Anti-racism protesters flood US streets in huge, peaceful push for change

Massive demonstrations against racism and police brutality filled some of the nation’s most famous cityscapes Saturday, with tens of thousands of people marching peacefully in scenes that were more often festive than tense. Wearing masks and urging police reform, protesters 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. On a hot, humid day, protesters gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in neighborhoods. 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, f amous 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.

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