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Protesters across Europe defy pandemic ban to condemn US racism

Riot police walk past flames as they clash with protesters outside the US embassy in Athens, Greece, June 3, 2020. (Photos by Reuters)

Thousands of people across Europe have held protest rallies to condemn racism and police brutality in the US, amid a chorus of growing global outrage at the police killing of African American citizen George Floyd on May 25.

Protests over Floyd’s death, which began in the US city of Minneapolis, have spread to hundreds of cities across the US and the world.

On Wednesday, large protests erupted in several European cities, where people defied the coronavirus pandemic bans to express solidarity with anti-racism protests in the US.

In London, there have been a series of marches and demonstrations. Tens of thousands of people chanting “no justice, no peace, no racist police” marched through central London to express their protest.

In London’s Parliament Square, thousands knelt on one knee, a form of protest known as “taking a knee” famously used by American footballer Colin Kaepernick to denounce police brutality against black people.

A protester and a police officer clash near Downing Street during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in Minneapolis police custody, in London, Britain, June 3, 2020.

The London march started in Hyde Park before winding its way to Parliament Square. Many of the protesters chanted “George Floyd” and “Black lives matter”.

More rallies are planned for the weekend. The Stand Up to Racism campaign has asked UK citizens to “take a knee for George Floyd” outside their front doors.

In Rotterdam, the Netherlands, thousands of anti-racism activists held a peaceful protest; however, the Dutch police told them to go home as the rally was too crowded and participants could not keep to social distancing rules.

In Stockholm, Sweden, thousands of people defied the ban on public gatherings of more than 50 people and poured into streets to protest the US police brutality against black people.

Bearing signs and placards with messages such as “I can’t breathe” and “Black Lives Matter”, the demonstrators gathered for several hours at a square in the heart of the city during the afternoon, television footage showed.

In another rally in the Greek capital Athens, demonstrators hurled firebombs in a march towards the US embassy compound.

Reuters journalists saw demonstrators throwing several flaming objects which erupted into flames on the street towards the heavily-guarded embassy in central Athens and police responding with rounds of teargas.

Demonstrators were holding banners and placards reading “Black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe”. Police sources estimated the number of protesters at more than 3,000.

In Paris, nearly 15,000 demonstrators took to the streets to protest police violence on Tuesday night, defying police orders to stay home to prevent possible coronavirus infections.

People run from teargas as they attend a banned demonstration planned in memory of Adama Traore, a 24-year old black Frenchman who died in a 2016 police operation which some have likened to the death of George Floyd, in front of the courthouse in Paris, France June 2, 2020.

Videos of Floyd’s death and subsequent protests and unrest in American cities have been featured prominently in news coverage in Europe and widely shared on social media, shocking many Europeans.

However, European protesters were quick to point out the global nature of racism and biased policing.

Protesters in London told Reuters that the United Kingdom is not innocent when it comes to racism.

Some protesters waved banners with slogans such as, “The UK is not innocent: less racist is still racist”, “Racism is a global issue,” and, “If you aren’t angry you aren’t paying attention”.

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