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George Floyd murder: Protesters flood US streets for change; two cops charged for assaulting 75-year-old man

Collectively, it was perhaps the largest one-day mobilisation since Floyd died 12 days ago and came as many cities began lifting curfews that authorities imposed.

Published: 07th June 2020 08:11 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th June 2020 08:34 AM   |  A+A-

A group of protesters take a knee while marching in lower Manhattan, Saturday, June 6, 2020, in New York. (Photo | AP)

By PTI

WASHINGTON: Massive demonstrations against racism and police brutality filled some of the nation's most famous cityscapes, with tens of thousands of people marching peacefully in scenes that were more often festive than tense.

Wearing masks and urging police reform, protesters on Saturday gathered in dozens of places from coast to coast, while mourners in North Carolina waited for hours to glimpse the golden coffin carrying the body of native son George Floyd, a black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has galvanised the expanding movement.

Collectively, it was perhaps the largest one-day mobilisation since Floyd died 12 days ago and came as many cities began lifting curfews that authorities imposed following initial spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses.

Authorities have softened restrictions as the number of arrests plummeted.

Demonstrations also reached four other continents, ending in clashes in two European cities.

The largest US demonstration appeared to be in Washington, where streams of protesters flooded streets that were closed to traffic.

ALSO READ | Black lives matter: As Trump blames Antifa behind US violence, protest records show scant evidence

On a hot, humid day, protesters gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in neighbourhoods.

Some turned intersections into dance floors.

Tents offered snacks and water.

On one block, the chime of an ice cream truck competed with the rumble of a helicopter overhead.

Pamela Reynolds said she came seeking greater accountability for police.

"The laws are protecting them," said the 37-year-old African American teacher.

Among the changes she wants is a federal ban on police chokeholds and a requirement for officers to wear body cameras.

Many groups headed toward the White House, which was 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 has urged authorities to crack down on unrest, had no public events.

The demonstrations extended to Trump's golf resort just outside Miami, where about 100 protesters gathered.

Elsewhere, the backdrops included some of the nation's most famous landmarks.

Peaceful marchers filed across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

They walked the boulevards of Hollywood and the street in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, famous for country music-themed bars and restaurants.

Many wore masks, a reminder of the danger that the protests could exacerbate the spread of the coronavirus.

Roderick Sweeney, who is black, said he was overwhelmed to see the large turnout of white protesters waving signs that said "Black Lives Matter" as hundreds gathered near the Golden Gate Bridge.

ALSO READ | US protests: Amid tensions between White House, Pentagon, top army officer reaches out to Capitol Hill leaders

"We've had discussions in our family and among friends that nothing is going to change until our white brothers and sisters voice their opinion," said Sweeney, 49.

The large turnout of white protesters "is sending a powerful message."

In Philadelphia and Chicago, marchers chanted, carried signs and occasionally knelt in silence.

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.

A large crowd of medical workers, many in lab coats and scrubs. marched to Seattle's City Hall.

Signs they held read, "Nurses kneel with you, not on you" and "Police violence and racism are a public health emergency."

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, 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," said Quaye, who is black.

In Raeford, North Carolina, a small town near Floyd's birthplace, people 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.

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 nearby Fayetteville.

"It made me feel very vulnerable at first."

Protesters and their supporters in the public office say they're determined to turn the extraordinary outpouring into change, notably overhauling policing policies.

In Washington, Minneapolis and elsewhere, marchers urged officials to "defund police", a demand that has become more common in recent days.

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.

Some reforms already have been enacted.

Minneapolis officials have agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints by police and to require officers to stop other officers using improper force.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state's police-training program to stop teaching officers a neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

The police chief in Bellevue, a wealthy city near Seattle, largely banned officers from using neck restraints, while police in Reno, Nevada, updated their use-of-force policy.

Meanwhile, two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday, prosecutors said, after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester in recent demonstrations over the death of George Floyd.

Robert McCabe and Aaron Torgalski, who surrendered Saturday morning, pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault.

They were released without bail.

McCabe, 32, and Torgalski, 39, "crossed a line" when they shoved the man down hard enough for him to fall backward and hit his head on the sidewalk, Erie County District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference, calling the victim "a harmless 75-year-old man.

The officers had been suspended without pay Friday after a TV crew captured the confrontation the night before.

If convicted of the felony assault charge, they face up to seven years in prison.

Phone messages were left on Saturday with their lawyers.

The footage shows the man, identified as longtime activist Martin Gugino, approaching a line of helmeted officers holding batons as they cleared demonstrators from Niagara Square around the time of an 8 pm curfew.

Two officers push Gugino backward, and he hits his head on the pavement.

Blood spills as officers walk past.

One officer leans down to check on the injured man before another officer urges the colleague to keep walking.

The police officers "knew this was bad," Flynn said of the video.

"Look at their body language."

The video of the encounter sparked outrage online as demonstrators take to cities across the country to protest racial injustice sparked by the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck for several minutes.

"I think there was criminal liability from what I saw on the video," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said at a briefing Saturday.

"I think what the mayor did and the district attorney did was right, and I applaud them for acting as quickly as they did."

"What we saw was horrendous and disgusting, and I believe, illegal," he added.

But dozens of Buffalo police officers who were angered over their fellow officers' suspensions stepped down from the department's crowd control unit Friday.

The resigning officers did not leave their jobs altogether.

A crowd of off-duty officers, firefighters and others gathered on Saturday outside the courthouse in a show of support for the accused officers and cheered when they were released.

"It was tremendous, tremendous to see," John Evans, president of the Buffalo Police Benevolent Association, told WIVB-TV.

"I just think it's a strong indication of the outrage basically over this travesty."

Flynn said he understood the concerns of officers who don't feel they are being supported and pointed out that he's also prosecuting protesters "who have turned into agitators" and "need to be dealt with as well."

"There will be some who say that I'm choosing sides here," he said.

"And I say that's ridiculous. I'm not on anyone's side."

About a 100 protesters gathered Saturday at President Donald Trump's golf resort just outside Miami.

The protest was organized by Latinos for Black Lives Matter.

Many carried signs saying such things as "Vote Him Out" and "Don't Be A Bunker Boy," the latter a reference to reports that Trump went into the White House bunker when protests in Washington got more violent.

Trump insists he only went there briefly for an inspection.

In Doral, about a dozen police officers were on hand for the protest but did not take any actions.

Several hundred people also gathered in downtown Miami for a march with plans for a bigger rally later in the day.

The march was peaceful and led by a pastor who read Bible verses before everyone set out.



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