George Floyd protests: Tens of thousands flood US streets in largely peaceful gatheringsComments
Tens of thousands of people took to streets and parks in American cities on Saturday, in the latest rallies to protest at police racism and violence following the death of George Floyd last month.
Protesters gathered from coast to coast while mourners in North Carolina waited for hours to glimpse the golden coffin carrying the body of the African-American that was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking a wave of global anger.
Saturday's protests capped a week that began in chaos but ended with largely peaceful expressions that organizers hope will sustain their movement.
Many cities lifted curfews imposed following initial spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. Authorities have softened restrictions as the number of arrests plummeted.
The largest US demonstration appeared to be in Washington, where protesters flooded streets closed to traffic.
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said local officials expected 100,000 to 200,000 protesters in the capital, which has seen daily protests for the past week, largely peaceful.
The White House was fortified with new fencing and extra security precautions. President Donald Trump stood inside, with no public events on the schedule.
The crowd erupted in applause as Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser walked along the portion of 16th Street that she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.
Large crowds were also gathering in other cities, observing social distancing where possible amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Peaceful marchers filed across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, the Brooklyn Bridge in New York, the boulevards of Hollywood, and the streets of Chicago, Philadelphia and Nashville.
In Richmond, a small group of demonstrators toppled a statue of a Confederate general following a day of largely peaceful protests.
In Seattle, police used flash-bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters hurling rocks, bottles and what authorities said were “improvised explosives” that had injured officers, just a day after city leaders temporarily banned one kind of tear gas.
Floyd honoured with memorial service
Mourners from around North Carolina waited in a quickly moving line outside a church in the small town of Raeford -- about 35 kilometres from George Floyd's hometown of Fayetteville -- where a memorial service was being held. A private service took place later in the day.
The line of people waiting to view the coffin included families with young children and teenagers. One young woman wore a green and gold graduation cap and gown as she walked beside her parents. Most people wore surgical masks or cloth face coverings.
When a hearse bearing Floyd’s coffin arrived, chants of “Black Power,” “George Floyd” and “No justice, no peace,” echoed from beneath the covered entrance.
“It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black," said a man in the crowd, Erik Carlos of Fayetteville.
George Floyd, 46, died after a Minneapolis police officer placed a knee on his neck for several minutes on May 25.
Derek Chauvin is accused of second-degree murder after charges against him were upgraded. The three other officers present at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
'National moment for change'
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Saturday the death of George Floyd was "a national moment for change."
At his daily briefing in Albany, Cuomo said New York would "seize the moment" and lead the way for policing reforms.
Prosecutors say two Buffalo police officers have been charged with assault after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester to the sidewalk.
Both pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault on Saturday. The two officers were suspended without pay Friday after a TV crew captured the confrontation the night before near the end of protests over the death of George Floyd.
The footage shows a man identified as Martin Gugino approaching a line of helmeted officers holding batons as they clear demonstrators from Niagara Square. Two officers push Gugino backward, and he hits his head on the pavement. Blood spills from head as officers walk past.