Massive, peaceful protests across US demand police reform

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Hundreds of people attend a rally in Frankfurt, Germany, Saturday, June 6, 2020, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Michael Probst)

Massive demonstrations against racism and police brutality filled some of the nation’s most famous cityscapes Saturday, with tens of thousands of people marching peacefully in scenes that were more often festive than tense.

Wearing masks and urging fundamental change, protesters gathered in dozens of places from coast to coast while mourners in North Carolina waited for hours to glimpse the golden coffin carrying the body of native son George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hands of Minneapolis police has galvanized the expanding movement.

Collectively, it was perhaps the largest one-day mobilization since Floyd died 12 days ago and came as many cities began lifting curfews that authorities imposed following initial spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses. Authorities have softened restrictions as the number of arrests plummeted.

Demonstrations also reached four other continents, ending in clashes in two European cities. In the U.S., Seattle police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse protesters hurling rocks, bottles and explosives, just a day after city leaders temporarily banned one kind of tear gas.

The largest U.S. demonstration appeared to be in Washington, where protesters flooded streets closed to traffic. On a hot, humid day, they gathered at the Capitol, on the National Mall and in neighborhoods. Some turned intersections into dance floors. Tents offered snacks and water.

Pamela Reynolds said she came seeking greater police accountability.

“The laws are protecting them,” said the 37-year-old African American teacher. The changes she wants include a federal ban on police chokeholds and a requirement that officers wear body cameras.

At the White House, which was fortified with new fencing and extra security measures, chants and cheers could be heard in waves. President Donald Trump, who has urged authorities to crack down on unrest, downplayed the demonstration, tweeting: “Much smaller crowd in D.C. than anticipated."