About 2,500 people converged on Newport Saturday for Rhode Island’s second consecutive day of protests for racial justice.

The Newport demonstration followed a student-led protest Friday in Providence that police said drew as many as 10,000 people. The Providence protest was peaceful, in spite of curfew violations by hundreds of demonstrators.

In Newport, Saturday’s protest, organized by Black Lives Matter Rhode Island, drew people of all ages, including parents with young children and seniors, who carried signs, chanted, listened to speakers and sang songs. One was the 1970’s hit “Lean on Me,’’ by Bill Withers. 

The protesters filled the streets of a city more accustomed to tourists than political activists. Known for its mansions, jazz festivals and America’s Cup races, Newport is almost 84% white. The city’s poverty rate is about 14%.

Black Lives Matter activist “Brother” Gary Dantzler said Newport’s lack of racial diversity is precisely why he wanted to come to the city to raise awareness about racial injustice.

“I think that what makes it different is that this is basically a whole white community,’’ Dantzler said.  “We have to educate the whole community about what’s going on across the nation....that we need voices of African Americans.”

Since the May 25th death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police, protests have broken out in cities across the world.

In Newport, the demonstration began in the back courts of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Community Center. Protesters then marched to the Newport Police Department, where many took a knee and raised fists, chanting “Black Lives Matter”. 

 “We’re here today to say that love will be the victor in this struggle”, one of the organizers told the crowd through a megaphone.

“We’re going to be the model for the whole country on how you hold a protest. A peaceful protest.”

At about 5 p.m., as the first raindrops fell, the protesters kneeled for a moment of silence before dispersing.

The demonstration was among the city’s first major public events since the state health officials advised limiting social gatherings due to the coronavirus. Newport’s per capita rate of coronavirus infection as of May 29, was about 250 per 100,000 people, among the lowest in the state, according to the state Health Department.

This story was updated at 4:00 PM on June 8

Clarification: The City of Newport is 83.8% white, according to census data. An earlier version of this story reported the percentage for Newport County, which is 90% white.

A public prayer vigil to honor George Floyd, organized in part by the Newport branch of the NAACP, was held on June 1. An earlier version of this story reported that Saturday's demonstration was the first major public event in Newport since state health officials advised limiting social gatherings.

--Antonia Ayres-Brown, Newport bureau reporter, can be reached at aayresbrown@ripr.org