Tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in Washington, D.C., and other U.S. cities on Saturday to demand an end to racism and brutality by U.S. law enforcement as protests over the killing of an unarmed black man by Minneapolis police entered a 12th day.
The protest in the U.S. capital was shaping up as the largest of the marches seen this week in cities and smaller towns nationwide, as well as in countries around the world.
It coincided with a second memorial service for George Floyd, 46, who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Near the front of the White House, Katrina Fernandez, 42, said she was both hopeful and impatient in joining the protests to demand what she viewed as long overdue reforms in policing.
“I’m just hoping that we really get some change from what’s going on. People have been kneeling and protesting and begging for a long time and enough is enough,” she said. “We can’t take much more.”
WATCH | CBC’s Katie Simpson reports from the newly renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza:
On the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Delonno Carroll, a 27-year-old construction worker, said he had come out to demonstrate because he “simply cannot” sit and watch from home.
“Our voices need to be heard,” Carroll said. “No longer can we have a man call out for his mom on the streets and have to go through what George Floyd did.”
Six buses unloaded several hundred uniformed military personnel, most wearing body armour and carrying shields, at the White House grounds early on Saturday, a Reuters photographer said. Military Humvees were parked on tree-lined city streets.
Police — who drew criticism for firing smoke grenades and chemical irritant “pepper balls” before charging into peaceful protesters near the White House on Tuesday — were out in smaller numbers around the marchers on Saturday afternoon and generally in a more relaxed posture, wearing patrol uniforms rather than body armour and helmets.
Some passing motorists honked their horns in support, and some city residents came out on the street to hand out water and snacks to offer protesters relief from the sweltering heat.
A second memorial service was held for Floyd on Saturday in North Carolina, where he was born. Hundreds lined up at a church in Raeford to pay their respects during a public viewing, and a private service for the family was scheduled for later in the day.
Other demonstrations across U.S.
In New York City, a large crowd of protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan on Saturday afternoon, marching up a deserted Broadway, where many of the shops were boarded up, according to social media posts. Thousands of others gathered in Harlem near the northwest corner of Central Park to march downtown, about 100 blocks, to the city’s Washington Square Park.
In Philadelphia, demonstrators gathered on the steps of Philadelphia Art Museum steps chanting, “No justice, no peace.” Others marched along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, through John F. Kennedy Plaza, and around Philadelphia City Hall.
In California, the country’s most populous state, demonstrations occurred in many cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco, where protesters briefly blocked traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge as motorists honked in solidarity.
Demonstrators in Washington appeared to be from diverse backgrounds and were dressed for the 90 degree heat. A group wore hospital worker’s clothing and held signs with slogans including “White Coats 4 Black Lives” and “I Love Being Black.”
Thousands took to the streets across Europe and Australia, as did hundreds in Tokyo and Seoul, in support of U.S. protests against police brutality.
Hundreds of demonstrators who marched past the George Washington University Hospital chanted “Hands up, Don’t shoot!” “We March for hope, not for hate,” and “I can’t breathe!”
That last chant echoed protests from New York in 2014, when Eric Garner died in police custody after an officer used a banned chokehold on him. Garner and Floyd are part of a long line of black men and women killed by white officers.
Many of those protesting in Washington were white. “Especially as a white person, I benefit from the status quo,” said protester Michael Drummond, a 40-year-old government employee. “So not showing up and actively working to deconstruct institutional racism makes me complicit.”
A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades. His ruling cited examples of protesters and journalists being injured by police.
“These are peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and medics who have been targeted with extreme tactics meant to suppress riots, not to suppress demonstrations,” U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in the ruling.
In Minneapolis, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke holds, while California’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, said he would end state police training of restraints that restrict the carotid artery in the neck.
In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said his state would lead the way in passing reforms, including banning choke holds and making police disciplinary records publicly available.
“Mr. Floyd’s murder was the breaking point,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “People are saying enough is enough.”
Black Lives Matter activists have called for cities to defund police departments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who in April proposed increasing law enforcement funding, this week reversed course and said he would seek some $150 million US in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department.
WATCH | What does it mean to defund police?:
The demonstrations have erupted as the American public and businesses struggle to recover from sweeping lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Disease experts have said the protests could spark new outbreaks.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with U.S. President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches in the nation’s capital, on Friday had the slogan “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.
After nightfall, Bowser had light projections spelling out the words beamed on nearby buildings, which she said on Twitter was a “night light” aimed at Trump.