Black Lives Matter solidarity protests in UK over George Floyd killing in US

Aditi Khanna

London, Jun 3 (PTI) Hundreds of protesters gathered at London's Hyde Park on Wednesday as part of a series of Black Lives Matter protests planned in solidarity with demonstrators in the US over the killing of African-American George Floyd in police custody.

Organisers asked people to stretch out their arms in order to try and maintain the two-metre distance advised as a means to control the spread of coronavirus in the UK, which has only partially lifted its strict stay-at-home lockdown earlier this week.

Wednesday's protest follows another on Sunday, which saw hundreds gather across central London to register their anger against the killing of Floyd, which was shared worldwide across social media and has triggered days of violent protests in the US.

'What happened in the US was appalling, it was inexcusable, we all saw it on our screens, and I perfectly understand people’s right to protest what took place, though obviously I also believe that protest should take place in a lawful and reasonable way,' British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in the House of Commons.

Asked by Scottish National Party (SNP) MP Ian Blackford to state plainly that 'black lives matter,' Johnson said: 'Of course black lives matter, and I totally understand the anger, the grief that is felt not just in America but around the world and in our country as well. I totally understand that, and I get that.' Opposition Labour Party Leader Keir Starmer called on the UK PM to convey the UK's 'abhorrence about his response to the events' to US President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, the UK's Chief Constables issued a joint statement against the killing in Minneapolis of Floyd, who was caught on camera begging to be allowed to breathe as a police officer pinned him down with force.

'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,' reads the joint statement signed by Martin Hewitt, Chair of the UK’s National Police Chiefs’ Council, Mike Cunningham, Chief Executive of the College of Policing, and Paul Griffiths, President of the Police Superintendents' Association.

'We know people want to make their voices heard. The right to lawful protest is a key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate. But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people. So for whatever reason people want to come together, we ask that people continue to work with officers at this challenging time,' they add.

There are more Black Lives Matter protests planned in the UK over the rest of the week. PTI AK SCY