Police Brutality: Key global cities rally for justice | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 07, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:04 AM, June 07, 2020

Police Brutality: Key global cities rally for justice

Several US states announce police reform as demonstrations continue for 11th night

Taking a knee, chanting and ignoring social distancing measures, outraged protesters from Sydney to London kicked off a weekend of global rallies against racism and police brutality yesterday.

The death during the arrest of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in the US state of Minnesota, has brought tens of thousands out onto the streets during a pandemic that is ebbing in Asia and Europe, but spreading in other parts of the world.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock spoke for many concerned officials as he tried to convince Britons not to gather for events involving more than six people this weekend, no matter the cause or their rage.

"Like so many people, I am appalled by the death of George Floyd. I understand why people are deeply upset," the UK health minister said on Friday.

"But we are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat."

Londoners held a rally outside parliament yesterday and will hold demonstration in front of the US embassy on the opposite bank of the Thames River today.

In the United States, prominent Democratic politicians urged police reform as demonstrations continued for 11th night.

Democratic leaders in Minneapolis voted to end the use of knee restraints and choke holds, although the ordinance must be approved by a judge.

California Governor Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, said he would bar a state police training agency from teaching a restraint technique, sometimes called a "sleeper hold," that involves restricting the carotid artery in the neck.

And in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state should lead the way in passing "Say Their Name" reforms, including making police disciplinary records publicly available and banning chokeholds.

"Mr Floyd's murder was the breaking point," Cuomo, also a Democrat, said in a statement. "People are saying enough is enough, we must change."

A federal judge in Denver ordered city police to stop deploying tear gas, plastic bullets and other "less-than-lethal" devices such as flash grenades. The temporary injunction was in response to a lawsuit filed by protesters.

DRESSED IN BLACK

Aboriginal protesters performed a traditional smoking ceremony at the start of a "Black Lives Matter" protest in Sydney, which was sanctioned at the last minute after initially being banned on health grounds.

Tens of thousands of Australians defied government orders to stay home regardless, holding up signs and wearing face masks marked up "I can't breathe" -- the words Floyd kept repeating while handcuffed as a policeman knelt on his neck.

"The fact that they have tried to push us all back and stop the protest, it makes people want to do it even more," said Jumikah Donovan, one of thousands who turned up thinking the Sydney ban was still in place.

Thousands more dressed in black to mourn Floyd's death in Melbourne and other Australian cities.

Floyd's death came during the spread of a disease that has disproportionately affected black people and ethnic minorities in global centres such as London and New York.

It also came in the throes of a historic economic downturn that has statistically affected the poor and marginalised the most.

This confluence, and accompanying outrage at US President Donald Trump's partisan response, has refocused attention on the world's racial divides like few other events since the 1960s.

The US embassy in London said it stood "united with the British public in grief".

"We welcome this exercise of free speech, which contributes to constructive dialogue, education and change," the embassy said of the London protests, adopting a more conciliatory tone than the one taken by Trump.

"There remains much work to be done."

In Tokyo, marchers protested against what they said was police treatment of a Kurdish man who says he was stopped while driving and shoved to the ground, leaving him with bruises. Organisers invoked the US protests, saying they were also marching in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In Seoul, dozens of South Korean activists and foreign residents gathered, some wearing black masks with "can't breathe" in Korea, echoing George Floyd's final words as he lay on the pavement. Others participated in an online "viral photo protest."

THOUSANDS DEFY BANS

Memorial events and peaceful tributes were to stretch in Europe from Warsaw to Lisbon yesterday, before shifting to major US cities and Canada's Montreal.

In Paris, police banned a rally scheduled outside the US embassy compound and a second one on the Champs de Mars park facing the Eiffel Tower.

There were also events scheduled in Amsterdam yesterday, and for the second week running in major US cities.

Tens of thousands were expected in Washington, where Mayor Muriel Bowse renamed the area outside the White House "Black Lives Matter Plaza".

With tensions soaring, Trump sparked controversy Friday, calling it a "great day" for George Floyd.

"We all saw what happened last week. We can't let that happen," Trump said of Floyd. "Hopefully, George is looking down right now and saying, 'This is a great thing that's happening for our country.'"

The remarks during a televised White House briefing came eleven days after Floyd's death and sparked confusion as to why Trump thought it was a great day for Floyd. 

Several US police departments have launched investigations into officers who were recorded hitting, pushing or baton-charging protesters and some reporters -- including foreign ones.

After video footage from upstate New York raised further questions about the handling of demonstrators by law enforcement, two Buffalo police officers seen on Thursday shoving a 75-year-old protester to the ground were suspended and placed under investigation.

All 57 members of a police tactical unit quit the unit to protest their treatment, media said.

 

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