Demonstrations that began as spontaneous eruptions of outrage after the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police two weeks ago coalesced this weekend into a nationwide movement calling for police reforms and racial justice.
Tens of thousands gathered in big cities like New York, Washington and Seattle and small towns like Vidor, Texas, and Marion, Ohio — in swelling crowds that have been multiethnic, spanning generations and overwhelmingly peaceful. The movement has also spread around the world, with protests this weekend in Africa, Asia, Australia and Europe.
The calls for change come as United States faces its starkest economic crisis since the Great Depression, largely the result of measures put in place to limit the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 110,000 lives in the country.
Both the economic and the health crises have disproportionately hurt blacks and other minorities and highlighted the nation’s persistent social inequalities.
Although policing is largely a local matter — and some cities and states have begun acting on calls for reform — one common theme has bound the demonstrations together: Black lives matter.
“Enough is enough,” said Ji’Mie Lane, who marched in a protest along Central Park in Manhattan with her 6-year-old son this weekend. “We want as fair rights as everyone. I’m a mom, and the way George Floyd cried, it just broke my heart.”
Across New York City, peaceful demonstrators defied an 8 p.m. curfew. But after more than a week of images flooding social media of the police cornering, roughly arresting and sometimes beating protesters while trying to clear the streets, the police took a different posture on Saturday, allowing peaceful marches long into the night.
Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter early Sunday morning that the curfew was being lifted “effective immediately.”
Many of Saturday’s gatherings appeared larger than previous rallies, especially the one in Washington. At one point it seemed as if the entire city had emptied into downtown, as lines of protesters snaked their way through side streets while others converged in nearby parks before making their way to Lafayette Square outside the White House.
By early evening, the rally had the feel of a street fair. Ice cream trucks idled on the side of the road, parents rolled tired children in strollers, and people played guitars and harmonicas. Music was playing from the backs of cars. Some people danced.
Although Saturday’s demonstrations were overwhelmingly peaceful, President Trump continued to hammer home a familiar message.
“LAW & ORDER!” he wrote on Twitter on Saturday evening.
The capital’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, has given her own response to the protests: She renamed an area outside the White House “Black Lives Matter Plaza.”
Appearing Sunday morning on Fox News, Mayor Bowser said there had been no arrests at the protests on Saturday. She criticized the Trump administration’s moves last week to use troops and federal officers to rein in street protests.
“What we saw last week was basically an invasion of our city,” she said. “What you saw and I won’t have it reduced to a spat was how I have to defend our taxpayers, and it’s sad to say, we would have to defend ourselves against federal forces.”
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