Europeans join global wave of anti-racism protests

Europeans join global wave of anti-racism protests

Spain protest
Protesters gather in front the American embassy in Madrid, Spain, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd and victims of racial injustice. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

MADRID: Calling for racial justice, protesters rallied across Europe on Sunday (Jun 7), joining a wave of demonstrations sparked by the death of African American George Floyd at the hands of US police.

A video of the incident with Floyd pleading for his life in Minneapolis as a white police officer knelt on his neck has sparked angry protests worldwide, even as countries continue to discourage large gatherings to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Several thousand people massed outside the US embassy in Madrid, shouting "I cannot breathe", Floyd's last words, and demanding justice.

"Racism knows no borders," said Leinisa Seemdo, a 26-year-old Spanish translator from Cape Verde. "In all the countries where I have lived, I have experienced discrimination because of the colour of my skin."

Rome's Piazza del Popolo ("People's Plaza") fell silent for eight minutes - roughly the time Floyd was pinned down by the policeman - as thousands of people took a knee in memory of Floyd, their fists in the air.

Rome protest
People kneel as they gather calling for justice for George Floyd, who died on May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, USA, in Rome's Piazza del Popolo square. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

"We can't breathe," shouted the crowd, after the collective silence.

"It's really hard to live here," said Senegalese migrant Morikeba Samate, 32, one of the thousands to have arrived in Italy after risking the perilous crossing across the Mediterranean.

Opposition to that wave of migration buoyed the far-right in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

Floyd's death last month has unleashed the most serious and widespread civil unrest in the United States since Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968.

The police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder while three fellow officers face lesser charges.

READ: Amid wide US protests, Democrats press anti-racism reforms


More than 1,000 people on Sunday also gathered at a Black Lives Matter protest near the US embassy in Budapest.

Hungary protest
People take part in a protest at Szabadsag square (Freedom square) in front of the US embassy in Budapest, in solidarity with protests raging across the US over the death of George Floyd. (ATTILA KISBENEDEK/AFP)

Hungarian reggae singer G Ras told cheering protesters: "If we want to live in a better world, we need to radically change the way we live."

Almost 4,000 attended two similar events in the Netherlands.

Netherlands protest
People take part in an anti-racism protest in Park de Wezenlanden in Maastricht, Netherlands, to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. (Jean-Pierre GEUSENS/ANP/AFP)

Thousands marched in cities across Britain.

Hip-hop artist Stormzy joined protesters marching for a second day running in London despite a coronavirus ban against large gatherings. For the second day running, some demonstrators scuffled with police near Downing Street.

London protest
A police officer speaks with protesters outside Downing Street in central London after a demonstration outside the US Embassy, organised to show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the killing of George Floyd. (ISABEL INFANTES/AFP)

In Bristol, a city linked to the slave trade, the statue of trader Edward Colston was torn down on Sunday and thrown into the harbour.

READ: UK slave trader's statue toppled in anti-racism protests

A combination of images shows protesters pulling down a statue of Edward Colston
A combination of images shows protesters pulling down a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol. (AFP Photo)

In the Scottish capital Edinburgh, singer Lewis Capaldi was among those marching there.

In Lausanne, Switzerland, a black-clad demonstrator's placard read "my colour is not a threat", while almost 10,000 people marched in Brussels, police said.

Switzerland protest
A protester holds a placard reading "Black Lives Matter" during a protest against racism and police brutality in Lausanne, Switzerland, in the wake of the death of George Floyd. (Fabrice COFFRINI/AFP)

"The murder of George Floyd had clearly woken up a lot of people," commented Ange Kaze of the Belgian Network for Black Lives.

A few skirmishes broke out at the end of the Brussels rally, but a demonstration by 15,000 in Copenhagen ended peacefully.

Brussels protest
Protesters clash with riot police during an anti-racism demonstration in Brussels, as part of a weekend of 'Black Lives Matter' worldwide protests against racism and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd. (Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD/AFP)

Fighting was also reported however at the end of a protest in Goteborg, Sweden, were almost 2,000 people turned out for a march authorised for just 50 owing to coronavirus restrictions.

Sweden protest
Police stand in line in front of protesters during an anti-racism demonstration in Gothenburg, Sweden, in solidarity with protests raging across the US over the death of George Floyd. (Adam IHSE/TT News Agency/AFP)

As countries begin to emerge from lockdowns, governments are struggling to balance people's need to express anger against the risk of protests spreading a disease that has killed nearly 400,000 worldwide.

In France, more than 23,000 people demonstrated on Saturday, and football players from a half dozen German teams knelt over the weekend in Floyd's memory.

His death occurred during a pandemic that has disproportionately affected black people and ethnic minorities in mega cities such as London, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

The historic economic recession triggered by virus lockdowns has hammered the poor and marginalised even more.

A combination of economic woes, social tensions and anger at US President Donald Trump's response has refocused attention on racial divides like few other events since the 1960s.

READ: Trump drifts from Constitution, former military chief warns

Source: AFP/de