'Unfathomable': Aerial footage shows protest numbers swelling dramatically

·5-min read

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have marched in Washington and other cities across the United States to demand an end to racism and brutality by law enforcement as protests over the killing of a black man by Minneapolis police entered a 12th day.

The protest in the nation's capital was shaping up as the largest of the marches seen this week in cities and smaller towns nationwide, as well as in countries around the world.

It coincided with a second memorial service for George Floyd, 46, who died on May 25 after a Minneapolis policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

His killing, recorded in excruciating detail on a bystander's mobile phone, has led to a wave of protests and national soul-searching over the country's legacy of violence and mistreatment of African Americans and other minorities.

Demonstrators gather on newly coined 'Black Lives Plaza' in Washington, DC. Source: Getty Images
Demonstrators gather on newly coined 'Black Lives Plaza' in Washington, DC. Source: Getty Images

Near the front of the White House, Katrina Fernandez, 42, said she was both hopeful and impatient in joining the protests to demand what she viewed as long overdue reforms in policing.

"I'm just hoping that we really get some change from what's going on. People have been kneeling and protesting and begging for a long time and enough is enough," she said. "We can't take much more."

Local media has forecast that tens of thousands would turn out in the US capital, despite the risks still posed by the coronavirus, which ravaged the country over the past two months and still presents a deadly threat, according to health experts. Official estimates of the number of protesters were unavailable.

As in previous days, the protests in cities from Los Angeles and Chicago to New York and Washington involved a series of loosely organised marches.

Perhaps the biggest crowds filled the streets in Philadelphia where an almost endless stream of demonstrators were seen.

Aerial footage of the protest in the City of Brotherly Love was described as “unbelievable” with some estimating the protest drew more people than when the Philadelphia Eagles won the SuperBowl.

In the nation's capital, thousands gathered at the Lincoln Memorial and elsewhere before converging on the White House. A moving throng of people marched past the George Washington University Hospital chanting "Hands up, Don't shoot!", "We March for hope, not for hate," and "I can't breathe!"

The second memorial service for Mr Floyd was held in a North Carolina town where he was born. Hundreds lined up at a church in Raeford to pay their respects during a public viewing, and a private service for the family was conducted later in the day.

Mr Floyd's first memorial was held on Friday in Minneapolis. His funeral is scheduled on Tuesday in Houston.

An American flag with a black fist is displayed to a crowd gathered in Washington, DC on June 6. Source: Getty Images
An American flag with a black fist is displayed to a crowd gathered in Washington, DC on June 6. Source: Getty Images

In New York, a large crowd of protesters crossed the Brooklyn Bridge into lower Manhattan on Saturday afternoon, marching up a deserted Broadway, where many of the shops were boarded up, according to social media posts.

Thousands of others gathered in Harlem near the northwest corner of Central Park to march downtown, about 100 blocks, to the city's Washington Square Park.

In Philadelphia, demonstrators gathered on the steps of Philadelphia Art Museum steps chanting, "No justice, No peace." Others marched along Benjamin Franklin Parkway, through John F. Kennedy Plaza, and around Philadelphia City Hall.

“The crowd in Philly is...unfathomable? I can’t even guess. Unbelievable,” one man tweeted, later adding that almost all of the attendees were wearing face masks.

“Mask usage has been near 100%, which I was pleasantly surprised by. City was handing out masks for anyone who needed one,” he wrote.

Aerial footage above the march in Philadelphia showed crowd numbers swelling to an 'unfathomable' level. Source: Twitter/NBC 10
Aerial footage above the march in Philadelphia showed crowd numbers swelling to an 'unfathomable' level. Source: Twitter/NBC 10

In California, the country's most populous state, demonstrations occurred in many cities including Los Angeles and San Francisco, where protesters briefly blocked traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge as motorists honked in solidarity.

Demonstrators in Washington appeared to be from diverse backgrounds and assembled on H Street NW and the newly rechristened Black Lives Matter Plaza, a strip leading up to the White House where the city painted "Black Lives Matter" in huge yellow letters on the pavement on Friday, local time, in defiance of US president Donald Trump.

It was near the spot where US Park Police triggered outrage on Monday evening by firing smoke grenades and chemical irritant "pepper balls" before charging into peaceful protesters.

Protesters and supporters of Black Lives Matter lie in the street in Westwood, California. Source: Getty Images
Protesters and supporters of Black Lives Matter lie in the street in Westwood, California. Source: Getty Images

Afterward, Trump walked from the White House to the front of a nearby church and posed holding a Bible, a gesture criticised by many Democrats and even some members of Trump's Republican Party.

On Saturday, the area had an atmosphere akin to a block party before the crowd marched toward downtown.

The demonstrators included families and people of all ages carrying signs saying "Fed up", "All lives do not matter until black lives do", and "My black son matters."

Uniformed officers were out in smaller numbers than earlier in the week and generally assumed a more relaxed posture, wearing patrol uniforms rather than body armour and helmets.

Even so, six buses unloaded hundreds of uniformed military personnel, most wearing body armour and carrying shields, at the White House grounds, a Reuters photographer said. Military Humvees were parked on tree-lined city streets.

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