Black Lives Matter protests are planned across the UK this weekend in the wake of the police killing of George Floyd. African American Floyd died after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on 25 May, sparking days of protests in the US.
Demonstrators are expected to converge on Parliament Square in London on Saturday 6 June and the US Embassy in the capital the next day, while other events are planned across the country. An estimated 4,000 people are expected to attend a demonstration in Bristol, which will include a march through the city to Castle Park on 7 June, Avon and Somerset police said.
But ministers have urged people not to gather in large numbers. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing on Friday 5 June he could understand why people were “deeply upset”, but said people in the UK should not attend large gatherings. His comments were echoed by Home Secretary Priti Patel, who posted on Twitter that people should not gather in groups larger than six.
Socially distanced protest
Their comments come after people got down on one knee for an anti-racism protest in London’s Trafalgar Square. Those who took part in the tribute to Floyd knelt two metres apart in the shadow of Nelson’s Column, wore masks and carried homemade placards which condemned racism and police brutality.
But Deputy Assistant Commissioner Laurence Taylor said earlier that such protests should not take place under current coronavirus restrictions. He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The health protection regulations are really clear that it is unlawful.”
His warning came after large crowds marched in London and Birmingham this week to protest the police killing of Floyd, 46. Video footage shows Floyd gasping that he cannot breathe during the arrest by four officers. They have since been charged over the killing. Clashes have broken out in the US, with officers recorded firing tear gas and rubber bullets on crowds.
Taking a knee is a peaceful gesture to protest against police brutality which was first carried out by NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick during the national anthem at an American Football game in 2016. During the Trafalgar Square demonstration, Dee Ndlovu said:
I kneel because of the names and the voices that have been lost to the wind.
I kneel for the ones who are not heard and the ones who do not get a hashtag, the ones who do not get pictures or a social media campaign, the ones who have been forgotten in history and time. I kneel because of them.
The protest came after police clashed with pockets of protesters as thousands of people flooded into central London for a BLM demonstration on Wednesday 3 June. After a largely peaceful demonstration in Hyde Park, during which Star Wars actor John Boyega gave an impassioned speech, tensions later escalated outside Downing Street. There were 13 arrests.
We need your help ...
The coronavirus pandemic is changing our world, fast. And we will do all we can to keep bringing you news and analysis throughout. But we are worried about maintaining enough income to pay our staff and minimal overheads.
Now, more than ever, we need a vibrant, independent media that holds the government to account and calls it out when it puts vested economic interests above human lives. We need a media that shows solidarity with the people most affected by the crisis – and one that can help to build a world based on collaboration and compassion.
We have been fighting against an establishment that is trying to shut us down. And like most independent media, we don’t have the deep pockets of investors to call on to bail us out.
Can you help by chipping in a few pounds each month?