Tuesday, January 26We Break the News

Protests spread in many countries over George Floyd death

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Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated, mainly peacefully, across the United States for an eighth night following the death of African-American George Floyd in police custody.

One of the biggest protests, joined by Floyd’s relatives, took place in his hometown of Houston, Texas.

Many defied curfews in several cities, imposed after violence and looting in some districts on Monday night.

In central Washington DC police fired tear gas late into the night.

The military were again on the streets of the capital and helicopters hovered above protesters marching towards the White House.

The Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets – not only to express their outrage at the treatment of Mr Floyd – but to condemn police brutality against black Americans more widely.

Over the weekend, demonstrators gathered in London, Berlin and Auckland, among other cities, to protest against police brutality in solidarity with the US crowds.

Britain: In London, protesters rallied in Trafalgar Square on Sunday morning, in defiance of Britain’s lockdown rules which prohibit large gatherings. Some participants marched to the US embassy.

Germany: Crowds gathered in Berlin in front of the US embassy on Saturday and Sunday. Participants wore face masks and carried signs declaring “Black lives matter” and “Justice can’t wait.”

France: Activists in Paris wearing black clothing and face masks took a knee and held up signs reading “I can’t breathe,” “We are all George Floyd” and “Racism chokes us” in Paris on Monday.

Denmark: Chants of “no justice, no peace” were heard In the streets of Copenhagen on Sunday, as protesters marched over Floyd’s death. Some rallied outside the Danish capital’s US embassy.

Italy: In Milan, crowds held a flashmob near the city’s US consulate on Thursday.

Brazil: People protested outside the Guanabara Palace, the home of the state government, in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, while in Sao Paulo, some brought signs showing solidarity with the US protests to an existing demonstration against President Jair Bolsonaro.

Washington’s Catholic archbishop has strongly criticised President Donald Trump’s visit to a shrine as civil unrest continues in the US over the death of a black man in police custody.

Tuesday’s visit “manipulated” the Saint John Paul II National Shrine, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people joined largely peaceful demonstrations in cities across the country.

In New York City, protesters defied an earlier curfew.

Traffic police were deployed to stop a repeat of the previous night’s looting in Manhattan, and there were no reports of major incidents.

At least 40 cities have imposed strict curfew measures after days of violent protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis on 25 May.

In Atlanta, police fired tear gas to disperse a demonstration near Centennial Olympic Park, reports said.

In a statement ahead of the president’s visit to the Saint John Paul II National Shrine on Tuesday, Archbishop Wilton D Gregory said it violated the church’s religious principles, adding that Catholics should defend the rights of all people.

“I find it baffling and reprehensible that any Catholic facility would allow itself to be so egregiously misused and manipulated in a fashion that violates our religious principles, which call us to defend the rights of all people even those with whom we might disagree,” the statement said.

The archbishop also condemned the forceful clearing of protesters outside the White House on Monday to allow Mr Trump to visit a church where he held a Bible in front of gathered media.

US President Donald Trump holds a Bible while visiting St John's Church across from the White House
Image captionMr Trump posed in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse protesters nearby

Saint John Paul “would not condone the use of tear gas and other deterrents to silence, scatter or intimidate [protestors] for a photo opportunity in front of a place of worship,” he commented.

Archbishop Gregory is the first African-American to lead the diocese. The shrine is run by the Knights of Columbus, an all-male Catholic organisation that has lobbied for conservative political causes.

Washington’s Episcopalian bishop, Mariann Budde, also condemned the president’s actions. In the UK the archbishops of York and Canterbury said the unrest exposed “the ongoing evil of white supremacy”.

  • After New York’s iconic department store Macy’s and other shops were looted, Governor Andrew Cuomo criticised the police for “not doing their jobs”
  • Curfews in the city are extended to Sunday, as well as in Philadelphia until Thursday
  • In Chicago, two people were reported killed amid unrest, although the circumstances are unclear
  • The Las Vegas sheriff said an officer died in a shooting after police attempted to disperse a crowd, and four officers were injured on Monday in St Louis, Missouri
  • Crowds gathered in Mr Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas, for a peaceful march alongside his family
  • Meanwhile, the state of Minnesota filed a civil rights charge against the Minneapolis Police Department over Mr Floyd’s death
  • And the controversial order to clear protesters from a park near the White House on Monday evening came directly from Attorney General William Barr, US media reported
  • The chief of police in Louisville, Kentucky was sacked after law enforcement officers fired into a crowd on Sunday night, killing the owner of a nearby business
A map of major cities that have imposed curfews as unrest spreads across the US

What’s the background?

The protests began after a video showed Mr Floyd being arrested and a white police officer continuing to kneel on his neck even after he pleaded that he could not breathe.

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and will appear in court next week. Three other police officers have been fired.

Media captionThe peaceful protests honouring George Floyd

The Floyd case has reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism. It follows the high-profile cases of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; Eric Garner in New York; and others that have driven the Black Lives Matter movement in recent years.

Garner was placed in a police chokehold in New York in 2014 and could be heard crying out “I can’t breathe” as officers restrained him. His words, which were also shouted by Mr Floyd in his final moments, have become a rallying cry for Black Lives Matter protesters.

Demonstrators have taken to the streets – not only to express their outrage at the treatment of Mr Floyd – but to condemn police brutality against black Americans more widely.

Chart showing shootings by race and population percentage by race

African-Americans are more likely to get fatally shot by police than other ethnic groups. They are also arrested for drug abuse at a much higher rate than white Americans, although surveys show drug use is at similar levels.

For many, the outrage over Mr Floyd’s death also reflects years of frustration over socio-economic inequality and discrimination, not least in Minneapolis itself. It has also come amid the coronavirus pandemic, which studies show has disproportionately affected black Americans both in terms of deaths and job losses.

But the protests also echo those of the Civil Rights movement more than 50 years ago. This action was led by Martin Luther King Jr and sought to challenge white supremacy and the segregationist policies that were commonplace at the time.

The ongoing unrest is the most widespread racial turbulence the US has experienced since Dr King, known to most Americans as MLK, was gunned down by a sniper in 1968.

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