Massive crowds flooded U.S. cities large and small on Saturday to protest police brutality, racial injustice and the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody on May 25.
Protests erupted across the country last week after bystander video of Floyd's death surfaced. The footage showed former officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd's neck for over eight minutes, remaining in the position even after Floyd became unresponsive.
The demonstrations continued into this week after protesters endured violent confrontations with law enforcement including exposure to tear gas, getting beaten with batons, helicopter crowd control tactics and other uses of force.
The population of the protests reached record levels Saturday as hundreds and, in some places, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York City, Washington D.C., Philadelphia and Boston.
The protests also reached rural America and medium-sized cities.
In Amarillo, hundreds of people gathered at Bones Hook Park on the city's north side for a rally organized by the NAACP.
“When we gather as a community in the united manner that we did today, that’s how we affect change. We have people here that are getting registered to vote. We have people here that are going to complete the United States Census forms. We are doing things that are going to make an immediate impact on our community,” said Patrick Miller, vice president of Amarillo Branch NAACP.
Speakers included Amarillo mayor Ginger Nelson.
“I do think that Amarillo can shift change in our nation and we’re going to do it through events like this, but we’re really going to do it by people, individually making statements, making dialogue, thinking changes and taking action to make our city a better place and that is what will make our nation a better place,” Nelson said.
Another group of around 500 people gathered at the Amarillo Police Department in downtown for a Black Lives Matter protest.
“It really empowers me to be with other brothers and sisters in the community and really expressing what really matters and that is that Black Lives Matter,” one protester said.
In McAllen, Texas — a city of 143,433 people — dozens of peaceful protesters gathered to protest Floyd’s death throughout the week.
In Tyler, an east Texas city of just over 100,000 residents, hundreds gathered in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
And in Raeford, N.C, large swaths of people gathered in lines to pay their respects to Floyd at an open viewing of his body and at a memorial service held in the area.
Floyd was born in the North Carolina city, where his family members as well as members of law enforcement and government officials celebrated his life.
Organizers and demonstrators in the U.S. are calling for sweeping reforms to address police brutality and racial inequity.
Democrats will introduce wide-ranging legislation on Monday to combat racial inequality. The package, crafted by the Congressional Black Caucus will include ways to eradicate racial profiling, rein in excessive force used by police, and repeal the so-called qualified immunity doctrine.
The doctrine protects individual officers from lawsuits over actions they perform while on duty and has served as an obstacle in serving charges and prosecuting officers who use excessive force.
The former officer, Chauvin, was arrested the same week of Floyd's death and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter days after the incident.
Chauvin’s charges were eventually increased to second-degree murder, a charge that, if convicted, will result in a maximum prison sentence of 40 years.
The three other officers involved in Floyd’s death were not arrested until a week after the incident, when they were charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.