Demonstrators vow to sustain momentum until change happens

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Protesters lay in the middle of the intersection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. and Second Avenue in Memphis Thursday, June 4, 2020 for the protests over the death of George Floyd. (Photo: AP)

Protesters stirred by the death of George Floyd vowed Friday to turn an extraordinary outpouring of grief into a sustained movement as demonstrations shifted to a calmer, but no less determined, focus on addressing racial injustice.

In Minneapolis, where Floyd died in police custody, the city agreed to ban police chokeholds and require officers to intervene any time they see unauthorized force by another officer. The changes are part of a stipulation between the city and state officials who launched a civil rights investigation into Floyd’s death. The City Council is expected to approve the agreement, which will be enforceable in court, later Friday.

By early afternoon, demonstrations resumed for an 11th day around the country with continued momentum as the mood of the protests largely shifted from explosive anger to more peaceful calls for change. Formal and impromptu memorials to Floyd stretched from Minneapolis to North Carolina, where family were gathering Saturday to mourn him, and beyond. Services were planned in Texas for the following week.

Josiah Roebuck, a Kennesaw State University student and organizer of a demonstration that drew about 100 people Friday in an Atlanta suburb, said he was confident that momentum will be maintained.

“Once you start, you’re going to see this every day,” said Roebuck, who said he attended multiple other Atlanta-area protests. He added: “I just want minorities to be represented properly.”

Organizers have used various organizing tools including social media, which Roebuck said he used to gather people for the demonstration outside a Kennesaw store selling Confederate memorabilia. “Social media is a big influencer today,” he said.

Protests around the country had initially been marred by the setting of fires and smashing of windows, but Friday marked at least the third day of more subdued demonstrations, including a heartfelt tribute to Floyd Thursday in Minneapolis that drew family members, celebrities, politicians and civil rights advocates. At the service, strong calls were made for meaningful changes in policing and the criminal justice system.

And in a sign the protesters’ voices were being heard, more symbols of slavery and the Confederacy came down. Alabama’s port city of Mobile removed a statue of a Confederate naval officer early Friday after days of protests there, while Fredericksburg, Virginia, removed a 176-year-old slave auction block from downtown after several years of efforts by the NAACP. Other Confederate symbols have come down around the South in recent days as calls to remove them intensified during protests over Floyd’s death.