WASHINGTON • The authorities in the United States have started to rein in policing tactics as street marches across the country over the killing of a black man in custody entered the 12th day.
Forty-six-year-old George Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes.
The blatant killing has sparked days of protests across the US against racism and police brutality, and also demonstrations around the world.
A huge demonstration was expected in Washington yesterday, with local media predicting tens of thousands of attendees.
Six buses unloaded several hundred uniformed military personnel, most carrying shields or body armour, at the White House grounds early yesterday, a Reuters photographer said.
Separately, a federal judge in Denver has ordered the city’s police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades, with his ruling citing examples of protesters and journalists being injured by police.
In Minneapolis, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and chokeholds, where pressure is applied to the neck. California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would end state police training of carotid restraints similar to the technique used on Mr Floyd.
In New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio said yesterday that he had suspended two officers without pay for using excessive force against demonstrators.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing “Say Their Name” reforms, including making police disciplinary records publicly available as well as banning chokeholds by police.
“Mr Floyd’s murder was the breaking point,” Mr Cuomo, a Democrat, said. “People are saying enough is enough.”
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags at state facilities be lowered to half-mast from sunrise to sunset yesterday to honour Mr Floyd, who was originally from Fayetteville in the state. A televised memorial service will also be held in the city.
On Friday, marches and rallies took place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, New York and Denver, among other places, while protesters gathered again, in the rain, in front of the White House.
The night-time protests were largely peaceful but tension remains high even as the authorities in several places take steps to reform police procedures.
Protesters around the world also took to the streets again yesterday, a day after many marched in a wave of outrage at the death of Mr Floyd and racism against minorities in their own nations.
Black Lives Matter activists have called for cities to defund police departments. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a Democrat who in April proposed raising law enforcement funding, last week reversed course and said he would seek some US$150 million (S$209 million) in cuts to the city’s police department.
In another sign of how attitudes have changed, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell said the league had made mistakes in not listening to players, in a video denouncing racism in the US.
The eruption of demonstrations comes as the public and businesses struggle to recover from sweeping lockdowns imposed to stop the spread of the coronavirus. Disease experts have said the protests could spark new outbreaks.
Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser, who has sparred with US President Donald Trump over his sometimes heavy-handed response to the rallies and marches in the nation’s capital, had the slogan “Black Lives Matter” painted in massive yellow letters on a street leading to the White House.
After nightfall, Ms Bowser had light projections spelling out the words beamed onto nearby buildings, which she said on Twitter was a “night light” aimed at Mr Trump.