Thousands gather in DC as Floyd protests go global

Protests over the killing of George Floyd gained in number across the world on Saturday as Washington DC prepared for the biggest demonstration yet in the US capital.

The protests, now in their 12th consecutive day, have shone a harsh light on American policing practices, with scenes of police violence against protesters adding to the anger sparked by Floyd’s death in police custody.

Crowds were gathering in the US on Saturday following earlier protests in solidarity with the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement in Asia, Australia and across Europe.

With a large crowd expected to rally in Washington, prosecutors in New York announced charges against two officers who shoved a 75-year-old protester to the ground earlier this week. The elderly man remains in hospital after hitting his head in the fall.

The case has reflected the heightened tensions that have emerged as protesters have called for police reform, and US law enforcement authorities have at times responded with rubber bullets and tear gas.

John Flynn, the district attorney in Buffalo, New York, said on Saturday that he understood local police would be angry at the charges, but urged them to keep working with his office.

“If you’re mad at me, fine be mad at me,” he said. “But come Monday morning, when we show up here to work, we need to work together and do our jobs, that’s all I’m asking.”

His comments came after the entire riot response team of the Buffalo police department resigned from that unit on Friday after the two officers were suspended. 

The protests have continued for almost two weeks since Floyd, a 46-year-old black Minnesotan, died after a police officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes as he lay handcuffed, face down on the ground. The officer and three colleagues involved in Floyd’s arrest have all been charged.

Along with the protests, US cities have seen scenes of looting and arson. Curfews have been imposed in New York and elsewhere. On Friday, Bill de Blasio, the New York mayor, said the curfew would remain in place until Monday.

The mass demonstrations, which have come despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, have spread across the world. On Saturday, protesters across Europe came out in large numbers to protest racism and police violence.

Thousands gathered in London and marched on the US embassy. According to local police in Germany, 15,000 people gathered in Alexanderplatz, in central Berlin, while 20,000 protesters, many of them chanting “black lives matter”, marched in the southern city of Munich. Thousands also demonstrated in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Mannheim and Stuttgart.

In Paris, people gathered at Place de la Concorde despite a ban by the city on the protest for what it said were safety and health reasons. A second crowd had gathered on Champs de Mars on the left bank of the Seine. There were peaceful protests in Lille and Lyon and one planned in Marseille for Saturday night.

In Portugal, thousands joined protests in Lisbon, Porto and several other cities, shouting “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” in Portuguese and English.

Antiracism protesters in Ireland staged a big rally outside the US embassy in Dublin and there were demonstrations in Galway and Limerick. There was also a large protest in Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Hundreds of people, mostly wearing masks, marched peacefully in central Tokyo, turning up on a scorching afternoon with signs that paid homage to Floyd. One young woman held up a cardboard message with the words “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention,” while others said “Enough is enough” in solidarity with American protesters.

While large demonstrations are unusual in Japan, the antiracism protest followed a video shared on social media that appeared to show Japanese police officers aggressively questioning a Kurdish man on the streets of Tokyo.

In Australia, large crowds formed in Melbourne and Sydney protesting Aboriginal deaths in police custody.

In Brazil, there is an anti-racist rally scheduled for Sunday in São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city, against what protesters see as the increasingly authoritarian leanings of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro. One of the groups organising the rally is Vidas Pretas Importam, the Brazilian chapter of Black Lives Matter.

Additional reporting by Guy Chazan in Berlin, Leila Abboud in Paris, Peter Wise in Lisbon, Arthur Beesley in Dubin, Andres Schipani in São Paulo and Kana Inagaki in Tokyo

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