LONDON: Tens of thousands of people chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police” and “black lives matter” gathered in central London on Wednesday to protest against racism after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Floyd died after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes while he lay handcuffed on the ground in Minneapolis on May 25.
His death drew outrage across a nation that is politically and racially divided five months before a presidential election, reigniting protests that have flared repeatedly in recent years over police killings of black Americans.
Since then anti-racism rallies have been held in cities around the world, from Paris to Nairobi.
In London’s Hyde Park, many of the protesters wore face masks and were dressed in red. They chanted “George Floyd” and “Black lives matter”.
“This has been years in the coming, years and years and years of white supremacy,” 30-year-old project manager Karen Koromah told Reuters.
“We’ve come here with our friends to sound the alarm, to make noise, to dismantle supremacist systems,” Koromah said, cautioning that unless there was action, the United Kingdom would face similar problems to those in the United States.
“I don’t want to start crying,” she said of the images from the United States. “It makes my blood boil.”
Some protesters waved banners with slogans such as: “The UK is not innocent: less racist is still racist”, “Racism is a global issue” and “If you aren’t angry you aren’t paying attention”.
Black lives matter
Prime Minister Johnson said on Wednesday that black lives mattered and that he supported the right to protest in a lawful and socially-distanced way.
“Of course, black lives matter and I totally understand the anger, the grief that is felt not just in America but around the world and in our country as well,” he told parliament.
British police chiefs said they were appalled by the way Floyd lost his life and by the violence which followed in US cities but called on potential protesters in the United Kingdom to work with police as coronavirus restrictions remain in place.
But in Hyde Park, near Speakers’ Corner, many cautioned that racism was still a British problem too.
“My mum was a protester in apartheid and that was 30 to 40 years ago – it’s pretty disappointing that we have had to come out today to protest the same thing today they were protesting how many years ago,” Roz Jones, 21, a student from London told Reuters.
Jones came to Britain as a small child with his mother from South Africa.
“It’s a systematic issue all over the world. It’s not like this is just about someone dying, we live our lives made awfully aware of our race. That’s not right, that’s not the natural order,” he said.
The Hyde Park rally is the second major protest in Britain after hundreds gathered in London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday before marching to the US embassy.