Protests sparked by the death of 46-year-old Black man, George Floyd, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department on May 25th, have taken on a global dimension within the last week. Overcoming coronavirus fears, people have gathered across the world to show their solidarity with the US protests against police brutality. Eric Garner, an African-American man who suffered a fatal asthma attack after an officer held him in a chokehold in 2014, David Dungay, an Aboriginal man who died in custody in Australia in 2015, and Adama Traoré, a Malian French man who lost consciousness and died after being restrained by police in 2016, all share their last words with Floyd – a slogan and chant of the global protests: “I can’t breathe”.
UK action began in Trafalgar Square on May 31st, with protestors climbing onto sculptures and phone boxes, chanting “no justice, no peace”. Another demonstration blocked Park Lane causing traffic, including at least 10 double-decker buses, to accumulate. Star Wars actor John Boyega delivered an impassioned speech to crowds, saying “now is the time, and I ain’t waiting”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed his support for the movement, defending the right to peacefully protest, but emphasises that they “should be carried out lawfully… in accordance with our rules on social distancing”.
Across Europe, in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Poland, Spain, and Switzerland, people have followed suit with demonstrations outside their respective US embassies and consulates. In France, protestors donned black clothing to take a knee, with signs reading “nous sommes tous des George Floyd”, ‘we are all George Floyd’. A flash mob near the US Consulate was held in Milan on Thursday, and women from the Migrant Woman and Daughter’s Network protested in front of the Dogali war memorial in Rome, displaying signs and writings on their bodies. Activist Aysha Jones also organised an online protest in Sweden, in which more than 6,000 people participated.
An effigy of Trump was burnt by the Socialist Unity Centre of India on June 1st, with people chanting slogans against his administration and the custodial killing of Floyd. In Palestine, Floyd’s portrait was placed next to that of Eyad al-Hallaq, a disabled man who was shot dead by Israeli police in front of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem on May 30th. Amongst many murals of Floyd, one was painted on the ruins of a bombed-out building in the Binnish subdistrict in Syria, by local artists Aziz Asmar and Anis Hamdoun.
A large group gathered in Perth’s Central Business District, protesting not only in solidarity with the US, but also against the treatment of minority and Indigenous groups in Australia. One protestor commented: “I’m here for my people, and for our fallen brothers and sisters around the world”. Multiple demonstrations and vigils have also sprung up in locations across New Zealand, with a group in Christchurch performing a haka in solidarity.
African leaders are also speaking up over the US racial atrocities; Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo stated that “it cannot be right that in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systematic racism”. On June 2nd, protests progressed to the US Embassy in Nairobi, with the Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga noting that judging people by their character instead of their skin colour “is a dream we in Africa, too, owe our citizens”.
Protests also spread to other parts of North and South America, where portraits of Floyd, flowers, and candles were hung on the fence outside the US Embassy in Mexico City, and a demonstration outside the Guanabara Palace, in Rio de Janeiro, built upon an existing protest against President Jair Bolsonaro’s coronavirus legislation. In Puerto Rico, some demonstrations were peaceful, including artistic performances, whereas elsewhere, a guillotine was paraded through the streets outside the Governor’s mansion.
Whilst the world rages against systematic oppression and hatred towards the Black community, a small voice can be heard amongst the chaos: that of Gianna, the 6-year-old daughter George Floyd left behind, saying “Daddy changed the world”.