Jun 02, 2020 13:12 UTC
  • Protests against US police killing of George Floyd go global

Protesters in cities across the world have staged rallies in solidarity with tens of thousands of Americans in the United States against rampant police brutality and racial profiling, following the killing of unarmed African-American George Floyd last week.

46-year-old Floyd died on May 25 in the northern US city of Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed his knee on his neck for nearly 10 minutes as he continually gasped, “please, I can’t breathe,” triggering massive rallies and clashes with police in many cities across the US.

Protests then spread to more cities in the US and across the world as the hawkish American President Donald Trump threatened protesters near the White House with the use of “the most vicious dogs and most ominous weapons,” reverberating memories of suppressing the uprising of blacks across the country during the civil rights movement in the 1960s.

Nearly 10,000 protesters in the Dutch capital of Amsterdam shouted “I can’t breathe” as they converged on the city center’s Dam Square on Monday to express their solidarity with the protesters in the US.

Ignoring official calls for social distancing, the crowds of demonstrators also chanted “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace” and blocked traffic, though no acts of violence occurred.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Tuesday that she had been “horrified” by the killing of Floyd while in custody of US police officers, and she welcomed peaceful protest rallies in her country in solidarity.

“I think I stand with everyone else in being horrified in what we’ve seen,” Ardern said during an interview with state broadcaster TVNZ.

“I don’t want to stop peaceful protests… but rules are there to protect people,” she added, referring to social distancing restrictions on large gatherings put in place to contain the coronavirus outbreak in the country.

Her remarks came after thousands of New Zealanders demonstrated peacefully on Monday.

At least four solidarity rallies were staged across the country, with massive crowds kneeling at a protest event in Auckland. Tens of thousands of people marched from Aotea Square in central Auckland to the US Embassy, carrying signs with messages such as “Be kind,” “Silence is Betrayal,” and “Do Better, Be Better.”

Speakers called on the prime minister to denounce the killing of Floyd as a hate crime and show the same leadership as she did when a lone Australian gunman killed 51 Muslim worshipers in two mosques in the city of Christchurch on March 15, 2019. Ardern was praised globally last year for her compassionate handling of the country’s worst massacre.

In Australia, however, a demonstration planned for Tuesday afternoon in Sydney was cancelled on Monday, after people threatened to “create havoc and protest against the event,” according to an organizer.

Prior to the cancellation, however, conservative Aussie Prime Minister Scott Morrison had called on protesters not to “import things happening in other countries here to Australia.”

Morrison added that Australia was “fair” and applauded police and other emergency workers.

His remarks came as many Australians pointed out on social media that there had been more than 400 indigenous deaths in police custody since the end of a 1991 royal commission.

Thousands of protesters are expected to take part in similar protest rallies planned for the Australian cities of Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide next Saturday.

In Canada thousands of people took part in a peaceful march on Saturday in Toronto to also demand answers in the death of a young Canadian black woman, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, who fell from her 24th-floor apartment balcony last week at the presence of police officers.

Vancouver and other Canadian cities also staged peaceful protest rallies over the weekend, though tensions flared after a Sunday march in Montreal when protesters smashed windows and set fires.

Scores of protester in the French capital of Paris also knelt in silence while holding signs in front of the American Embassy on Monday to express their solidarity with Floyd and condemn persistent police brutality targeting people of color in the US.

Most participants in the protest were dressed in black and were wearing face masks due to the coronavirus crisis in France as they carried signs reading, “Racism is choking us,” “Justice for Floyd,” and “I can’t breathe.”

“George Floyd was a victim of a racist crime, a racist murder in the United States by a policeman,” said Dominique Sopo, who heads the French anti-racism group SOS Racisme.

Protest organizers issued a statement calling for widespread solidarity among anti-racist groups in France to deplore a crime that “unfortunately” was commonplace in the United States.

“We also call for the utmost firmness in France, including at the state level, where acts of racism in the police have been recently reported,” the statement read.