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Peace at rallies cited as NYC's curfew lifts; demonstrators keeping up efforts around nation, world

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | June 8, 2020 at 7:26 a.m.
Members of the Compton Cowboys join a protest Sunday in Compton, Calif., over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. More photos at arkansasonline.com/68floyd/.
(AP/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

NEW YORK -- With New York City poised to reopen after a coronavirus shutdown of more than two months, officials on Sunday lifted a curfew that was in place amid protests against police misconduct and racial injustice. But they also urged that demonstrators be tested for covid-19.

"Get a test. Get a test," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo told people who have been participating in rallies and marches in memory of George Floyd, the black man who died at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Cuomo said the state would open 15 testing sites dedicated to protesters so they can get results quickly.

"I would act as if you were exposed, and I would tell people you are interacting with, 'Assume I am positive for the virus,'" Cuomo added.

The call is similar to those made in Seattle, San Francisco and Atlanta after demonstrations, with free testing for protesters.

[CORONAVIRUS: Click here for our complete coverage » arkansasonline.com/coronavirus]

New York has been the epicenter of the U.S.' coronavirus outbreak, with black communities hit especially hard.

The Rev. Brandon Watts of Epiphany Church in Brooklyn was mindful of the pandemic while organizing a "Pray & Protest" march with several other churches. He mandated that protesters wear masks, and he arrived with boxes of them. He also asked the group to try to maintain social distancing but acknowledged, "It's kind of hard in a protest."

"Covid-19 hit the inner city harder than anybody else," Watts said. "And so we have to be very careful. We're the only ones in a pandemic within a pandemic."

Brooklyn resident Celeste Douglas attended her third protest in the past week and said she'll continue until legislation is passed on budgets for police and education.

"I want to tell my children when they ask when this stuff started to change, I want to tell them I was a part of it," Douglas said.

New York City prepared to enter its first phase of reopening after virus shutdowns. As many as 400,000 people are expected to head back to the workplace today, with many using a subway system that most New Yorkers have avoided since March to keep away from crowds.

Mayor Bill de Blasio lifted the city's 8 p.m. curfew imposed for the protests.

"Last night was the best by far," de Blasio said. "We had the biggest number of protesters, the fewest arrests, the fewest problems, and that convinced me it was time for the curfew to go away. I have no intention of bringing it back."

Many cities imposed curfews amid last week's spasms of arson, assaults and smash-and-grab raids on businesses, and now many are canceling them. Recent U.S. protests have been overwhelmingly peaceful, as were rallies held around the globe.

D.C. DEMONSTRATION

In Washington, hundreds of people strolled along the newly named Black Lives Matter Plaza near the White House on Sunday, basking in the sun and gearing up for yet another demonstration.

At a racially diverse gathering, people of all ages milled near Lafayette Square, parents pushed strollers, and teenagers posed in front of a big cloth sign reading "Black Lives Matter" on the metal fence surrounding the park in front of the White House.

David Inoue spoke into a microphone as people recorded him on their phones. Several members of his Japanese-American organization, Tsuru for Solidarity, stood behind him holding paper cranes meant to symbolize peace.

"Where is the law and order," Inoue asked, "when we see black men killed by those sworn to protect ... and serve us?"

Not far away, a dozen white Quakers sat silently in a circle on the pavement in front of a sign that read, "End white silence."

President Donald Trump sought to downplay the gatherings while announcing he was decreasing the heavy presence of federal crowd-control forces on Washington streets.

"I have just given an order for our National Guard to start the process of withdrawing from Washington, D.C., now that everything is under perfect control," Trump said in a Sunday morning tweet. "They will be going home, but can quickly return, if needed. Far fewer protesters showed up last night than anticipated!"

As he tweeted those words, more demonstrators were headed toward the White House. About 11 a.m., Michael A. Jackson pressed his face against the fence at Lafayette Square and sang "America (My Country, 'Tis of Thee)."

"From every mountainside, let freedom ring!" he sang, as bystanders cheered and clapped. Jackson said he went downtown to send a message that Floyd's killing was unacceptable in a nation that stands for freedom and democracy.

SERVICES FOR FLOYD

Floyd's body has arrived in Texas for a third and final memorial service, said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo. A viewing is planned for today in Houston, followed by a service and burial Tuesday in suburban Pearland.

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, will travel to Houston today to meet with Floyd's family, a campaign aide said. Biden will offer his condolences in person, and he'll tape a video to play at the ceremony, the aide said.

Biden's trip to the city where Floyd spent much of his life will bolster his efforts to strike a sharp contrast with Trump, whose response to Floyd's death has focused on encouraging a strong show of force against looting and violence. Trump won't attend the funeral either, and he hasn't indicated whether he plans to meet with the Floyds.

Biden promised Floyd's family that he will do what he can to help them find justice.

MINNEAPOLIS POLICE

In Minneapolis, a majority of the members of the City Council said Sunday that they support disbanding the city's Police Department, an aggressive stance that comes just as the state has launched a civil-rights investigation into Floyd's death.

Nine of the council's 12 members appeared with activists at a rally in a city park Sunday afternoon and vowed to end policing as the city currently knows it. Council member Jeremiah Ellison promised the council would "dismantle" the department.

"It is clear that our system of policing is not keeping our communities safe," said Lisa Bender, the council president. "Our efforts at incremental reform have failed, period."

Bender said she and the other council members at the rally are committed to ending the city's relationship with the police force and "to end policing as we know it and recreate systems that actually keep us safe."

Minnesota launched a civil-rights investigation of the department last week, and the first concrete changes came Friday in a stipulated agreement in which the city agreed to ban chokeholds and neck restraints.

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBKY_Lrh7_U]

NATIONWIDE PROTESTS

Elsewhere around the U.S.:

m As Atlanta lifted its curfew, protesters again rallied. A group of black pastors walked down Auburn Avenue -- the street where Martin Luther King Jr. was born -- singing a protest song from the civil-rights era with the lyrics, "Ain't gonna let nobody turn me round."

m At Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR paused before Sunday's race to acknowledge the nationwide protests. The 40 cars pulled to a stop in front of the empty grandstands and shut off their engines so NASCAR President Steve Phelps could deliver a message over their radio sets. "Our country is in pain and people are justifiably angry, demanding to be heard. The black community and all people of color have suffered in our country, and it has taken far too long for us to hear their demands for change," Phelps said. "Our sport must do better. Our country must do better."

[Video not showing up above? Click here to watch » https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX9G5Lk3Rnk]

m In Milwaukee, the Bucks of the NBA led thousands of fans on a march through downtown in support of social justice. Bucks guard Sterling Brown led the crowd in 9 seconds of silence to honor Floyd. "We're here as one," he said. "We're making something great happen. We're making something positive happen, something that's heard around the world."

m Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot lifted the city's curfew, reopened downtown train stations and allowed full bus service to resume after days of largely calm protests. Demonstrations continued Sunday, with hundreds gathering at an intersection on the city's South Side.

m In California, National Guard troops will be pulled out of cities where they've been deployed for a week after rampant violence and thievery marred the first days of protests, officials announced. Peaceful demonstrations again popped up across the state, including one on horseback and another on wheels.

AROUND THE WORLD

In protests outside the U.S.:

m In Brussels, a crowd estimated at 10,000, many wearing masks, filled a square in front of the main courthouse, holding white roses and signs decrying racism. "You think you are tired of hearing about racism? We are tired of experiencing it," read one placard held up by a young black woman. Later in the day, police detained 150 people and fired a water cannon to quell unrest. Mayor Philippe Close blamed the violence on "delinquents."

m In Milan, a few thousand people rallied against racism outside the central train station, many of them African migrants or the children of migrants who want changes making it easier to gain Italian citizenship. One held a sign saying, "I Fight For My Kids."

m In London, thousands massed outside the new U.S. Embassy, where student Darcy Bourne said the demonstration was about "more than just George Floyd, more than just America, but racism all around the world."

m At the U.S. Embassy in Madrid and in central Barcelona, Spain, thousands wearing masks gathered peacefully to denounce racism and chant "Police murderers!" and "No justice, no peace!"

m In Budapest, Hungary, hundreds of people attended a peaceful rally outside the U.S. Embassy to express their solidarity. Speeches and songs like Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come" and Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" were heard on Liberty Square before the crowd knelt for 8 minutes and 46 seconds -- the amount of time that a white Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd's neck.

[Gallery not loading above? Click here for more photos » arkansasonline.com/68floyd/]

​​​​​Information for this article was contributed by Jake Seiner, Kimberlee Kruesi and staff members of The Associated Press; by Marisa Iati, Laura Vozzella, Meryl Kornfield and Paul Duggan of The Washington Post; and by Jennifer Epstein of Bloomberg News.

A discarded signs rests on the fencing in front of the Mississippi Governor's Mansion, Sunday morning, June 7, 2020, following a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest Saturday that involved several hundred marchers. The organizers sought to bring attention to police brutality and its fallout nationwide and in Mississippi while also seeking long term solutions to issues plaguing the African American community. Many of the signs had messages on the backside which faced the building. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)
Demonstrators crowd into Civic Center Park during a rally calling for more oversight of the police Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Denver. Demonstrators marched from the park, which is in the heart of downtown, east along Colfax Avenue to City Park after the rally. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
Protesters march through the streets of Manhattan, New York, Sunday, June 7, 2020. New York City lifted the curfew spurred by protests against police brutality ahead of schedule Sunday after a peaceful night, free of the clashes or ransacking of stores that rocked the city days earlier. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
People gather calling for justice for George Floyd, who died May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, USA, in Milan, Italy, Sunday, June 7, 2020. People have been protesting throughout Italy, to denounce the police killing of George Floyd and show solidarity with anti-racism protests in the U.S. and elsewhere. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)
Protesters rally near the edge of Times Square in New York, Sunday, June 7, 2020. New York City lifted the curfew spurred by protests against police brutality ahead of schedule Sunday after a peaceful night, free of the clashes or ransacking of stores that rocked the city days earlier. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
A girl clinches her fist as people gather to honor George Floyd, who died May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, USA, in Milan, Italy, Sunday, June 7, 2020. In Italy’s financial capital, Milan, a few thousand protesters gathered in a square outside the central train station Sunday afternoon to demonstrate against racism. (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)
People walk on the words Black Lives Matter that was painted in bright yellow letters on 16th Street as demonstrators protest Sunday, June 7, 2020, near the White House in Washington, over the death of George Floyd, a black man who was in police custody in Minneapolis. Floyd died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)
A NASCAR official kneels during the national anthem before a NASCAR Cup Series auto race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Hampton, Ga. NASCAR paused before Sunday’s Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway to acknowledge the country’s social unrest. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
A protester holds the placard in front of police vans, during a demonstration organised to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, in Gothenburg, Sweden, Sunday, June 7, 2020. in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (Adam Ihse/TT News Agency via AP)

Print Headline: NYC's curfew lifted; peace at rallies cited

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