Europe 'can't breathe': Protests continue across the continent in memory of George Floyd

June 7, 2020. People gather in Rome calling for justice for George Floyd, who died in May after being restrained by police in the US.
June 7, 2020. People gather in Rome calling for justice for George Floyd, who died in May after being restrained by police in the US. Copyright AP Photo/Andrew Medichini
By Alasdair Sandford with AP, AFP
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More protests against racism are taking place across Europe on Sunday. On Saturday, demonstrations in France and in the UK defied coronavirus restrictions.


More protests against racism and calling for justice for George Floyd have been taking place on Sunday across Europe in countries like the UK, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Denmark and Hungary.

Click here for updated news on Sunday's demonstrations.

On Saturday, large numbers of people took to the streets in the continent to demonstrate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, some defying restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Saturday's protests in capitals such as London, Paris and Berlin were the latest in a global wave of anger and revulsion at racism and police brutality, following the killing of black American George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.

Thousands of people gathered outside the UK Parliament and the US embassy in London to protest against racism, despite official warnings to stay away for fear of spreading COVID-19 infections. Many wore face masks but the density of the crowd made it impossible to observe social distancing.

The rallies were largely peaceful but in the early evening some protesters clashed with police near Downing Street, the prime minister's residence. Police brought out riot gear and mounted police charged at demonstrators to clear them from the area.

Four arrests were reported and a policewoman was taken to hospital after falling from her horse. Police said her injuries were not life threatening.

Earlier, crowds listened to speeches calling for an end to institutionalised racism. A minute's silence was observed with many people bending on one knee in memory of black people killed.

More demonstrations took place in Manchester and other cities in England, in the wake of similar protests during the week.

New rallies are planned in London Scotland on Sunday.

The British government had urged people not to gather in large numbers and police warned that mass demonstrations could be unlawful.

"We completely understand people's desire to express their views and have that right to protest, but the fact of the matter is we are in a health pandemic," Home Secretary (interior minister) Priti Patel told Sky News. "I'd say to those who want to protest, 'please don't'... We must put public health first at this particular time."

AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
Demonstrators take part in a Black Lives Matter rally in Parliament Square in London, Saturday, June 6, 2020.AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali

Paris demonstrators defy police ban

Another large demonstration took place in Paris, despite a police ban on the protest, the authorities citing the risk of spreading COVID-19 and fears of public unrest. The police decree noted that social distancing regulations ban gatherings of more than 10 people.

Preparing for the eventuality that protesters would ignore the ban, French police sealed off roads around the US Embassy early on Saturday.

A communique from the Prefecture noted that several calls had gone out on social media calling for demonstrations near the Eiffel Tower against "police violence", despite a ban for public health reasons.

Crowds also turned out to demonstrate in other cities in France, including Bordeaux, Lyon, Lille, Rennes and Marseille -- where some skirmishes were reported. The interior ministry estimated the number of protesters in France at 23,300, of whom 5,500 were in Paris.

Many protesters in France draw a parallel between George Floyd's death and that of Adama Traoré, a young black man who died in police custody in Persan, north of Paris, four years ago. Traoré's family has repeatedly claimed police officers tackled him to the ground and that he died due to suffocation.

Calm scenes in Berlin as thousands join global protest

In Berlin, police estimated that 15,000 people gathered in the city centre for a Black Lives Matter rally on Saturday afternoon. As elsewhere, protesters held up signs with slogans such as "No justice, no peace". The scenes were calm, though overnight on Friday police said several store windows were smashed and walls were painted with slogans referring to George Floyd's death.


Thousands also took to the streets in other German cities such as Cologne and Dusseldorf on Saturday, as well as in smaller towns.

Bayern Munich footballers warmed up before their Bundesliga match against Leverkusen on Saturday wearing T-shirts with the slogan "Red card against Racism -- Black Lives Matter". Defender Jerome Boateng had called on his teammates to express their solidarity.

Matthias Hangst, Pool via AP
Serge Gnabry of Bayern Munich wears an armband reading 'Black Lives Matter' during the Bundesliga match against Bayer Leverkusen, Leverkusen, Germany, Saturday, June 6, 2020.Matthias Hangst, Pool via AP

Silence mixed with anger in Italy, Spain and Hungary protests

In Italy, hundreds, maybe thousands, gathered in Rome and knelt in silence for eight minutes before screaming "George Floyd is here! No to racism" in a protest organised by multiple organisations on Sunday.

Another rally is expected in Milan later on Sunday.

On Saturday, thousand people marched in Genoa. Wearing masks and respecting social distancing, many knelt and raised their fists in a gesture of solidarity. About 300 people staged a sit-in in Bari, in a protest organised by a student association.


Several hundred people protested peacefully in front of the US consulate in Naples, shouting “I can’t breathe”, George Floyd's last words that have become a rallying cry for the protest movement.

In Spain, hundreds gathered outside the US embassy in Madrid on Sunday calling for justice, some of them waving placards against US President Donald Trump.

Several hundreds of people demonstrated in Barcelona too chanting against police brutality, but also paying homage to George Floyd by observing silence.

In Budapest, people staged a sit-in outside the US embassy on Sunday, chanting songs but also observing minutes of silence.

'Black Lives Matter' protests in Asia and Australia

The European protests follow other demonstrations in Asia and Australia on Saturday.


In Sydney, protesters won a last-minute appeal against a Friday ruling declaring their rally unauthorised. The New South Wales Court of Appeal gave the green light just 12 minutes before the rally was scheduled to start, meaning those taking part could not be arrested.

Up to 1,000 protesters had already gathered in the Town Hall area of downtown Sydney ahead of the decision.

In Brisbane, the Queensland state capital, organisers said about 30,000 people gathered. State Environment Minister Leeanne Enoch encouraged Queenslanders to speak out.

“Whether you’re talking about the US or right here in Australia, black lives matter,” she said. “Black lives matter today. Black lives matter every day.”

AP Photo/Francois Mori
A woman wears a face mask reading "I Can't Breathe" during a demonstration in Paris, France, Saturday, June 6, 2020.AP Photo/Francois Mori

In South Korea's capital, Seoul, protesters gathered for a second straight day to denounce Floyd's death.


Wearing masks and black shirts, dozens of demonstrators marched through a commercial district amid a police escort, carrying signs such as “George Floyd Rest in Peace” and “Koreans for Black Lives Matter.”

In Tokyo, dozens of people gathered in a peaceful protest.

Floyd died in Minneapolis on May 25 after a white police officer pressed his knee into the handcuffed man's neck for several minutes during an arrest, ignoring his cries of distress. Footage of the killing has been seen around the world.

Derek Chauvin is accused of second-degree murder after charges against him were upgraded. The three other officers present at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.

AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
Demonstrators hold placards during a Black Lives Matter rally in Parliament Square in London, Saturday, June 6, 2020.AP Photo/Alberto Pezzali
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