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Protesters flood U.S. streets in huge, peaceful push for change
Demonstrators protest Saturday, June 6, 2020, near the White House in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Steven Sloan, David Crary And Tom Foreman Jr., The Associated Press
Published Saturday, June 6, 2020 5:30PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, June 6, 2020 8:13PM EDT
WASHINGTON - Tens of thousands of protesters streamed into the nation's capital and other major cities Saturday in another huge mobilization against police brutality and racial injustice, while George Floyd was remembered in his North Carolina hometown by mourners who waited hours for a glimpse of his golden coffin.
Wearing masks and calling for police reform, protesters peacefully marched across the U.S. and on four other continents, collectively producing perhaps the largest one-day mobilization since Floyd's death 12 days ago at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
The dozens of demonstrations capped a week of nearly constant protests that swelled beyond anything the nation has seen in at least a generation. After frequent episodes of violence following the black man's death, the crowds in the U.S. shifted to a calmer tenor in recent days and authorities in many cities began lifting curfews because they experienced little unrest and no arrests.
On Saturday, authorities in some places seemed to take a lower profile and protests had a festive feel.
On a hot, humid day in Washington, throngs of protesters gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in neighbourhoods. Some turned intersections into dance floors. Tents offered snacks and water, tables with merchandise and even a snow cone station.
One Washington protester, Pamela Reynolds, said she was seeking greater accountability for police.
“The laws are protecting them,” said the 37-year-old African American teacher. Among the changes she's seeking is a federal ban on police chokeholds and a requirement for police to wear body cameras.
Many groups headed toward the White House, which has been fortified with new fencing and extra security measures. Inside the presidential mansion, their chants and cheers could be heard in waves. President Donald Trump, who's ordered authorities to crack down on unrest, had no public events on his daily schedule.
The demonstrations extended to his golf resort in Doral, Florida, just outside Miami, where about 100 protesters gathered.
Elsewhere, the backdrops included some of the nation's most famous cityscapes. Peaceful marchers filed across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. They walked along the boulevards of Hollywood and the street in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, famous for country music-themed bars and restaurants.
In Philadelphia and Chicago, marchers peacefully chanted, carried signs and occasionally knelt silently. Protesters flooded the streets in a massive showing near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its famous “Rocky” steps, chanting “No justice, no peace!” before setting off for City Hall area.
Atop a parking garage in downtown Atlanta, a group of black college band alumni serenaded protesters with a tuba-heavy mix of tunes. Standing within earshot, black business owner Leah Aforkor Quaye said it was her first time hitting the streets.
“This makes people so uncomfortable, but the only way things are happening is if we make people uncomfortable,” Quaye said.
In Raeford, North Carolina, a small town near Floyd's birthplace of Fayetteville, lined up outside a Free Will Baptist church, waiting to enter in small groups. At a private memorial service, mourners sang along with a choir. On display at the front of the chapel was a large photo of Floyd and a portrait of him adorned with an angel's wings and halo.
“It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black,” said Erik Carlos of Fayetteville. “It was a heavy hit, especially knowing that George Floyd was born near my hometown. It made me feel very vulnerable at first.”
Protesters and their supporters in public office say they're determined to turn the extraordinary outpouring of anger and grief into change, notably overhauling policing policies.
Theresa Bland, 68, a retired teacher and real estate agent protesting at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, had a broader agenda in mind.
“I'm looking at affordable housing, political justice, prison reform, the whole ball of wax,” she said. “The world is so askew right now ... with people dying from the virus and people dying in prisons and people dying because there's not enough food.”
Some tangible steps have already been taken.
In Minneapolis, city officials have agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints by police and to require officers to try to stop any other officers they see using improper force. California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state's police-training program to stop teaching officers how to use a neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain. The police chief in Bellevue, across the water from Seattle, largely banned officers from using neck restraints, while police in Reno, Nevada's second-largest city, also updated their use-of-force policy.
Democrats in Congress are preparing a sweeping package of police reforms, which are expected to included changes to police-accountability laws, such as revising immunity provisions and creating a database of police use-of-force incidents. Revamped training requirements are planned, too, among them a ban on chokeholds. The prospects of reforms clearing a divided Congress are unclear.
Meanwhile in New York, two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester, who fell backwards onto the pavement and was hospitalized. Both pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and were released without bail. The two were suspended without pay Friday after a TV crew captured the confrontation.
In London, thousands of demonstrators endured cold rain to gather in Parliament Square, a traditional venue for protests. They knelt in silence and chanted Floyd's name before applauding his memory and then starting a march. Some clashes between protesters and police broke out near the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In Paris, hundreds of people gathered at the Place de la Concorde in defiance of a police ban on large protests. Members of the multiracial crowd chanted the name of Adama Traore, a black man whose death while in police custody a few years ago has been likened by critics of French police to Floyd's death in Minnesota.
Police in the French port city of Marseille fired tear gas and pepper spray in skirmishes with protesters who hurled bottles and rocks.
Crary reported from New York and Foreman from Raeford, North Carolina. Associated Press reporters from around the world around the U.S. contributed to this report.