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Protesters flood streets nationwide in huge, peaceful push for change

People march to the Mishawaka Police Department during a protest over racial injustice and the deaths of Black citizens at the hands of police Saturday in Mishawaka, Ind.Robert Franklin/Associated Press

Thousands of protesters streamed into the nation’s capital and other major cities Saturday in another huge mobilization against police brutality and racial injustice, while George Floyd was remembered in his North Carolina hometown by mourners who waited hours for a glimpse of his golden coffin.

Wearing masks and calling for police reform, protesters peacefully marched across the U.S. and on four other continents, collectively producing perhaps the largest one-day mobilization since Floyd’s death 12 days ago at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

The dozens of demonstrations capped a week of nearly constant protests that swelled beyond anything the nation has seen in at least a generation. After frequent episodes of violence following the black man's death, the crowds in the U.S. shifted to a calmer tenor in recent days and authorities in many cities began lifting curfews because they experienced little unrest and no arrests.

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On Saturday, authorities in some places seemed to take a lower profile and protests had a festive feel.

Demonstrations continued in New York City, with thousands taking to the streets and parks.

Protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan, where other groups marched or gathered in places like Foley Square, home to state and federal court buildings, and Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.

Protesters and activists walk across the Brooklyn Bridge Saturday in New York. Craig Ruttle/Associated Press

On a hot, humid day in Washington, throngs of protesters gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in residential neighborhoods. Some turned intersections into dance floors. Tents offered snacks and water, tables with merchandise and even a snow cone station.

One Washington protester, Pamela Reynolds, said she was seeking greater accountability for police.

“The laws are protecting them,” said the 37-year-old African American teacher. Among the changes she’s seeking is a federal ban on police chokeholds and a requirement for police to wear body cameras.

The crowd erupted in applause as Mayor Muriel Bowser walked along the portion of 16th Street that she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.

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Art Lindy, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, shouted “Vice President Bowser” as the mayor strolled by. He was referring to her defiant response to Trump's taunts.

Bowser "has done an incredible job standing up to the face of federal power,” the 56-year-old construction manager said.

Many groups headed toward the White House, which has been 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’s ordered authorities to crack down on unrest, had no public events on his daily schedule.

The demonstrations extended to his golf resort in Doral, Florida, just outside Miami, where about 100 protesters gathered.

Elsewhere, the backdrops included some of the nation’s most famous cityscapes. Peaceful marchers filed across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. They walked along the boulevards of Hollywood and the street in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, famous for country music-themed bars and restaurants.

People cross over lanes to join others marching south on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco Saturday at a protest over the Memorial Day death of George Floyd.Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

In Philadelphia and Chicago, marchers peacefully chanted, carried signs and occasionally knelt silently. Protesters flooded the streets in a massive showing near the Philadelphia Museum of Art and its famous “Rocky” steps, chanting “No justice, no peace!” before setting off for City Hall area.

Atop a parking garage in downtown Atlanta, a group of black college band alumni serenaded protesters with a tuba-heavy mix of tunes. Standing within earshot, black business owner Leah Aforkor Quaye said it was her first time hitting the streets.

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“This makes people so uncomfortable, but the only way things are happening is if we make people uncomfortable,” Quaye said.

In Raeford, North Carolina, a small town near Floyd’s birthplace of Fayetteville, a long line of people formed outside a Free Will Baptist church, waiting to enter in small groups. At a private memorial service later in the day, mourners sang along with a choir. On display at the front of the chapel was a large photo of Floyd and a portrait of him adorned with an angel’s wings and halo.

Mourners arrived for George Floyd's viewing and memorial service at Cape Fear Conference B Church in Raeford, North Carolina, on Saturday.LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

The line of people waiting to view the coffin included families with young children and teenagers. One young woman wore a green and gold graduation cap and gown as she walked beside her parents. Most people wore surgical masks or cloth face coverings.

When a hearse bearing Floyd’s coffin arrived, chants of “Black Power,” “George Floyd” and “No justice, no peace,” echoed from beneath the covered entrance.

“It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black,” said a man in the crowd, Erik Carlos of Fayetteville. “It was a heavy hit, especially knowing that George Floyd was born near my hometown. It made me feel very vulnerable at first.”

Protesters and their supporters in public office say they are determined to turn the extraordinary outpouring of anger and grief into change, notably in regard to policing policies.

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Civil rights advocates march in Washington, D.C., on Saturday to mourn black lives taken by police brutality. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Astrid Riecken for The Washington PostAstrid Riecken/For The Washington Post

One of the Washington protesters, Pamela Reynolds, said she was seeking greater accountability for police.

“The laws are protecting them so I need to see to change with the laws and then that way they can actually get convicted because a charge is not a conviction,” said the 37-year-old African American teacher.

Among the changes she’s seeking is a federal ban on police chokeholds and a requirement for police to wear body cameras.

Theresa Bland, 68, a retired teacher and real estate agent protesting at the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, had a broader agenda in mind.

“I’m looking at affordable housing, political justice, prison reform, the whole ball of wax,” she said. “The world is so askew right now ... with people dying from the virus and people dying in prisons and people dying because there’s not enough food.”

Some tangible steps have already been taken.

In Minneapolis, city officials have agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints by police and to require officers to try to stop any other officers they see using improper force. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use a neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain. The police chief in Bellevue, across the water from Seattle, largely banned officers from using neck restraints, while police in Reno, Nevada’s second-largest city, also updated their use-of-force policy.

Democrats in Congress are preparing a sweeping package of police reforms, which are expected to included changes to police-accountability laws, such as revising immunity provisions and creating a database of police use-of-force incidents. Revamped training requirements are planned, too, among them a ban on chokeholds. The prospects of reforms clearing a divided Congress are unclear.

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Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has ordered the city’s police not to use a type of tear gas except as a last resort in life-threatening situations. Wheeler issued a statement Saturday saying he shares community concerns about the use of CS gas, especially during a respiratory-illness pandemic.

Critics have called on the Portland Police Bureau to permanently ban the use of CS gas on protesters. The announcement came a day after the mayor said police would no longer use a “long-range acoustical device,” or LRAD, to disperse protesters. The device can emit high-pitched, loud frequencies and can cause hearing damage.

Late Saturday in Seattle, police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse a crowd of protesters, the ninth consecutive day of George Floyd protests in the city.

The mayhem in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood followed a large, peaceful demonstration earlier in the day with medical workers demonstrating against racism and police brutality. It also came a day after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best imposed a 30-day moratorium on the department’s use of one kind of tear gas.

KING-TV reports that a small group of protesters started throwing objects at officers about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Police ordered the crowd to move, then used incendiary devices.

After police were severely criticized by protesters and public officials alike for using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse largely peaceful crowds, Durkan and Best said Friday outside groups would review and update crowd-control policies, including the use of pepper spray and deadly force techniques such as neck and choke holds. She and the mayor added that the ban on one kind of tear gas known as CS could be extended if groups need more time for policy review.

Demonstrators faced off with law enforcement personnel near the Seattle Police Departments East Precinct in Seattle.David Ryder/Getty

In Richmond, Virginia, the former capital of the Confederacy, demonstrators toppled a statue of Gen. Williams Carter Wickham from its pedestal after a day of mostly peaceful demonstrations across the commonwealth.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that most of the demonstrators had already dispersed when a rope was tied around the Confederate statue, which has stood since 1891 in Richmond’s Monroe Park, which is surrounded by the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. In 2017, some of Wickham’s descendants urged the city to remove the statue.

A Richmond police spokeswoman didn’t know if there were any arrests and the extent of any damage.

Confederate monuments are a major flashpoint in Virginia. Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that a state-owned statue of former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would be removed from its perch on the famed Monument Avenue “as soon as possible.”

The statue of Confederate Gen. Williams Carter Wickham after protesters pulled it down Saturday.ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/Associated Press

Meanwhile in New York, two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester, who fell backwards onto the pavement and was hospitalized. Both pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and were released without bail. The two were suspended without pay Friday after a TV crew captured the confrontation.

In London, thousands of demonstrators endured cold rain to gather in Parliament Square, a traditional venue for protests. They knelt in silence and chanted Floyd’s name before applauding his memory and then starting a march. Some clashes between protesters and police broke out near the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In Paris, hundreds of people gathered at the Place de la Concorde in defiance of a police ban on large protests. Members of the multiracial crowd chanted the name of Adama Traore, a black man whose death while in police custody a few years ago has been likened by critics of French police to Floyd’s death in Minnesota.

Police in the French port city of Marseille fired tear gas and pepper spray in skirmishes with protesters who hurled bottles and rocks.

Protesters react to tear gas fired by French riot police in Marseille, southern France, Saturday.Daniel Cole/Associated Press

Crary reported from New York and Foreman from Raeford, North Carolina. Associated Press reporters from around the world around the U.S. contributed to this report.