George Floyd death: Trump downplays huge day of Black Lives Matter protests

7 June 2020, 04:36 | Updated: 7 June 2020, 06:56

America has seen one of its largest days of protests against racism and police brutality since George Floyd died in custody.

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, mostly wearing masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, marched in cities across the country on the 12th day of protests.

A second memorial service for Mr Floyd, who died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on 25 May, was held in Raeford, North Carolina, where he was born. Hundreds lined up to pay their respects ahead of a private family service later in the day and his funeral on Tuesday in Houston.

Peaceful protests

Washington DC's protest was shaping up to be the largest in the country - and the world - as people of all colours demanded Donald Trump deal with institutional racism in America's police forces.

A party-like atmosphere, with a serious undertone, was among the capital's tens of thousands of protesters, which included families and people of all ages, playing music and carrying signs saying "fed up", "all lives do not matter until black lives do", and "my black son matters".

There were noticeably fewer uniformed officers than earlier in the week and they were generally more relaxed, but the White House was heavily armed, with six buses of uniformed military personnel wearing body armour and carrying shields unloading into the grounds of the president's home.

Despite the massive crowds, Mr Trump tweeted: "Much smaller crowd in DC than anticipated."

The peaceful atmosphere appeared to continue across the country following pockets of violence earlier this week and last week.

Violence has largely subdued since the three police officers who were with Derek Chauvin, the officer who knelt on Mr Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes before he died, were arrested on Wednesday and Chauvin's charge was upgraded to second-degree murder.

However, two police officers in Buffalo, New York, were charged with assault on Saturday after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester who smashed his head on the pavement as officers walked by.

In New York, where an 8pm curfew remains but was not tightly enforced, a large crowd of protesters marched over Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan and up a deserted Broadway where many shops were boarded up over fears of looting.

Thousands more gathered in Harlem to march downtown to Washington Square Park but there were few signs of violence.

One of the more surprising protests was a gathering of about 200 people in the east Texas town of Vidor, infamous for its long association with the Ku Klux Klan.

Philadelphia saw demonstrators gathering on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum and chanting "no justice, no peace".

The US's most populous state, California, had protests in several cities, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, where protesters blocked traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge briefly as motorists honked their horns in solidarity.

Marching for George Floyd and others recently killed

Most cities had lifted curfews imposed following violence, including Atlanta, where the protest to City Hall was more like a festival.

But there was a serious undertone as not only were they marching for Mr Floyd and all black people targeted unfairly by police, but also for two college students who were pulled out of their car last Saturday and shocked with a stun gun.

The incident was caught on video by a local TV station and six officers were fired and charged.

In Louisville, Kentucky, hundreds of people also had a cause closer to home as they joined a vigil for Breonna Taylor, a black woman shot and killed by police nearly three months ago as they attempted to search her home for drugs. None were found.

And in Minneapolis, the city where Mr Floyd died, the mayor Jacob Frey was forced to walk through hundreds of people, mainly sitting down, as they chanted "shame" after he said he does not want to defund the police.

UK and France protests turn violent

Supporters of the Black Lives Matter movement have been out in force around the world, including in London where a march remained peaceful until Saturday evening when some people started throwing bottles at police outside Downing Street.

After a noticeably thinned down police presence, mounted officers were brought in to calm the crowd, with one officer hitting a traffic light and falling off her horse.

She remains in hospital in a non-life threatening condition and the horse made its own way back to the nearby stables.

In France, hundreds of people gathered in Paris in defiance of a police ban on large protests as they chanted Adam Traore's name, a black man whose death in police custody has been likened to Mr Floyd's death.

Authorities in the southern city of Marseille fired tear gas and pepper spray in skirmishes with protesters who hurled bottles and rocks.

:: Listen to the All Out Politics podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker