Former Minneapolis police officers charged in George Floyd’s death to appear in court

(Reuters) – The former Minneapolis police officer charged with the May 25 killing of George Floyd, and three other former officers charged in the case are expected to appear in court on Monday.

Derek Chauvin, 44, was arrested on May 29, four days after he pinned his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, causing his death. He is facing a second-degree murder charge.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers, J. Alexander Kueng, Tou Thao and Thomas Lane, have been charged with aiding and abetting in the case. None of the officers have entered a plea.

Bail for Chauvin was set at $1.25 million or $1 million under certain conditions, while bail for the other three officers was set at $1 million each or $750,000 under certain conditions.

Chauvin and Thao, 34, remain in custody, while Kueng, 26, and Lane, 37, have been released on conditional bond, according to jail records.

Monday’s court proceedings in Minneapolis will not be broadcast following a judge’s ruling on Friday. Chauvin will attend the hearing remotely via a video link, while the other three defendants will appear in person, according to the court’s website.

The death of Floyd, 46, sparked nationwide protests calling for racial justice and police reform.

Earlier this month, the Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to pursue a community-led public safety system to replace the police department.

The move came days after a veto-proof majority of the council voted to disband the police department in the wake of Floyd’s death.

The movement to “defund the police,” as some advocates have termed it, predates the current protests but it has won new support after a spate of recent killings of African Americans by white police officers that were caught on video.

In Atlanta, a white former police officer is in custody after he was charged with the murder in the shooting death of Rayshard Brooks, a Black man.

One of three officers involved in the shooting death of Breonna Taylor, a Black woman killed in a hail of gunfire when drug investigators burst into her home in Louisville, Kentucky, three months ago was dismissed from the police department last week.

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York and Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut,; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

Second man charged with torching Minneapolis police station during protests

By Keith Coffman

DENVER (Reuters) – A 22-year-old Minnesota man was charged on Tuesday with aiding and abetting the arson of a Minneapolis police station during protests over the death of a black man under a policeman’s knee, federal prosecutors said.

Dylan Robinson, who was arrested in Breckenridge, Colorado on Sunday, is accused of hurling a Molotov cocktail inside the Third Precinct police station in Minneapolis and igniting a fire in the building’s stairwell on May 28, according to the criminal complaint.

Robinson appeared in U.S. district court in Denver on Tuesday to hear the charges against him, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Minnesota said in a written statement. Prosecutors said he is from Brainerd, Minnesota.

Robinson is the second man arrested June 3 in connection to the blaze. Branden Wolfe, 23, was arrested in Minnesota and charged with one count of aiding and abetting arson, federal prosecutors said.

The police station was set on fire during demonstrations three days after George Floyd, 46, died when former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The incident was captured by a bystander’s cell phone video and led to the firing of Chauvin, who was later charged with second-degree murder. Three other Minneapolis police officers were also charged in the case.

Authorities said they identified Robinson from social media posts and surveillance cameras. Agents with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms tracked him to Breckenridge, Colorado, a mountain town about 80 miles west of Denver, where he was taken into custody, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Robinson is due back in Denver federal court on Friday for a detention and removal hearing, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Denver told Reuters.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Michael Perry)

Seattle mayor says illegal for Trump to send military to clear protesters

By Gregory Scruggs

SEATTLE (Reuters) – The mayor of Seattle said on Thursday it would be unconstitutional and illegal for U.S. President Donald Trump to send military forces into the city to clear protesters occupying a neighborhood, as he has suggested.

But Mayor Jenny Durkan, speaking at an afternoon press conference, did not say how or when authorities would remove the roughly 500 demonstrators who have established a makeshift encampment behind barricades in the Capitol Hill district.

“It is unconstitutional and illegal to send the military into Seattle,” said Durkan, a first-term Democrat. “There is no imminent threat of an invasion of Seattle.”

Activists have occupied the area since police on Monday moved street barricades and abandoned their East Precinct station in a move city officials say aimed to reduce tension.

In a Youtube video, Seattle’s police chief, Carmen Best, said it was not her decision to leave the precinct.

“You fought for days to protect it, I asked you stand on that line day in and day out to be pelted with projectiles, to be screamed at, threatened and in some cases hurt,” Best told her department in the video published on its Youtube page.

Protesters used the police barricades to section off the area, calling it the “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone.”

“We’re not going to let this happen in Seattle. If we have to go in, we’re going to go in,” Trump told Fox News on Thursday.

“Let the governor do it. He’s got great National Guard troops … But one way or the other, it’s going to get done. These people are not going to occupy a major portion of a great city.”

On Sunday, a man drove his car into a crowd of protesters in the area that became the “autonomous zone” the following day. He then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him as he came to a stop, according to police and eyewitness video.

The man who was shot was in stable condition at a hospital while the driver was arrested.

Major U.S. cities have been convulsed by marches, rallies and sometimes violence for more than two weeks over the death of a black man, 46-year-old George Floyd, while in Minneapolis police custody. A bystander recorded video of the now-dismissed officer holding a knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

“What we have been given here is a unique opportunity to see how a police-free zone can be facilitated,” protester David Lewis told Reuters, standing in front of the abandoned East Precinct.

“Making this a community or education center would be a momentous and very powerful movement that the city can commit to the lack of police brutality and also an acknowledgement of the debts of the past.”

Police officers returned to the East Precinct building on Thursday to inspect it for damage but it remains unstaffed.

Best said the neighborhood could not remain occupied but neither she nor Durkan would say how the city planned to dismantle the camp.”We have to make sure we don’t recreate the entire cycle we were able to disrupt,” Durkan said.

(Reporting by Gregory Scruggs in Seattle; Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Writing and additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb and Bill Tarrant in Los Angeles; Editing by Grant McCool and Clarence Fernandez)

For U.S. blacks, Latinos, no sign of a broadly rising tide

By Howard Schneider

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police have opened a broader discussion about racial inequality in the United States.

The U.S. civil rights movement in the 1960s was a watershed when it came to formal de-segregation in housing, education, the workplace and public spaces. But more than a half century later, stark divisions remain in how the benefits of a $20 trillion economy are distributed among the largest racial and ethnic minorities and the country’s white majority.

An array of government programs has attempted to address the issue, including anti-poverty efforts, affirmative action to boost college enrollment, and preferences in contracting for minority-owned businesses.

But black and Latino families on average continue to earn less, have higher unemployment, and are harder hit when economic shocks like the coronavirus hit.

Graphic – Black vs white unemployment:

“The downturn has not fallen equally on all Americans, and those least able to shoulder the burden have been the most affected,” Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell said this week.

That gap is most apparent in family net worth estimates. Black and Hispanic families accumulate proportionately less in real estate, stocks, business assets and other forms of wealth than white families.

Graphic – After decades, wealth gap remains:

Over time, that creates lower inheritances for children and more constraints when it comes to funding education or training – a dynamic that can help perpetuate the problem.

Some Fed officials have pointed to deep-seated racism as drag on the U.S. economy.

“By limiting economic and educational opportunities for a large number of Americans, institutionalized racism constrains this country’s economic potential,” Atlanta Fed President Raphael Bostic said on Friday, calling for an end to racism as both a moral and economic imperative.

“The economic contributions of these Americans, in the form of work product and innovation, will be less than they otherwise could have been. Systemic racism is a yoke that drags on the American economy.”

The lack of progress after so many decades has led some to argue that a massive generational transfer, sometimes referred to as reparations, is needed to undo a legacy that has roots in slavery, but continued to compound through the era of formal segregation and beyond.

(Reporting by Howard Schneider; Editing by Heather Timmons and Sam Holmes)

Voices from U.S. protests against police brutality: ‘You can’t just sit on the sidelines’

By Makini Brice

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Americans have taken to the streets following the death of George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer pinned his knee against his neck for nearly nine minutes.

Protesters and activists say Floyd’s death, captured on video, is a particularly stark example of why U.S. policing policies should be reformed, and particularly their treatment of black men and women.

Police-involved fatalities in the United States average nearly three deaths per day, a study published in the American Journal of Public Health showed. Black and Latino men in the United States are twice as likely as white men to die during interactions with police.

Americans of all ages and races are pushing for police reform. Here are five who marched on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

ZEKE THOMAS

Zeke Thomas, 30, who works at a child welfare agency, attended the protest with his five-year-old son, Jay, in part to “show him how to fight, the proper way to fight.”

Asked what he wanted to see emerge from these protests, Thomas said, “Change, like actions that show that black lives matter.” He added that he wanted to see reforms made within police departments on their use of force and their general culture.

Patrick Keyser, an Episcopal priest, poses for a portrait as he takes part in a protest against racial inequality, in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in Washington, U.S. June 6, 2020. Picture taken June 6, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis

PATRICK KEYSER:

Patrick Keyser, 27, is an Episcopal priest who said he was attending the protest to show solidarity with the demonstrators and hoped they would lead to “an end to police brutality and the killing of black bodies at the hand of the police.”

“There comes a point where you can’t just sit on the sidelines. … I can’t quite put my hands on it, but there’s sort of this intangible spirit that I think anyone feels present here that are driving people to stand up peacefully.”

ANGELO VILLAGOMEZ:

Angelo Villagomez, 41, a resident of Washington, D.C. who is originally from the Northern Mariana Islands, said he hoped the protests would bring about a more just society.

“Today’s march is about ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It’s about George Floyd and all the young black men who lost their lives to” police brutality, the ocean conservationist said.

“People are listening maybe for the first time in their lives,” he added.

SAM GOLDMAN:

Sam Goldman, 33, drove to Washington, D.C. from her home of Philadelphia to be part of the protests. An organizer for the group Refuse Fascism, Goldman said she wanted to see an end to the presidency of Donald Trump.

“I genuinely do want to see the end to being murdered by the police … I want to see that there is no more police state,” Goldman said. She does not think those changes are possible if Trump wins the Nov. 3 election.

KATRINA FERNANDEZ

Katrina Fernandez, 42, is a homemaker who lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. The mother of eight children aged three to 23, said her family drove nearly two hours to the federal district to teach her children about social justice.

“I felt like the best thing that I could do was come out here and show them what it feels like to be on the front line of something that we really, really believe in and that we want to see a change in,” Fernandez said, who was at the protest with her husband and seven of her eight children. Her oldest son is in the Army and stationed in Afghanistan.

Fernandez said she wanted to see “bad cops” thrown off police departments and the convictions of the officers involved in Floyd’s killing.

“It’s a real bad shame that I feel more safe with my son overseas deployed in a war-torn country than I do on American soil as a black civilian in civilian clothes,” Fernandez said.

(Reporting by Makini Brice; Editing by Heather Timmons and Lisa Shumaker)

George Floyd’s brother asks U.S. Congress to ‘stop the pain’ of police killings

By David Morgan and Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A brother of George Floyd, whose killing in Minneapolis sparked protests around the world, asked the U.S. Congress on Wednesday to stop the pain of black people caused by police violence.

“I’m here to ask you to make it stop. Stop the pain,” a tearful Philonise Floyd, 42, said in testimony before the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee. “George called for help and he was ignored. Please listen to the call I’m making to you now, to the calls of our family and the calls ringing on the streets of all the world.”

George Floyd’s death on May 25 after a policeman knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes was the latest in a string of killings of African-American men and women by police that have sparked anger on America’s streets and fresh calls for reforms.

“Justice for George,” Philonise Floyd told reporters on his way into the hearing venue.

The Judiciary Committee is preparing to shepherd a sweeping package of legislation, aimed at combating police violence and racial injustice, to the House floor by July 4, and is expected to hold further hearings next week to prepare the bill for a full House vote.

“The nation demands and deserves meaningful change,” Judiciary Committee Jerrold Nadler said at the start of the hearing in the U.S. Capitol.

“We must remember that he is not just a cause, a name to be chanted in the streets. He was a man. He had a family. He was known as a gentle giant. He had a rich life that was taken from him far too early and we mourn his loss,” Nadler said.

Representative Jim Jordan, the committee’s top Republican, said “the American people understand it’s time for a real discussion, real debate, real solutions about police treatment of African-Americans.” He also praised President Donald Trump’s efforts in response to Floyd’s death and subsequent protests.

Lawmakers also heard urgent pleas from civil rights advocates for strong reforms and more funding for social services in minority communities, as well as vocal support for police from three witnesses called by Republicans.

Some witnesses and lawmakers participated by video link to ensure social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Fraternal Order of Police has welcomed the bill’s introduction, saying in a statement that further discussions could produce a law capable of having a positive impact on law enforcement and policing.

Senate Republicans are working on rival legislation, due to be released on Friday, which touches on many of the same areas but emphasizes the collection of data rather than changes in laws and policies in key areas.

Kayleigh McEnany, a spokeswoman for Trump, said on Wednesday he could take policy action on race and policing via an executive order. McEnany declined to offer specifics in her comments to Fox News.

The Republican-led Senate Judiciary Committee will hold its own hearing next Tuesday.

(Reporting by David Morgan and Richard Cowan; editing by Scott Malone)

George Floyd hailed as ‘cornerstone of a movement’ at funeral; family calls for justice

By Jennifer Hiller and Gary McWilliams

HOUSTON (Reuters) – George Floyd, a black man whose death under the knee of a white police officer roused worldwide protests against racial injustice, was memorialized at his funeral on Tuesday as “an ordinary brother” transformed by fate into the “cornerstone of a movement.”

The family of of George Floyd comes to the podium to speak during the funeral for George Floyd, June 9, 2020, at The Fountain of Praise church in Houston. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis Police officers on May 25. Godofredo A. Vasquez/Pool via REUTERS

During a four-hour service broadcast live on every major U.S. television network from a church in Floyd’s boyhood home of Houston, family members, clergy and politicians exhorted Americans to turn grief and outrage at his death into a moment of reckoning for the nation.

The funeral followed two weeks of protests ignited by graphic video footage of Floyd, 46, handcuffed and lying face down on a Minneapolis street while an officer kneels into the back of his neck for nearly nine minutes. The video shows Floyd gasping for air as he cries out, “Mama,” and groans, “Please, I can’t breathe,” before falling silent and still.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, 44, has since been charged with second-degree murder and three other officers with aiding and abetting Floyd’s May 25 death. All were dismissed from the department a day after the incident.

Floyd’s dying words have become a rallying cry for hundreds of thousands of protesters around the globe who have since taken to the streets, undaunted by the coronavirus pandemic, demanding justice for Floyd and an end to mistreatment of minorities by U.S. law enforcement.

“I can breathe. And as long as I’m breathing, justice will be served,” Floyd’s niece Brooklyn Williams declared in a eulogy that drew applause from mourners inside the Fountain of Praise Church. “This is not just a murder but a hate crime.”

The hands of the funeral home team push the casket of George Floyd into the hearse after the funeral service for Floyd at the Fountain of Praise church, in Houston, Texas, U.S., June 9, 2020. David J. Phillip/Pool via REUTERS

‘BIG FLOYD’

Williams was one of several relatives and friends who addressed the service, remembering Floyd as a loving, larger-than-life personality. The memorial was punctuated by gospel music and a video montage of shared memories of the man affectionately known as “Big Floyd.”

His younger brother, Terrence Floyd, spoke about awakening in the middle of the night in recent days traumatized by the memory of seeing his older sibling calling out for their mother as he lay dying.

His older brother, Philonise, sobbing in grief, told mourners, “George was my personal superman.”

Civil rights activist the Rev. Al Sharpton called Floyd “an ordinary brother” who grew up in a housing project but left behind a legacy of greatness despite rejections in jobs and sports that prevented him from achieving all that he once aspired to become.

“God took the rejected stone and made him the cornerstone of a movement that is going to change the whole wide world,” Sharpton said, invoking a biblical parable from the New Testament.

Sharpton said the Floyd family would lead a march on Washington being organized for Aug. 28 to mark the 57th anniversary of the 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech given from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who was assassinated in 1968.

‘HOME-GOING CELEBRATION’

Some 2,500 people attended the funeral, after more than 6,000 people filed past Floyd’s open casket on Monday.

Two columns of uniformed Houston police officers saluted the golden casket as it was wheeled from the hearse into the church before the service. A horse-drawn carriage later bore the coffin on its last mile to the cemetery in Pearland, Texas, where Floyd was buried in a private ceremony.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential candidate in the Nov. 3 election, addressed the funeral service via a video recording, lamenting that “too many black Americans wake up knowing that they could lose their life in the course of just living their life.”

“We must not turn away. We cannot leave this moment thinking we can once again turn away from racism,” he said.

Two voter registration tables were set up outside the church.

MOURNING FAMILIES

Among those in attendance were loved ones of several other black men killed by white police or white civilians.

The mother of Eric Garner, the New York man who died in a police chokehold in 2014, was present, as was the family of Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Georgia man who was shot and killed in February while jogging. Three white men were charged in his death.

Fallout from Floyd’s death, and reaction to a spate of arson and looting that accompanied some of the otherwise mostly peaceful protests, also plunged President Donald Trump into one of the biggest crises of his tenure.

Hundreds of protesters packed Seattle’s city hall late Tuesday night, chanting demands for the resignation of the mayor and the defunding the police force.

Days after Seattle’s mayor and police chief promised a month-long moratorium on tear gas, the department used it again on protesters overnight Sunday, bringing severe criticism.

A Republican, Trump repeatedly threatened to order the military onto the streets to quell protests, focusing on restoring order while saying little about the U.S. racial wounds at the root of the upheavals.

For Special Report: How union, Supreme Court shield Minneapolis cops –

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-minneapolis-police-culture-specialrep/special-report-how-union-supreme-court-shield-minneapolis-cops-idUSKBN23B2LL

For Before the court: A united front takes aim at qualified immunity:

https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-police-immunity-opposition/

(Reporting by Jennifer Hiller and Gary McWilliams in Houston; additional reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York, Rich McKay in Atlanta and Sabahatjahan Contractor in Bengaluru; Writing by Grant McCool and Steve Gorman; Editing by Frank McGurty, Howard Goller, Cynthia Osterman and Lincoln Feast.)

Protests roll on against ‘worldwide’ racism

(Reuters) – Demonstrators in Rome held their fists in the air and chanted “No Justice! No Peace!” on Sunday, while in London people defying official warnings not to gather lay down outside the U.S. Embassy as part of a rolling, global anti-racism movement.

In Belgium, police fired tear gas and used a water cannon to disperse about a hundred protesters in a central part of Brussels with many African shops and restaurants. Some protesters were subsequently arrested.

They were part of a crowd of about 10,000 who had gathered at the Palace of Justice, many wearing face masks and carrying banners with the phrase “Black Lives Matter – Belgium to Minneapolis”, “I can’t breathe” and “Stop killing black people”.

“Black Lives Matter is not only about police violence. Here, we experience discrimination that other races do not experience. For example, if we start looking for a flat to rent, we have difficulties. Regarding employment, we are disadvantaged. So it’s not only about police violence,” said 25-year-old insurance broker Randy Kayembe.

The second weekend of demonstrations showed the depth of feeling worldwide over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white officer detaining him knelt on his neck. More protests were also planned across the United States.

In London, where tens of thousands gathered, one banner read: “UK guilty too.”

Footage posted on social media showed demonstrators in Bristol in western England cheering as they tore down a statue of Edward Colston, a 17th-century slave trader, and pushed it into a river.

Chaniya La Rose, a 17-year-old student at the London protest with her family, said an end to inequality was long overdue. “It just needs to stop now,” she said. “It shouldn’t have to be this hard to be equal.”

Health minister Matt Hancock had earlier said that joining the Black Lives Matter protests risked contributing to the spread of the coronavirus.

London police chief Cressida Dick said 27 officers had been injured in assaults during protests this week in the city, including 14 on Saturday at the end of a peaceful demonstration.

‘INSTITUTIONAL RACISM’

In Italy, where several thousand people gathered in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo, speakers called out racism at home, in the United States and elsewhere.

U.S. embassies were the focus of protests elsewhere in Europe, with more than 10,000 gathering in the Danish capital Copenhagen, hundreds in Budapest and thousands in Madrid, where they lined the street guarded by police in riot gear.

“I really think we need to finish with the institutional racism that is actually international,” said Gloria Envivas, 24, an English teacher in the Spanish capital.

“It’s not something that is only going on in the USA or in Europe, it’s also worldwide.”

In Thailand, people held an online demonstration on the video platform Zoom, due to restrictions on movement to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“Everyone has hopes, everyone has dreams, everyone bleeds red, you know,” said Natalie Bin Narkprasert, an organiser of the Thai protest.

Like many people around the world, the group observed a silence in memory of Floyd, in this case, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the period he was pinned under the officer’s knee – to know “how it feels”.

Other gatherings were due later, including in the United States, where tens of thousands of demonstrators amassed in Washington and other U.S. cities on Saturday.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux around the world; Writing by Philippa Fletcher and Catherine Evans; Editing by Frances Kerry)

Floyd’s death spurs ‘Gen Z’ activists to set up new D.C. rights group

By Katanga Johnson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Jacqueline LaBayne and Kerrigan Williams met for the very first time in person on Wednesday, at a sit-in they organized in front of the U.S. Capitol over the death of George Floyd.

They have been using social media, which they call a “tool of justice,” to rally a new, ethnically-diverse generation of young activists connecting online to protest Floyd’s May 25 death and push for civil rights reforms in the nation’s capital.

Floyd, a 46-year-old African-American man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The death, recorded on a bystander’s cellphone, sparked a storm of protests and civil strife, thrusting the highly charged debate over racial justice back to the forefront of the political agenda five months before the Nov. 3 U.S. presidential election.

“We spotted each other via a mutual friend’s thread on Twitter immediately following yet another police-executed murder,” said Williams, a 22-year-old black woman who moved to Washington from Houston, Texas and is pursuing graduate studies at Georgetown University.

“Now, we organize together in real life to help other first-time activists get involved in local responses to injustice.”

Within hours of Floyd’s death, they had founded Freedom Fighters DC, which now counts 10,000 Twitter followers, 20,000 Instagram followers, and brought hundreds of demonstrators to Washington in recent days, most of them “Generation Z-ers,” some of about 70 million Americans born after the mid-1990s.

“White allies need to become accomplices in the fight against racism toward black people,” said LaBayne, a 23-year-old white graduate student at Florida State University.

“Embracing this cause is the only way to have a meaningful impact in 2020 – the only way justice is served.”

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Washington and other U.S. cities since Floyd’s death to demand an end to racism and brutality by U.S. law enforcement and push for justice in the Floyd case.

Derek Chauvin, the white officer who was seen with his knee on Floyd’s neck, has been arrested and charged with second-degree and third-degree murder as well as third-degree manslaughter. Three other officers who were involved in the incident were charged with aiding and abetting both second-degree murder and manslaughter. All four have been fired.

‘A CRY FOR JUSTICE’

Williams and LaBayne spent much of the week scrambling to take care of details mundane and profound ahead of the sit-in on Wednesday and a march from a U.S. Senate office building to Lafayette Park in front of the White House.

LaBayne solicited T-shirt donations for volunteers and fielded requests for media interviews. Williams got advice from the group’s five other board members on an intended route for Saturday’s march and reminded attendees to wear comfortable shoes.

“Sometimes we argue over priorities. Sometimes we make compromises. But in the end, we keep the main thing the main thing – a cry for justice for all brothers and sisters,” added LaBayne, who plans to become a civil rights lawyer.

Wednesday’s sit-in attracted a diverse group of about 500 protesters who sat in front of a line of police officers. One volunteer successfully convinced a white officer to kneel with her, drawing cheers from the protesters. Others passed out information on jail assistance for those who are arrested and promoted voter registration.

More than 2,000 people showed up for the Freedom Fighters’ march on Saturday, many of them first-time activists.

“Americans of different races saw the video of (Floyd’s) death on social media,” Williams said. “They also see our lives as regular people and were attracted to the cause. Like-minded, progressive people will always see themselves as stronger in large, diverse numbers. It makes the message of justice more compelling.”

LaBayne and Williams say they hope their efforts lead to substantial reforms, including de-funding Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department and an ending its contract with the District of Columbia’s Public Schools system.

“We do not seek to silence the wave of support by other movements for black lives, but we see an immediate need to use this as a springboard to specifically highlight the injustices of Washington natives,” LaBayne.

“This is the focus of Freedom Fighters DC beyond this current moment,” LaBayne said. “I just want people to take away that change is on the way, and we are here to usher it in.”

(Editing by Heather Timmons and Paul Simao)

Emboldened protesters march again, demanding police reforms after Floyd killing

By Andrea Shalal

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A mounting wave of protests demanding police reform after the killing of a black man in Minneapolis swept across the United States on Sunday, building on the momentum of huge demonstrations across the country the day before.

In response, a majority of city council members in Minneapolis pledged to abolish the police department, though how they would navigate that long, complex undertaking was not yet known.

In some of the largest protests yet seen across the United States, a near-festive tone prevailed over the weekend. Most unfolded with no major violence, in sharp contrast to heated clashes between marchers and police in previous days.

The outpouring of protests followed the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after being pinned by the neck for nine minutes by a white officer’s knee. A bystander’s cellphone captured the scene as Floyd pleaded with the officer, choking out the words “I can’t breathe.”

“I have cops in my family, I do believe in a police presence,” said Nikky Williams, a black Air Force veteran who marched in Washington on Sunday. “But I do think that reform has got to happen.”

The change in the tenor of the demonstrations this weekend may reflect a sense that the demands of protesters for sweeping police reform were resonating in many strata of American society.

Nine members of the 13-person Minneapolis City Council pledged on Sunday to do away with the police department in favor of a community-led safety model, a step that would have seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago.

“A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we’re going to end the current policing system,” Alondra Cano, a member of the Minneapolis council, said on Twitter.

Minneapolis City Council President Lisa Bender told CNN “the idea of having no police department is certainly not in the short term.”

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a series of reforms he said were designed to build trust between city residents and the police department.

De Blasio told reporters he would shift an unspecified amount of money out of the police budget and reallocate it to youth and social services in communities of color.

He said he would also take enforcement of rules on street vending out of the hands of police, who have been accused of using the regulations to harass minority communities.

Curfews were removed in New York and other major cities including Philadelphia and Chicago.

TALKING REFORM

In the nation’s capital, a large and diverse gathering of protesters packed streets near the White House, chanting “This is what democracy looks like!” and “I can’t breathe.”

A newly erected fence around the White House was decorated by protesters with signs, including some that read: “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace.”

Republican Senator Mitt Romney marched alongside evangelical Christians in Washington on Sunday, telling the Washington Post that he wanted to find “a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter.”

A common theme of weekend rallies was a determination to transform outrage over Floyd’s death last month into a broader movement seeking far-reaching reforms to the U.S. criminal justice system and its treatment of minorities.

The intensity of protests over the past week began to ebb on Wednesday after prosecutors in Minneapolis arrested all four police officers implicated in Floyd’s death. Derek Chauvin, the officer who kneed Floyd, was charged with second-degree murder.

Demonstrators raise their fists as they take a knee for 8 minutes 46 seconds, the length of time George Floyd was held down with a knee on his neck by a Minneapolis Police officer, during a protest against racial inequality in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., June 7, 2020. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Still, anger in Minneapolis remained intense. The city’s mayor ran a gauntlet of jeering protesters on Saturday after telling them he opposed their demands for defunding the city police department.

The renewed calls for racial equality are breaking out across the country as the United States reopens after weeks of unprecedented lockdowns for the coronavirus pandemic and just five months before the Nov. 3 presidential election.

U.S. Democrats have largely embraced the activists packing into streets to decry the killings of black men and women by law enforcement, but have so far expressed wariness at protesters’ calls to defund the police.

Former U.S. President Barack Obama said in a YouTube commencement address for 2020 graduates that the protests roiling America right now “speak to decades of inaction over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system.”

For a graphic on Floyd’s death sparks worldwide protests:

 

(Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Andrea Shalal, Daphne Psaledakis in Washington, and Jonathan Allen and Sinead Carew in New York, and Brad Brooks in Austin, Texas; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Frank McGurty, Peter Cooney and Lincoln Feast)