Thousands turn out for UK George Floyd protests

Thousands turn out for UK George Floyd protests
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media captionProtesters gathered in Parliament Square in LondonThousands of people have joined anti-racism demonstrations across the UK.The protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, are being held in cities including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Leicester and Sheffield.In London, protesters knelt for a minute's silence before…

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Media captionProtesters gathered in Parliament Square in London

Thousands of people have joined anti-racism demonstrations across the UK.

The protests, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, are being held in cities including London, Manchester, Cardiff, Leicester and Sheffield.

In London, protesters knelt for a minute’s silence before chanting “no justice, no peace” and “black lives matter”.

The protests went ahead despite officials advising against mass gatherings due to coronavirus.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the social distancing advice was “for the safety of all of us”, while Met Police Commissioner Dame Cressida Dick said the protests were “unlawful”.

Of the thousands of people who gathered in London’s Parliament Square, the majority donned face coverings and many wore gloves.

Some held signs making reference to the virus, including one which read: “There is a virus greater than Covid-19 and it’s called racism”.

Protests began in the US after a video emerged of Mr Floyd, 46, being arrested by four officers on 25 May in Minneapolis.

Mr Floyd, an unarmed black man in handcuffs, died after a white policeman knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes. Footage showed him gasping that he could not breathe. The officer has been charged with murder while three colleagues stand accused of aiding and abetting.

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Getty Images

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In Cardiff, black protesters held up placards saying “my life matters” and “I can’t breathe”

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Boxer Anthony Joshua joined protesters in Watford, Hertfordshire

At a protest in his hometown of Watford, Britain’s world heavyweight champion boxer Anthony Joshua told the crowds: “We can no longer sit back and remain silent on this senseless, unlawful killing and sly racism on another human being.”

In central London, protesters dropped to one knee and raised their fists in the air outside the US embassy amid chants of “silence is violence” and “colour is not a crime”.

Sarah Law, a 27-year-old train manager, said there was a “great atmosphere” at the protest in London. She said: “I don’t want my future children to experience what I have. It’s time for us all to unite together regardless of our race and stand up for what is right.”

Meanwhile, in Glasgow, anti-racism campaigners renamed streets that have links to the slave trade, replacing street signs with the names of enslaved Africans, black activists and victims of police brutality. Demonstrations are scheduled in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen on Sunday.

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Joey King

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Protesters in London marched towards the US embassy in Vauxhall

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People left flowers and placards at a mural of George Floyd in Manchester

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In Manchester, one protester held a placard which read “white silence is violence”

In Manchester about 15,000 protesters gathered at Piccadilly Gardens in the city centre, clapping in unison and holding placards bearing the initials BLM.

It comes after Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham warned that mass gatherings were “high risk” amid fears that coronavirus may be spreading rapidly again.

How Floyd’s death resonated in the UK

Elsewhere, several hundred marched in Newcastle, while many more watched an online protest organised in the north-east of England.

Protests are taking place across Europe on Saturday and the US capital of Washington DC is bracing for its biggest demonstration yet.

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Wales news service

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Hundreds have attended protests in Cardiff to show their support with many wearing masks

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Campaigners in Leicester knelt with their fists in the air

O’Neall Rawl, a 27-year-old teacher from Leicester, said he was protesting “to hopefully spark some change”.

“I’m protesting because I’m exhausted,” he said. “Exhausted of having to ‘accept’ this way of life. Exhausted of being treated as a second class citizen. Exhausted of being portrayed as aggressive, loud and lazy. Exhausted of inequality.”

Earlier, the home secretary said she understood people’s views and why they wanted to protest but said “we must put public health first”.

Speaking on LBC, Dame Cressida said she understood the strength of feeling but urged protesters to find a way of expressing themselves that did not involve mass gatherings.

She also said that police officers should not “take the knee” in solidarity with protesters.

One doctor warned the UK was “balanced on a knife edge” and those attending protests should take steps to protect themselves from the virus.

Sarah Jarvis told BBC Breakfast that, while people feel strongly about the reasons behind the protests, those attending should continue to stay distant from one another.

“Coronavirus is no respecter of the good cause for which you are going out,” she said.

What does the law say about protests?

Coronavirus regulations for England don’t specifically mention protests but do restrict “public gatherings” to no more than six people – that would make large protests illegal.

Police officers can hand out fixed-penalty notices (starting at £100) to people who won’t follow the health regulations. They can also arrest and charge someone with an offence.

Whether they do this in practice is another matter and policing large protests during the coronavirus pandemic presents a challenge.

Dame Cressida has said officers will “seek to uphold the law” but will have to make a “case-by-case” decision on what to do.

She told the London Assembly on 3 June that if they had tried to enforce a mass dispersal at last weekend’s protests, “we would probably have ended up with very serious disorder”.

Read more on what the law says on protests here.

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