Massive, peaceful protests swelled across the country as activists sparked efforts for meaningful police reforms

Demonstrators march through Philadelphia to protest against police brutality. Matt Slocum/Associated Press
  • On Saturday, peaceful anti-police brutality protests were held around the country, with major demonstrations taking place in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and more.
  • Curfews in major cities appeared to largely come to an end, though the 8 p.m. curfew in New York City still persisted.
  • Two Buffalo officers and one officer in New Mexico have been charged after harming unarmed citizens, and Gov. Gavin Newsom of California took steps to ban the controversial chokehold manoeuvre that’s killed dozens of Black people.
  • But some experts warned that we may see an uptick in coronavirus cases due to the mass protests.
  • It’s been nearly two weeks since George Floyd, a Black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds.
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Protests across America were impassioned but peaceful on Saturday – a marked contrast with the last two weeks, which saw protests and looting met with an aggressive, and sometimes even deadly, police response. Compared to that tumult, today marked a big step forward for protesters seeking racial justice.

Black Lives Matter and anti-racism marches continued for the twelfth straight day, as thousands of demonstrators continue to gather in major American cities. There were no major reports of police brutality against protesters, nor were there reports of fighting or stealing by protesters.

In San Francisco, thousands of protesters marched across the Golden Gate Bridge, temporarily shutting it down. They weaved between cars, holding up signs and chanting. They came and went safely – no one was hurt, and no arrests were made. This stood in sharp contrast to Tuesday’s protest on the Manhattan Bridge in New York, where dozens were arrested by the New York Police Department.

Thousands of people also marched through Philadelphia, in one of the biggest mass protests the historic city has ever seen. Aerial shots posted to Twitter attempted to capture the scale of the demonstration.

These marches were bolstered by the lifting of curfews, which have stifled some protesters the past few days. Major cities like Dallas and San Francisco have rescinded their temporary curfews, and there are no plans to bring them back.

Law enforcement officials have called the curfews necessary to keep the peace, but many human rights activists have accused city governments of using curfews as pretense to make more arrests.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights even threatened to sue New York City, which is still holding onto its 8 p.m. curfew for non-essential workers.

Activists in California were delighted on Saturday to hear Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state representatives call for a ban on carotid neck holds – also known as sleeper holds – in police departments. Although a neck hold wasn’t used to kill George Floyd, police have used it to kill dozens of Black citizens through the years. This was a big win for activists who seek to reform police departments, and the way that police are trained.

They were also happy to see action taken against abusive officers in two police departments at opposite ends of the country.

In Buffalo, New York, prosecutors charged two police officers with assault after watching a video of them shoving a 75-year-old man to the ground, cutting open his head. Officers Aaron Torglaski, 39, and Robert McCabe, 32 pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault. Both officers were suspended without pay.

Aaron Torgalski and Robert McCabe
Two Buffalo police officers were caught on camera pushing over a 75-year-old man. Erie County District Attorney

In New Mexico, meanwhile, an officer who killed an unarmed man using a neck hold was charged with involuntary manslaughter. His job at the Las Cruces Police Department was terminated on Friday.

For protesters, things started looking up on Saturday – but there may be danger around the corner.

Experts in Dallas and Houston, Texas have seen a record spike in coronavirus cases this week. This might signal that mass protests – which involve crowds of people in a limited space – may be causing a resurgence in disease. If similar spikes appear in other major cities, like New York and Minneapolis, these fears might be realised.