Protesters in cities across the U.S. hit the streets for a 10th straight night Thursday just hours after George Floyd’s family condemned the “pandemic of racism and discrimination” at a memorial service for the man who died while a police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
When the two-hour service was over and Floyd’s coffin was wheeled out of the sanctuary at North Central University in Minneapolis, the thousand or so waiting outside broke into chants of “We can’t breathe” and “No justice, no peace. Prosecute the police!”
In New York City, the site of some of the biggest protests against police brutality, thousands gathered peacefully in the afternoon at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn to remember Floyd. Later, dozens of protesters gathering at Washington Square Park in Manhattan while police watched warily from the periphery.
Hundreds more marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in a massive show of mourning for Floyd, 46, who died May 25 while in Minneapolis police custody.
Just about everybody appeared to be heeding organizers’ warnings to wear masks although admonitions to social distance fell by the wayside as the marchers crossed the best known bridge in a crowded city where more than 20,000 people have died from the coronavirus.
Outside Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital, doctors and other health care workers who have been lauded for weeks for their efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, returned the favor by gathering outside and taking a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“This protest means so much to me, how we all came together as one in the hospital for this cause,” mortuary technician Robert Almanzar said.
Dozens of protesters were later arrested in Manhattan and The Bronx when the 8 p.m. curfew kicked in and they refused to leave the street.
In Washington, workers continued to wall off more of the White House complex to keep demonstrators at bay, and by Thursday they had extended new fencing down 17th Street from Pennsylvania Avenue to Constitution Avenue.
The reinforced fence-building went into overdrive after demonstrators breached a temporary barrier last Friday, prompting the Secret Service to rush President Donald Trump to a bunker inside the White House for his safety.
When asked by NBC News why the additional fencing was necessary. White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere replied, “The White House does not comment on security protocols and decisions.”
Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said the department was preparing for big numbers of “peaceful demonstrators coming to exercise their First Amendment rights” on Saturday.
“We have a lot of public open source information to suggest that the event on this upcoming Saturday may be one of the largest that we’ve had in the city,” he said.
Still, in a sign that tensions might be easing, NBC News first reported Thursday that some of the more than 1,600 active-duty soldiers who were called to the nation’s capital in case Trump invoked the Insurrection Act to deal with demonstrators may soon go back to their bases.
Large protests were also being planned for Saturday in Los Angeles, where in recent days the police have come under criticism for cracking down hard on demonstrators after several troubling videos have worked their way onto the internet.
In Chicago, another city where relations between the local police and African-Americans have long been fraught, Mayor Lori Lightfoot denounced vigilantism after groups of white man with baseball bats who were seen Wednesday night patrolling the streets of Bridgeport, a once Irish-enclave that was the home of the Daley political family.
“I absolutely support neighbors being vigilant as to what’s going on on the streets and in their blocks,” Lightfoot said. “But taking up arms, that leads to chaos and we’re not supporting vigilantism in the city of Chicago under any circumstances.”
In Atlanta, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms took to the streets with demonstrators marching Thursday through downtown.
“We are gathered to honor those who have died,” Bottoms said. “Their lives mattered. And I’m out here to tell you that you all matter to me.”
Meanwhile, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh addressed protesters gathered in Jamaica Plain and led a moment of silence that lasted for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that fired Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Elsewhere Thursday, protesters were camped out in front of police stations and municipal buildings from Asheville, North Carolina, to Anaheim, California, and on the march in New Orleans, Nashville and San Diego.
A large group of demonstrators crowd gathered outside Seattle’s City Hall while protest organizers were meeting inside with police and city officials.
There were reports of sporadic clashes in Tampa, Florida, between police and protesters. And in Buffalo, a protester who appeared to have been shoved to the pavement by a police officer lay apparently unconscious and bleeding, a violent encounter that was caught on camera and went viral.