at a Chick-fil-A restaurant and kissed Cooper while strapping him into his car seat. But Harris said he forgot to drop his son off at day care and drove to work, forgetting the boy was in the back seat.

Boring told the jury Harris’ account doesn’t make sense. He said the restaurant is just over half a mile from the Home Depot office where Harris worked as a computer technician, and Harris parked his SUV by backing up between two vehicles — which would have required looking over his shoulder toward the backseat where his son sat.

Later that day, Harris opened his vehicle to toss in a bag of lightbulbs he bought during his lunch break, Boring said. After leaving work, he drove a few miles to a shopping center without stopping, the prosecutor said, though police later reported the SUV reeked from “sweat, a dirty diaper, the smell of death.”

“The facts of this case only make sense if the defendant had planned on intentionally killing his son,” Boring said.

Boring said on the day Cooper died, his father sent more than 30 messages on his phone “mostly to women, mostly about sex.”

He said Harris was unhappy in his marriage to the boy’s mother and was obsessed with finding other sex partners. The month before his son died, Boring said, Harris met a prostitute for sex at a hotel. He had also been trying to persuade an underage, 17-year-old girl to send him a photo of her genitals. Harris was also charged for sending the girl sexually explicit text messages and photos.

Harris faces life in prison if he’s convicted of murder. Prosecutors decided not to seek the death penalty.

WORLD

Hurricane Matthew drenches Haiti and Jamaica with heavy rain

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Heavy rains from the outer bands of Hurricane Matthew drenched Haiti and Jamaica on Monday, flooding streets and sending many people to emergency shelters as the sprawling Category 4 storm steamed toward the two Caribbean countries.

Matthew had sustained winds of 140 mph (220 kph) as it moved north, up from 130 mph (210 kph) earlier in the day. The center was expected to pass near or over the southwestern tip of Haiti Tuesday morning before heading to eastern Cuba, the U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said.

“We are looking at a dangerous hurricane that is heading into the vicinity of western Haiti and eastern Cuba,” said Richard Pasch, a senior hurricane specialist with the center. “People who are impacted by things like flooding and mudslides hopefully would get out and relocate because that’s where we have seen loss of life in the past.”

In Jamaica, many took that advice before the island’s government discontinued a hurricane warning and replaced it with a tropical storm warning as Matthew tracked closer to Haiti. More than 700 people packed shelters in the eastern parish of St. Thomas and the Salvation Army said there were about 200 people at its shelters in Kingston as it put out a call for mattresses and cots.

Many people chose to stick it out at home. Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie said all but four residents of the Port Royal area near the Kingston airport refused to board buses and evacuate.

In Haiti, authorities experienced a similar problem in some flood-prone areas. In the Port-au-Prince suburb of Tabarre, officials urged shantytown residents living next to a muddy river to take shelter at a local school where cots were set up. But many refused, fearing their few possessions might be stolen.

“If we lose our things we are not going to get them back!” Toussaint Laine said as police and officials from the mayor’s office urged the jobless man and his family to evacuate.

Haiti’s civil protection agency reported the death of a fisherman in rough water churned up by the storm. Agency chief Marie Alta Jean-Baptiste had said early Monday that the body of another fisherman was recovered off the southern town of Aquin but she later said that was wrong and he was still missing.

The reported death in Haiti brought the total for the storm to at least three. One man died Friday in Colombia and a 16-year-old was killed in St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Sept. 28 when the system passed through the eastern Caribbean.

Authorities went door to door in Haiti’s south coast cities of Les Cayes and Jeremie to make sure people were aware of the storm. At least 1,200 people were moved to shelters in churches and schools.

“We are continuing to mobilize teams in the south to move people away from dangerous areas,” Jean-Baptiste said.

There is no shortage of people with flimsy houses set up in risky places in Haiti. In an unregulated sprawl of shacks built on hillsides near the northern edge of Haiti’s capital, some poor families did the best they could to reinforce their tin-and-tarp houses. But most were just praying they would get through the storm in the shanty metropolis of Canaan without getting hurt.

“I know my house could easily blow away. All I can do is pray and then pray some more,” said Ronlande Francois. She lives with her unemployed husband and three children.

In Port-au-Prince, schools were closed and people lined up at gas stations and cleared out shelves at supermarkets as a light rain fell in the capital.

Some worried the crowded city might not fare well. “We are not prepared,” unemployed mason Fritz Achelus said as he watched water pool on a downtown street.

Forecasters said the storm could dump as much as 40 inches (100 centimeters) of rain on some isolated areas of Haiti, raising fears of deadly mudslides and floods in the heavily deforested country where many families live in flimsy houses with corrugated metal roofs.

Matthew is one of the most powerful Atlantic hurricanes in recent history and briefly reached the top classification, Category 5, becoming the strongest hurricane in the region since Felix in 2007.

The hurricane center said the storm appeared to be on track to pass east of Florida through the Bahamas, but it was too soon to predict with certainty whether it would threaten any spot on the U.S. East Coast.

“Although our track is to the east of Florida, interests there should remain vigilant and we can’t rule out the possibility of impacts,” Pasch said.

A hurricane warning was posted for the central Bahamas, where the storm was expected to move along the eastern length of the island chain starting early Wednesday.

As of 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT), the storm was centered about 225 miles (360 kilometers) southwest of Port-au-Prince. It was moving north at 7 mph 11 kph).

Cuba’s government declared a hurricane alert for six eastern provinces and removed traffic lights from poles in the city of Santiago to keep them from falling due to heavy wind.

Matthew’s center was expected to make landfall in Cuba about 50 miles (80 kilometers) east of the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, where authorities evacuated about 700 spouses and children of service members on military transport planes to Florida.

The U.S. installation has a population of about 5,500, including 61 men held at the detention center for terrorism suspects. Navy Capt. David Culpepper, the base commander, said emergency shelters had been set up and authorities were bracing for storm surge and heavy rain that could threaten some low-lying areas, including around the power plant and water desalination facility.

“We have no choice but to prepare ourselves to take a frontal assault if you will,” Culpepper said.

Women in Poland strike to protest proposal for abortion ban

WARSAW, Poland — Polish women donned black, waved black flags and took to Poland’s streets on Monday, boycotting jobs and classes as part of a nationwide strike to protest a legislative proposal for a total ban on abortion.

Many men — public figures among them — also joined the thousands of women on the streets of Warsaw, Gdansk, Wroclaw and elsewhere across the largely Catholic nation, on what has been dubbed “Black Monday.” The country already has one of Europe’s most restrictive abortion laws and opinion surveys show very little support for an even stricter law, despite the nation’s deep Catholicism and conservative political direction.

In Brussels, some 200 black-clad protesters joined the campaign, picketing in front of the European Union offices on behalf of Polish women, with banners reading “No to the abortion ban.”

“Women must not be forced to deliver children from rape or that are unable to survive,” Brussels-based Polish writer Grazyna Plebanek told Polish PAP agency.

The strike and street demonstrations follow a street protest by thousands on Saturday in front of the parliament in Warsaw. Women wore black in a sign of mourning for the feared loss of reproductive rights and for the deaths that they feel some women would face.

Under the existing law, a hard-won compromise in force since 1993, abortion is banned except in cases where the woman’s life is in danger, the fetus is irreparably damaged or the pregnancy results from rape or incest. The new proposal, now being examined by a parliamentary commission, would make all abortions illegal, even in cases of rape or when the woman’s life is at risk, with prison terms of up to five years for women seeking abortion and doctors who perform them.

The proposal for the stricter law came from an anti-abortion citizens’ initiative that had gathered 450,000 signatures, and is supported by the church. The conservative ruling party, Law and Justice, which has a majority in parliament, includes supporters of the proposal but it’s not clear if there are enough to push it through.

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski criticized the way protesters were expressing their views, saying: “We expect serious debate on questions of life, death and birth. We do not expect happenings, dressing in costumes and creating artificial problems.”

While it was difficult to gauge participation in small towns and rural areas, which tend to be conservative, participation in the cities appeared to be significant.

A large crowd gathered in the rain in central Warsaw and people were out on the streets in other cities. People held up signs, including “My body, My choice,” as well as coat hangers — a symbol of dangerous illegal abortions protesters fear could become more common.

In downtown Warsaw, some small shops were closed, with signs on their doors saying they were observing the strike, while women in black served food in some restaurants. Coffee shops were filled with groups of women dressed head to toe in black.

One was 34-year-old banker Agnieszka Krysztopolska, who sat in a Starbuck’s shop with several friends who were all boycotting work.

“I have two children and it’s not like I am some kind of hardline feminist but I do not agree with somebody depriving me of the right to my own health or that of my children. I think this bill is just dangerous,” she said.

Near her, 28-year-old Magdalena Gwozdz chatted with her 17-year-old sister, who was boycotting school.

“This should be a woman’s choice and abortion should be available in case of rape or a damaged fetus,” Gwozdz said. “This is Europe and we are in the European Union.”

The private all-news broadcaster, TVN24, with some of its own newscasters in black, broadcast images of establishments in other cities joining the strike: a restaurant in Wroclaw that closed to let female employees participate, a museum in Krakow where none of the women showed up to work.

In Warsaw a popular actor and theater owner, Michal Zebrowski, dressed in black, was in the box office selling tickets to allow the clerk to take part in the protest.

In Czestochowa, a symbol of the country’s Catholicism due to a major shrine there, some 60 women employed at the City Hall refused to show up to work and those who came, we mostly in black, according to TVN24.

The day of action also included a call for housewives to refuse to do housework.

The organizers of Monday’s strike took their inspiration from a strike by women in Iceland in 1975 when 90 percent of women refused to work, clean or look after children, to voice anger at discrimination in the workplace. A law the following year guaranteed equal rights for men and women.

Turkey-backed Syrian rebels lose 15 in battles with IS

ANKARA, Turkey — Fighting in northern Syria between Turkey-backed Syrian rebels and Islamic State militants killed at least 15 rebels as the opposition pressed toward a town of symbolic importance for the extremists, an activist group and Turkish officials said Monday.

The Syrian government continued to strike besieged, rebel-held parts of eastern Aleppo, hitting the area’s largest hospital, according to activists. A monitoring group said more than 400 civilians have been killed in and around Aleppo since the collapse of a U.S. and Russian-brokered cease-fire two weeks ago, mainly in the rebel-held east.

In central Syria, meanwhile, two suicide bombers struck the city of Hama close to an office of President Bashar Assad’s Baath party, killing three people and wounding at least 11, state news agency SANA said. IS claimed responsibility in an online statement.

SANA said a suicide bomber detonated his explosives-packed belt in Hama’s al-Assi Square, and another suicide bomber struck 15 minutes later. One of SANA’s photographers, Ibrahim Ajaj, was wounded as he was covering the explosions, the agency said, adding that he is in stable condition.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the two explosions killed three people and wounded 14.

Suicide attacks in government-held areas are not uncommon, but blasts in the city of Hama, which is firmly under the control of Assad’s forces, have been rare. The twin bombings came as various insurgent groups have been on the offensive north of the city.

Another suicide bombing struck a Kurdish wedding outside the northeastern Syrian city of Hassakeh, killing at least 22 people, according to the Observatory, which said the toll was likely to rise. The Kurdish Hawar news agency confirmed the attack but did not provide a toll. The state new agency SANA said 20 were killed and 55 were wounded in the wedding. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

The death toll among the Syrian rebels near the Turkish border is the highest since Turkey sent troops and tanks into Syria in August to help rebels recapture IS strongholds in the area and curb the advance of a Syrian Kurdish militia, which Ankara views as an extension of Turkey’s outlawed Kurdish separatists.

Turkish military officials said 15 Syrian opposition fighters were killed and about 35 wounded in their offensive, which seeks to capture seven residential districts south of the town of al-Rai. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The Observatory, which relies on a network of activists across Syria, said 21 rebels were killed and more than two dozen wounded, adding that many of the casualties were due to land mines and booby-traps planted by the extremists.

The Observatory said the Turkey-backed rebels are trying to reach the town of Dabiq, which occupies a central place in IS propaganda.

The extremists, citing ancient prophecy, believe Dabiq will be the scene of an apocalyptic battle between Christianity and Islam. The group named its online magazine after the town, which it has occupied since August 2014.

The Observatory said IS has been preparing for the battle in Dabiq for weeks, planting mines and explosives and sending some of its most experienced fighters to defend the town.

The epicenter of the civil war remains in Aleppo, however, where Syrian and Russian warplanes have been pounding rebel-held areas since the breakdown of the cease-fire on Sept. 19.

The Observatory said Russian and Syrian warplanes, and government artillery, have killed at least 387 civilians in rebel-held Aleppo and its rural surroundings, including 72 children and 24 women, since the truce broke down. In the rebel-held part of the city alone, 294 were killed. The group recorded 19 civilians killed in government-held Aleppo.

In the offensive, which includes a limited ground operation, health facilities have repeatedly come under attack.

On Monday, Adham Sahloul of the U.S.-based Syrian American Medical Society, which supports various hospitals in rebel-held areas, said a bunker-busting bomb gouged out a 10-meter-deep crater where it landed near the entrance of one of the largest emergency hospitals in the rebel-held part of Aleppo. This is the third time the hospital has hit in a week, including once with several bombs. This time, the attack rendered it “not salvageable,” said Sahloul.

Sahloul said at least three maintenance staff were killed, including one found 100 meters (330 feet) away, apparently thrown by the impact of the explosion.

The workers were carrying out repair work at the hospital following last week’s attacks. Rescue workers are still searching for people under the rubble, and there were fears the building would collapse, Sahloul said. He added that since 2014 most of the hospital’s facilities were set up underground to protect it.

The Observatory confirmed the bombing, but put the death toll at six.

In the central Hama province, a medical relief group and the Observatory said airstrikes have damaged and put one of Syria’s most secure hospitals, which had been dug into a mountain, out of service.

The International Union of Medical Care and Relief Organizations, or UOSSM, said the Dr. Hasan Al-Araj Hospital — also known as “Cave Hospital” — was struck twice on Sunday.

The Observatory said Russian warplanes carried out the attacks that hit the hospital, adding that it’s one of the largest hospitals in rebel-held parts of the country. UOSSM said there were minor injuries from the attack.

Dr. Abdallah Darwish, the hospital’s director and health care chief in Hama province, was quoted in the UOSSM statement as saying that the hospital was likely struck by “bunker-buster” missiles as it was “well-fortified in a cave and impervious to previous attacks.”

The bomb completely destroyed the hospital’s emergency ward and caused major damage throughout the facility, he said.

“These vicious and atrocious campaigns are literally choking the life out of civilians, they are deplorable and unacceptable,” said Dr. Khaula Sawah, CEO of UOSSM USA.


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