Turning grief into change, movement targets racial injustice

RAEFORD, N.C. (AP) — Protesters streamed into the nation’s capital Saturday for what was expected to be the city’s largest demonstration yet against police brutality, while George Floyd was mourned in his North Carolina hometown, where hundreds of mourners lined up to squeeze into a church to pay their respects.

Military vehicles and officers in fatigues closed off much of downtown Washington to traffic ahead of the planned march, which authorities estimated would attract up to 200,000 people outraged by Floyd’s death 12 days ago at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Large protests also took place across the U.S. and in major cities overseas, including London, Paris, Berlin and Sydney, Australia.

In Raeford, the small town near Fayetteville where Floyd was born 46 years ago, a long line of people formed outside a church, waiting to enter in small groups for a chance to look at his coffin. A private memorial service was scheduled for later in the day.

The line of people waiting to view the coffin included families with young children and teenagers. One young woman wore a green and gold graduation cap and gown as she walked beside her parents. Most people wore surgical masks or cloth face coverings.

When a hearse bearing Floyd’s coffin arrived, chants of “Black Power,” “George Floyd” and “No justice, no peace,” echoed from beneath the covered entrance.


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“It could have been me. It could have been my brother, my father, any of my friends who are black,” said a man in the crowd, Erik Carlos of Fayetteville. “It was a heavy hit, especially knowing that George Floyd was born near my hometown. It made me feel very vulnerable at first.”

Washington has seen daily protests for the past week — largely peaceful, with people marching back and forth from the White House to the Capitol and the Lincoln Memorial. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said local officials expected 100,000 to 200,000 protesters for Saturday’s event. The White House has been fortified with new fencing and extra security precautions.

President donald trump had no public events on his daily schedule. But about 100 protesters gathered at his golf resort in Doral, Florida, just outside Miami. The protest was organized by Latinos for Black Lives Matter.

In general, demonstrations in the U.S. have shifted to a calmer tenor in recent days after frequent episodes of violence in the early stages. Protesters and their supporters in public office say they are determined to turn the extraordinary outpouring of anger and grief into change, notably in regard to policing policies.

College student Maiya Mack, 19, who protested in Columbus, Ohio, said a key step would be effective discipline against police officers implicated in racist acts of violence.

“Police who have performed misconduct, they should be held accountable, not just you can still be at home, you can still get paid,” she said.

Theresa Bland, 68, a retired teacher and realtor protesting at the Ohio Statehouse, had a broader agenda in mind

“I’m looking at affordable housing, political justice, prison reform, the whole ball of wax,” she said. “The world is so askew right now … with people dying from the virus and people dying in prisons and people dying because there’s not enough food.”

There already have been some tangible steps.

In Minneapolis, city officials have agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints by police and to require officers to try to stop any other officers they see using improper force. In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use a neck hold that blocks the flow of blood to the brain.

Democrats in Congress are preparing a sweeping package of police reforms, which are expected to included changes to police-accountability laws, such as revising immunity provisions and creating a database of police use-of-force incidents. Revamped training requirements are planned, too, among them a ban on chokeholds.

The House is expected to vote by month’s end. With Democrats in the majority, the bills will almost certainly pass the House. The outcome in the Senate is less certain. Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has said the chamber would look at the issues, but he has not endorsed any particular legislation.

Meanwhile in New York, two Buffalo police officers were charged with assault Saturday after a video showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester, who fell backwards onto the pavement and was hospitalized. Both pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault and were released without bail. The two were suspended without pay Friday after a TV crew captured the confrontation.

In London, thousands of demonstrators endured cold rain to gather in Parliament Square, a traditional venue for protests. They knelt in silence and chanted Floyd’s name before applauding his memory and then starting a march.

In Paris, hundreds of people gathered at the Place de la Concorde in defiance of a police ban on large protests. Members of the multiracial crowd chanted the name of Adama Traore, a black man whose death while in police custody a few years ago has been likened by critics of French police to Floyd’s death in Minnesota.

Chris Trabot, who works for Paris City Hall and is black, said Floyd’s death triggered his decision to demonstrate for the first time in his life.

Trabot said, “The violence happens every day. The moment has come to say stop.”


Crary reported from New York and Leicester from Paris. Associated Press reporters from around the world around the U.S. contributed.

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Turning grief into change, movement targets racial injustice

Momentum for what many hope is a sustained movement aimed at tackling racial injustice and police reforms promised to grow Saturday as more protesters filled streets around the world and mourners prepared to gather in the U.S. for a second memorial service for George Floyd, who died a dozen days ago at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Formal and impromptu memorials to Floyd over the last several days have stretched from Minneapolis to Paris, Rome and Johannesburg, South Africa. In North Carolina, where he was born, a public viewing and private service for family was planned Saturday. Services were scheduled to culminate in a private burial in the coming days in Texas, where he lived most of his life.

Floyd’s final journey was designed with intention, the Rev. Al Sharpton said. Having left Houston for Minneapolis in 2014 in search of a job and a new life, Floyd is retracing that path in death.

Sharpton has plans for a commemorative march on Washington in August on the anniversary of the day Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I Have a Dream” speech in 1963. He said the event would be a way to engage voters ahead of November’s general election and maintain momentum for a movement that has the power to “change the whole system of justice.”

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“It’s going to be months, if not a year, before you even go to trial. So you can’t let this peter out,” he told The Associated Press in a phone interview late Friday. “Otherwise you’ll end up in a year and people will go on to another story, and you will not have the public notice and pressure that you need.”

In Washington, authorities were preparing for what on Saturday was expected to be the largest demonstration against police brutality in the city so far. It comes as authorities have sought to reduce tensions by having National Guard troops not carry weapons.

While demonstrations in the U.S. have shifted to a calmer tenor, protesters stirred by Floyd’s death are no less determined to turn an extraordinary outpouring of grief into change.

In Minneapolis, the city agreed to ban police chokeholds and require officers to intervene any time they see unauthorized force by another officer. The changes are part of a stipulation between the city and state officials who launched a civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death. The City Council was expected to approve the agreement, which will be enforceable in court.

Banning chokeholds is something Michigan activists want, too. They plan to lobby state lawmakers to take action, said Sam Riddle, political director of Michigan’s National Action Network, which has been organizing protests in and around Detroit.

’We get weary, but we are never worn out from seeking justice,” Riddle said in an email. “We will keep confronting systemic racism and injustice until perpetrators of the same change policies or we force them out and get policy changes that put people first.”

Protests across the country had initially been marred by the setting of fires and smashing of windows, but Friday marked the third day of more subdued demonstrations.

In Washington, city workers and volunteers painted “Black Lives Matter” in enormous yellow letters on the street leading to the White House on Friday in a sign of local leaders’ embrace of the protest movement. The mural stretched across 16th Street for two blocks, ending just before the church where President donald trump staged a photo-op earlier this week after federal officers forcibly cleared a peaceful demonstration to make way for him.

Meanwhile, in a sign protesters’ voices were being heard, more symbols of slavery and the Confederacy came down. Mobile, Alabama, removed a statue of a Confederate naval officer after days of protests there, while Fredericksburg, Virginia, removed a 176-year-old slave auction block after several years of efforts by the NAACP.

Rashad Robinson, president of Color Of Change, said Floyd’s final words breathed new life into a movement that has been building for generations.

“These high awareness moments though have the ability move us forward or backwards as a nation,” Robinson said. “It’s up to us to channel the the energy of the moment into sustainable, collective pressure for justice. To that end, we are working to use the momentum we have gained to create lasting, systemic change that will keep us safe long-term.”

Organizers in Florida and Minneapolis were using sign-up sheets to collect the names of those who want to stay involved and were encouraging simple actions such as sending emails or making calls to local elected leaders to demand change.

“We are taking more of the strategy of: ‘How do we actually invest people’s energy beyond protesting?’” said Tifanny Burks, a community organizer in Florida. “We are thinking long term.”

Nakia Wallace, an organizer in Detroit, said people were beginning to understand the movement’s power.

“The world is watching,” she said, adding: “The main strategy is to get people to collectively come out and make demands until those demands are met.”

Joseph Rogers has been out marching in Richmond, Virginia, nearly every night for the past week. As a descendant of slaves, he said he’s committed to a new racial justice movement that can spur change in his community and cities around the country. He said although the protests started as a reaction to the killing of Floyd, they are now about many more injustices.

“Every single black person in america has felt the pain of losing someone in the community to police brutality,” he said. “It’s not just about justice for George Floyd. It’s about justice for everyone who’s been lost, it’s about justice for all.”


Williams reported from Detroit, Hajela from New York City and Morrison from Minneapolis. AP journalists Kelli Kennedy in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Jeff Baenen and Steve Karnowski in Minneapolis; Denise Lavoie in Richmond, Virginia; Jonathan Drew in Durham, North Carolina, and reporters around the U.S. contributed.

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