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Washington prepares for major protest as US officials move to rein in police

Some activists on social media have called for a million people to attend a protest in the capital.

A large law enforcement response is seen near the White House after a protest was dispersed on June 1, 2020 in downtown Washington, DC. Protests and riots continue in cities across America following the death of George Floyd, who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Picture: AFP.

WASHINGTON - Protesters are expected to gather in Washington for a huge demonstration on Saturday, its police chief said, as US street marches over the killing of a black man in custody enter a 12th day and authorities move to rein in policing tactics.

George Floyd, 46, died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a police officer pinned him to the ground with a knee to the neck for nearly nine minutes. The killing has sparked days of protests across the United States against racism and police brutality, and also demonstrations around the world.

Some activists on social media have called for a million people to attend a protest in the capital.

“We have a lot of public, open source information to suggest that the event on this upcoming Saturday may be one of the largest we’ve ever had in the city,” Washington DC Police Chief Peter Newsham told local media, adding that much of the city center would be closed to traffic from early in the day.

Newsham did not give a crowd estimate. Local media has predicted tens of thousands of attendees.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has ordered that all flags at state facilities be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Saturday in honor of Floyd, who was originally from the state’s Fayetteville city. A televised memorial service will also be held in the city.

On Friday, marches and gatherings took place in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Miami, New York and Denver, among other places, while protesters massed again, in the rain, in front of the White House. The night-time protests were largely peaceful but tension remains high even as authorities in several places take steps to reform police procedures.

A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop using tear gas, plastic bullets and other “less-than-lethal” devices such as flash grenades, with his ruling citing examples of protesters and journalists being injured by police.

“These are peaceful demonstrators, journalists, and medics who have been targeted with extreme tactics meant to suppress riots, not to suppress demonstrations,” US District Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in the ruling.

In Minneapolis, Democratic city leaders voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke-holds, where pressure is applied to the neck, while California Governor Gavin Newsom said he would end state police training of carotid restraints similar to the technique used on Floyd.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing “Say Their Name” reforms, including making police disciplinary records publicly available as well as banning choke-holds.

“Mr Floyd’s murder was the breaking point,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said. “People are saying enough is enough.”

Protesters around the world are also expected to take to the streets again on Saturday, a day after many marched in a wave of outrage at the death of Floyd and racism against minorities in their own nations.