Protesters were out in force across the US on Tuesday as cities braced for more unrest in the face of unprecedented curfews and outsized police response.
On the eighth day of nationwide demonstrations against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, his hometown of Houston held a memorial march that drew tens of thousands.
Floyd’s family was in attendance, alongside the mayor, the police chief and protesters on horseback, with attendees paying respects to a “gentle giant”.
The memorial march was organized by well-known Houston rappers Trae Tha Truth, who was a longtime friend of Floyd’s – and Bun B, who worked directly with Floyd’s family for the event. “We’re gonna represent him right,” Trae Tha Truth told the crowd of several hundred people gathered for the march. “We are gonna tear the system from the inside out.”
Meanwhile Floyd’s six-year-old daughter, Gianna, and her mother, Roxie Washington, made their first public appearance at a press conference in Minneapolis.
“I wanted everyone to know that this is what those officers took from…” Washington said while holding back sobs, her daughter glancing up at her. “At the end of the day, they get to go home and be with their families. Gianna does not have a father. He will never see her grow up, graduate. He will never walk her down the aisle.”
“I’m here for my baby and I’m here for George, because I want justice for him. I want justice for him because he was good. No matter what anybody thinks,” she said, pointing down to her daughter. “And this is the proof that he was a good man.”
Elsewhere, mass demonstrations continued in defiance of local curfews. Armored military vehicles rolled through the streets of Washington DC as protesters marched and kneeled near the White House in the hours before the district’s 7pm curfew.
In New York City, thousands marched for hours north through Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon, waving signs as they made the six mile journey from One Police Plaza, in lower Manhattan, to the Upper East Side.
The city has extended an 8pm to 5am curfew all week and banned much of Manhattan car traffic overnight as officials struggled to stanch destruction, after chaotic scenes and looting erupted again overnight.
Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the curfew would remain through Sunday, but rejected urging from Donald Trump and an offer from the state governor, Andrew Cuomo, to bring in the national guard. “We’re going to have a tough few days. We’re going to beat it back,” de Blasio said.
With hundreds of cities nationwide imposing curfews in hopes of quelling vandalism, granting law enforcement more arrest powers on those protesting the systemic issues around policing, demonstrations started early in some cities. In San Francisco, thousands marched along Ocean Beach, while thousands more marched in downtown Los Angeles. In Philadelphia, where presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden spoke about Floyd and the demonstrations, protesters kneeled and raised their hands.
In some cities, some actions seemed specifically planned to flout curfews.
The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized the curfew in a number of locations, the office in northern California saying that “these measures will only repeat the very problems that our communities are protesting”.
“We urge each city that has enacted a curfew, or is considering one, not to seize upon the momentum of extraordinary government power created by the ongoing pandemic to enact broad and limitless measures,” the ACLU of northern California said in a statement. “In this moment, we should not be moving closer toward a police state.”
Governors in at least six states have called in the national guard.
The continued unrest comes as state of Minnesota filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis police department in the wake of Floyd’s death. The state says it will investigate the department’s policies and practices over the last 10 years to determine whether it has engaged in “systemic” discrimination against people of color.
Back in Houston, Mayor Sylvester Turner, who is black, said he understood marchers’ pain and told them they were making an impact.
“People that are in elected office and positions of power – we are listening,” Turner said. “It’s important for us to not just listen, but to do. I want you to know your marching, your protesting has not gone in vain. George did not die in vain.”
“The people who knew George the best help set the tone for Houston,” said David Hill, a Houston community activist and pastor at Restoration Community Church, who knows the Floyd family. “They knew what he was about. He truly was a gentle giant, a sweet guy.”
Adam Gabbatt and agencies contributed reporting