The latest news on protests against police brutality and racism around the U.S.:

LONDON — Thousands of people demonstrated in London on Wednesday against police violence and racial injustice following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, which has set off days of unrest in the United States.

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Police officers form a line to block protesters in central London on Wednesday after a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. Protests have taken place across America and internationally as well. Yui Mok/PA via AP

In Athens, police fired tear gas to disperse youths who threw firebombs and stones at them outside the U.S. Embassy toward the end of an otherwise peaceful protest by about 4,000 people. No injuries or arrests were reported.

The London demonstration began in Hyde Park, with protesters chanting “Black lives matter,” before many of them later marched through the streets, blocking traffic.

Some of them converged on Parliament and the nearby Downing Street office of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. A few scuffles erupted between protesters and police outside the street’s heavy metal gates.

Inside, Johnson told a news conference that he was “appalled and sickened” by Floyd’s death on May 25 when a white Minneapolis officer, Derek Chauvin, pressed his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck for several minutes.

Earlier, “Star Wars” actor John Boyega, who was born in Britain to Nigerian parents and grew up in south London’s Peckham neighborhood, pleaded tearfully for demonstrators to stay peaceful.

Read the full story about protests in Europe here.

Thousands protest again near White House

WASHINGTON — Thousands of protesters in the nation’s capital knelt and sang “Amazing Grace” on Wednesday, the sixth night of protests over the death of George Floyd in Minnesota. “We are not going anywhere,” the protesters chanted.

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Demonstrators walk along Pennsylvania Avenue as they protest the death of George Floyd on Wednesday in Washington. Associated Press/Evan Vucci

As the protesters sang and chanted, law enforcement officers in riot gear stood watching over the crowd, which stretched down 16th Street near the White House.

The crowd knelt silently as the time neared for a virtual town hall by former President Barack Obama to discuss Floyd’s death, policing and the protests that have engulfed the country.

Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser imposed an 11 p.m. curfew after a peaceful night of protests. The curfew then had been 7 p.m.

Activists use informal tools to keep the peace at protests

When Berto Aguayo heard that Chicago protests started turning violent over the weekend, he called a few dozen people to meet in front of a colorful mural in a South Side neighborhood.

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Demonstrators gather to protest the death of George Floyd on Wednesday near the White House in Washington. Manuel Balce Ceneta/Associated Press

“Number one, we are here to peacefully protect small businesses,” Aguayo — co-founder of Increase the Peace, a community organizing group in the city — told the small crowd. He said the the businesses were locally owned, and residents relied on them: “That is it. If somebody is trying to loot, don’t greet them with hostility. Ask them if they want water, a, snack, engage in dialogue. If that doesn’t work, don’t put your life at risk.”

There was no formal training, just a pep talk and a short prayer. Then the group took its place in front of one street’s storefronts, many of them immigrant-owned: mom-and-pop grocery stores, restaurants and a homeless youth shelter.

Aguayo, a former gang member and activist for many Chicago issues, said the group was successful in helping to maintain calm that day. It’s part of several efforts around the country that aim to quell tension — and therefore potential violence — at protests, while encouraging folks to march and speak their minds about the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other African Americans. With daily protests around the United States in dozens of cities — some stretching for a week and showing no sign of slowing — organizers say it’s essential to de-escalate any conflict and to avoid theft, vandalism and clashes with police.

Some groups, such as Black Lives Matter, have years of experience protesting and use training and proven strategies: fluorescent vests or colored ribbons to designate legal aid, volunteer medical help or peacekeepers who can try to diffuse spats on the spot. Other people are creating more informal networks as protests pop up in new corners of their cities and states daily, with many attendees who’ve never protested before.

“We want to be vocal and peaceful at the same time. Those two do coexist,” said Bruce Wilson, of South Carolina. “As soon as you throw a bottle, your message is gone.”

He and about 20 others met briefly before protests in Greenville over the weekend to discuss strategies. He urged his group to carefully study fellow protestors and be mindful if someone appeared extremely agitated.

“You can look at someone and tell they’re about to cross the line,” he said. Like Aguayo, he offers snacks, water, and the space to speak. “I tell them, ‘I feel the same way you feel.’ You have to lead by example.”

In Tampa, Black Lives Matter organizers over the weekend had nearly 100 safety marshals in fluorescent vests patrolling their march, trained in de-escalation tactics and ordered to be on the lookout for antagonists. The group also had medics, used walkie talkies to identify and squelch outbursts, and enlisted lawyers and others with legal training to watch out for protesters’ rights from the sidelines.

Murder charge upgraded, 3 other officers charged in George Floyd killing

MINNEAPOLIS — Prosecutors are charging a Minneapolis police officer accused of pressing his knee against George Floyd’s neck with second-degree murder, and for the first time will level charges against three other officers at the scene, a newspaper reported Wednesday.

Widely seen bystander video showing Floyd’s May 25 death has sparked sometimes violent protests nationwide and around the world. The officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired May 26 and initially charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The three other officers involved were also fired but were not immediately charged.

The Star Tribune reported citing multiple sources reported that Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison would be upgrading the charge against Chauvin while also charging Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao with aiding and abetting murder

Floyd’s family and protesters have repeatedly called for criminal charges against all four officers as well as more serious charges for Chauvin, who held his knee to Floyd’s neck, despite his protests that he couldn’t breathe, and stayed there even after Floyd stopped moving. Floyd, a black man, was in handcuffs when he died with his face pressed to the street.

Widely seen bystander video showing Floyd’s death has sparked sometimes violent protests around the world against police brutality and discrimination.

“He died because he was starving for air,” said amily attorney Ben Crump. “He needed a breath. So we are demanding justice. We expect all of the police officers to be arrested before we have the memorial here in Minneapolis, Minnesota, tomorrow.”

Crump said the other officers — two who helped restrain Floyd and one standing by — failed to protect a man who pleaded for help and said he couldn’t breathe. The Minneapolis Police Department has identified them as Thomas Lane, J. Kueng and Tou Thao.

Read the full story here.

Pentagon chief breaks with Trump on whether to use active-duty military

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said Wednesday that he does not support the use of the Insurrection Act to quell unrest in the country, advocating instead for limits on how much active-duty forces can be used.

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations,” Esper said. “We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

Defense Secretary Mark Esper follows President Trump as they make their way from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington on June 1. Associated Press/Patrick Semansky

The comments came after President Trump has threatened to send the U.S. military to quell protests following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a white police officer on video last week in Minneapolis. The Pentagon repositioned some 1,400 active-duty troops outside Washington in recent days but has so far relied on the D.C. National Guard to assist law enforcement in the city.

Pentagon officials have said that they were discussing whether some complementary role for active-duty troops was required to assist National Guard and law enforcement authorities. The invocation of the Insurrection Act would allow U.S. troops to carry out arrests and other law enforcement functions that they do not currently have.

Read the rest of this story here.

White House may back off plan to send troops to states

WASHINGTON — After threatening states that he would dispatch the military to quell protests, President Donald Trump appeared to be privately backing off, with White House officials saying the response to demonstrations across the country indicated that local governments should be able to restore order themselves.

The shift came as protests in Washington and other cities over police brutality against minorities proceeded Tuesday with relative calm, a striking contrast to the harsh crackdowns outside the White House on Monday night. The president wanted to make the aggressive action in the nation’s capital an example for the rest of the country, a senior White House official said Tuesday.

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Demonstrators pause to kneel as they march to protest the death of George Floyd, Tuesday, June 2, 2020, in Washington. AP Photo/Alex Brandon

The Defense Department has drafted contingency plans for deploying active-duty military if needed. Pentagon documents reviewed by The Associated Press showed plans for soldiers from an Army division to protect the White House and other federal buildings if the security situation in the nation’s capital were to deteriorate and the National Guard could not secure the facilities.

But interest in exerting that extraordinary federal authority appeared to be waning in the White House. Though the crackdown on the Washington demonstrations was praised by some Trump supporters Tuesday, a handful of Republicans expressed concern that law enforcement officers risked violating the protesters’ First Amendment rights. Trump’s defense secretary also distanced himself from Trump’s decision to walk across Lafayette Park for a photo opportunity at a church after the demonstrators had been cleared.

Pentagon Chief Mark Esper, who walked with Trump to St. John’s Church on Monday evening, insisted he did not know the president’s destination.

“I didn’t know where I was going,” Esper told NBC News. He said he had expected to view damage to a bathroom facility that had been vandalized in Lafayette Park, across from the White House, and talk with National Guard troops positioned there.

Read the full story here.

Nation’s streets calmer; police credit curfews

MINNEAPOLIS — The nation’s streets were calmer than they have been in days since the killing of George Floyd set off mostly peaceful but sometimes violent demonstrations over police brutality and injustice against African Americans.

Earlier curfews and efforts by protesters to contain the lawlessness were credited with preventing more widespread damage to businesses in New York and other cities overnight.

By Wednesday morning, arrests had grown to more than 9,000 nationwide since the vandalism, arson and shootings erupted around the U.S. in reaction to Floyd’s death May 25 in Minneapolis. At least 12 deaths have been reported, though the circumstances in many cases are still being sorted out.

In Washington, where authorities ordered people off streets before sundown, thousands of demonstrators massed a block from the White House on Tuesday evening, following a crackdown a day earlier when officers drove peaceful protesters away from Lafayette Park to clear the way for President Donald Trump to do a photo op with a Bible at a church. A black chain-link fence was put up to block access to the park.

“Last night pushed me way over the edge,” said Jessica DeMaio, 40, of Washington, who attended a Floyd protest for the first time. “Being here is better than being at home feeling helpless.”

Pastors at the church prayed with demonstrators and handed out water bottles. The crowd remained in place after the city’s 7 p.m. curfew passed, defying warnings that the response from law enforcement could be even more forceful. But the people were peaceful, even polite.

At one point, the crowd booed when a protester climbed a light post and took down a street sign. A chant went up: “Peaceful protest!”

Pope Francis called for national reconciliation and peace, saying he has ‘’witnessed with great concern the disturbing social unrest’’ in the U.S.

“My friends, we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism and exclusion in any form and yet claim to defend the sacredness of every human life,’’ he said.

Read the full story here.

Ohio State student journalists told police they were media. The police sprayed them

When police moved in to clear protesters at a Columbus, Ohio, demonstration Monday night, most fled, but three Ohio State University students showed their press passes. After a repeated exchange – with officers telling them it was after the 10 p.m. curfew and time to leave, and students responding that they were members of the news media, exempt from the rule – an officer shoved one of the students, according to Sarah Szilagy, campus editor of the Lantern, a campus newspaper.

Then another officer pepper-sprayed them at point-blank range, she said. The spray got in her eye and hit other reporters as they rushed away toward an alley. “We felt it hit us again,” said Max Garrison, a third-year student who is assistant campus editor at the Lantern, even as they were holding up their press passes, “while coughing and hacking up pepper spray from our lungs.”

A spokesman for the Columbus Division of Police did not respond to a request for comment.

The three reporters were hard to identify as members of the press, Columbus Police Chief Thomas Quinlan said at a news conference Tuesday. In a chaotic protest scene, Quinlan said, “Mistakes will happen. And we’ll take action to correct them and make sure that we do not allow our mistakes to be repeated.”

The reporters, who have been covering the protests over George Floyd’s death for days, said Sunday was the only day they didn’t get sprayed. But on the other days they were close to protesters, and had not identified themselves to police as reporters.

It was frightening, Szilagy said, but it also made her angry. “They basically just censored us,” Szilagy said, “and made us incapable of covering other things that happened that night.”

10 arrested in Manchester, N.H. after protests

MANCHESTER, N.H. — At least 10 people were arrested in New Hampshire’s largest city after a crowd gathered on a main street and some people set off fireworks and threw bottles and other items at police vehicles, authorities said.

Police in Manchester shut down off-ramps in both directions from Interstate 293 at South Willow Street as they worked to control the crowd late Tuesday into early Wednesday.

Shortly before midnight, the police posted on Facebook that “multiple arrests” were made as protesters “scream at officers and call names. ”

Earlier Tuesday night, police said hundreds of people came to Manchester’s Stark Park for a peaceful demonstration and candlelight vigil in memory of George Floyd, a black man who died in police custody in Minneapolis.

DC officials push back on aggressive federal response to protests

WASHINGTON — Officials in the nation’s capital pushed back on an aggressive response by the federal government to demonstrations over the death of George Floyd, with the mayor flatly rejecting a Trump administration proposal for the federal government to take over its police force and one Virginia county pulling its officers from Washington.

The federal government has deployed law enforcement officials from numerous agencies, and National Guard troops from a number of states have been sent to the District of Columbia. Attorney General William Barr, who is directing the federal law enforcement response in the city, promised by Tuesday “even greater law enforcement resources and support in the region.”

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser said the Trump administration floated the idea of taking over the Metropolitan Police Department, a proposal she strongly rejected. She threatened to take legal action if the federal government attempted to do so.

Hours before a 7 p.m. curfew Tuesday, cars were being stopped at military checkpoints in downtown Washington and a cavalry of armored military vehicles could be seen driving through the district.

Two Defense Department officials said the Trump administration had ordered military aircraft to fly above Washington on Monday night as a “show of force” against demonstrators protesting the death of Floyd, a black man who died after a white Minneapolis policeman pressed his knee into his neck for several minutes even after Floyd stopped moving and pleading for air. Police made over 300 arrests, mainly for violating the district’s curfew.

Earlier Monday evening, law enforcement officers on foot and horseback moved aggressively to clear protesters away from Lafayette Park near the White House in advance of President Donald Trump’s walk to a nearby church for a photo opportunity.

After participating in the show of force, Arlington County in Virginia pulled out its officers, saying they were used “for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”

County Board Chair Libby Garvey said on Twitter she’s “appalled” that the mutual aid agreement was abused “for a photo op.” In a phone interview, Garvey said the aid request came from U.S. Park Police, and that the agencies have aided each other routinely over the years. She said Arlington Police had helped in Washington on Saturday and Sunday without incident.

Read the full story here.


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