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Washington, other US cities gear for more protests over police brutality

06 June 2020, MVT 20:32
George Floyd, the African-American man whose harrowing videotaped death while being arrested has unleashed sweeping nationwide protests for racial justice. PHOTO: AFP
Protesters gather to demonstrate the death of George Floyd on June 4, 2020 at Cadman Plaza in Brooklyn, New York. - On May 25, 2020, Floyd, a 46-year-old black man suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill, died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes. (Photo by Angela Weiss / AFP)
06 June 2020, MVT 20:32

The US capital girded Saturday for a big demonstration against police brutality as protesters angry over the death of George Floyd and broader issues of economic and social inequality for black Americans take their nationwide movement into a second boisterous weekend.

With protests in solidarity underway around the world, from Sydney to London, police closed off areas around the White House as they prepared for a noon-time (1600 GMT) demonstration that was expected to draw tens of thousands of people on a hot, sunny day.

Early on Saturday, protesters were already streaming towards the White House for the rally.

Protests were expected around the nation, including in New York, Miami and Minneapolis.

Also on Saturday a remembrance for Floyd was to be held in Raeford, North Carolina, the state where he was born, following an initial ceremony in Minneapolis that was held Thursday.

The protests were sparked by a police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck for almost nine minutes as he pleaded for his life on May 25 in Minneapolis -- the latest case of white law enforcement authorities being blamed for the death of an unarmed black man.

The rage the case triggered has exploded into the most serious civil unrest in America since the assassination of Rev. Martin Luther King in 1968.

It also comes during the coronavirus pandemic in which non-whites have been shown to die in disproportionate numbers and also lose their jobs more readily than whites as the economy tanked due to lockdown measures.

On Friday, the mayor of Washington, who has clashed with President Donald Trump over his hardline handling of the unrest, unveiled a street mural that reads "Black Lives Matter" in giant letters on the road leading to the presidential mansion.

Abroad, protesters echoed the rage of the American demonstrators.

Taking a knee, chanting and ignoring social distancing measures, outraged protesters from Sydney to London kicked off a weekend of global rallies against racism and police brutality.

Londoners rallied outside parliament and planned to hold a big demonstration in front of the US embassy on the opposite bank of the Thames River on Sunday.

In Australia, aboriginal protesters performed a traditional smoking ceremony at the start of a "Black Lives Matter" protest in Sydney, which was sanctioned at the last minute after initially being banned on health grounds.

On Friday Trump celebrated unexpectedly good employment numbers by saying it was a "great day" for Floyd.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee for November's election, called Trump's comments "frankly despicable," as thousands took to streets across America for a 10th straight day of anti-racism demonstrations.

And more police excesses caused more anger.

In Buffalo, New York, two policemen were suspended without pay after a video showed them shoving over a 75-year-old protester who fell and suffered a head injury, causing him to bleed from the ear.

In Indianapolis, police launched an investigation after a video emerged showing at least four officers hitting a woman with batons and firing pepper balls at her on Sunday night.

And in New York City Thursday, officers baton-charged dozens of peaceful protesters defying a curfew in the Bronx after pinning them in, leaving them with nowhere to run, several reports said.

- 'Out of control' -

New York Police Commissioner Dermot Shea announced Friday that two officers had been suspended following "several troubling incidents," one for pushing a woman to the ground and another for pulling down an man's face mask and spraying pepper spray at him. Both incidents were caught on video.

The unrest has handed Trump one of the greatest challenges of his tumultuous presidency.

While condemning Floyd's death, he has adopted a tough stance towards the protesters, calling them "thugs" or "terrorists" at one point, and has been accused of exacerbating tensions.

US civil rights groups have filed a case suing Trump after security forces fired pepper balls and smoke bombs to clear peaceful demonstrators in Washington before the president walked to a church for a photo op earlier this week.

Some of the early protests were marred by rioting and looting but they have been mostly peaceful since then.

Curfews have been lifted in Washington, Los Angeles and other cities but New York's is due to run for the next three nights.

Washington, United States | AFP

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