Protesters shut down Golden Gate Bridge in march for George Floyd, police reform

Associated Press


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SAN FRANCISCO — A diverse crowd of thousands of demonstrators outraged by the death of George Floyd tied up San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge with the acquiescence of authorities on Saturday, another sign of how their message has resonated even with law enforcement officials in recent days.

Roderick Sweeney, 49, who is black, said he was overwhelmed to see the large turnout of white protesters waving signs that said “Black Lives Matter.”

“We’ve had discussions in our family and among friends that nothing is going to change until our white brothers and sisters voice their opinion,” he said. The large turnout of white protesters “is sending a powerful message. You can see protests are happening around this world, and so I’m hoping change will happen.”

Tow trucks held off car traffic in both directions, and police directed vehicles caught in the middle of the bridge to go around protesters who eventually moved off the roadway peacefully.

Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.

Danielle Chetrit, 22, who is white, said she felt compelled to join the Golden Gate march.

“There are no words to capture the level of disgrace that I feel about these senseless killings,” she said.

The strong turnout by people of different racial backgrounds “goes to show that there are people around the world that agree that ... we have a certain group that’s really suffering and we need to take care of them now,” Chetrit said.

In Sacramento, Warren Stanley, the California Highway Patrol’s first African American commissioner, waded into a crowd at the state Capitol, defusing tensions after telling protesters that Floyd’s death was “totally unacceptable.”

Live video from The Sacramento Bee showed Stanley spending about a half-hour talking with individual demonstrators after dozens jumped metal barricades and briefly confronted a line of officers clad in riot gear.

In Berkeley, protesters staged a raucous New Orleans style-funeral procession on city streets, replete with dancers and a brass band, to “bury” racism.

In Los Angeles, protesters organized by Refuse Fascism LA took over Hollywood Boulevard, chanting “Revolution, nothing less!” And in San Diego, more than 3,000 people marched downtown while a caravan of 300 cars moved past the state university there.

In Simi Valley, several thousand demonstrators stopped traffic on a major road through the suburban town northwest of Los Angeles. It was there that four white Los Angeles police officers were found not guilty of beating motorist Rodney King, sparking riots in 1992.

Demonstrations have swept a country slowly emerging from the coronavirus lockdown in the two weeks since Floyd, an unarmed black man, 46, died after choking out the words "I can't breathe" under the knee of a white police officer.

Though there was violence in the early days, the protests have lately been overwhelmingly peaceful. Huge weekend crowds gathered across the country and in Europe. The high-spirited atmosphere was marred late on Sunday when a man drove a car into a rally in Seattle and then shot and wounded a demonstrator who confronted him.

"I have cops in my family, I do believe in a police presence," said Nikky Williams, a black Air Force veteran who marched in Washington on Sunday. "But I do think that reform has got to happen."

Minneapolis city council members pledged to abolish the police force whose officer knelt on the neck of a dying George Floyd, as the biggest civil rights protests in more than 50 years demanded a transformation of U.S. criminal justice.

The prospect that Minneapolis could abolish its police force altogether would have seemed unthinkable just two weeks ago. Nine members of the 13-person city council pledged on Sunday to do away with the police department in favor of a community-led safety model, though they provided little detail.

"A veto-proof majority of the MPLS City Council just publicly agreed that the Minneapolis Police Department is not reformable and that we're going to end the current policing system," Alondra Cano, a member of the Minneapolis council, said on Twitter.

In New York, Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters he would shift some funds out of the city's vast police budget and reallocate it to youth and social services. He said he would take enforcement of rules on street vending out of the hands of police, accused of using the regulations to harass minorities.

Curfews were removed in New York and other major cities including Philadelphia and Chicago.

NFL apologizes, Trump fires back

President Trump said on Twitter he ordered the National Guard to start withdrawing from Washington D.C. "now that everything is under perfect control".

Trump has used the Black Lives Matter protest movement as a foil for years to promote himself as a law-and-order candidate.

When black football players knelt during the national anthem to protest against police brutality in 2016, Trump denounced them with an expletive and the NFL effectively took his side, telling players to stand or stay off the field for the song.

Over the weekend, the NFL issued a video of Commissioner Roger Goodell apologizing for failing to listen to black players: "We, the NFL, believe Black Lives Matter," Goodell said.

Trump fired back overnight: "Could it be even remotely possible that in Roger Goodell’s rather interesting statement of peace and reconciliation, he was intimating that it would now be O.K. for the players to KNEEL, or not to stand, for the National Anthem, thereby disrespecting our Country & our Flag?" he tweeted.

In the nation's capital, a large and diverse gathering of protesters had packed streets near the White House, chanting "This is what democracy looks like!" and "I can't breathe."

A newly erected fence around the White House was decorated by protesters with signs, including some that read: "Black Lives Matter" and "No Justice, No Peace."

The "Black Lives Matter" protest slogan was also embraced on Sunday by Trump's predecessor as Republican candidate for president, Senator Mitt Romney, who marched alongside evangelical Christians in Washington.

Romney told the Washington Post that he wanted to find "a way to end violence and brutality, and to make sure that people understand that black lives matter".

Former U.S. President Barack Obama also addressed the protests in a YouTube speech for 2020 high school and college graduates. The demonstrations "speak to decades of inaction over unequal treatment and a failure to reform police practices in the broader criminal justice system," Obama said.

"You don't have to accept what was considered normal before," he told the graduates. "You don't have to accept the world as it is. You can make it the world as it should be."