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More police officers charged, Mattis slams Trump and antimalarial fails to prevent virus

‘He tries to divide us’: Former defense secretary Mattis blasts Trump.
Demonstrators raise their fists during a \"Sit Out the Curfew\" protest in Oakland, Calif. on June 3, 2020.
Demonstrators raise their fists during a "Sit Out the Curfew" protest in Oakland, California on Wednesday.Philip Pacheco / AFP - Getty Images

Good morning, NBC News readers.

The nationwide protests were notably calmer overnight, and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis harshly criticized President Donald Trump for exacerbating racial tensions.

Here's what we're watching this Thursday morning.

After more police officers charged, an uneasy calm

Three more former Minneapolis police officers were charged Wednesday in the death of George Floyd, five days after charges were brought against a fourth officer who was seen in a video kneeling on Floyd’s neck.

The three former officers were charged with aiding and abetting murder, according to criminal complaints filed by the state of Minnesota. The murder charge against the fourth, Derek Chauvin, was also elevated to second-degree, from third-degree.

After the additional arrests were announced, the nationwide protests calling for action in the wake of Floyd's death in police custody took on a calmer tone Wednesday night — a fragile peace that officials hoped would hold.

In New York City, a curfew started at 8 p.m. for the second night in a row, while Seattle and San Francisco lifted curfews. Outside the White House in Washington D.C., a large group of demonstrators sang "Lean on Me," illuminating the twilight with cellphones.

However, police in New Orleans used tear gas on protesters in response to what they said was an "escalating, physical confrontation with officers."

Here are some other developments:

Protesters demonstrate in front of Lafayette Square near the White House on Wednesday.Olivier Douliery / AFP - Getty Images

Mattis slams 'bizarre' response to protests, says president 'does not even pretend to try' to unite Americans.

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis on Wednesday slammed Trump's response to the protests over Floyd's death, saying the president "tries to divide us" while calling his "bizarre photo op" in front of St. John's Episcopal Church "an abuse of executive authority."

"Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us," Mattis wrote in a statement published by The Atlantic.

In the stunning rebuke of his former boss, Mattis, a retired general, said "we do not need to militarize our response to protests. We need to unite around a common purpose."

Current Defense Secretary Mark Esper has been caught up in his own turmoil over Trump's threat to use active-duty troops against demonstrators on U.S. soil.

On Tuesday night, Esper broke with Trump and told NBC News in an exclusive interview that he did not support using the military to quell protests.

He then expanded on those comments during a press briefing on Wednesday, saying: "The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act."

But then later Wednesday, after a meeting at the White House, Esper did a 180-degree policy change and reversed his decision to send home some active duty troops deployed to Washington, D.C., amid the ongoing protests.

The moment of enough: Black Americans are exhausted by everyday racism

Why has the Floyd protest movement taken off at this precise moment in time? To put it simply, because black Americans have had enough.

They are exhausted, NBC News' Janell Ross writes in a news analysis. They are grieving. They are angry. They have, in many cases, grown tired of being forced to make the case for their citizenship, their humanity, their very survival — again and again over the course of generations.

We asked readers what was motivating them to join in the rallies around the country.

Here's what Brittney Johnson in Los Angeles had to say: "I protest because I don't have the privilege of remaining silent."

And Kymberly Hartfield in Marietta, Ga: "I'll WILL BE DAMNED if my 5-month-old grandson grows up to become a hashtag!"

See more of their responses in their own words.

Listen to our Into America podcast. In the latest episode Host Trymaine Lee tackles the issue of white accountability for the racial divide.

"For black folks, simply being in this country has been an exercise in not being fully free," said J. Drew Lanham, a professor at Clemson University. Elizabeth Flores / Star Tribune via AP

Hydroxychloroquine fails to prevent COVID-19, large study finds

Hydroxychloroquine was no better than a placebo at preventing symptoms of COVID-19 among people exposed to the coronavirus, according to research from the University of Minnesota Medical School.

The findings, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, are the first from a major clinical trial looking at whether the medication widely touted by President Trump might be useful as a prophylactic.

Other coronavirus developments:

Life resumes: Gamblers celebrate a win while playing roulette during the reopening of The D hotel-casino in Las Vegas on Thursday. Steve Marcus / Reuters

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THINK about it

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Quote of the day

"We need to unite around a common purpose. And it starts by guaranteeing that all of us are equal before the law."

Former Defense Secretary James Mattis

One fun thing

Airborne laser scanners that can peer through the jungle have revealed what may be the oldest and largest ancient Mayan structure ever found — a 3,000-year-old ceremonial platform almost a mile long according to research published Wednesday.

"This was a big construction before the social hierarchy,"

University of Arizona archaeologist Takeshi Inomata, who led the discovery, said of the research released in the science journal Nature.

"The really interesting implication is what this site tells us about the potential of human collaboration, which can do really amazing things without the presence of a centralized government."

Archaeologists found ritual deposits of jade axes and tools near pyramids and a plaza at the center of the platform.Takeshi Inomata

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Thanks, Petra Cahill