SAN FRANCISCO – A diverse crowd of thousands of demonstrators outraged by the death of George Floyd tied up San Francisco’s iconic Golden Gate Bridge with the acquiescence of authorities on Saturday, another sign of how their message has resonated even with law enforcement officials in recent days.
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.”
“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.”
Tow trucks held off car traffic in both directions, and police directed vehicles caught in the middle of the bridge to go around protesters who eventually moved off the roadway peacefully.
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 felt compelled to join the Golden Gate march.
“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 Sacramento, Warren Stanley, the California Highway Patrol’s first African American commissioner, waded into a crowd at the state Capitol, defusing tensions after telling protesters that Floyd’s death was “totally unacceptable.”
Live video from The Sacramento Bee showed Stanley spending about a half-hour talking with individual demonstrators after dozens jumped metal barricades and briefly confronted a line of officers clad in riot gear.
In Berkeley, protesters staged a raucous New Orleans style-funeral procession on city streets, replete with dancers and a brass band, to “bury” racism.
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, several thousand demonstrators 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.”
The protest in Simi Valley was organized by two black teenagers -- Mikiiya Foster and Alyssa Brown -- who grew up in the area and just graduated from high school.
Brown, 18, said her family moved from North Hollywood to the mostly white and conservative suburb about a decade ago in search of better schools and safer neighborhoods.
“Growing up here has been a little rough for me. I have been called the N word, spelled with an A and a hard R,” Brown said.
She said the idea for a march sprung out of a typical FaceTime call between two friends, and she couldn’t have it imagined it “blow up” the way it did Saturday. “To see there were almost 2,000 people there today, it makes me feel so good,” Brown said.
In Huntington Beach, a line of police officers separated a crowd of people protesting against police brutality and a group of counter-protesters who waved American flags and signs supporting President Donald Trump. A fight broke out on the side of the counter protesters and police made “a couple of arrests,” Officer Angela Bennett told the Orange County Register.
Demonstrations in recent days have generally been boisterous but non-violent.
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 Sacramento Police Department announced Saturday that its officers would stop using carotid holds that stop blood flow to the brain. On Friday, Gov. Gavin Newsom called for outlawing the hold.
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.
In Los Angeles, City Attorney Mike Feuer said he is working on a plan to handle curfew violations outside the courts, in a way he said “will be designed to be productive, rather than punitive.”
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 after he was shot in Sacramento by police officers.
Police can’t operate without community trust, he said. Marvel 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.”
Thompson reported from Sacramento. Associated Press photographers Jeff Chiu in San Francisco and Mark Terrill in Simi Valley contributed to this report.