Massive protests across the US continue to demand police reform in wake of George Floyd death

William Walls, 34, of Clayton, New Jersey shakes hands with Deputy Commissioner Melvin Singleton by City Hall as protests against the killin Credit: Joe Lamberti/Camden Courier-Post via AP

Massive demonstrations against racism and police brutality filled the streets of America’s most famous cities on Saturday on what was thought to be the largest one day of protests since George Floyd's death 12 days ago.

Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully from coast to coast in the wake of the death of Mr Floyd, a black man who died after a police officer pinned his neck down last week in Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, in North Carolina mourners waited for hours to glimpse the golden coffin carrying the body of Mr Floyd.

The protests came as many cities began lifting curfews that authorities imposed following initial spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses.

Authorities have softened restrictions as the number of arrests plummeted.

Demonstrations also reached four other continents, ending in clashes in two European cities.

Samuel Brisbane, 19, of Baltimore, dances during a rally near the White House Credit: Jacquelyn Martin/AP

The largest US demonstration appeared to be in Washington, where streams of protesters flooded streets closed to traffic.

On a hot, humid day, they gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in neighbourhoods. Some turned intersections into dance floors. Tents offered snacks and water.

At the White House, which was fortified with new fencing and extra security measures, chants and cheers could be heard in waves.

President Donald Trump, who has urged authorities to crack down on unrest, downplayed the demonstration, tweeting: “Much smaller crowd in D.C. than anticipated.”

Elsewhere, the backdrops included some of the nation’s most famous landmarks.

Peaceful marchers filed across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Brooklyn Bridge in New York.

They walked the boulevards of Hollywood and a Nashville, Tennessee, street famous for country music-themed bars and restaurants.

In Philadelphia and Chicago, marchers chanted, carried signs and occasionally knelt in silence.

A large crowd of medical workers, many in lab coats and scrubs, marched to Seattle’s City Hall.

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

Signs they held read, “Police violence and racism are a public health emergency” and “Nurses kneel with you, not on you” — a reference to how a white officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for several minutes.

In Raeford, North Carolina, a town near Floyd’s birthplace, people lined up outside a Free Will Baptist church, waiting to enter in small groups.

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

Floyd’s body will go to Houston, where he lived before Minneapolis, for another memorial in the coming days.

Protesters and their supporters in public office say they are determined to turn the outpouring into change, notably overhauling policing policies.

Many marchers urged officials to “defund the police,” which some painted in enormous yellow letters on the street leading to the White House near a “Black Lives Matter” mural that the mayor had added a day earlier.

Some change has already come.

Minneapolis officials have agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints and require that officers stop colleagues who are using improper force.

Protesters and activists walk across the Brooklyn Bridge Credit: Craig Ruttle/AP

While police in some places have knelt in solidarity with protesters, their treatment of some marchers has generated more tension.

Two officers in Buffalo, New York, were charged on Saturday with second-degree assault after a video earlier this week showed them shoving a 75-year-old protester, who smashed his head on the pavement. Both pleaded not guilty.

Thousands of demonstrators endured cold rain to gather in London’s Parliament Square.

Clashes between protesters and police broke out near the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

In France, hundreds of Parisians gathered in defiance of a ban on large protests.