THOUSANDS of people defied lockdown restrictions and gathered across London on Sunday (31) in solidarity with the “Black Lives Matter” protest against the police killing of an unarmed black man the US.
Protesters held up signs saying “Justice for George Floyd”, who died in a police custody while an officer knelt on his neck to pin him down Minneapolis. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been sacked and charged with murder.
The protests were held at Trafalgar Square in central London and outside the US Embassy in Battersea.
The protesters chanted: “No justice, no peace” and “Enough is enough” as they marched towards the embassy compound on the southern bank of the Thames River.
Shouting “Say his name! George Floyd!” they held up “Black Lives Matter” signs outside the embassy building.
The vigil at at Trafalgar Square saw demonstrators kneel for nine minutes — the amount of time the policeman kneeled on Floyd’s neck.
Floyd’s death in Minnesota had sparked five consecutive nights of often violent protests that resulted in National Guard troops patrolling majority US cities on Sunday.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the incident “rightly ignited fury and anguish” around the world.
“No country, city, police force or institution can be complacent about racism and the impact this has,” he tweeted.
The death of George Floyd has rightly ignited fury and anguish not just in the USA but around the world. No country, city, police force or institution can be complacent about racism and the impact this has.
— Sadiq Khan (@SadiqKhan) May 31, 2020
Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai also took to Twitter to back anti-racist demonstrators as Google and YouTube displayed a black ribbon on their home pages in the US.
“For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone,” said Pichai.
Today on US Google & YouTube homepages we share our support for racial equality in solidarity with the Black community and in memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery & others who don’t have a voice. For those feeling grief, anger, sadness & fear, you are not alone. pic.twitter.com/JbPCG3wfQW
— Sundar Pichai (@sundarpichai) May 31, 2020
In London, the Metropolitan Police reminded people that the coronavirus social distancing rules remain in place, and made 11 arrests.
“The arrests vary in offences from possession of an offensive weapon to assault on police, obstructing a public carriageway to breaches of Covid-19 legislation,” the force said.
The Black Lives Matter protests spread to other parts of the UK as well, including a march in Manchester.
“When you take someone’s life, the way that happened, then it does something to you wherever you are in the world — because it was totally wrong,” one demonstrator, Trevor Joseph, told AFP.
“It’s a worldwide thing. It happens in America and we have to show solidarity,” he added.
“I’m here because I’m tired, I’m fed up with it. “When does this stop?” another protester, Doreen Pierre, said.
“What makes that okay in anybody’s mind? Don’t you have wives, don’t you have children watching you do this? How is that okay?”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab called footage of the incident “very distressing”, but refrained from commenting on US President Donald Trump’s explosive tweets and controversial public statements about the protests.
“I’ve long kept to the self-imposed guidance not to comment on what President Trump says,” Raab told the BBC.
The situation in the US, meanwhile, remained volatile as violent protests erupted for a sixth day across the country, with arrests of thousands and curfew in nearly 40 cities.
Considered to be the worst ever civil unrest in the US in decades, the violent protests have engulfed at least 140 cities across the country.
“At least five people were killed in violence that flared as demonstrations in parts of the country devolved into mayhem,” The Washington Post reported.
Police have arrested at least 2,564 people in two dozen US cities over the weekend. Nearly a fifth of those arrests were in Los Angeles, it said.
“The United States remained a tinderbox of emotion, anger and continued violence on Sunday, the sixth day of nationwide unrest since the death of yet another black man at the hands of the police,” said The New York Times.
“It is the first time so many local leaders have simultaneously issued such orders in the face of civic unrest since 1968, after the assassination of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr,” the report said.
The police fired tear gas near the White House on Sunday night to dissuade protesters who had smashed the windows of prominent buildings, overturned cars and set fires, with smoke seen rising from near the Washington Monument, it said.
According to CNN, President Donald Trump, along with First Lady Melania Trump and their son Barron, was briefly taken to an underground bunker for some time during the protest outside the White House.
Trump made no public appearances on Sunday, but in a series of tweets he slammed the media for fuelling the fire.
“The Lamestream Media is doing everything within their power to foment hatred and anarchy. As long as everybody understands what they are doing, that they are FAKE NEWS and truly bad people with a sick agenda, we can easily work through them to GREATNESS!” he said.
Earlier in the day, he announced that his administration will be designating ANTIFA as a Terrorist Organization. ANTIFA is regarded as a militant, left-wing, anti-fascist political activist movement in the US. It comprises autonomous activist groups that aim to achieve their political objectives through the use of direct action rather than through policy reform.
The Trump administration alleged that it appeared the violence is planned, organised, and driven by anarchistic and far left extremists, using ANTIFA-like tactics, many of whom travel from out of state to promote the violence.