Hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered near the White House on a sunny Sunday in Washington, the start of a 10th day of demonstrations against racism and police brutality that were spawned by the death of a black man in police custody.
Many in the crowd walked along the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza a short distance from the White House.
Early in the day, U.S. President Donald Trump said on Twitter that as a result of peaceful protests on Saturday he had ordered the National Guard to start withdrawing 5,000 troops from Washington that had been called to the city to quell violent demonstrations that had erupted a week ago.
More than 10,000 people had protested peacefully in Washington on Saturday and there were no signs of unrest Sunday in a scene resembling a community street fair. Amidst protest chants, many in the racially diverse crowd Sunday stopped to pose for photos in front of a big cloth sign reading “Black Lives Matter.”
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser said no protesters were arrested Saturday. But she attacked Trump and his administration for flooding the city with federal police and National Guard troops in the last week to quell protests that at times became violent.
“What we saw last week was basically an invasion of our city,” Bowser told the “Fox News Sunday” show. “Active-duty Army troops moved from all points around the country to threaten our autonomy.”
There now have been nearly two weeks of protests in dozens of American cities, with some of them turning into angry clashes between demonstrators and police and other law enforcement authorities. With tens of thousands taking to the streets coast to coast, they have been perhaps the most widespread protests since the extended demonstrations against the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
The demonstrations demanding racial justice and systemic policing reforms erupted across America and have continued daily after George Floyd, 46, died May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, when police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee into his neck for nearly 9 minutes as Floyd gasped that he could not breathe. It was the latest of many deaths among black Americans while in police custody.
Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder in the case, while three other officers who did not intervene have been charged with aiding and abetting the killing.
Trump, facing a national re-election contest Nov. 3 against former Vice President Joe Biden, has at times voiced support for peaceful protests, but also demanded tough police action against rowdy protesters and told the country’s 50 state governors they were weak if they did not arrest more demonstrators.
Floyd is being buried Tuesday in Houston, Texas, where he lived for years. Trump made a brief call to his relatives in the days after his death to express his sympathy, while Biden is meeting with Floyd’s family on Monday.
In protests in cities around the globe, people of all ages and races have chanted in solidarity, “I can’t breathe,” which were among Floyd’s last words.
In the U.S. capital, peaceful protesters marched in many neighborhoods Saturday on a hot and humid afternoon, as well as at the U.S. Capitol and along the National Mall.
Bowser spoke in the late afternoon to a large crowd at the newly designated Black Lives Matter Plaza, just north of Lafayette Park and the White House. Bowser had local artists paint “Black Lives Matter” in large yellow letters over several blocks of 16th Street Northwest.
Bowser, who is African American, urged the crowd to be loud in demanding “more justice and more peace.”
“I have a 2-year-old girl,” she said. “I want her to grow up in a country where she’s not scared to go to the grocery store, not scared to go to work.”
Large protests were also held in Minneapolis, Miami, New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Philadelphia and Denver. And for most cities, many of which had seen violence and some looting earlier in the week, Saturday’s events were peaceful.
But protests in London turned violent Saturday after protesters clashed with mounted police.
The protest had started peacefully, but near the 10 Downing Street home of Prime Minister Boris Johnson, a small number of protesters allegedly threw bottles at police, which led the mounted officers to push back protesters. One mounted officer was injured when she fell off her horse, the French news agency Agence France-Presse reported.
More than 2,000 people gathered in Marseilles, France, for a peaceful protest, but it turned into skirmishes between the demonstrators and police, who fired tear gas and pepper spray.
VOA's Carolyn Presutti contributed to this report.