The Latest: Thousands join Rome’s 1st big anti-racism rally

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TOP OF THE HOUR:

– Thousands join Rome’s first big anti-racism rally

– New York mayor lifts curfew “effective immediately”

– Berlin police detain 93 in clashes after peaceful rally ends

– 14 police injured in London clashes after mostly peaceful protest

– Small anti-racism protest held in Hong Kong

– Statue of Confederate Gen. Wickham toppled in Richmond, Virginia

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In Rome’s sprawling People’s Square, thousands of demonstrators turned out for the city’s first major rally against racism.

With a great majority wearing masks to protect themselves against the coronavirus, participants listened to speeches for several hours and held up hand-made placards reading “Black Lives Matter” and “It’s a White Problem.” At one point the protesters, most of them young and some with children or young siblings, kneeled and raised their fists in solidarity with those fighting racism.

“It’s quite unfortunate, you know, in this current 21st century that people of color are being treated as if they are lepers,’’ said 26-year-old Ghanian Abdul Nassir, who was at the rally and is studying in Rome for a master’s degree in business management. He said he occasionally has felt racist attitudes, notably when riding the subway.

Migration of people of color to Italy, including from sub-Saharan Africa, was relatively infrequent until about 25 years ago, and there isn’t yet a vast first-generation population who have come of age.

The noisy, peaceful rally had many organizers, including the grassroots protest group Sardines, a women’s group, a U.S. expatriates organization, a group called Neri Italiani – Black Italians – and a 25-year-old Roman student, Denise Berhane.

Asked by SKYTG24 if Italy has a racism problem, Berhane said, “There are some problems in the country if all these people turned out.”

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New York City’s mayor is lifting the city’s curfew ahead of schedule, spurred on by protests against police brutality.

The 8 p.m. citywide curfew, New York’s first in decades, had been set to remain in effect through at least Sunday, with the city planning to lift it at the same time it enters the first phase of reopening after more than two months of a coronavirus shutdown.

But Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Sunday morning in a tweet that the curfew will end “effective immediately.”

“Yesterday and last night we saw the very best of our city,” de Blasio tweeted “Tomorrow we take the first big step to restart.”

The move followed New York City police pulling back on enforcing the curfew Saturday as thousands took to the streets and parks to protest police brutality, sparked by the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police.

More than two hours after the curfew had passed Saturday night, groups of several hundred demonstrators continued to march in Manhattan and Brooklyn, while police monitored them but took a hands-off approach.

BERLIN – After a day of anti-racism protests across Europe, Berlin police said 93 people were detained in connection with a demonstration in the German capital – most of them after the main rally had ended.

More anti-racism demonstrations were planned for Sunday across the U.K., including one outside the U.S. Embassy, just south of the River Thames.

At least 15,000 people had rallied peacefully in Berlin on Saturday in response to the May 25 death of American George Floyd, which has triggered global protests against racism and police brutality.

Police said several officers and one press photographer were injured in Berlin when bottles and rocks were thrown from a crowd that had gathered despite police orders to clear the city’s Alexander Square an hour after the demonstration was over. Berlin police said 28 officers suffered minor injuries in the scuffles.

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HONG KONG – About 20 people protested in Hong Kong to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement at a rally Sunday outside the U.S. consulate in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

“It’s a global issue,” said Quinland Anderson, a 28-year-old British citizen living in Hong Kong. “We have to remind ourselves, despite all we see going on in the U.S. and in the other parts of the world, black lives do indeed matter.”

Organizers called off the rally late Saturday because of the city’s coronavirus restrictions. Those that still showed up gathered in groups of eight, the limit on the size of public gatherings.

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LONDON — Britain’s most senior police chief says 14 officers were injured during clashes with protesters in London on Saturday following a largely peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration.

Cressida Dick, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, said the assaults on officers were “shocking and completely unacceptable.” She said a number of arrests have been made and “justice will follow.”

The clashes broke out in the early evening near the Downing Street offices of British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Video footage online showed one police officer colliding with a traffic light when her horse appeared to have bolted. The Met Police said the officer was taken to the hospital but her injuries are not life-threatening.

More demonstrations are planned Sunday across the U.K., including one outside the U.S. Embassy, just south of the River Thames.

Dick urged protesters to find “another way” of making their voices heard during the coronavirus pandemic.

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Just before midnight, police began dispersing protesters in Portland near the county’s Justice Center after declaring “a civil disturbance and unlawful assembly.”

Portland police Lt. Tina Jones said on Twitter that a firework had been lobbed over the fence at the Justice Center, injuring a Multnomah County deputy. She says police were making arrests in the area.

In a video posted on Twitter by a Portland Tribune reporter, a voice from a loudspeaker could be heard ordering demonstrators to leave the area “or you will be subject to use of force and arrest.”

In earlier videos, popping noises could be heard as whiffs of smoke wafted from a street filled with demonstrators, and a police officer is seen momentarily clashing with a protester.

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RICHMOND, Va. – In the former capital of the Confederacy, demonstrators toppled a statue of Gen. Williams Carter Wickham from its pedestal after a day of mostly peaceful demonstrations across the commonwealth.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that most of the demonstrators had already dispersed when a rope was tied around the Confederate statue, which has stood since 1891 in Richmond’s Monroe Park, which is surrounded by the Virginia Commonwealth University campus. In 2017, some of Wickham’s descendants urged the city to remove the statue.

A Richmond police spokeswoman didn’t know if there were any arrests and the extent of any damage.

Confederate monuments are a major flashpoint in Virginia. Last week, Gov. Ralph Northam announced that a state-owned statue of former Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee would be removed from its perch on the famed Monument Avenue “as soon as possible.”

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SEATTLE – Police used flash bang devices and pepper spray to disperse a crowd of protesters in Seattle on Saturday night, the ninth consecutive day of George Floyd protests in the city.

The mayhem in the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood followed a large, peaceful demonstration earlier in the day with medical workers demonstrating against racism and police brutality. It also came a day after Mayor Jenny Durkan and Police Chief Carmen Best imposed a 30-day moratorium on the department’s use of one kind of tear gas.

KING-TV reports that a small group of protesters started throwing objects at officers about 7:30 p.m. on Saturday. Police ordered the crowd to move, then used incendiary devices.

After police were severely criticized by protesters and public officials alike for using tear gas and pepper spray to disperse largely peaceful crowds, Durkan and Best said Friday outside groups would review and update crowd-control policies, including the use of pepper spray and deadly force techniques such as neck and choke holds. She and the mayor added that the ban on one kind of tear gas known as CS could be extended if groups need more time for policy review.

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PORTLAND, Ore. – Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler has ordered the city’s police not to use a type of tear gas except as a last resort in life-threatening situations.

Wheeler issued a statement Saturday saying he shares community concerns about the use of CS gas, especially during a respiratory-illness pandemic.

Critics have called on the Portland Police Bureau to permanently ban the use of CS gas on protesters.

The announcement came a day after the mayor said police would no longer use a “long-range acoustical device,” or LRAD, to disperse protesters. The device can emit high-pitched, loud frequencies and can cause hearing damage.

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ATLANTA – Protests downtown assumed an almost festive feel at times on Saturday, with Atlanta’s curfew lifted and police and National Guard presence somewhat out of view.

A group of black college band alumni were serenading one main protest area with a tuba-heavy mix of tunes from atop a parking garage.

Students from historically black colleges and other young people marched to City Hall to demand more action on police violence. Jauan Durbin said he began organizing protests after two fellow college students were pulled from their car and shocked with a stun gun last Saturday by police in Atlanta. The incident was caught on video by WGCL-TV and six officers were fired and then criminally charged.

Durbin said youth protesters are calling for increased financial assistance for black businesses from Atlanta’s city government and increased funding for the city’s public school system.

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LONDON – Tens of thousands gathered in cities far from the United States to express anger over the death of George Floyd, a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality is resonating with wider calls to address racism from Australia to Europe.

In Berlin, where police said 15,000 people rallied Saturday on Alexander Square, protesters chanted Floyd’s name and held up placards with slogans such as “Stop police brutality” and “I can’t breathe.”

Some 20,000 others rallied in Munich, while thousands more took part in protests in Frankfurt and Cologne. In Paris, several thousand demonstrators ignored a protest ban – issued due to the coronavirus pandemic – and assembled within sight of the U.S. Embassy,

In London, tens of thousands staged a rally outside Parliament Square, invoking Floyd’s memory as well as people who died during police encounters or indifference in Britain. Many dropped to one knee and raised their fists in the air outside the gleaming U.S. embassy building. There were chants of “Silence is violence!” and “Color is not a crime!”

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Follow more AP stories on the George Floyd protests and reaction at https://apnews.com/GeorgeFloyd

People gather in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, June 7, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
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