IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

After more officers charged, a fragile peace falls over George Floyd protests

Some cities are crediting curfews with curtailing the looting and violence seen earlier in the week, but in Brooklyn, New York, officers clashed with protesters shortly after Wednesday's curfew began.

The ninth straight evening of protests over the death of George Floyd in police custody kicked off on a calmer note in many parts of the United States on Wednesday — a fragile peace that officials hoped would hold.

In New York City, a curfew started at 8 p.m. for the second night in a row after it yielded less looting, vandalism and violence in the nation's most populous city on Tuesday compared to Monday night, NBC New York reported. Shortly before the curfew began Wednesday, hundreds of kneeling protesters gathered outside Gracie Mansion, Mayor Bill de Blasio's residence in Manhattan, chanting Floyd's name and cheering.

But in Brooklyn, there were clashes just after the curfew began. A video on social media showed police officers prodding a crowd of demonstrators off the streets with their batons and pushing them with their hands, even as the demonstrators pointed out that the rally was peaceful and that no looting was taking place. Another showed officers shoving throngs of protesters away, yelling, "Back up, back up!"

And the New York Police Department's Special Operations Unit tweeted Wednesday night that mounted officers would be patrolling high-risk areas, "assisting in identifying any businesses that may be vulnerable to looters." Some arrests were made in Manhattan, The New York Times reported, although they appeared to be due to curfew violations, not looting.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., hundreds of protesters took a knee in front of a wall of law enforcement officers and National Guard members near the White House. Some protesters played music and handed out water in a stark contrast to scenes from earlier in the week, when, witnesses said, tear gas and smoke were used to disperse demonstrators.

A curfew for the nation's capital was pushed back from 7 p.m. on the two previous nights to 11 p.m. Wednesday; around 8:30 p.m., a large group of demonstrators sang "Lean on Me" outside the White House, illuminating the twilight with cellphones that they swayed through the air.

The mostly tranquil gatherings came hours after more charges were handed down in Floyd's death. A murder charge against Derek Chauvin, the Minneapolis police officer seen in a video digging his knee into Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes as Floyd pleaded for his life, was elevated to second-degree from third-degree. And the three other officers who were present while Floyd was on the ground were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting murder. All four officers were fired after Floyd's death.

Full coverage of George Floyd's death and protests around the country

In announcing the charges, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison addressed protesters around the country who have seized on Floyd's death as the latest symbol of police brutality and systemic racism in America.

"There's a lot more to do than just this case, and we ask people to do that," he said, encouraging others to continue fighting for justice, NBC affiliate KARE of Minneapolis reported.

Protests with hundreds of people dotted cities in California on Wednesday, most of which had seen no violence by Wednesday afternoon. In Los Angeles County, where 61 people have been charged during the unrest over the past several days, District Attorney Jackie Lacey had a stern warning for anyone who might get out of control.

"I support the peaceful organized protests that already have brought needed attention to racial inequality throughout our society, including in the criminal justice system," she said in a written statement Wednesday. "I also have a constitutional and ethical duty to protect the public and prosecute people who loot and vandalize our community."

Cities across the country are already stretched thin fighting the coronavirus pandemic, some of them still enforcing stay-at-home orders.

In Boston, protesters held a peaceful "die-in" Wednesday evening that lasted longer than had been anticipated, but it still ended well before 9 p.m., the time local officials had recommended that everyone retreat to their homes because of the pandemic, NBC Boston reported.

Chicago had mostly peaceful protests Wednesday, too, as numerous businesses tried to clean up from looting and vandalism earlier in the week, just as many stores had reopened for the first time in months amid the pandemic.