Anti-racism protesters were planning to flood the streets of the US capital on Friday, after a white officer’s shooting of African American Jacob Blake rekindled outrage over police violence and sparked a boycott movement in the sports world.
Tens of thousands of demonstrators are expected on the streets of Washington for a march to mark the date of civil rights leader Martin Luther King’s historic “I have a dream” speech.
Anti-racism protesters ravage the US capital: “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks”
The demonstration has been dubbed “Get Your Knee Off Our Necks,” in reference to African American George Floyd, who suffocated beneath the knee of a white officer in Minneapolis, igniting the most widespread civil unrest in the country in decades.
Workers covered store front windows with plywood in downtown Washington and a heavy police presence blocked off streets — where hundreds of demonstrators gathered Thursday night in protest at President Donald Trump’s Republican nomination for another term.
Read more: George Floyd’s murder; violent protests spread across US
Just as protests sparked by Floyd’s death had waned, outrage was rekindled Sunday when Blake was shot multiple times in the back during a confrontation with police in the Midwestern city of Kenosha.
Blake survived and is hospitalized, but may never walk again, according to his lawyer.
Authorities identified the officer who opened fire as Rusten Sheskey, saying police were attempting to arrest Blake and had tried to subdue him with a stun gun. They added that a knife had been found in his car.
In the violent and chaotic protests that followed, two people were shot dead by a man with an assault rifle. Authorities arrested a 17-year-old in the killings and filed intentional homicide charges against him on Thursday.
Read more: UN asks the US to end its structural racism amid worldwide anger
US President Trump administration officials have attacked the anti-racism protesters, with Vice President Mike Pence on Wednesday rejecting allegations of endemic police racism and condemning “the violence and chaos engulfing cities across this country.
Sports teams and players supporting the anti-racism cause
For a second day, major sports teams and leagues called off games and matches to keep the focus on the issue of racism and police abuse.
The NBA cancelled playoff games on Wednesday after the Milwaukee Bucks, whose base is near Kenosha, walked out.
“Change doesn’t happen with just talk!! It happens with action and needs to happen NOW!” tweeted NBA star Lebron James.
The WNBA women’s basketball league also postponed its slate of games on Thursday for a second day running.
Read more: US judge issues gag order: Is global “Floyd movement” in danger?
In tennis, the ATP and WTA Tours called off the day’s play at the Western & Southern Open in New York, with the event resuming on Friday.
Several NFL teams meanwhile also halted training camps on Thursday as they build towards the start of their new season.
The federal Department of Justice has announced an FBI civil rights investigation into Blake’s shooting, which has left him paralyzed from waist-down.
But activists continued to demand action against the Kenosha police officer who shot Blake, 29, on Sunday as he tried to enter his car, with his three sons watching.
Illinois police were meanwhile preparing to extradite to Kenosha 17-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was detained on charges of first degree murder in relation to the shooting of protesters on Tuesday night.
Read more: America erupts in protests as police shoot Jacob Blake
Kenosha protesters said they were determined to keep marching for justice and police reform.
“We are targets. I’m big and black, they see me as an enemy all the time, everywhere I go,” said a musician who goes by the name Big Homie Trail late Wednesday.
“Everybody’s expecting us to go out all rage, to go crazy, in the fourth night but we are doing a peaceful protest as we are supposed to do,” he added.
“We’re going to keep marching, they are trying to shut us down, but they won’t.”
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk