The week that changed America: The angry but patient voices from the frontline of the protests

This is the end of a momentous week of street protests that have swept across America, and far beyond.

The death of George Floyd on a street corner in Minneapolis has ignited a movement of tremendous civic power.

There is something extraordinary about these protests surrounding the White House security fence that is difficult to convey on television.

It isn't the number of people taking to the streets. There are a few hundred at most rallies, but not tens of thousands.

Rather, it is the character of those who are chanting and pleading for change. They are often the best of America.

Optimistic, good-humored, diverse, quirky, with a deep knowledge of the constitution and their rights.

Protesters take a knee on Flatbush Avenue in front of New York City police officers during a solidarity rally for George Floyd. Credit: AP

The President has called them "professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, criminals."

But I have news for him, having spent much of the last week with those gathered outside the White House. Whenever a hot-head comes into the crowd, suggesting violence or vandalism, they are shamed and driven out.

I watched it tonight. A man tried to throw a water bottle at police. He was quickly surrounded and told to leave.

The previous night a man defaced a traffic sign. The whole crowd - several hundred strong - whistled and booed and told him to stop.

In LA a restaurant owner hands out free pizza to demonstrators (left) in New York (right) police arrest a protester. Credit: AP

Last night I interviewed two young African Americans, Ross Young and William Allen, at the security fence that surrounds the White House complex.

They are angry and passionate. Furious, in fact.

But they are also thoughtful and well aware of the rich heritage of the Civil Rights movement.

They know that violence plays into their enemies' hands.

  • Ross Young: 'This is not just Donald Trump, this is a systematic problem'

Ross Young vowed to stay protesting until justice is achieved.

William Allen said the goal was multi-generational.

He says he is part of the demand for change that began 400 years ago, with the arrival in America of the first slaves.

  • William Allen: 'I ain't leaving, until I'm in the ground - I ain't done'

They are proud of the First Amendment of the US Constitution that guarantees free speech, the rights to assemble, and the freedom of the press.

Both also said that they were endlessly patient, and they would never give up the fight for justice, reform and equality.

In other words, however Trump describes them, it seems to me that they are American patriots.