By Beatriz Pascual Macias
Washington, Jun 6 (efe-epa).- Chanting “Black Lives Matter,” thousands of people took to the streets of the US capital on Saturday to protest the May 25 killing in Minneapolis of African American George Floyd by a white policeman.
Demonstrators gathered at several different points in Washington, including Capitol Hill and the Lincoln Memorial, before setting out on marches that converged near the vastly expanded security perimeter around the White House.
The throng remained there for hours, singing and chanting the names of victims to demand structural change to end police violence against African Americans, who are three times more likely than whites to die at the hands of cops, according to the website Mapping Police Violence.
Seated on the sidewalk opposite the Executive Mansion was the family of Lamar Hacelton, an African American man who says that he brought his four daughters to the protest to watch history being made.
“It’s important that they have the experience of being here,” he told Efe. “I want them to learn it’s important to learn to defend yourself.”
One of the girls, 11-year-old Alexia, carried a homemade Black Lives Matter sign.
She expressed the hope that the protests taking place across the United States and around the world will lead to a society that is not “so cruel.”
As she spoke, protesters walked past, some with their fists in the air, amid a much smaller and less aggressive police presence than earlier this week.
Demonstrations, accompanied in some places by looting and vandalism, spread in the days following Floyd’s killing, which was captured on video.
The disturbances prompted authorities in dozens of cities, including Washington, to impose curfews, while governors in a number of states activate the National Guard to patrol the streets.
On Monday, prior to the start of the curfew, federal law enforcement personnel acting on the orders of Attorney General William Barr resorted to tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and flash-bang grenades to clear peaceful protesters from Lafayette Square, next to the White House, so President Donald Trump could walk to a nearby church to be photographed holding the Bible.
That incident, combined with Trump’s threats to declare martial law and deploy the Army to states if governors didn’t crack down on demonstrators, spurred a torrent of condemnation.
And the criticism came not only from Democrats, but even from some of Trump’s fellow Republicans, as well as from former Defense Secretary James Mattis and other retired military brass.
The scene in the District of Columbia – as Washington is officially designated – on Saturday was dramatically different, as police went without helmets and bulletproof vests and protests unfolded in a relaxed, even festive atmosphere.
Overnight, some of the 1,600 military personnel deployed here earlier this week were withdrawn.
Organizers set the goal of matching the million people who took part in the Women’s March of Jan. 21, 2017. Authorities offered no estimates of the size of Saturday’s crowd, but US media outlets referred to tens of thousands.
On a hot, humid day, DC establishments such as the 9:30 Club – a concert venue – and the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church opened their doors to protesters needing to use the bathroom or rest.
Large numbers also turned out in New York, where there were at least two-dozen separate events. While San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge was briefly shut down by thousands of demonstrators.
Saturday was the 12th consecutive day of a mobilization against police violence that has extended to 650 cities in all 50 US states.