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,” she said.
In Los Angeles, protesters organized by Refuse Fascism LA took over Hollywood Boulevard, chanting “Revolution nothing less!”
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” and some of them thanked police officers as they passed by them.
Demonstrations in recent days have 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 which authorities say appeared mainly to be the work of non-protesters.
However, police in Bakersfield said some counterprotesters threw smoke bombs and clashed with a group of Black Lives Matter protesters at the end of a peaceful march Friday night, though no injuries were reported and no one was arrested.
Sacramento, the state capital, on Saturday halted a nightly curfew that began Monday and had been set to continue through the weekend. It also 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.”said Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
It was the latest local government to ease or end curfews that resulted in the arrests of thousands of demonstrators. Nearly 4,200 troops are deployed across the state, officials said Saturday, including more than 1,000 in Sacramento and 2,900 in Los Angeles County.
Hundreds marched from Sacramento’s Capitol 1 Center to a city plaza Saturday, first passing an area near the state Capitol where “Black Lives Matter” has been painted in giant letters stretching for three blocks.
Vivek Ranadive, chairman of professional basketball’s Sacramento Kings, led the crowd in taking a silent knee, The Sacramento Bee reported, before saying: “We have just one message: Black Lives Matter.” He was joined by other current and former NBA players.
Steinberg promised in a tweet to work with police and the City Council “to build upon the police reforms we have implemented over the last several years.” The city enacted changes in response to the 2018 fatal police shooting in Sacramento of Stephon Clark, who was black.
Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday ordered the state’s police training program to stop teaching officers how to use the carotid restraint or sleeper hold – an arm grip around the throat that blocks blood flow to the brain and can kill if used too long. He also said he wants the Legislature to set standards for crowd control and police use of force in protests.
Brian Marvel, president of the rank-and-file Peace Officers Research Association of California, which represents more than 77,000 individuals and 930 associations, meanwhile called for a national police use of force standard patterned after a pair of new California laws that were spurred in part by Clark’s death.
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.”