George Floyd death: Thousands rally in Europe against racism and police brutality

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels and Rome in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has drawn large protests against racism and police brutality around the world.
George Floyd death: Thousands rally in Europe against racism and police brutality

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Barcelona, Madrid, Brussels and Rome in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has drawn large protests against racism and police brutality around the world.

In Brussels, protesters clambered on to the statue of Belgium’s former King Leopold II and chanted “reparations”, according to video posted on social media.

The word “shame” was also graffitied on the monument, a reference perhaps to claims Leopold is said to have reigned over the mass death of 10 million Congolese.

A rally in Rome’s sprawling People’s Square was noisy but peaceful, with the majority of protesters wearing masks to protect against coronavirus.

Participants listened to speeches and held up handmade placards saying Black Lives Matter and It’s a White Problem.

The rally came a day after largely peaceful anti-racism protests took place in cities in countries from Australia to Europe to the US in response to the May 25 death of American George Floyd.

Mr Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while lying handcuffed on the ground.

In Berlin, police said 93 people were detained in connection with a demonstration in the German capital on Saturday – most of them after the main rally of 15,000 had ended.

Police said several officers and one press photographer were injured in Berlin when bottles and rocks were thrown from a crowd that had gathered despite police orders to clear the city’s Alexander Square.

In France’s southern port city of Marseille, police fired tear gas and pepper spray in skirmishes with protesters who hurled bottles and rocks after what had been an emotional yet peaceful demonstration.

The Marseille protest was one of several on Saturday that attracted 23,000 people across France, where Mr Floyd’s death has shone a spotlight on similar French police abuses and given voice to complaints from minorities that they are frequent targets of harassment and worse from French police.

In Hong Kong, about 20 people staged a rally in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement on Sunday outside the US consulate in the semi-autonomous Chinese city.

“It’s a global issue,” said Quinland Anderson, a 28-year-old British citizen living in Hong Kong.

“We have to remind ourselves despite all we see going on in the US and in the other parts of the world, black lives do indeed matter.”

Organisers called off the Hong Kong rally late on Saturday because of the city’s coronavirus restrictions.

Those that still showed up gathered in groups of eight to follow size limits on public gatherings.

Among those at Sunday’s rally in Rome was 26-year-old Ghanaian Abdul Nassir, who is studying for a masters in business management at one of the Italian capital’s public universities.

“It’s quite unfortunate, you know, in this current 21st century that people of colour are being treated as if they are lepers,” Mr Nassir said.

He said he has occasionally felt racist attitudes, most notably when on the subway.

“Maybe you’re finding a place to stand, and people just keep moving (away) and you’ll be like, ‘What?’”

Mr Nassir said: “We’re strong people but sometimes everyone has a limit.”

Rome’s first major rally against racism had many organisers, including a 25-year-old Roman student, Denise Berhane, a group called Black Italians, a women’s group, the environmental group Fridays for Future Rome, a US expatriates’ organisation and the Sardines, a grassroots Italian protest group that encourages civic involvement.

Asked by broadcaster SKYTG24 whether Italy has a racism problem, Ms Berhane replied: “There are some problems in the country if all these people turned out.”

The gathering was useful, she said, to help people develop awareness of the problem.

At one point, the protesters, most of them young and some with children or siblings, took the knee and raised a fist in solidarity with those fighting racism and police brutality.

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