People across the US on Saturday marched in big cities and small towns, in sticky heat and pouring rain, protesting police brutality and systemic racism for a second straight weekend with mostly peaceful demonstrations.
In Washington, DC, a crowd of several thousand gathered near the heavily fortified White House on Black Lives Matter Plaza — so named by the city’s mayor on Friday — as some danced to live music and others painted “DEFUND THE POLICE” on the street in large yellow letters.
In San Francisco, demonstrators brought traffic to a halt as they marched across the Golden Gate Bridge chanting “I can’t breathe."
And in Philadelphia, helicopters filmed a seemingly endless flood of people pouring from the iconic steps of the city’s Art Museum to its downtown.
The scale of the protests, sparked by the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd less than two weeks ago, was gargantuan. The demonstrations, which were also seen in Europe and Australia on Saturday, appear to be unparalleled in modern memory.
A dominant theme across Saturday's protests were calls to “defund the police” — a demand to reallocate money from heavily armed police departments to services, education, and more in the Black community.
“Defund MPD. Fund our schools,” the crowd and organizers chanted in Washington, DC.
In Minneapolis, people held a rally calling on authorities to defund the police. “Give that money to community, to Black people,” the crowd sang. “Free, we are rising up in unity.”
Rep. Ilhan Omar, the Democrat representing the city in Congress, compared the Minneapolis police department to a cancer killing the community it’s supposed to protect. “I don’t believe there is more training to be done,” she told the crowd. “I don’t believe there is more money to be invested. I don’t believe there is a conversation to be had about how to make them better.”
Mayor Jacob Frey, also a Democrat, addressed another larger gathering in his city, telling demonstrators “there needs to be deep-seated structural reform in terms of how the department.”
But when he declined to support defunding police, he was met with a chorus of boos and middle fingers. “Go home, Jacob! Go Home!” people chanted as the mayor made his way through the crowd.
In Manhattan, protesters briefly took over the FDR Drive on the east side, part of a winding tour of the city that dispersed without incident hours later.
The large crowd took a knee at the intersection of East Broadway and Clinton Street, with an activist leading a chant: “The world is watching. They cannot control our narrative. They cannot silence our voice. We are peaceful. Do not engage. Do not antagonize. We are peaceful. Peaceful protest.”
Even though New York City had an 8 p.m. curfew, the protest didn’t wrap up until around 11:30 p.m. after negotiations with the NYPD to allow everyone passage home.
“It was two ways. It wasn’t just us that made this happen; it was them too,” NYPD Inspector Nikas told BuzzFeed News, pointing at the protesters. “This happened because of both of us.”
And in Los Angeles, thousands turned out for a demonstration for Breonna Taylor, an EMT killed by police in Louisville.
The protests were largely carried out without incident, after a week that saw violent police reactions on peaceful protesters.
Days ago, law enforcement in Washington, DC, fired rounds of tear gas on demonstrators outside the White House in order to clear the way for a photo-op for President Donald Trump; the NYPD surrounded and attacked a group of people in Manhattan; and Philadelphia police gasses people marching on a highway.
On Saturday, an activist lead a group at Canal Street in New York City in a chant about the police: “As we walk, do not engage. Do not fear. They fear us. Do not engage. We are together.”
Protests also spread in small towns and cities, including Jackson, Mississippi:
And Bellingham, Washington:
Dominique Hazzard, a member of BYP100, a Black youth group in DC, told BuzzFeed News defunding the police is important “because as long as there are police, Black people will continue to die."
"The police is an inherently violent institution from the beginning of this country until now," Hazzard said. "And we envision a different future. We envision different ways that we can keep each other safe."
Kadia Goba and Addy Baird reported from Washington, DC; Caroline Haskins and Ema O'Connor from New York City, Adolfo Flores from Minneapolis, and Brianna Sacks from Los Angeles.