SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators filled the streets in San Francisco, Sacramento, Simi Valley, San Diego, Los Angeles and elsewhere across California on Saturday, continuing more than a week of protest marches expressing outrage over the death of George Floyd.
Roderick Sweeney, 49, who is black, said he was overwhelmed to see the large turnout of white protesters waving signs that said “Black Lives Matter” as hundreds marched back and forth across San Francisco’s famed Golden Gate Bridge.
“We’ve had discussions in our family and among friends that nothing is going to change until our white brothers and sisters voice their opinion,” he said. The large turnout of white protesters “is sending a powerful message. You can see protests are happening around this world, and so I’m hoping change will happen.”
Floyd, a black man, died on May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer put his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he was handcuffed and lying on the ground.
Danielle Chetrit, 22, who is white, said she participated in a protest on Tuesday and felt compelled to march again on Saturday to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
“There are no words to capture the level of disgrace that I feel about these senseless killings,” she said.
The strong turnout by people of different racial backgrounds “goes to show that there are people around the world that agree that … we have a certain group that’s really suffering and we need to take care of them now,” Chetrit said.
In Los Angeles, protesters organized by Refuse Fascism LA took over Hollywood Boulevard, chanting “Revolution, nothing less!” And in San Diego, more than 3,000 people marched downtown while a caravan of 300 cars moved past the state university there.
In Simi Valley, a protest drawing several thousand demonstrators spilled onto the street and stopped traffic on a major road through the suburban town northwest of Los Angeles. It was there that four white Los Angeles police officers were found not guilty of beating motorist Rodney King, sparking riots in 1992.
On Saturday, marchers there carried signs with messages such as “We stand together” and “Change is now.” Some of them thanked police officers as they passed by them. But some had heated arguments with a small number of counter-protesters, while an Associated Press photographer saw a motorcyclist strike a protester who was blocking the roadway in the face before speeding off.
In Huntington Beach, the Orange County Register reported police officers separated protesters at a beachside rally from a few dozen counter-protesters who waved American flags and pro-Trump signs. A fight broke out amid the scrum, and one person was detained and taken into a police car.
Demonstrations in recent days have generally been boisterous but non-violent, in contrast to last weekend when some protesters smashed windows, burned police cars and confronted cordons of riot-clad police who fired tear gas and rubber bullets. Gone, too, was most of the looting that ransacked dozens of stores and that authorities say appeared mainly to be the work of non-protesters.
California Highway Commissioner Warren Stanley, who is black, waded into a crowd of dozens of protesters who had jumped barriers ringing the state Capitol Saturday afternoon. Live video from The Sacramento Bee showed him defusing what had been a tense confrontation by talking with representatives, moments after Stanley told demonstrators that Floyd’s death was “totally unacceptable.”
Sacramento on Saturday halted a nightly curfew that began Monday and ended its use of National Guard troops who had been deployed to aid law enforcement after many buildings in the city’s downtown were damaged a week ago.
“The peaceful and powerful demonstrations of the past five days have given me confidence that these measures, which we imposed reluctantly, are no longer needed.” Mayor Darrell Steinberg said.
It was the latest local government to ease or end curfews that resulted in the arrests of thousands of demonstrators. Nearly 4,200 Guard troops are deployed across the state, officials said Saturday, including more than 1,000 in Sacramento and 2,900 in Los Angeles County.
Several thousand demonstrators earlier Saturday marched past an area near the state Capitol where “Black Lives Matter” has been painted in giant letters stretching for three blocks. They were joined at a downtown rally by managers and former players of professional basketball’s Sacramento Kings.
Brian Marvel, president of the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents more than 77,000 individuals and 930 associations, on Saturday called for a national police use of force standard patterned after a pair of new California laws that were spurred in part by Stephon Clark’s death in 2018 in Sacramento after he was shot by police officers.
Police can’t operate without community trust that is broken when officers act improperly as they did most recently with Floyd, he said. He said that is why the U.S. needs a national standard “to mandate that all peace officers have a duty to intercede, to raise the bar for use of force training standards for all peace officers.”