WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Protesters are expected to gather in Washington for a huge demonstration on Saturday as street marches across the United States over the killing of a black man in custody enter a 12th day and authorities move to rein in policing tactics.
George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. The killing has sparked protests against racism and police brutality in cities and smaller communities nationwide, as well as demonstrations around the world.
Some activists have called on social media for a million people to attend Saturday's rally in the U.S. capital.
“We have a lot of public, open source information to suggest that the event on this upcoming Saturday may be one of the largest we've ever had in the city,” Washington DC Police Chief Peter Newsham told local media.
He did not give a crowd estimate. Local media has predicted tens of thousands of attendees.
Six buses unloaded several hundred uniformed military personnel, most carrying shields or body armor, at the White House grounds early Saturday, a Reuters photographer said.
Marches and rallies took place on Friday in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, New York and Denver, among other places, while protesters massed again, in the rain, in front of the White House. The night-time protests were largely peaceful but tension remains high even as authorities in several places take steps to reform police procedures.
A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades, with his ruling citing examples of protesters and journalists being injured by police.
“These are peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and medics who have been targeted with extreme tactics meant to suppress riots, not to suppress demonstrations,” U.S. District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in the ruling.
In Minneapolis, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke-holds, while California's Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom, said he would end state police training of restraints that restrict the carotid artery in the neck.
In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing “Say Their Name” reforms, including banning choke-holds and making police disciplinary records publicly available.
“Mr Floyd's murder was the breaking point,” said Cuomo, a Democrat. “People are saying enough is enough.”
Protesters were expected around the world on Saturday. Thousands took to the streets across Australia, as did hundreds in Tokyo and Seoul, while marches were expected around Europe.
NFL: WE WERE WRONG
Black Lives Matter activists have called for cities to defund police departments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who in April proposed increasing law enforcement funding, this week reversed course and said he would seek some $150 million in cuts to the Los Angeles Police Department.
In another sign of how attitudes have changed, National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video denouncing racism in the United States.
The NFL has been locked in a debate with players over kneeling protests during the playing of the national anthem.
Two police officers in Buffalo, New York, were suspended without pay on Thursday and placed under investigation after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground.
But the decision was met with pushback from the officers' colleagues, with all 57 members of the police tactical unit quitting that unit in protest at their treatment.
The demonstrations have erupted as the public and businesses struggle to recover from sweeping lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Disease experts have said the protests could spark new outbreaks.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with U.S. President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches in the nation's capital, had the slogan “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.
After nightfall, Bowser had light projections spelling out the words beamed onto nearby buildings, which she said on Twitter was a “night light” aimed at Trump.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne, Sharon Bernstein, Dan Whitcomb, Matt Spetalnick, Raphael Satter, Keith Coffman, Rich McKay, Lucas Jackson, Linda So and Scott Malone; Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Pravin Char and Daniel Wallis)