Tens of thousands of peaceful protesters rallied for racial justice Saturday in cities across the United States following the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of police.
Protests took place from New York to Los Angeles but Washington was at the epicenter, as thousands of people — black, white and brown — flooded downtown streets surrounding the White House, which was barricaded with black metal fencing.
“This fight has been happening for many, many decades, hundreds of years, and at this point it’s time for a change,” said Washington native Christine Montgomery.
“I’m here so my son is not the next hashtag that is circulating worldwide,” she added, indicating her 10-year-old child standing next to her.
On a sunny but oppressively hot day, many people wore masks because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Volunteers gave out water, hand sanitizer and other supplies as the area took on a block party vibe, with music, mural painting, food trucks, and vendors selling Black Lives Matter T-shirts.
Helicopters circled overhead as some protesters danced — but the pain which drove many in to the streets was never far below the surface, as others yelled “This ain’t no party!”
Military personnel as well as police watched over the gathering. But there appeared to be fewer than on previous days, and some gave the protesters small smiles and waves as they marched by.
On the National Mall, fencing and uniformed guards blocked protesters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr famously delivered his “I have a dream” speech in 1963.
The protests were ignited by videos of a police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes as he pleaded for his life — the latest unarmed black person to be killed by white law enforcement officers.
The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder.
turday in other US cities.
Tens of thousands rallied across New York City and Philadelphia, Chicago shut down the city’s Lake Shore Drive to facilitate protests, and demonstrators marched in Los Angeles.
In San Francisco, thousands marched across the Golden Gate Bridge, briefly stopping traffic as they spilled into the driving lanes.
In Seattle, authorities announced a temporary ban on tear gas. A federal judge in Denver forbade the use of chemical agents and projectiles like rubber bullets against peaceful protesters. And in Dallas, police marched in solidarity with protesters.
The unrest has handed US President Donald Trump — the target of many a biting protest sign and chant — one of the greatest challenges of his tumultuous presidency.
While condemning Floyd’s death, he has adopted a tough stance toward protesters, calling them “thugs” or “terrorists” and threatening a military crackdown.
“LAW & ORDER!” the president tweeted as evening fell Saturday, adding later that the crowd in DC was “much smaller” than anticipated.