George Floyd: US protesters defy curfew as demonstrations over killing rage on

Trump makes ‘baffling and reprehensible’ visit to pope shrine; memorial march held in Floyd’s hometown

Protesters turned out in force across the US on Tuesday, defying sweeping curfews and a forceful police response.

Thousands of peaceful demonstrators demanding justice over the killing of African-American man George Floyd by a police officer last week in Minneapolis and an end to police brutality remained on New York City streets on Tuesday night despite a new week-long 8pm curfew announced by Mayor Bill de Blasio in an effort to bring an end to the chaos. It is the first time in 70 years that the city has been under nightly lockdown.

“We’re going to have a tough few days. We’re going to beat it back,” Mr De Blasio said.

In Washington DC last night, more than 1,000 protesters remained near the park after a 7pm curfew, facing police officers across a tall chain-link fence erected overnight.

Lenny Mansell travelled into DC from Fairfax, Virginia, with his eight-year-old son to demonstrate.

"I don't see anyone here who seems like a threat," he said, gesturing at the protesters around him. "It's those guys I fear", he said pointing at the heavily armed police behind the newly-erected fence around Lafayette Square in front of the White House.

“You’re in the cage now!” one protester yelled. Another said, “Our tax dollars at work.” But the crowd remained peaceful in a mood that appeared to be taking hold in other cities, too. When a few demonstrators began to rock the fence, they were quickly stopped. “Use your words,” two women yelled. “Don’t do that.” The tensions earlier in the day in Washington reflected a nation on edge, ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic, skyrocketing unemployment and now a public reckoning with systematic racism and police brutality. Daily protests have spread to at least 140 cities, in a sprawling expression of anger and frustration after the killing in Minneapolis last week of Floyd, a 46-year-old security guard, who pleaded for his life while a white police officer placed his knee on the victim’s neck for more than eight minutes. The officer has been charged with murder.

The nation's capital was hoping to avoid the violent scenes that unfolded in the city on Monday when police moved protesters from Lafayette Square before a 7pm curfew imposed by the mayor. Minutes later, after threatening to deploy the army to root out "domestic terrorists", president Donald Trump left the White House by foot, crossed the square and posed with the Bible outside St John's Episcopal Church.

Mr Trump, who was widely criticised for the action, received further censure from the Catholic Archbishop of Washington on Tuesday for visiting a shrine to Pope John Paul II in the city, a move the bishop deemed "baffling and reprehensible".

Memorial march 

On the eighth day of nationwide demonstrations, Floyd’s 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 a group of protesters on horseback, with attendees paying respects to a “gentle giant”.

The memorial march was organised by the well-known Houston rappers Trae Tha Truth, who was a longtime friend of Floyd’s, and Bun B, who worked with Floyd’s family for the event. “We’re gonna represent him right,” Trae Tha Truth told the crowd of several hundred 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 everybody to know that this is what those officers took from . . . ” Ms Washington said while holding back sobs, her daughter looking 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.”

Protesters injured

Elsewhere in the country, dozens of protesters and police officers were injured, some seriously, as demonstrators protested over the death of Mr Floyd.

Four police officers were shot in St Louis, Missouri, while one police officer was said to be in a critical condition in Nevada.

Officers also have been charged, or fired, in several states by police and government leaders trying to preserve and defend demonstrators’ right to protest while also restoring order after days of violence and lawlessness.

Six Atlanta police were charged after a dramatic video showed officers pulling two young people from a car and shooting them with stun guns while they were stuck in traffic caused by protests over Mr Floyd's death, a prosecutor said. Fulton County district attorney Paul Howard announced the charges during a news conference. Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden excoriated Mr Trump in a speech in Philadelphia, a racially diverse city that has witnessed violence and destruction in recent days.–Additional reporting Guardian and New York Times

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch

Suzanne Lynch, a former Irish Times journalist, was Washington correspondent and, before that, Europe correspondent