Protests scale up in US but violence falls

Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated, mainly peacefully, across the United States for an eighth night following the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody.

One of the biggest protests, joined by Floyd’s relatives, took place in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

Many defied curfews in several cities, imposed after violence and looting in some districts on Monday night.

In central Washington DC police fired tear gas late into the night.

The military were again on the streets of the capital and helicopters hovered above protesters marching towards the White House.

The Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets – not only to express their outrage at the treatment of Mr Floyd – but to condemn police brutality against black Americans more widely.

In Houston, where Floyd is due to be buried, Mayor Sylvester Turner, told the crowds people should know that he “did not die in vain”.

Sixteen members of George Floyd’s family joined the 60,000 protesters for the Houston rally.

They included sister La Tonya and brother Philonese. A nephew told the crowd: “Don’t stop until we get justice for my uncle,” the Houston Chronicle reports.

Brother Philonese Floyd with other members of his family at the Houston rally

At an emotional news conference in Minneapolis, Roxie Washington, the mother of George Floyd’s six-year-old daughter Gianna, said he was a good man.

Standing with Gianna, she said: “I’m here for my baby and I’m here for George because I want justice for him.”

George Floyd’s funeral is due to take place on 9 June in Houston.

On Tuesday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, a Democrat, said the state had opened a civil rights investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department, looking back 10 years.

‘‘We’re not going to restore peace on our streets by having a bigger group of National Guard show up,” he said.

“We’re not going to establish peace on our streets by keeping a curfew in place all the time. We’re going to establish peace on our streets when we address the systemic issues that caused it in the first place.’’

In the past, protests against excessive force have often remained localized to the city where they began, as with Ferguson, Mo., in 2014.

This time is different. Americans are now far more likely to believe that police use excessive force against Black people, even compared with a few years ago.

A study from Monmouth University, released Tuesday, found 57 percent of Americans believe police are more likely to use excessive force against Black people. That’s an increase from the 34 percent of registered voters who said the same in 2016 following the police shooting of Alton Sterling in Louisiana, and the 33 percent who said so in 2014 after a grand jury did not indict a New York City police officer in the death of Eric Garner.

President Donald Trump has meanwhile defended his controversial decision to pose with a bible outside a historic church in Washington.

Taking to Twitter, he wrote: “You got it wrong! If the protesters were so peaceful, why did they light the Church on fire the night before? People liked my walk.”

Washington’s Catholic archbishop on Tuesday strongly criticised President Donald Trump’s visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine. Tuesday’s visit “manipulated” the shrine, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said.

On Tuesday, Trump congratulated himself for having used the National Guard in Washington while blasting de Blasio for not using it in New York. ‘‘Overwhelming force. Domination,’’ Trump wrote in one Twitter post.

In New York City, thousands of demonstrators protesting the death of George Floyd remained on the streets Tuesday, despite an 8 p.m. curfew.

The police announced they would not allow vehicle traffic south of 96th Street in Manhattan after curfew, though residents, essential workers, buses, and delivery trucks were exempt. Earlier, a group of doctors in white coats led a march through Midtown.

Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden criticised President Donald Trump for using the crisis to appeal to his supporters, saying he was “serving the passions of his base”.

Governors and mayors, Republicans and Democrats alike, rejected Trump’s threat to send in the military, with some saying troops would be unnecessary and others questioning whether the government has such authority and warning that such a step would be dangerous.

George W. Bush criticized any effort to squelch protests of Floyd’s death. In a statement issued Tuesday by his office in Dallas, the former Republican president said he and wife, Laura Bush, “are anguished by the brutal suffocation of George Floyd and disturbed by the injustice and fear that suffocate our country.”

Bush did not refer specifically to Trump, but he called the harassment and threats directed toward Black protesters “a shocking failure.”

“It is a strength when protesters, protected by responsible law enforcement, march for a better future. . . . Those who set out to silence those voices do not understand the meaning of America — or how it becomes a better place,” he said.

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