By GUY DAVIES, MAGGIE RULLI and IBTISSEM GUENFOUD, ABC News
(LONDON) — Thousands gathered on Wednesday to protest racial injustice and the death of George Floyd as the civil unrest in the U.S. continues to inspire Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the world. In the words of one protester, “The pain is transcendent.”
Protesters assembled in London’s Hyde Park in what’s believed to be the largest Black Lives Matter rally ever on British soil, holding placards and banners that read “Racism is a Pandemic” and “The U.K. is Not Innocent.” Other banners showed pictures of George Floyd, as protesters kneeled and echoed the chants heard in the U.S. of “I can’t breathe.”
Attendees told ABC News they gathered not just to show solidarity with U.S. protesters, but also to protest racism closer to home.
“Obviously, it was fueled by the killing of George Floyd,” Alex, a black woman who attended the protests, said of her reason for attending. “But then also in the U.K., we have our own level of injustice … racism started in the U.K.”
Alex told ABC News she hoped the protests would inspire people to have honest conversations about racism with their friends, families and employers and to “stop shutting black people’s voices down.”
“That’s what we continually see, the shutting down of black voices,” she added.
“So, yes, we feel the pain for what the U.S. is going through, but the U.K., we do have our own tears, we do have our own crimes,” Leah, another protester, told ABC News. “And we’re here not just for the U.S. but for we’re here for ourselves as well.”
“Ask questions, don’t just say to yourself, ‘Oh, it happened 100 years ago, it happened 401 years ago,'” she said. “Racism is as subtle as you sit down on the bus and a white person gets up and moves, and you say to yourself, ‘Did they just get up because I’m black?'”
The actor John Boyega was seen at the protest, where he gave an impassioned speech: “Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting.”
Frankie Clarence, one of the organizers of the protest, told ABC News attendees also were advised to enact social distancing measures.
“What we have realized in the space of just a week … is how we have the common relation of struggle, and we want everyone to realize, now that we’re aware of it, as people we can justify justice,” he said.
The demonstrations continue to reinforce the depth of feeling internationally over the death of Floyd, with protests in Copenhagen, Milan, Berlin and even as far as New Zealand on Tuesday.
The London protests follow a 20,000-strong demonstration against police brutality in Paris on Tuesday night, highlighting the controversial death of Adama Traore, a 24-year-old man who died in police custody in 2016. Protesters in Paris also used slogans and chants from the U.S. Additional demonstrations are planned outside the U.S. embassy in London this weekend.
“Sadly, the death of George Floyd comes to imitate the death of my brother,” Assa Traore, Adama’s sister, told BFMTV on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers on Wednesday that Floyd’s death was “inexcusable,” later adding: “Of course black lives matter.”
British police leaders published a statement about George Floyd’s death, saying that they will “tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it,” including within the police force, which can “fall short of those standards.”
“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,” the statement read. “We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many U.S. cities since then. Our hearts go out to all those affected by these terrible events and hope that peace and order will soon be restored.”
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