George Floyd protests: Tens of thousands gather in central London to call for justice

Star Wars actor joins protesters at Hyde Park as they chant ‘Black lives matter’

Kate Ng
Tuesday 21 July 2020 23:55
John Boyega makes impassioned speech at George Floyd protest in Hyde Park

Tens of thousands of protesters amassed in London’s Hyde Park in an anti-racism demonstration calling for justice over the death of George Floyd.

Chants of “Black lives matter”, “No justice, no peace” and “We will not be silent” rang out as protesters waited for the demonstration to begin.

Star Wars actor John Boyega delivered an emotional speech as the demonstration got under way, telling fellow protesters he was “speaking to you from my heart” and he didn’t know if he was “going to have a career after this, but f*** that”.

The 28-year-old actor from Peckham, in southeast London, made references to other black Americans who have died in the US, as well as the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993.

“Today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process. We don’t know what George Floyd could have achieved, we don’t know what Sandra Bland could have achieved, but today we’re going to make sure that won’t be an alien thought to our young ones.”

Bland, from Texas, died in police custody in 2015 after being arrested during a traffic stop.

“I need to you to understand how painful this s*** is,” Boyega said. “I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing and that isn’t the case any more, that was never the case any more.”

Boyega urged protesters to make the demonstration “as peaceful and as organised as possible”.

“This has been years in the coming, years and years and years of white supremacy,” 30-year-old project manager Karen Koromah said.

“We’ve come here with our friends to sound the alarm, to make noise, to dismantle supremacist systems,” Koromah said, cautioning that unless there was action the United Kingdom would face similar problems to those in the United States.

“I don’t want to start crying,” she said of the images from the United States. “It makes my blood boil.”

British actor John Boyega takes part in Wednesday’s anti-racism demonstration (AFP/Getty)

Videos and images shared from the protest on social media showed the proceedings had been mostly peaceful. As demonstrators marched towards Parliament Square, next to the Houses of Parliament, vehicles were heard honking in support.

Other footage showed some protesters throwing placards and other items at police officers as they attempted to drag someone from the crowd.

Organisers initially asked those attending to sit two metres apart unless they were from the same household and were told to keep their arms stretched out to ensure social distancing could be maintained when moving around the park.

But as the numbers grew, many protesters were seen standing close together. Organisers still tried to maintain social distancing and most people donned face masks and gloves.

As protesters marched, UK police chiefs released a joint statement saying they “stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified” by the death of Floyd.

But in Hyde Park, near Speakers’ Corner, many cautioned that racism was still a British problem too.

A protester in Hyde Park wears a mask saying, ‘I can’t breathe’ – among George Floyd’s final words

“My mum was a protester in apartheid and that was 30 to 40 years ago – it’s pretty disappointing that we have had to come out today to protest the same thing today they were protesting how many years ago,” Roz Jones, a 21-year-old student from London, said.

Jones came to Britain as a small child with his mother from South Africa.

“It’s a systematic issue all over the world. It’s not like this is just about someone dying, we live our lives made awfully aware of our race. That’s not right, that’s not the natural order,” he said.

Floyd died last week after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck for over eight minutes. His murder sparked outrage and protests which have been erupting across the US and the world in recent days.

Donald Trump has threatened to send in the military to deal with the unrest, the most serious the US has seen in decades.

Additional reporting by agencies

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