George Floyd: UK urged to ‘take the knee’ at doorsteps in solidarity with US anti-racism protests

Country asked to perform gesture synonymous with Black Lives Matter movement at 6pm on Wednesday

Andy Gregory
Wednesday 03 June 2020 01:24 BST
Hundreds join London protest against George Floyd death

Anti-racism campaigners are urging the British public to “take the knee” on their doorsteps in solidarity with those protesting systemic racism in the US and demanding justice for the police killing of George Floyd.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) is calling for the UK – at 6pm on Wednesday – to take the protest stance made famous by American football star Colin Kaepernick to oppose police brutality and now synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement.

Protests have engulfed the US in the wake of the 46-year-old African American’s death in Minneapolis police custody, after white officer Derek Chauvin dug his knee into his neck for eight minutes, despite Floyd’s pleas that “I can’t breathe”.

Donald Trump has vowed to send in the military to “dominate” his citizens unless the unrest ends, after threatening anyone who breached a makeshift wall erected around the White House with “the most vicious dogs, and most ominous weapons I have ever seen”.

Thousands of people have protested in solidarity in cities across the UK, including London, Liverpool, Cardiff and Manchester, also highlighting severe racial inequalities in the UK and racism and brutality within the country’s police forces.

The campaign on Wednesday also aims to highlight the disproportionate effect that coronavirus is having on ethnic minorities, as found in a Public Health England review published on Tuesday amid claims it had been delayed due to fears the findings would stoke racial tensions.

The Health Service Journal reported that an earlier draft of the review had been “censored” with the alleged removal of a section containing responses from individuals and organisations who suggested that that discrimination and poorer life chances were a key factor in the increased Covid-19 risk to BAME communities.

After its publication, Labour MP Tulip Siddiq accused Matt Hancock, the health secretary, of “empty rhetoric” over the government’s failure to set out how ministers would prevent the trend of higher BAME deaths from continuing.

Mr Hancock later said at the Downing Street briefing that equalities minister Kemi Badenoch was working on a response which he hopes will “get to the bottom” of the crisis, adding: “Black lives matter.”

“Racism is the underlying condition that continues to kill black and BAME communities,” said Weyman Bennett of SUTR. “Take the knee at 6pm because there is a boot on the neck of millions of people in the BAME community.

“Part of the cure for the virus of racism is to embrace anti-racism and anti-fascism.”

SUTR’s Sabby Dhalu added: “BAME communities are suffering disproportionately from Covid-19, economic decline and police brutality.”

“We call on people to ‘take the knee’ on their doorstep in solidarity with George Floyd, at 6pm, Wednesday 3 June. We stand for justice for George Floyd and say Black Lives Matter.”

A separate protest has been planned in London’s Hyde Park at 1pm on Wednesday, while a further demonstration is scheduled for 1pm on Saturday in Parliament Square.

Large gatherings are still banned under shutdown rules, and on Tuesday Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked protesters to find an alternative to physical demonstrations.

Speaking at her daily briefing in Edinburgh, she said: “Right now, it is the case, unfortunately and regrettably, that large gatherings of people could pose a risk to health and indeed to life.

“We need to find ways of allowing people to make their voices heard and to make the points that many of us want to be made and to be heard right now, but to do so in a way that is safe and is not putting people protesting or wider communities at risk.”

The Met Police said its approach was to engage with protesters and encourage them to follow social distancing rules.​

There were 23 arrests during protests at London’s Trafalgar Square on Sunday, at least three of which were for breach of Covid-19 legislation.

Additional reporting by PA

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