From Sydney to London to Washington, D.C., protesters launched a weekend of action to support Black Lives Matter, in many cases defying bans on public gatherings. In Paris, at least two protests went ahead despite a ban.
Taking a knee, chanting and ignoring social-distancing measures, outraged protesters kicked off a weekend of global rallies Saturday against racism and police brutality.
The May 25 death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man arrested in the US state of Minnesota, has brought tens of thousands out onto the streets despite a pandemic that is ebbing in Asia and Europe but spreading rapidly in other parts of the world.
In Paris, riot police held back a crowd of several thousand who gathered outside the US embassy compound for an unsanctioned protest. Another group also gathered at the Champs de Mars park facing the Eiffel Tower.
“I find it scandalous that all these injustices go unpunished,” Dior, a 21-year-old Senegalese-Ivorian student, said amidst crowds holding up placards reading “Being black is not a crime” and “Our police are assassins”.
The French rallies spread to about a dozen cities, including Lyon, Bordeaux, Nice, Lille and Metz, as racist comments leaked from a private Facebook group for police officers added to outrage over racism among French law enforcement.
This is how we stay alive
Protesters also defied restrictions on protest across the Channel.
“It is time to burn down institutional racism,” one speaker shouted through a megaphone at a crowd of thousands outside the parliament building in London.
“This is how we take care of each other,” she added, after urging everyone to pull on a face mask.
“This is how we stay alive.”
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke for many concerned officials as he tried to convince Britons not to gather for events involving more than six people this weekend, no matter the cause.
“Like so many people, I am appalled by the death of George Floyd. I understand why people are deeply upset,” Hancock said on Friday.
“But we are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat.”
Londoners nevertheless rallied outside parliament on Saturday and plan to hold another large demonstration in front of the US embassy on the opposite bank of the river Thames on Sunday.
Thousands defy bans
Aboriginal protesters performed a traditional smoking ceremony at the start of a “Black Lives Matter” protest in Sydney, which was sanctioned at the last minute after initially being banned on health grounds.
Tens of thousands of Australians defied government orders to stay home regardless, holding up signs and wearing face masks marked up “I cant breathe” – the words Floyd kept repeating while handcuffed as a policeman knelt on his neck.
“The fact that they have tried to push us all back and stop the protest, it makes people want to do it even more,” said Jumikah Donovan, one of thousands who turned up thinking the Sydney ban was still in place.
Thousands gathered today at Town Hall Sydney for the deaths of Aboriginal people in custody in the wake of US protests against the murder of George Floyd. 432 deaths in custody since 1991 in Australia. International resistance begets an awakening in Australia #BLMprotest pic.twitter.com/V5B8s6veiv
— Alison Francis (@AlisonllFrancis) June 6, 2020
Thousands more dressed in black to mourn Floyds death protested in Melbourne and other Australian cities.
Floyds death came during the spread of a disease that has disproportionately affected black people and ethnic minorities in global centres such as London and New York.
It also came in the throes of a historic economic downturn that has statistically affected the poor and the marginalised the most.