A sense of numb helplessness prevailed since the life was crushed out of George Floyd last month.
Before his funeral, Democratic candidate Joe Biden said the death will "change the world".
A big statement. There have been too many such deaths. The outrage over time is absorbed, yet we await any global transformative impact.
In life, Mr Floyd was not given an opportunity to change much.
It would be a consolation to imagine in death, after such a heartlessly brutal departure - through the action of one police officer, and the inaction of others - some profound meaning might yet be attached.
For that to happen, others must act in his name.
Crying, and kneeling close to the spot where Mr Floyd was asphyxiated, his brother, Terrence, demanded rioters end the violence.
"It will not bring my brother back," he said.
Ever since the Memorial Day killing we have seen police outside the White House; we saw them pump tear gas at protesters and push them back with a line of officers on horseback.
Yet somehow, Mr Biden feels this death was "one of the great inflection points in American history".
True, the killing of the African American has fuelled global protests. But "change" has too long been spoken of; paying lip-service to it is regarded as a pre-requisite to becoming president.
All candidates now promise to reach further, rise higher. For President Trump, it was about building a wall, "draining a swamp", "Making America Great Again".
The wall may not be completed, but a great black fence now surrounds the White House.
The 'New York Times' has likened the scene on Pennsylvania Avenue to the Green Zone that shielded US forces in Baghdad, at the height of the war. Reporters describe it as "a veritable fortress".
So forbidding does it look, mayor of DC Muriel Bowser was driven to comment: "Keep in mind that that's the people's house".
This week, former president Barack Obama tried to find words to inspire and lift the graduates of 2020. They have had to forfeit the normal ceremonial rites of passage due to Covid-19.
He told them: "Even if it all seems broken, have faith in our democracy. Participate - and vote. Don't fall for the easy cynicism that says nothing can change.
"As someone once said: 'Hope is not a lottery ticket; it's a hammer for us to use in a national emergency - to break the glass, sound the alarm and sprint into action'."
The alarm has been sounded, and yes, things can, and do, get better - but not because politicians say they will. They change only when people have the courage and conviction to make them better.
They change when we insist racism and injustice are not assaults on "minorities" but violations of us all. Not in one country, in all countries.
No, sadly, George Floyd can't change the world. He can't breathe. But those of us who can have the power to use our voices to cry "enough".