Floyd protests: Tens of thousands march in Washington DC, more elsewhere

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David is in his 70s and concedes he is safest at home from the coronavirus pandemic, which has been the deadliest for the elderly. But there he was on Saturday, risking his life, demonstrating with tens of thousands of people outside the White House.

“Can’t keep quiet anymore,” he said, trying to make himself heard from 10 feet away, words muffled by his mask. “Hundred of years of injustice must end,” he said. David is white and deeply disturbed by continued racial inequities brought up again by the killing of George Floyd, an African American man who was taken in police custody.

David chose a side alley to stay as safe as he could but gave up shortly as crowds swelled around him. He put his placard, which read “Black Lives Matter”, under his arm and hurried away.

Also read: Floyd protests - Top editor resigns over ‘Buildings Matter’ headline

Ten of thousands of people demonstrated in Washington DC on Saturday in what has been described as the city’s largest till date. They walked to the White House, National Mall, the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol, singing, chanting slogans, giving and hearing speeches on a hot and humid day.

The White House is surrounded by layers of fences and barricading but the demonstrators could walk close to a block to an area that has become the focal point of the demonstrations - Black Lives Matter Plaza, separated by Lafayette park from the White House.

“No justice, no peace,” they chanted. Shouting “Black Lives Matter”, the demonstrators carried signs that read, “My colour is not my crime”, “Racist-in-Chief” (for the US president, a play on his title commander-in-chief), “F… The Police”, “Defund the Police”, among others.

One man, who said he is from Baltimore - a Maryland city which President Donald Trump has derided as rat-infested - used a bullhorn to chant “Bunker Boy, Bunker Boy”, a reference to President Trump briefly taking shelter in the White House’s underground bunker one night the previous week when demonstrators had surged in numbers and had broken through a barricade, catching law enforcement by surprise and unprepared.

People came mostly from the Washington DC area, including the suburbs in adjoining states of Virginia and Maryland and some from further beyond. The Washington Post wrote about three young sisters who drove six hours from North Carolina to catch the historic march. And, no, they had not told their parents.

The Stiles couple stood to one end of the BLM Plaza with two large garbage bags for discarded water bottles and other waste. “We just wanted to make sure we could help the protests by keeping the area clean,” Lindsey Stiles told a reporter. Parker, the husband, was walking around with a trash picker, directing them to the trash bags.

“Fuel up,” a young man called out to marchers around the corner, inviting them to packets of Turkey sandwiches and snacks he and his friends had lined up in coolers on the sidewalk.

“Turkey sandwiches so the revolution does not go hungry,” he would add, breaking into a longer pitch. Others offered demonstrators water bottles and bananas.

It was the largest turnout of demonstrators yet, in the nine days that the national capital has witnessed these protests (12th countrywide), but President Trump, who is treating the protests as partisan and aimed at him, sought to disparage it as underwhelming.

“Much smaller crowd in DC than anticipated,” he posted on Twitter.

“National Guard, Secret Service, and DC Police have been doing a fantastic job. Thank you!”

Protests took places in dozens of cities across the United States for the 12th day now. They were mostly peaceful. In New York City, which has had one of the most violent turnouts in the past, demonstrations were entirely peaceful. Demonstrators stayed in the city after the curfew, but not till much after.

Law enforcement agencies also displayed restraint and were noticeably less confrontational. They backed down in many instances, allowing demonstrators to go. In DC, law enforcement personnel were around but not in numbers comparable to those seen in the early days.

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