A wave of Black Lives Matter protests sweeps across Europe


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. The statue met with a watery end as it was eventually rolled into the city’s harbour.

A statue of slave trader Edward Colston meets a watery end in the English port city of Bristol on Sunday.

A statue of slave trader Edward Colston meets a watery end in the English port city of Bristol on Sunday.Credit:AP

It wasn’t the only statute targeted on Sunday. In Brussels, protesters clambered onto the statue of former King Leopold II and chanted “reparations,” according to video posted on social media. The word “shame” was also scrawled on the monument, an apparent reference to the fact that Leopold is said to have reigned over the deaths of 10 million Congolese.

In London, thousands of people congregated around the US embassy for the second day in a row, but making it clear that their message wasn’t just aimed at America.

“Everyone knows that this represents more than just George Floyd, more than just America, but racism all around the world,” said Darcy Bourne, a London-based student.

Protesters, many of whom were wearing face masks to protect themselves from the coronavirus, were “using this time when they’re out of work to unite and come together and make a change because it’s been like this for too long now,” she said.

The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London on Sunday.

The statue of Winston Churchill in Parliament Square, London on Sunday.Credit:AP

Following clashes on Saturday at another demonstration in central London that saw 14 police officers injured, there were concerns that Sunday’s demonstration might take a violent turn. Hundreds of protesters siphoned off and returned to where the clashes took place on Saturday.

Police lined barricades and in front of the gates to Downing Street and the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. The protest appeared to be orderly, but on occasion the demonstrators remonstrated with police.

London mayor Sadiq Khan urged those protesting to do so lawfully while also maintaining social distancing by remaining. Most demonstrators, however, were packed tightly in front of the US embassy.

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Police said 14 officers were injured on Saturday during clashes with protesters in central London that followed a largely peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration attended by tens of thousands.

Hundreds of people also formed a densely packed crowd Sunday in a square in central Manchester, kneeling in silence as a mark of respect for George Floyd.

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.”

Among those present was 26-year-old Ghanaian Abdul Nassir, who is studying 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,” Nassir said.

He said he occasionally has felt racist attitudes, most notably when riding the subway. “We’re strong people but sometimes everyone has a limit,” he said.

Protesters in Rome's Piazza del Popolo on Sunday.

Protesters in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on Sunday.Credit:AP

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.

In Italy’s financial capital, Milan, a few thousand protesters gathered in a square outside the central train station on Sunday afternoon. Many in the crowd were migrants or children of migrants of African origin.

Organisers told participants that, in Italy, the Black Lives Matter slogan means “avoid seeing black bodies as if they’re foreigners” and not as citizens. One participant held a cardboard sign written in English, reading, “I Fight For My Kids.”

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One of those addressing the crowd said that in Italy, Black Lives Matter means not delaying legislative reform to make it easier to receive citizenship.

Foreigners born in Italy aren’t automatically eligible for citizenship until they reach 18 after continuously living in the country. In recent years, efforts have failed to enact legislation to allow foreigners’ children born in Italy to become citizens while still minors if they’ve attended Italian schools. Parents complain that their children, although identifying as Italian and speaking fluent Italian, are viewed as second-class citizens.

In Spain, several thousand protesters gathered on the streets of Barcelona and at the US embassy in Madrid.

Many in Madrid carried homemade signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “Human rights for all” and “Silence is pro-racist.”

“We are not only doing this for our brother George Floyd,” said Thimbo Samb, a spokesman for the group that organised the events in Spain via social media. “Here in Europe, in Spain, where we live, we work, we sleep and pay taxes, we also suffer racism.”

AP

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