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Morning news brief

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

Four members of the far-right group the Proud Boys were found guilty of seditious conspiracy for their role in the January 6 insurrection.

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

The leaders of the far-right group were charged with trying to overthrow the government by force. Attorney General Merrick Garland celebrated the milestone conviction in the department's ongoing probe of the insurrection.

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MERRICK GARLAND: The Justice Department will do everything in its power to defend the American people and American democracy. Over the past two years, the department has secured more than 600 convictions for a wide range of criminal conduct on January 6.

MARTÍNEZ: But while the verdict is a victory for the Justice Department, it's less clear how it could affect the larger network of violent far-right groups.

FADEL: Andy Campbell is here to talk about this. He's a senior editor at The Huffington Post, and he wrote a book about the Proud Boys called "We Are Proud Boys."

Good morning, Andy.

ANDY CAMPBELL: Good morning.

FADEL: So let's first talk about this charge of seditious conspiracy. What does that mean, first of all? What kind of punishment does it carry?

CAMPBELL: Right. The bar for seditious conspiracy is not just proving that multiple people conspired to oppose or impede the government by force, but also proving that they had an agreement to do so beforehand. It's a very rare and serious charge that the government usually saves for terrorists on American soil, and it carries a maximum of 20 years in prison.

FADEL: Now, the Proud Boys' former chairman Enrique Tarrio was one of the men convicted. So what is the message here? Will this affect the actual group now that this man's been convicted?

CAMPBELL: You know, though their leaders sit behind bars, the Proud Boys don't need a green light from the national organization to continue on their parade of violence. Their stated goal is to physically fight for the GOP's grievances out in the street, and they've continued to do so week after week since January 6. In 2021, they fought for the big lie, and today it's drag queen story hours and abortion clinics. So far, this trial hasn't had a chilling effect on their mobilizations at all.

FADEL: Now, what about the larger picture here? There are other groups beyond the Proud Boys that include white nationalists and others. Does this send a message that the government is serious about cracking down on these types of violent groups?

CAMPBELL: Well, the government's clearly serious about the insurrection. They have hundreds of prosecutions under their belt. But that's just one incident. Our far-right extremist crisis is sweeping, and it's being fueled and even cheered on by right-wing media and politicians. To stop it, we need a full culture shift that extends beyond prosecutions if we're going to thwart this.

FADEL: And what does that look like?

CAMPBELL: Well, the communities that I spoke to that have been victimized by these groups say that they need law enforcement and everyone else tied to these extremist groups to call off their dogs in the street. And not once have they made any serious rebuffing of these groups fighting for them in the street.

FADEL: Andy Campbell is a senior editor with The Huffington Post and the author of "We Are Proud Boys: How A Right-Wing Street Gang Ushered In A New Era Of American Extremism."

Thank you, Andy.

CAMPBELL: Thank you.

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FADEL: Outrage is growing over the death of a 30-year-old Black man on a New York City subway train on Monday. The incident is proving to be a flashpoint in a larger conversation about race, homelessness, mental health and public safety.

MARTÍNEZ: There are reports that say Jordan Neely, who was homeless at the time, was yelling on Manhattan's F train. A white man, who has not been identified by police, then put him in a chokehold. Two other passengers restrained him. The city's medical examiner ruled the death a homicide, but no one has been charged with a crime.

FADEL: To talk about this, we have NPR's Brian Mann.

Good morning.

BRIAN MANN, BYLINE: Hi, Leila.

FADEL: So, Brian, can we expect police to make an arrest in this case?

MANN: That's not certain at this time. The man who choked Neely to death was questioned by police and then released. So far, he's still free - no charges filed. There are two investigations underway, one by the NYPD, another by the Manhattan district attorney's office. But we just don't know yet how long that's going to take.

FADEL: Before we go any further, I want to know more about Jordan Neely, the man that was killed. What do we know about the life he lived, who he was?

MANN: Yeah, it's a really sad story. He was a street performer. He dressed like Michael Jackson, you know, moonwalking and dancing in exchange for tips. Friends, though, also described him to our member station, WNYC, as deeply troubled. His mother was murdered by a boyfriend when Jordan Neely was just 14. He then spent time in foster care and as an adult was not able to find stable housing. One witness to Monday's violence on this subway car told media outlets that Neely was shouting about needing food and being willing to die.

FADEL: Now, different politicians are reacting and framing Jordan Neely's death very differently. Let's start with Mayor Eric Adams. What's he saying about this?

MANN: Yeah, Mayor Adams, who's Black, is really the one top Democrat in this Democratically-controlled city who hasn't condemned the violence. You know, what was captured on the video here is this white man put Jordan Neely in a chokehold. The medical examiner says compression of the neck is what killed Neely. What we don't know yet is what led up to that confrontation. That's not on the videotape we've seen.

Mayor Adams, who's a former police officer, says the public should wait for investigations to be finished. And, Leila, he's also cited this incident as justification for his controversial effort to move mentally ill people off the streets and out of train stations. He's proposed using involuntary hospitalization in some cases to do that. In a statement, Adams said, we know there were serious mental health issues in play here.

FADEL: Now, other elected officials are condemning police for not arresting the white man who choked Neely, who was Black, to death. What are they saying?

MANN: Yeah, New York City Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, also a Democrat, took a shot directly at the mayor about this. She called this incident a murder, and she wrote, I have yet to hear a real explanation from any official hesitating to condemn the killing of Jordan Neely about what makes condemning this violence so complicated. Those are her words. New York City Council President Adrienne Adams also issued a statement saying Neely's killing and the law enforcement response reflect, quote, "racism that continues to permeate through our society."

FADEL: And how does Jordan Neely's killing fit into the wider conversation about people who are unhoused, public safety?

MANN: Yeah, this really is the major political issue in New York City right now. Republicans, you'll remember, did really well in the midterms last year campaigning on public safety and crime. Mayor Adams has made this a major issue for his administration. And a lot of New Yorkers clearly are worried about people on the streets and on subway trains who are experiencing homelessness or mental illness or addiction, despite the fact, statistically, that New York City is very safe. So, you know, the questions in this case will be whether Neely did anything threatening that might justify this use of force by the other commuter. But the wider question here is, how does this city help people who are struggling with mental illness and homelessness before incidents like this occur?

FADEL: NPR's Brian Mann.

Thanks, Brian.

MANN: Thank you.

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FADEL: Across the pond this weekend brings the much-ballyhooed crowning of King Charles III. It's the first coronation in 70 years.

MARTÍNEZ: Will it have pomp and pageantry? Absolutely. Flag-waving tourists? Check. A modern monarchy that can appeal to younger, more diverse British citizens? Maybe. King Charles's coronation comes at a time of economic crisis in the U.K., not to mention waning support for the monarchy.

FADEL: So the royals are trying to balance ancient tradition with, well, the real world. NPR's Lauren Frayer is outside Buckingham Palace and joins us now.

Hi, Lauren.

LAUREN FRAYER, BYLINE: Hi there.

FADEL: So what do the preparations look like around you?

FRAYER: Lots of flags and lots of umbrellas. It's just started drizzling, and it's actually not forecast to stop until the crown is on King Charles's head and the royals wave from the palace balcony I'm looking up at right now. That has not stopped thousands of people from gathering here, though. Some have camped out for days. The family next to me has two little boys wearing plastic golden crowns. Lots of police here, too.

World leaders are also arriving. Jill Biden will be attending, but not her husband. Another famous American, Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, will not be here. Her husband, Prince Harry, will. One of those who came down to check out the decorations was Mary Warman, and she describes what she's looking forward to tomorrow.

MARY WARMAN: I just want to see the whole ceremony and what everybody is wearing and how the abbey is looking, how they've decorated it and listening to the music. I think the music is going to be thrilling.

FRAYER: She's talking about Westminster Abbey, of course. The music at this ceremony is a closely guarded secret. The coronation theme has been composed by Andrew Lloyd Webber, but we won't hear it until it debuts tomorrow.

FADEL: So walk us through the ceremony and what we expect to see tomorrow.

FRAYER: You are going to see a lot of royal bling. Charles and Camilla will roll up to the abbey in a golden-topped horse-drawn carriage. But, you know, this is a modern coronation, so it has power windows and AC, not that he'll need that. It's quite chilly here. The king will wear golden robes. He'll hold a golden orb in his right hand. He's got golden scepters. They're like magic wands kind of. The heart of this ceremony is the anointing with holy oil from Jerusalem. And then basically everybody yells, long live the king. They sing "God Save The King." The royals return to their palace. There's a military flyover and that wave from the balcony I mentioned. So it's basically following this thousand - more than thousand-year-old script - with some differences, though.

FADEL: So what are some of the differences?

FRAYER: Well, there will be an official role for representatives of other religions besides the Church of England, which the king is the head of. All Britons, not just aristocrats, will be asked to swear allegiance to the king at the ceremony. Royals are trying to staunch waning support for this monarchy. And I asked a political scientist, Anand Menon, how they can do that.

ANAND MENON: Appearing modern and in touch I think is absolutely fundamental. There are some things they can't do anything about. The fact of the matter is the coronation is going to cost a lot of money. They've got to hope that that doesn't become a matter of public concern at a time when, of course, the U.K. is going through a cost of living crisis.

FRAYER: So regular folks in Britain are dealing with rising food prices and rising heating bills. And this coronation may cost taxpayers upwards of some $125 million.

FADEL: Whoa. I guess those golden orbs are not cheap. NPR's Lauren Frayer outside Buckingham Palace, where King Charles's coronation procession will begin tomorrow.

Thanks, Lauren.

FRAYER: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.