For nearly two weeks thousands of protesters have marched in cities and towns across the United States to denounce police brutality and systemic racism.

In New York, people marched until police officers with cans of pepper spray advanced into the crowd, followed by officers swinging batons. The sounds of screaming and chanting mixed with that of bodies hitting the pavement and zip ties being tightened around wrists. For a moment, the demonstration would subside.

But then they would return, more forcefully than before.

“I fought to be free for 17 years of my life,” said Hammond Ells, an Army veteran. “We export freedom overseas. Why don’t we have it at home?”

On Tuesday, just south of Union Square, a figure emerged from the crowd and implored the police officers to understand the pain he had experienced as a black man. He then asked them repeatedly to kneel in solidarity. Without a word, an officer took a knee. Then another. The protester cried.

Well after curfew on Thursday night, I followed a small group as they fled the police, ducking into Central Park. They had started out at least 1,000 strong, but as they made their way uptown their numbers had been thinned by arrests. A large group of police officers gave chase before retreating and leaving the protesters alone in the darkness, and silence, of the park at night.

After a peaceful weekend the curfew has been lifted. The insistence on change will remain.

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Ashley Gilbertson (@AshGilbertson) is a member of the VII Photo agency.

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