/ Modified oct 13, 2020 4:18 p.m.

News roundup: Arrests at Indigenous-led protest, OSIRIS-REx readies for sample collection

Recent coverage impacting Southern Arizona, Oct. 13.

Cases 226,734 | Deaths 5,767

On Tuesday, Oct. 13, Arizona reported 683 new cases of COVID-19 and eight additional deaths. Over the weekend, the state saw an unusually high number of daily cases reported, according to the Associated Press.

Indigenous Peoples Day border demonstration ends with tear gas, arrests


Indigenous-led demonstrators say they were subject to tear gas, rubber bullets and arrests Monday morning during a nonviolent protest against border wall construction at a Border Patrol checkpoint in western Pima County.

The checkpoint is located less than 30 miles from the Lukeville Port of Entry on Highway 85. About 30 demonstrators spread out in front of the site early Monday, blocking traffic from both sides and holding banners reading "Respect the land," "Stolen Land," and "No one is illegal."

One Tohono O’odham organizer who gave the name V said demonstrators were praying and singing for over an hour before officers began firing tear gas and rubber bullets into the crowd. A video shared by the group shows more than a dozen Arizona State Troopers pressing into a crowd with batons as plumes of smoke rise into the air.

Learn more here.

Activists in New Mexico, Arizona mark Indigenous Peoples Day


SANTA FE, N.M. — Protesters have torn down a historical monument in Santa Fe as New Mexico, Arizona and other states marked Indigenous Peoples Day. Protesters used a rope and chain Monday to topple the obelisk on the Santa Fe Plaza, spurring cheers from the crowd. A point of contention for years, the obelisk was dedicated in part to the “heroes” who died in battle with “savage Indians.”

In Arizona, protesters clashed with law enforcement officers after staging protests near the U.S.-Mexico border. Video showed vehicles stopped on the side of the road and some people being taken into custody.

Other events across the country Monday focused on the history and contributions of Native Americans.

Learn more here.

OSIRIS-REx closing in on asteroid sampling attempt


The University of Arizona-backed OSIRIS-REx mission is on track for its first try at sampling soil from the asteroid Bennu. Principal investigator Dante Lauretta says if everything goes as planned, OSIRIS-REx will briefly touch the asteroid with a sampling collector Tuesday. He notes the amount of material the spacecraft collects will depend on the firmness of Bennu's surface.

"The minimum requirement from the science side is 60 grams, or about two ounces, of material," said Lauretta. "And that's a lot for sample scientists, we tend to work at the atomic level often so that's a lot of material to analyze."

The "touch-and-go" maneuver calls for the sampling collector to make contact with the surface for no more than 16 seconds. That should be enough time for low pressure gas to push rocks and dust into the collector and the spacecraft to safely move away. The samples would be brought back to Earth in September of 2023.

Arizona reports 683 new COVID-19 cases and eight more deaths


PHOENIX — Arizona health officials are reporting more than 680 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases and eight deaths. After two days of finding no virus-related deaths, the latest numbers on Tuesday bring the statewide case total to more than 226,000 and the death toll to 5,767.

On Saturday, state Department of Health Services officials reported 894 new cases. That was the largest daily increase since mid-September.

The number of infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested, and studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms.

Learn more here.

Court mulls bid to extend vote counting on Navajo Nation


PHOENIX — Appeals court judges are considering whether to give officials an extra 10 days after Election Day to count mail-in ballots for Navajo Nation members living on the tribe’s reservation in Arizona.

The judges peppered lawyers with questions over how such ballots would be distinguished for counting purposes from those of other voters. Six Navajos argued more time is needed because mail service on the reservation is slow and turning in ballots by 7 p.m. Nov. 3 would disenfranchise voters.

A judge previously rejected the request, saying those seeking the extension didn’t prove the deadline imposes a disparate burden on tribal members.

Learn more here.

Arizona freezes 43K unemployment accounts over alleged fraud


PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Economic Security says it has prevented 43,000 unemployment accounts from receiving benefits after those accounts were flagged as potentially fraudulent.

The Arizona Republic reported Monday it is the second time this year the state has frozen payments to weed out fraud. In July, the department closed 28,000 accounts suspected of fraud. DES later said about 3,800 accounts out of the 28,000 closed were found to be legitimate and the residents were repaid.

A state Department of Economic Security official says the number of legitimate accounts in the ongoing fraud freeze is likely to be small.

Learn more here.

Small earthquake reported about 8 miles east of Flagstaff


FLAGSTAFF — A small earthquake was reported Tuesday morning about eight miles east of Flagstaff.

According to the United States Geological Survey’s website, the 3.3-magnitude quake was reported at 9:08 a.m. Tuesday with the epicenter located north of the Walnut Canyon National Monument. Geological Survey officials say at least 14 people reported that they felt the minor earthquake. There were no immediate reports of damage.

USGS officials say hundreds of earthquakes occur in Arizona every year, mostly in the northern part of the state, and aren't strong enough to be felt.

Learn more here.

2 arrested for stealing Trump-Pence campaign signs in Tucson


Authorities in Tucson have arrested two people for allegedly stealing signs supporting President Donald Trump’s campaign.

The Pima County Sheriff’s Department said the arrests were made Sunday night after someone called into 911 to report the taking of a Trump-Pence sign. A caller also described the suspect’s vehicle. Investigators say a Pima County sheriff’s airplane spotted the suspect’s car stop and someone get out to take a sign.

Deputies pulled the car over and found two Trump-Pence signs in the trunk. Sheriff’s officials arrested 23-year-old Christian Fernandez and 25-year-old Aerin Mazza on a misdemeanor charge of removal of a political sign. They have since been released.

Learn more here.

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