Demonstrators lie down during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on June 6, 2020. Courtesy: REUTERS/Joey Roulette.
Washington: Tens of thousands of demonstrators amassed in Washington and other U.S. cities on Saturday demanding an end to racism and brutality by law enforcement, as protests sparked by George Floyd’s fatal encounter with Minneapolis police stretched into a 12th day.
A Lincoln Memorial rally and march to the White House marked the largest outpouring yet of protests nationwide since video footage emerged showing Floyd, an unarmed black man in handcuffs, lying face down and struggling to breathe as a white police officer knelt on his neck.
Demonstrators rallied on Saturday in numerous urban centers - among them New York, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and Miami - as well as in small, rural communities across the country.
“It feels like I get to be a part of history and a part of the group of people who are trying to change the world for everyone,” said Jamilah Muahyman, a Washington resident at a demonstration near the White House.
One of the more surprising Black Lives Matter rallies was a gathering of 150 to 200 people in the east Texas town of Vidor, notorious for its long associations with the Ku Klux Klan.
Floyd’s May 25 death has sparked a storm of protests and civil strife in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, thrusting the highly charged debate over racial justice back to the forefront of the political agenda five months before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.
With the notable exception of Seattle, where police used flash-bang grenades in a confrontation with demonstrators in the city’s Capitol Hill district, Saturday’s protests on the whole took on a relaxed tone compared with those of recent days.
The week began with sporadic episodes of arson, looting and vandalism in several cities that authorities and activists have blamed largely on outside instigators and criminal elements.
Police have at times resorted to heavy-handed tactics as they sought to enforce curfews in some cities, including New York and Washington, where baton-swinging officers in riot gear dispersed otherwise orderly crowds.
Those clashes have only galvanized the focus of the protests into a broader quest for reform of the criminal justice system and its treatment of ethnic minorities.
“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,” said Kartrina Fernandez, 42, a protester near the front of the White House.
“We can’t take much more.”
The intensity of protests over the past week began to ebb on Wednesday after prosecutors in Minneapolis had arrested all four police officers implicated in Floyd’s death. Derek Chauvin, the white officer seen pinning Floyd’s neck to the ground for nearly nine minutes as Floyd repeatedly groaned “I can’t breathe” was charged with second-degree murder.
A demonstrator holds a placard during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Brooklyn, New York, U.S. June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon
But Saturday marked the largest demonstration over Floyd’s killing to date.
Crowds numbering in the tens of thousands converged on the nation’s capital, despite health risks posed by the coronavirus, though official estimates of the turnout were unavailable.
The rallies in Washington, as elsewhere, were notable for drawing racially mixed crowds.
“Especially as a white person, I benefit from the status quo, and so not showing up and actively working to deconstruct institutional racism makes me complicit,” said Michael Drummond, 40, a government employee, explaining his reason for taking part.
Mourners arrive at North Carolina memorial service
Hundreds of mourners gathered at a church in North Carolina on Saturday for a memorial service for George Floyd in his home state. Two lines of people about 100 deep formed at the entrance as a hearse bearing Floyd’s coffin arrived at a church in Raeford.
As the casket rolled in, chants of “black power,” and “George Floyd,” and “No justice, no peace,” echoed from beneath the covered entrance.
'Burn down racism'
Taking a knee, banging drums and ignoring social distancing measures, outraged protesters from Sydney to London kicked off global rallies against racism and police brutality on Saturday.
The death at police hands of George Floyd, has brought tens of thousands out onto the streets during a pandemic that is ebbing in Asia and Europe but still spreading in other parts of the world.
Protesters gather in Paris despite ban
Demonstrators in Paris have tried to gather in front of the US Embassy, defying restrictions on planned gatherings imposed by authorities in light of the coronavirus pandemic. They were met by riot police. The embassy was sealed off behind an imposing ring of metal barriers and road blocks, but many protesters gathered nearby.
Thousands protest in central London
Thousands of demonstrators protested in rainy central London against police violence and racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd.
Gathering in Parliament Square, a traditional venue for protests, the demonstrators “took the knee” in silence and then chanted Floyd’s name before applauding his memory. The demonstrators have ignored advice from the government and police to avoid attending because of the coronavirus.
Tokyo protesters condemn killing
Protesters gathered in Tokyo on Saturday, as global demonstrations over the killing of George Floyd spread to Japan, a nation not usually associated with mass discontent or police violence.
In front of Shibuya train station, an iconic landmark in Tokyo, people held signs that said, "End racism," and "We stand with you".
30,000 attend Brisbane rally
Organisers of Australia's Black Lives Matter rallies said about 30,000 people gathered in Brisbane, the capital of Queensland, forcing police to close down two major streets.
The rally appeared orderly as police handed out masks to protesters and other officials provided hand sanitisers.
Jordan to donate $100m to fight for racial equality
Former superstar Michael Jordan and his Nike-backed Jordan Brand are pledging to donate $100m over the next 10 years to support racial equality and social justice. The vow comes five days after Jordan said "we have had enough" when it comes to the racism that people of colour faced in the United States.
"Black lives matter. This isn't a controversial statement," read the joint statement from Jordan and his company on Friday. "Until the ingrained racism that allows our country's institutions to fail is completely eradicated, we will remain committed to protecting and improving the lives of Black people."
Zuckerberg promises Facebook policy review
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Facebook, promised to review the social network's policies that led to its decision to not moderate controversial messages posted by the US president that appeared to encourage violence against those protesting against police racism.
In a letter to employees, Zuckerberg wrote: "We're going to review our policies allowing discussion and threats of state use of force to see if there are any amendments we should adopt."
Black Lives Matter rallies in Australia amid court ban
The first of several Black Lives Matter protests across Australia got underway in Adelaide as a court in Sydney banned a planned rally in the city citing the risk of coronavirus transmissions.
Huge crowds were seen in the first gathering in the southern city of Adelaide, which was held to honour George Floyd and to protest against the deaths of Indigenous Australians in custody.
Source: News Agencies
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