Emboldened United States protesters march again, demanding police reforms after George Floyd killing

Emboldened United States protesters march again, demanding police reforms after George Floyd killing

A child looks on with a sign while her father carries a U.S. flag during a protest against racial i
A child looks on with a sign while her father carries a US flag during a protest at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters)

WASHINGTON: A mounting wave of protests demanding police reform after the killing of a black man in Minneapolis swept across the United States on Sunday (Jun 7), building on the momentum of huge demonstrations across the country the day before.

The near-festive tone of many of the weekend protests unfolded with no major violence, in sharp contrast to heated clashes between marchers and police in previous days.

The outpouring of protests followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after being pinned by the neck for nine minutes by a white officer's knee. A bystander's cellphone captured the scene as Floyd pleaded with the officer, choking out the words "I can't breathe".

READ: Minneapolis police to be dismantled: City council

"I have cops in my family, I do believe in a police presence," said Nikky Williams, a black Air Force veteran who marched in Washington on Sunday. "But I do think that reform has got to happen."

The change in the tenor of the demonstrations this weekend may reflect a sense that the demands of protesters for sweeping police reform were resonating in many strata of American society.

Protests after the death of George Floyd, in Washington
Protesters lie in the street during a rally against the death of George Floyd, near the White House in Washington, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

Demonstrators interact during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in
Demonstrators interact during a protest against racial inequality in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

In a step that would have seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago, a majority of the Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to disband the police department in favor of a community-led safety model.

"A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we're going to end the current policing system," Alondra Cano, a member of the Minneapolis council, said on Twitter.

READ: Amid wide US protests, Democrats press anti-racism reforms

One of the largest protests on Sunday was in Los Angeles. A crowd estimated by a local television station at 20,000 packed Hollywood Boulevard, filling the street from curb to curb along the famous strip from Vine Street to Highland Avenue. The crowd assembled after a Twitter message from the rapper YG on Saturday.

In New York, at least half a dozen loosely organized groups of protesters marched through midtown Manhattan carrying handmade signs with slogans including "Defund the Police, Fund Schools."

Protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of Ge
A view shows the World Trade Center as demonstrators march in Manhattan, New York during a protest, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon)

A demonstrator reacts during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in M
A demonstrator reacts during a protest at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

One group marched toward Times Square but was turned aside without incident by police who blocked access to the famous "Crossroads of the World," best known for the annual New Year's Eve ball drop. The area remained cordoned off by police hours later.

It was a far cry from the scene in the country's most populous city on some recent nights, when some officers in riot gear resorted to heavy-handed tactics as they sought to enforce a curfew, and TV images showed looters running rampant on main avenues.

READ: UK slave trader's statue toppled in anti-racism protests

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said the curfew was being lifted on Sunday, a day ahead of schedule.

Criticised by activists who say he should have reined in NYPD officers during recent demonstrations, the mayor also announced a series of reforms he said were designed to build trust between city residents and the police department.

A dog is pictured wearing a cardboard sign during a protest against racial inequality in the afterm
A dog is pictured wearing a cardboard sign during a protest in front of the at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, New York, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

People gather with signs and a U.S. flag during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermat
People gather with signs and a US flag during a protest in front of the at Grand Army Plaza in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz)

De Blasio told reporters he would shift an unspecified amount of money out of the police budget and reallocate it to youth and social services in communities of color.

He said he would also take enforcement of rules on street vending out of the hands of police, who have been accused of using the regulations to harass minority communities.

TALKING REFORM

In the nation's capital, a large and diverse gathering of protesters packed streets near the White House, chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" and "I can't breathe".

A newly erected fence around the White House was decorated by protesters with signs, including some that read: "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace."

READ: What US police are shooting at protesters

A common theme of weekend rallies was a determination to transform outrage over Floyd's death last month into a broader movement seeking far-reaching reforms to the US criminal justice system and its treatment of minorities.

The intensity of protests over the past week began to ebb on Wednesday after prosecutors in Minneapolis arrested all four police officers implicated in Floyd's death. Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneed Floyd, was charged with second-degree murder.

Protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of Ge
A view shows a message in the windows of a building in Manhattan, New York during a protest Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon)

Protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of Ge
People hold placards inside a car in Manhattan, New York during a protest against racial inequality, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Jeenah Moon)

Still, anger in Minneapolis remained intense. The city's mayor ran a gauntlet of jeering protesters on Saturday after telling them he opposed their demands for defunding the city police department.

During a community meeting in a park on Sunday, nine of the 13 City Council members signed a pledge to create a public safety system, work with the community on changes and adopt the changes through budget and policy actions in the coming weeks, the New York Times reported.

READ: Tear gas fired outside White House as protesters rage over death of George Floyd

The renewed calls for racial equality are breaking out across the country as the United States reopens after weeks of unprecedented lockdowns for the coronavirus pandemic and just five months before the Nov 3 presidential election.

US Democrats have largely embraced the activists packing into streets to decry the killings of black men and women by law enforcement, but have so far expressed wariness at protesters' calls to defund the police.

Former US President Barack Obama said in an YouTube commencement address for 2020 graduates that the protests roiling America right now "speak to decades of inaction over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system".

Protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of the death in Minneapolis police custody of Ge
NYU Langone Health workers kneel and raise their fists in Manhattan, New York during a protest against racial inequality, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reyters/Jeenah Moon)

Protest following the death in Minneapolis police custody of George Floyd, in Boston
Demonstrators are seen reflected in a window with the US flag as they attend a protest against racial inequality in Boston, Massachusetts, Jun 7, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Brian Snyder)

Source: Reuters/zl

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