Tens of thousands of demonstrators rallied in Washington, DC, and other US cities on Saturday, demanding an end to racism and brutality by law enforcement, as protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd stretched into the 12th day.
A Lincoln Memorial rally and march to the White House marked the largest outpouring yet of protests nationwide since video footage emerged showing Floyd, an unarmed Black man in handcuffs, lying face down and struggling to breathe as a white police officer knelt on his neck.
“It feels like I get to be a part of history and a part of the group of people who are trying to change the world for everyone,” said Jamilah Muahyman, a Washington resident at a demonstration near the White House.
Floyd’s May 25 death has sparked a storm of protests in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, thrusting the highly charged debate over racial justice back to the forefront of the political agenda five months before the November US presidential election.
An almost festive atmosphere prevailed among protesters assembled at an outdoor strip newly rechristened Black Lives Matter Plaza – the phrase “Black Lives Matter” painted in large yellow letters on the pavement – a block from the White House.
It was near the spot where US Park Police and military personnel cleared Lafayette Square of peaceful demonstrators with chemical spray and smoke grenades on Monday night, so President Donald Trump could walk from the White House through the park to a church to hold a bible aloft for cameras.
On Saturday, Washington, DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser, a vocal critic of Trump’s response to the protests this week, was spotted in the crowd while songs such as “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond and “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar blared from loudspeakers.