George Floyd death: Thousands join London protest

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media captionProtesters chanted "black lives matter"

Thousands of people have joined a protest in London over the death of African-American George Floyd in US police custody nine days ago.

It comes as UK chief constables said they stand alongside all those "appalled and horrified" by his death.

In a joint statement, they said the right to lawful protest was a "key part of any democracy".

But they stressed coronavirus restrictions, including not gathering in groups of more than six, remained.

Protests began in the US after a video showed Mr Floyd, 46, being arrested on 25 May in Minneapolis and a white police officer continuing to kneel on his neck even after he pleaded that he could not breathe.

media captionJohn Boyega gives emotional protest speech: "Black men, it starts with you"

The officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder, according to court documents.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that Mr Floyd's death had been "appalling" and "inexcusable", but was criticised for failing to comment on the killing before now.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said the UK government had "shuttered itself in the hope no-one would notice".

Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer called on the PM to convey to US President Donald Trump the UK's "abhorrence about his response to the events".

Speaking later when asked about it at Wednesday's coronavirus briefing, Mr Johnson said: "My message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States from the UK is that… racism, racist violence has no place in our society."

He said people had the right to protest but "I would urge people to protest peacefully, and in accordance with the rules on social distancing".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionProtesters in Hyde Park chanted "black lives matter" and "we will not be silent"
image captionThousands of people marched through Westminster in central London

Demonstrators gathered in London's Hyde Park for the protest organised by campaign group Black Lives Matter, before marching south through the city.

It followed days of protests in US cities including Washington DC, Los Angeles, Houston and Seattle, after the Floyd case reignited deep-seated anger over police killings of black Americans and racism.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets there - not only to express their outrage at the treatment of Mr Floyd - but to condemn police brutality against black Americans more widely.

In the UK protesters marched to Victoria Station, where they hung a sign reading "Justice for Belly Mujinga" - referring to a railway worker who died with Covid-19. Initially it was thought this may have been because she was spat at by a man claiming to have coronavirus. However, police concluded that her death was not linked to the attack.

The protestors then continued towards Westminster, where they blocked the roads outside Parliament.

A number of videos shared on social media showed protesters and police clashing outside Downing Street.

Footage showed objects, including signs and a traffic cone, being thrown at police, while one protester was wrestled to the ground and restrained by officers.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSome protesters clashed with police outside Downing Street

At the scene

By BBC reporter Chi Chi Izundu

There was anger in the crowd, as they sat, as they listened to speeches, as they took the knee.

This is yet another generation who have painted placards and taken to the streets to march against racism.

As they started to fill Hyde Park, organisers shouted at them to spread out their arms to maintain the two-metre social distancing rule. But so many gathered, it became impossible.

Friends and families together, different ages, different races.

At the start, organisers told me they were expecting about 1,000 people. But the protesters came out in their thousands.

They chanted "Black Lives Matter", they shouted "say his name". They said the "UK is not different" when it comes to racism. They want change.

Earlier, Star Wars actor John Boyega made an emotional speech to fellow protesters in which he said the crowds were "a physical representation of our support" for Mr Floyd along with two other black Americans who controversially died in the US, and Stephen Lawrence who was killed in a racist attack in London in 1993.

He said he was speaking from his heart and did not know whether he would still have a career after speaking out.

"Today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process - we don't know what George Floyd could have achieved, we don't know what Sandra Bland could have achieved, but today we're going to make sure that won't be an alien thought to our young ones," he said.

"I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing."

image captionActor John Boyega with family members of railway worker Belly Mujinga
image copyrightPA Media
image captionThe crowds marched from Hyde Park towards Victoria station
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionProtesters in Whitehall took the knee to show solidarity with George Floyd
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFirefighters in uniform knelt in Windrush Square, Brixton, in south London
image captionPolice clashes with protestors on Downing St carried on into the evening

One activist attending the protest, Brogan Baptiste, told the BBC: "It's imperative that all of us, whether you're black, white, that you're involved in this because we need change and we need it now."

Filippa, a 20-year-old student who also joined the protest, said: "I know that I'm healthy. So this felt more important than to stay inside when I have the opportunity."

Protests also took place in other UK cities, including Belfast and Northampton.

'Appalled and horrified'

In their joint statement, the National Police Chiefs Council said: "We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow."

They said officers in the UK were "trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary".

However, they added: "We strive to continuously learn and improve. We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it."

image copyrightReuters
image captionA police officer knelt in support outside Downing Street
image copyrightGetty Images
image captionThousands of protesters gathered in London's Hyde Park on Wednesday
image copyrightGetty Images

They said UK police "uphold and facilitate" the right to lawful protest and "we know people want to make their voices heard".

But amid the coronavirus pandemic they stressed restrictions on gatherings were still in place and urged people to "continue to work with officers at this challenging time."

This latest protest follows another on Sunday, which saw thousands gather in Trafalgar Square, in central London.

US protests timeline

George Floyd dies after police arrest

Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial
Image caption Tributes to George Floyd at a makeshift memorial Image copyright by Getty Images

George Floyd dies after being arrested by police outside a shop in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Footage shows a white officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for several minutes while he is pinned to the floor. Mr Floyd is heard repeatedly saying "I can’t breathe". He is pronounced dead later in hospital.

Protests begin

Demonstrators in Minneapolis
Image caption Demonstrators in Minneapolis Image copyright by AFP

Four officers involved in the arrest of George Floyd are fired. Protests begin as the video of the arrest is shared widely on social media. Hundreds of demonstrators take to the streets of Minneapolis and vandalise police cars and the police station with graffiti.

Protests spread

Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon
Image caption Protesters lie on the streets in Portland, Oregon Image copyright by Reuters

Protests spread to other cities including Memphis and Los Angeles. In some places, like Portland, Oregon, protesters lie in the road, chanting "I can’t breathe". Demonstrators again gather around the police station in Minneapolis where the officers involved in George Floyd’s arrest were based and set fire to it. The building is evacuated and police retreat.

Trump tweets

President Trump tweets about the unrest
Image caption President Trump tweets about the unrest Image copyright by Reuters

President Trump blames the violence on a lack of leadership in Minneapolis and threatens to send in the National Guard in a tweet.  He follows it up in a second tweet with a warning "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". The second tweet is hidden by Twitter for "glorifying violence".

CNN reporter arrested

Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest
Image caption Members of a CNN crew are arrested at a protest Image copyright by Reuters

A CNN reporter, Omar Jimenez, is arrested while covering the Minneapolis protest. Mr Jimenez was reporting live when police officers handcuffed him. A few minutes later several of his colleagues are also arrested. They are all later released once they are confirmed to be members of the media.

Derek Chauvin charged with murder

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd
Image caption Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin after being charged over the death of George Floyd Image copyright by Getty Images

Former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, 44, is charged with murder and manslaughter. The charges carry a combined maximum 35-year sentence.

Sixth night of protests

Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York
Image caption Demonstrators set fire to rubbish in New York Image copyright by Reuters

Violence spreads across the US on the sixth night of protests. A total of at least five people are reported killed in protests from Indianapolis to Chicago. More than 75 cities have seen protests. At least 4,400 people have been arrested.  Curfews are imposed across the US to try to stem the unrest.

Trump threatens military response

Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church
Image caption Trump posing with a Bible outside a boarded-up church Image copyright by EPA

President Trump threatens to send in the military to quell growing civil unrest. He says if cities and states fail to control the protests and "defend their residents" he will deploy the army and "quickly solve the problem for them". Mr Trump poses in front of a damaged church shortly after police used tear gas to disperse peaceful protesters nearby.

Eighth night of protests

George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston
Image caption George Floyd’s family joined protesters in Houston Image copyright by Getty

Tens of thousands of protesters again take to the streets. One of the biggest protests is in George Floyd’s hometown of Houston, Texas. Many defy curfews in several cities, but the demonstrations are largely peaceful.

Memorial service for George Floyd

Mourners gather to remember George Floyd
Image caption Mourners gather to remember George Floyd Image copyright by Getty

A memorial service for George Floyd is held in Minneapolis.  Those gathered in tribute stand in silence for eight minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Mr Floyd is alleged to have been on the ground under arrest. Hundreds attended the service, which heard a eulogy from civil rights activist Rev Al Sharpton.

International protests

Protester addresses crowds in Australia
Image caption Protester addresses crowds in Australia Image copyright by Getty

As the US saw another weekend of protests, with tens of thousands marching in Washington DC, anti-racism demonstrations were held around the world.

In Australia, there were major protests in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane that focused on the treatment of indigenous Australians. There were also demonstrations in France, Germany, Spain and the UK. In Bristol, protesters tore down the statue of a 17th century slave trader and threw it into the harbour.

Funeral service for George Floyd

Pallbearers bring the coffin into the church
Image caption Pallbearers bring the coffin into the church Image copyright by Getty

A funeral service for George Floyd is held in Houston, Mr Floyd’s home town. Just over two weeks after his death in Minneapolis and worldwide anti-racism protests, about 500 guests invited by the Floyd family are in attendance at the Fountain of Praise Church.  Many more gather outside to show their support.

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