Protesters turned out in force across the US on Tuesday, defying sweeping curfews and a forceful police response.
Thousands of peaceful demonstrators demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to police brutality remained on New York City streets on Tuesday night, despite a new week-long curfew announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in an effort to bring an end to the chaos.
“We’re going to have a tough few days. We’re going to beat it back,” De Blasio said.
On the eighth day of nationwide demonstrations, Floyd’s hometown of Houston held a memorial march that drew tens of thousands.
Floyd’s family was in attendance, alongside the mayor, the police chief and a group of protesters on horseback, with attendees paying respects to a “gentle giant”.
The memorial march was organized by the well-known Houston rappers Trae Tha Truth, who was a longtime friend of Floyd’s, and Bun B, who worked with Floyd’s family for the event. “We’re gonna represent him right,” Trae Tha Truth told the crowd of several hundred gathered for the march. “We are gonna tear the system from the inside out.”
Meanwhile Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna, and her mother, Roxie Washington, made their first public appearance at a press conference in Minneapolis.
“I wanted everybody to know that this is what those officers took from …” Washington said while holding back sobs, her daughter looking up at her. “At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families. Gianna does not have a father. He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle.”
“I’m here for my baby and I’m here for George, because I want justice for him. I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks,” she said, pointing down to her daughter. “And this is the proof that he was a good man.”
Elsewhere, mass demonstrations continued in defiance of local curfews. Armored military vehicles rolled through the streets of Washington DC as protesters marched and kneeled near the White House in the hours before the district’s 7pm curfew.
Protests in the nation’s capital on Tuesday lacked the intensity seen the prior night, when protesters were forcibly cleared from near the White House to make way for Donald Trump.
The crowd outside Lafayette Park was peaceful, using colorful children’s street chalk to write Black Lives Matter slogans on the asphalt in front of St John’s Church.
The capital, however, remains on high alert, with about 1,600 US soldiers moved to the DC region, according to the Pentagon. The troops “are not participating in defense support to civil authority operations”, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Rath Hoffman said in a statement. The president has threatened to use the military to quell civil unrest, but he would have to invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807 to do so.
Thousands gathered for a demonstration at the Washington Monument, while striking images showed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial manned by members of the DC national guard.
In New York City, thousands marched for hours north through Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, waving signs as they made the six-mile journey from One Police Plaza, in lower Manhattan, to the Upper East Side.
The city has extended an 8pm to 5am curfew all week and banned much of Manhattan car traffic overnight as officials struggled to stanch destruction, after chaotic scenes and looting erupted again overnight.
Many remained on the streets as curfew hit, marching primarily in Manhattan and Brooklyn. Thousands were temporarily blockaded on the Manhattan Bridge by police, with protestors from Brooklyn saying they waited at the barricades for more than two hours to try to enter Manhattan.
Police “promised to let us through and told us 10 minutes”, said one Brooklyn resident, who asked not to be identified. “But then time passed and all they did was get lots of NYPD trucks. Their promise was not to let us through but to manipulate citizens for no reason.”
“It was an incredibly peaceful protest, no one did anything divisive or provocative,” said Hannah Jayanti, a Brooklyn resident who had taken her bicycle to the protest to help create a barrier between the police and protesters. At midnight, there were still protesters stuck in either borough attempting to get home.
Elsewhere, a man was fatally shot by police around 10pm in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Crown Heights. An NYPD spokesperson said the incident occurred after officers responded to reports of a shooting and was being investigated further. It was not immediately clear if the shooting was connected to any protests.
With hundreds of cities nationwide imposing curfews in hopes of quelling vandalism, granting law enforcement more arrest powers on those protesting the systemic issues around policing, demonstrations started early in some cities. In San Francisco, thousands marched along Ocean Beach, while thousands more marched in downtown Los Angeles. In Philadelphia, where presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke about Floyd and the demonstrations, protesters kneeled and raised their hands.
In some cities, some actions seemed specifically planned to flout curfews.
With 15 minutes until #DC curfew there seems to be an unspoken agreement that things could get bad fast. Many in the crowd have memories of how quickly things turned yesterday — either they were here, or they watched on TV. Everywhere I look, goggles & bike helmets are going on. pic.twitter.com/VW3a4bxGaw— Marissa J. Lang (@Marissa_Jae) June 2, 2020
The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the curfew in a number of locations, the office in northern California saying that “these measures will only repeat the very problems that our communities are protesting”.
“We urge each city that has enacted a curfew, or is considering one, not to seize upon the momentum of extraordinary government power created by the ongoing pandemic to enact broad and limitless measures,” the ACLU of northern California said in a statement. “In this moment, we should not be moving closer toward a police state.”
Governors in at least six states have called in the national guard.
The continued unrest comes as state of Minnesota filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis police department in the wake of Floyd’s death. The state says it will investigate the department’s policies and practices over the last 10 years to determine whether it has engaged in “systemic” discrimination against people of color.
Back in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is black, said he understood marchers’ pain and told them they were making an impact.
“People that are in elected office and positions of power – we are listening,” Turner said. “It’s important for us to not just listen, but to do. I want you to know your marching, your protesting has not gone in vain. George did not die in vain.”
“The people who knew George the best help set the tone for Houston,” said David Hill, a Houston community activist and pastor at Restoration Community Church, who knows the Floyd family. “They knew what he was about. He truly was a gentle giant, a sweet guy.”
Adam Gabbatt and agencies contributed reporting