HOUSTON—In George Floyd’s hometown, tens of thousands gathered downtown Tuesday afternoon with signs protesting his death and police brutality. State and local politicians joined them. Chants resounded in the air. Dancers moved to drumbeats. Children, carried on their parents’ shoulders, clapped. Volunteers passed out water, snacks, masks, and first aid advice. Nearby office buildings were boarded up in anticipation of vandalism.

Mr. Floyd’s death, the most recent police killing of an unarmed black man to draw national scrutiny,…

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