Thousands of people have taken 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 streamed into the nation”s capital for what was expected to be the city’s largest demonstration yet against police brutality since the African-American was killed in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking a wave of global anger.
Large crowds were also gathering, observing social distancing where possible amid the coronavirus pandemic, in other cities such as Philadelphia and Chicago.
Military vehicles and officers in fatigues closed off much of downtown Washington, DC 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 has been fortified with new fencing and extra security precautions. President Donald Trump is 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.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms says she is lifting what had been a planned 8 pm curfew on Saturday after no arrests were reported on Friday in Georgia’s largest city.
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 was scheduled for 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.