Despite police crackdowns, curfews, boiling heat, rain, and fears of a global pandemic that continues to plague America, huge crowds of protesters swelled to their largest size yet on Saturday in some of the country’s biggest cities.
On the eleventh day of protests—sparked by the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police—thousands of demonstrators descended on Union Park in Chicago, downtown Philadelphia, Brooklyn, and Washington, D.C. to protest police violence against black people.
It provided a jarring contrast to footage of hundreds of police officers cheering outside a Buffalo, NY, courthouse on Saturday, in support of two colleagues who were charged with second-degree assault for shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground.
In New York City, surfers at Rockaway Beach showed their support for demonstrators, while thousands marched over the Brooklyn Bridge into Manhattan.
Extraordinary footage from Philadelphia showed tens of thousands of peaceful protesters flooding the city, as far as the eye could see, for the eighth consecutive day of demonstrations. The National Guard stood stationed around City Hall plaza, the site of an earlier confrontation between the police and some protesters.
Many marchers made the event a family affair. “I’m letting them learn right here, in person. I want them to see firsthand that it’s not just black people fighting for them. We’re all family,” said Demetrius Oliver, 38, who bought his three young children to march through Philadelphia.
The march was markedly more organized, coordinated, and representative of Philadelphia’s diverse demography that previous days. “Whatever is affecting black lives also affects the Latinos. We have to fight together,” said Puchi de Jesus, 25, a member of Philly Boricuas, a local group of activists that work to unite the Puerto Rican community.
Heather Orsini, who lives in New Jersey, marched with a sign that read, “If the shooting starts, get behind me.” She told The Daily Beast: “I know that things have been getting crazy and I want my friends to know they’re protected. That I’ll protect them.” .
Following days of unrest stoked by an at-times irritated and defiant President Trump, Washington, D.C. officials said they expected Saturday to be the largest day of protests in the nation’s capital.
Around 2 p.m. huge crowds gathered in front of Congress and the Supreme Court and chanted the names of the victims of police brutality.
In between chants, a man with a megaphone told the gathering that he wanted to go over a few things with them before the march began, saying it was going to be a long day. “Is that alright?” he asked to loud applause and cheers.
Some protesters came with portable speakers, blasting audio of speeches from such black leaders as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X. Onlookers offered “free water, free snacks!” and complimentary hand sanitizer in the 90 degree heat.
A casually dressed Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) greeted waves of protestors passing between two Senate office buildings, handing out bottles of water and Kind bars.
“I think members of Congress need to support peaceful protests,” he told The Daily Beast, saying the crowds sent “an incredibly powerful message of unity.”
As the march passed Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Ave.—just a few blocks from the White House—a long line of protesters started lustily booing and shouting at the wall of security and police flanking the president’s hotel. They shouted, “Fuck Donald Trump” and “Vote him out!” Others opted to walk past silently, middle fingers raised high at the president’s namesake.
When protesters reached the White House, the crowd passed the usual array of Secret Service, unidentified federal law enforcement, DEA, and rusty fencing, an added fortification around the White House campus.
A public memorial was held for Floyd in Raeford, North Carolina, on Saturday, 12 days after white Minneapolis cop Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck until he lost consciousness.