French protesters knelt and raised their fists while firefighters were fighting to put out several fires as a largely peaceful multiracial demonstration degenerated into dispersed tensions. Several thousand people have defied a ban on demonstrations linked to the virus to pay tribute to Floyd and Adama Traore, a French black man who died in police custody.
Electric scooters and construction gates caught fire and smoke stained a sign saying “Restaurant open” – the first day, French cafes were allowed to open after nearly three months of anti-virus locking.
Singing “I can’t breathe”, thousands of people marched peacefully in Australia’s largest city, while thousands more demonstrated in the Dutch capital of The Hague and hundreds gathered in Tel Aviv . Expressions of anger erupted in several languages on social media, with thousands of Swedes joining an online demonstration and others speaking under the banner of #BlackOutTuesday.
Diplomatic anger also raged, with the EU’s top foreign policy official saying the bloc was “shocked and dismayed” by Floyd’s death.
Floyd died last week after a police officer punched his knee in the neck for several minutes, even after he stopped moving and asked for air. The death sparked protests that spread across America – and now beyond.
As protests intensified around the world, solidarity with American protesters was increasingly mixed with local concerns.
“It happened in the United States, but it happens in France, it happens everywhere,” said Parisian protester Xavier Dintimille. While he said police violence seems worse in the United States, he added, “all black people experience this to some extent.”
Fears of the coronavirus remain close to the surface and were the reason invoked to ban Tuesday’s demonstration at the main courthouse in Paris, as gatherings of more than 10 people remain prohibited.
But the protesters still came. Some have said that police violence has worsened when the virus was locked up in working class suburbs with large minority populations, compounding a sense of injustice.
As the Paris demonstration ended, the police paced tear gas and demonstrators threw debris. The police were less visible than usual during frequent demonstrations in the city. Tensions also erupted during a related demonstration in the southern city of Marseille.
The protests took place in honor of Traoré, who died shortly after his arrest in 2016, and in solidarity with the Americans demonstrating against the death of Floyd.
The Traoré affair has become emblematic of the fight against police violence in France. The circumstances surrounding the death of the 24-year-old Frenchman of Malian origin are still under investigation after four years of conflicting medical reports on what happened.
The lawyer for two of the three police officers involved in the arrest, Rodolphe Bosselut, said that the Floyd and Traoré cases “had absolutely nothing to do with each other”. Bosselut told The Associated Press that Traore’s death was not related to the conditions of his arrest but to other factors, including a pre-existing medical condition.
Traore’s family says he died of suffocation from police tactics – and his last words were “I can’t breathe.”
“I can’t breathe,” were also the last words of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Indigenous man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being held by five guards.
While 3,000 people marched peacefully across Sydney, many said they were inspired by a mixture of sympathy for African Americans and to call for a change in the treatment of the indigenous population by Australia, notably involving the police. The predominantly Australian crowd at the licensed protest also included protesters from the United States and elsewhere.
“I am here for my people and for our missing brothers and sisters around the world,” said Amanda Hill, 46, a native of Sydney, who attended the rally with her daughter and two nieces. “What is happening in America highlights the situation here. “
Even though US President Donald Trump has stirred anger by threatening to send troops to American protesters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has refrained from directly criticizing him and has declared that the demonstrations should raise awareness of racism all over.
“We are all watching in horror and dismay at what is happening in the United States,” he said after a 21-second pause before responding. “But it is time for us Canadians to recognize that we too have our challenges, that black Canadians and racialized Canadians face discrimination as an everyday reality. There is systemic discrimination in Canada. “
More protests in various countries are slated for later this week, including a series of protests in front of US embassies on Saturday.
The drama unfolding in the United States is causing growing diplomatic concern.
Comments by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in Brussels were the strongest to emerge from the 27-nation bloc, saying that Floyd’s death was the result of an abuse of power.
Borrell told reporters that “like the American people, we are shocked and dismayed at the death of George Floyd”. He stressed that Europeans “support the right to peaceful protest, and we also condemn violence and racism of all kinds, and we are certainly calling for an escalation of tensions”.
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that the peaceful protests in the United States after Floyd’s death were “understandable and more than legitimate”.
“I can only express my hope that the peaceful protests do not continue to lead to violence, but all the more express the hope that these protests will have an effect in the United States,” said Maas.
More African leaders speak out on Floyd’s murder.
“It cannot be fair that in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to fight the problem of systemic racism,” said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo in a statement. , adding that more blacks around the world are shocked and helpless.
Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga offered a prayer for the United States, “that there be justice and freedom for all human beings who call America their country.”
Like some in Africa who spoke, Odinga also noted problems at home, saying that judging people based on character rather than skin color “is a dream that we in Africa also owe to our citizens”.
The Associated Press writers Rick Rycroft in Sydney, Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Lori Hinnant in Paris, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Frank Jordans in Berlin, Lorne Cook in Brussels, Peter Dejong in The Hague have contributed.