Protesters pack Washington DC for city’s largest demonstration yet

Demonstrators protest near the White House in Washington Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Thousands of protesters have streamed into the US capital for what was expected to be Washington DC’s largest demonstration yet against police brutality.

The protests came while George Floyd was remembered in his North Carolina hometown, where hundreds of mourners lined up to pay their respects.

Military vehicles and officers in combat clothing 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 Mr Floyd’s death 12 days ago at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

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

On a hot, humid day in Washington, throngs of protesters gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in residential neighbourhoods.

Many groups headed towards the White House, where President Donald Trump was in residence.

The crowd erupted in applause as Mayor Muriel Bowser walked along the portion of 16th Street that she renamed Black Lives Matter Plaza.

Demonstrators walk to the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial. Credit: Alex Brandon/AP
Thousands took to the streets of Washington DC to protest against police brutality. Credit: AP

Art Lindy, a fifth-generation Washingtonian, shouted “Vice President Bowser” as the mayor strolled by. He was referring to her defiant response to President Trump’s taunts.

Ms Bowser “has done an incredible job standing up to the face of federal power”, the 56-year-old construction manager said.

Washington has seen daily protests for the past week — largely peaceful. The White House has been fortified with new fencing and extra security precautions.

The protests extended to the president’s golf resort in Doral, Florida, just outside Miami, where about 100 protesters gathered. The demonstration was organised by Latinos for Black Lives Matter.

The casket of George Floyd Credit: Ed Clemente/The Fayetteville Observer via AP

In Raeford, North Carolina, a small town near Mr Floyd’s birthplace of Fayetteville, a long line of people formed outside a Free Will Baptist church, waiting to enter in small groups for a chance to look at his coffin.

At a private memorial service later in the day, mourners sang along with a choir. On display at the front of the chapel was a large photo of Mr Floyd and a portrait of him adorned with an angel’s wings and halo.

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.

Demonstrators greet National Guard soldiers and DEA police as they protest. Credit: AP

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

“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.”

A picture of George Floyd and flowers are set up for a memorial service Credit: Ed Clemente/The Fayetteville Observer via AP

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.