SYDNEY – Tens of thousands of people gathered Saturday in cities far from the United States to express anger over the death of George Floyd, a sign that the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality is resonating with wider calls to address racism from Australia to Europe.
In Berlin, where police said 15,000 people rallied on the German capital's Alexander Square, protesters chanted Floyd's name and held up placards with slogans such as “Stop police brutality” and “I can’t breath.”
Floyd, a black man, died after a Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while handcuffed and stopped moving.
“The killing and these violent physical things that have happened is only just the top of it,” said Lloyd Lawson, 54, who took part in the Berlin protest. “That’s why you’ve got to start right from the bottom, just like an iceberg.”
Some 20,000 people rallied in Munich, while thousands more took part in protests in Frankfurt and Cologne.
In Paris, several thousand demonstrators ignored a protest ban — issued due to the coronavirus pandemic — and assembled within sight of the U.S. Embassy, kept back by imposing barriers and riot police.
Among the crowd in the French capital was Marie Djedje, 14, a Parisian born on July 14, the French national day.
“I was born French, on the day when we celebrate our country. But on a daily basis, I don’t feel that this country accepts me,” she said, holding up a sign that read “Being black is not a crime."
The teenager said that emerging from France's virus lockdown and seeing officers on patrol again drove home how scared she is of the police and how she has steeled herself for a life of overcoming obstacles.
“I know that because of my skin color I’m starting out with a handicap, for example, if I want to get a flat or go to a top school,” she said. “I know I’m going to have to fight twice as hard as the others. But I’m prepared.”
In central London, tens of thousands staged a rally outside Parliament Square, invoking Floyd's memory as well as people who died during police encounters or indifference in Britain. Some protesters ignored thickening rain clouds and later headed toward the U.K. Home Office, which oversees law enforcement and immigration, and to the U.S. Embassy.
Many dropped to one knee and raised their fists in the air outside the gleaming embassy building south of the River Thames. There were chants of “Silence is violence” and “Color is not a crime.”
The majority of those marching wore masks and other face coverings, and appeared to make an effort to adhere to social distancing guidelines by walking in small groups.
An estimated 15,000 people gathered in the heart of Manchester, England, while 2,000 people joined in a demonstration in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.
Andrew Francis, 37, a black man from London, said there’s “a lot of frustration due to racial discrimination, and we want change for our children and our children’s children’s to be able to have equality within the U.K, the U.S., all around the world.” Francis, who wore a face covering, said he wasn’t worried about the coronavirus and said the fight for racial equality was “more important” to him.
Floyd's death has sparked significant protests across the United States, but it has also struck a chord with minorities protesting discrimination elsewhere, including demonstrators in Sydney and Brisbane who highlighted indigenous Australians who died in custody.
Indigenous Australians make up 2% of the the country's adult population, but 27% of the prison population. They are also the most disadvantaged ethnic minority in Australia and have higher-than-average rates of infant mortality and poor health, as well as shorter life expectancies and lower levels of education and employment than other Australians.
In South Korea's capital, Seoul, protesters gathered for a second straight day to denounce Floyd's death. Wearing masks and black shirts, dozens of demonstrators marched through a commercial district amid a police escort, carrying signs such as “George Floyd Rest in Peace” and “Koreans for Black Lives Matter.”
In Senegal, people staged a protest in front of the African Renaissance Monument in the capital of Dakar, holding placards with slogans such as “Enough is enough.”
Chris Trabot, who works for Paris City Hall, said George Floyd's death last week triggered his decision to demonstrate Saturday for the first time in his life.
Born in the French territory of Martinique, Trabot said he first experienced racism as a child when he moved with his family to mainland France and got in frequent fights with white kids who mocked his skin color. Recently, his 9-year-old daughter has told him of being a target of racism, too, with schoolmates mocking her hair.
Adele Letamba, a 39-year-old consultant protesting in Paris, put it bluntly: “The death of George Floyd was the spark that spread across the world.”
In Tel Aviv, thousands of protesters joined a Jewish-Arab rally against the Israeli government’s plans to annex parts of the occupied West Bank. The protesters wore masks, but social distancing measures were not strictly maintained as some demonstrators formed small groups. Police initially sought to block the rally, but later allowed it to take place.
Protesters in Israel also demonstrated against what they see as excessive violence by Israeli police against Palestinians. One protester held a poster showing George Floyd and Eyad Halak, a Palestinian with autism who was killed last week by Israeli police officers after apparently being mistaken as an attacker.
While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, there was a brief scuffle in Sydney when police removed an apparent counter-protester carrying a sign reading, “White Lives, Black Lives, All Lives Matter.”
In London, police and protesters clashed at the end of a rally near the offices of Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Objects were thrown at police wearing protective gear and video shared on social media appeared to show a horse bolting amid the clashes, unseating a police officer as he hit traffic lights.
A video from Berlin, also shared on social media, showed several police with dogs arresting a black man scuffling with an officer. Anja Dierschke, a spokeswoman for Berlin police, said the incident happened some time after the protest ended and officers had ordered a group of people, some of whom were throwing bottles at passers-by, to disperse.
Associated Press journalists Rick Rycroft in Sydney, Dennis Passa and John Pye in Brisbane, Kim Tong-hyung in Seoul, South Korea, John Leicester in Paris, Pan Pylas in London, Shlomo Mor in Tel Aviv and Yuri Kageyama in Tokyo contributed to this report.