The world has united in outrage over George Floyd’s death with protesters marching in Australia, France, the UK and Germany, demanding an end to police brutality and racism around the globe.
Thousands of French protesters defied a coronavirus-related police ban and rallied Tuesday against racial injustice and heavy-handed police tactics in the US and on home soil.
This came after thousands marched in Sydney, Australia, chanting ‘I can’t breathe,’ while, in the UK, protesters came out in force in London, Manchester and Cardiff over the weekend – almost a decade on from riots sparked by the shooting death of a black man by cops in 2011.
Floyd’s death has reignited calls for justice in similar cases where men have died in police custody in other parts of the globe, while pleading that ‘I can’t breathe’.
Anger also erupted in multiple languages on social networks, with thousands of Swedes joining an online protest and others speaking out under the banner of #BlackOutTuesday.
Floyd’s death has also become a diplomatic issue, with the European Union’s top foreign policy official saying the bloc was ‘shocked and appalled’ by his killing at the hands of the white cop.
As protests escalated worldwide, solidarity with US demonstrators increasingly mixed with local worries.
‘When you refuse to treat the problem of racism… it leads to what we see in the United States,’ said Dominique Sopo, head of French activist group SOS Racisme.
‘The case of George Floyd echoes what we fear in France.’
In Paris, a largely young, multiracial crowd streamed to the main Paris courthouse Tuesday and rallied peacefully – clapping, cheering and waving signs reading ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘Police Everywhere, Justice Nowhere’ – while police monitored closely from nearby corners. Fears of the coronavirus remain close to the surface and were the reason cited by the police for banning Tuesday’s protest at the courthouse.
Gatherings of more than 10 people remain banned in France as part of coronavirus confinement measures.
But the Paris protest plans drew attention online, and demonstrators showed up in their masses anyway. Similar demonstrations were held in other French cities with protesters drawing shocking parallels between Floyd’s death and the death of Adama Traore shortly after his arrest in France in 2016.
The Traore case has become emblematic of the fight against police brutality in France.
The circumstances of the death of the 24-year-old Frenchman of Malian origin are still under investigation after four years of conflicting medical reports about what happened.
The lawyer for two of the three police officers involved in the arrest, Rodolphe Bosselut, said the Floyd and Traore cases ‘have strictly nothing to do with each other.’
Bosselut told The Associated Press that Traore’s death wasn’t linked with the conditions of his arrest but other factors, including a pre-existing medical condition.
Traore’s family says he died from asphyxiation because of police tactics – and that his last words were ‘I can’t breathe.’
‘I can’t breathe’ were also the final words of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.
As 3,000 people marched peacefully through Sydney, many said they had been inspired by a mixture of sympathy for African-Americans amid ongoing violent protests in the US and to call for change in Australia’s treatment of its indigenous population, particularly involving police.
The mostly Australian crowd at the authorized demonstration also included protesters from the US and elsewhere.
‘I’m here for my people, and for our fallen brothers and sisters around the world,’ said Sydney indigenous woman Amanda Hill, 46, who attended the rally with her daughter and two nieces.
‘What’s happening in America shines a light on the situation here. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the treatment of black men and women from here or from another country; enough is enough,’ she said.
This comes as a total of 432 indigenous Australians have died in police detention since a 1991 Royal Commission – Australia’s highest level of official inquiry – into Aboriginal deaths in custody, according to The Guardian.
Australia has also never signed a treaty with the country’s indigenous population, who suffer higher-than-average rates of infant mortality and poor health, plus shorter life expectancy and lower levels of education and employment than white Australians.
Over in the UK, demonstrators took to the streets of Manchester, Cardiff and London over the weekend.
In the capital, some marched to the gates of Downing Street with many holding banners bearing the names of black people who have died in police custody in the UK.
Another protest was planned Tuesday in Dutch capital The Hague, and more than 6,000 people attended a Sweden-organized online protest to express support with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Among speakers was Aysha Jones, a Gambia-born and Sweden-based activist and fashion blogger.
Jones said the protest was important to show support to people in America, but also to remind Swedes that racism ‘does exist here, it´s very real and people are being harmed from it.’
More protests in various countries are planned later in the week, including a string of demonstrations in front of US embassies on Saturday.
The drama unfolding in the US has also drawn increasing diplomatic concern.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s remarks in Brussels were the strongest to come out of the 27-nation bloc, saying Floyd’s death was a result of an abuse of power.
Borrell told reporters that ‘like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd.’
He underlined that Europeans ‘support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions.’
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said peaceful protests in the US following Floyd’s death are ‘understandable and more than legitimate.’ ‘I can only express my hope that the peaceful protests do not continue to lead to violence, but even more express the hope that these protests have an effect in the United States,’ Maas said.
More African leaders are also speaking up over the killing of Floyd.
‘It cannot be right that, in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism,’ Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said in a statement, adding that black people the world over are shocked and distraught.
Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga offered a prayer for the US, ‘that there be justice and freedom for all human beings who call America their country.’
Like some in Africa who have spoken out, Odinga also noted troubles at home, saying the judging of people by character instead of skin color ‘is a dream we in Africa, too, owe our citizens.’
Credit: Associated Press