Thousands Protest Against Racism In Washington DC

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Thousands are marching against racism and police brutality in Washington DC, as protests in the US sparked by the death of George Floyd enter a 12th day.

Crowds gathered near the Capitol, the Lincoln Memorial and Lafayette Park, where security forces blocked any approach to the nearby White House.

Meanwhile, people paid their respects to Mr Floyd in North Carolina, where he was born, before a memorial service.

Large anti-racism rallies also took place in a number of other countries.

In the UK, Parliament Square in central London was filled with people supporting the Black Lives Matter movement, despite calls by the government to avoid mass gatherings for fear of spreading the coronavirus.

Infections have been confirmed in a handful of US protesters in Kansas, Georgia and Ohio, according to the New York Times.

In Australia, there were major protests in the cities of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians.

Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man, died after being arrested outside a shop in Minneapolis on 25 May.

Video footage showed a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”.

Mr Chauvin has been dismissed and charged with murder. Three other officers who were on the scene have also been sacked and charged with aiding and abetting.

Media captionWatch: ‘I remember George Floyd as me’

In Washington DC, Mayor Muriel Bowser welcomed people gathered on a street near the White House that she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza on Friday.

On Monday, federal law enforcement officers fired smoke grenades to clear a protest in the area ahead of a visit to a church by President Donald Trump.

Ms Bowser said the crowds in the capital had sent a message to Mr Trump.

A young protester holds up a sign saying "Black Lives Matter" near the US Capitol in Washington (6 June 2020)
Image captionPeople in the US capital said they were planning peaceful protests

“If he can take over Washington DC, he can come for any state, and none of us will be safe,” she said. “So today, we pushed the army away from our city.”

“Our soldiers should not be treated that way, they should not be asked to move on American citizens. Today, we say ‘no’; in November, we say ‘next’.”

Ms Bowser has requested the withdrawal of all federal law enforcement officers and National Guard troops from the city, saying their presence is “unnecessary”.

By noon, more than 1,000 protesters had gathered outside Lafayette Park, near the White House, at the newly renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.

The crowd was diverse – with people of different ethnicities, and families with children – and there was an upbeat, if determined, mood. Music was being played and food handed out as protesters chant “George Floyd”, “Breonna Taylor”, and “No justice, no peace”.

Sisters Sarina Lecroy, 20, and Grace Lecroy, 16, at a protest in Washington
Image captionSarina and Grace Lecroy were among the crowd at Lafayette Park, near the White House

Sisters Sarina Lecroy, 20, and Grace Lecroy, 16, said they were protesting for the first time, and that they believed the extent of the public outrage and the nationwide nature of these protests could lead to police reforms.

“We’re just getting started this time, but it [the movement] does feel much more collective than in the past,” said Sarina.

Many placards also reflected the growing debate about how White people should help the cause. One placard held by a demonstrator read: “I may never understand, but I will stand with you.”

What’s happening elsewhere in the US?

Hundreds of people paid their respects to Mr Floyd in Raeford, North Carolina, laying flowers at a public viewing of his body in a church near where he was born.

A private memorial service was then held for members of his family.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper ordered that flags be flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset on Saturday in Mr Floyd’s honour.

In Buffalo, two police officers were charged with second-degree assault after they were filmed pushing a 75-year-old protester to the ground, seriously injuring him.

The officers, who pleaded not guilty and were released without bail, were suspended without pay after footage of the incident went viral on Thursday.

The protester, Martin Gugino, remains in hospital in a serious but stable condition.

Media captionThe man approached police in Buffalo before being pushed backwards

On Friday, the Minneapolis City Council and the Minnesota Department of Human Rights agreed to ban police neck restraints and chokeholds. California Governor Gavin Newsom also said he would move to end state police training in the use of the “carotid restraint”.

Seattle’s mayor, Carmen Best, banned the use by police of CS gas against protesters. And a federal judge in Denver ordered police to stop the use of tear gas, plastic bullets and other non-lethal force.

Meanwhile, the National Football League reversed its policy on protests against racial injustice by players during the national anthem.

What do protesters want?

An end to police brutality is undoubtedly at the forefront of protests nationwide.

But it is not the only concern. Repeated incidents of police brutality may have become the flashpoint, but issues with law enforcement are emblematic of the wider problem of systemic racism and inequality.

Protesters hold up signs saying "Black Lives Matter" near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington (6 June 2020)
Image captionAn end to police brutality is at the forefront of protests across the US

On social media and on the streets, those in support of the movement have called on elected officials to address these longstanding inequalities, from law enforcement to mass incarceration to healthcare.

Black Americans are jailed at five times the rate of white Americans and sentenced for drug offences six times more, often despite equal rates of drug use, according to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Black mothers die in childbirth at over twice the rate of white mothers, according to national health data. Decades of government-sanctioned segregation have also seen inequalities across school systems, housing and other public resources.

Media captionThe US’s history of racial inequality has paved the way for modern day police brutality

A 2019 Pew Research Center study found more than eight-in-10 black adults say the legacy of slavery still affects black Americans’ position today. Half say it is unlikely America will ever see true racial equality.

As demonstrator Kyla Berges told BBC Minute: “The system has failed me for 300 plus years, so what do I have to do to make it change?”

US protests timeline

George Floyd dies after police arrest

Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial
Image captionTributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial Image copyright byGetty Images

George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying “I can’t breathe”. He is pronounced dead later in hospital.

Protests begin

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Image captionDemonstrators in Minneapolis Image copyright byAFP

Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.

Protests spread

Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon
Image captionProtesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon Image copyright byReuters

Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting “I can’t breathe”. Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.

Trump tweets

President Trump tweets about the unrest
Image captionPresident Trump tweets about the unrest Image copyright byReuters

President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet.  He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”. The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for “glorifying violence”.

CNN reporter arrested

Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest
Image captionMembers of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest Image copyright byReuters

A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.

Derek Chauvin charged with murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd
Image captionFormer Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd Image copyright byGetty Images

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

Sixth night of protests

Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York
Image captionDemonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York Image copyright byReuters

Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested.  Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.

Trump threatens military response

Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church
Image captionTrump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church Image copyright byEPA

President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and “defend their residents” he will deploy the army and “quickly solve the problem for them”. Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.

Eighth night of protests

George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston
Image captionGeorge Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston Image copyright byGetty

Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.

Memorial service for George Floyd

Mourners gather to remember George Floyd
Image captionMourners gather to remember George Floyd Image copyright byGetty

A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis.  Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.

BBC





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