Black Lives Matter London protests: Scuffles with police mar mainly peaceful demonstrations

3 June 2020, 22:38 | Updated: 4 June 2020, 14:15

Clashes between police and protesters marred mainly peaceful London demonstrations in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The day of action following the death of George Floyd in the US passed largely without incident, as thousands of people flooded into the centre of the capital.

Activists chanted "black lives matter" and "we will not be silent" at Speakers' Corner in Hyde Park, before tensions escalated when the demonstration moved to outside Downing Street.

Star Wars actor John Boyega was among those to speak earlier at the rally before protesters, many wearing masks and holding placards, marched on Westminster.

Naomi Smith, one of the event organisers, said: "We want people to understand that people are dying from coronavirus and people are dying from racism."

She said one of her reasons for protesting was Belly Mujinga, a railway worker who died with COVID-19 after reportedly being spat at by a man who said he was infected with the virus.

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While British Transport Police launched an investigation into her death, it later said it would be taking no further action.

"I think that is my main reason for this, because she's black she doesn't have a voice right now," Ms Smith said.

"This is our story, this is a UK story, this is what's going on right now with us. George Floyd is in America, and we're here for him as well."

Chief constables from across the UK issued a joint statement saying they "stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified" after black 46-year-old Mr Floyd died in Minneapolis when a white police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes.

His death on May 25 sparked days of protest in the US.

And speaking during the daily Downing Street coronavirus press conference on Wednesday, Boris Johnson said: "We mourn George Floyd and I was appalled and sickened to see what happened to him.

"And my message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States, from the UK is that I don't think racism - it's an opinion I'm sure is shared by the overwhelming majority of people around the world - racism, racist violence, has no place in our society."

He said people had the right to protest, but added: "I would urge people to protest peacefully, and in accordance with the rules on social distancing. Everybody's lives matter, black lives matter, but we must fight this virus as well."

In footage that shows the clashes, one protester standing in front of a barricade is seen being pushed back by police.

A scuffle then ensued as he was wrestled to the ground by officers, before a small number of demonstrators also pushed through barricades.

Separate footage showed objects including signs and a traffic cone being thrown at police.

Some officers had been seen "taking a knee" earlier in the day, but none joined protesters in doing so when they knelt at 6pm.

Several hundred demonstrators were also at Trafalgar Square.

While many heeded organisers' requests that people went home following the brief flare-up, some protesters remained outside Downing Street chanting.

Many climbed on to window ledges of a neighbouring building as others talked with police outside the gates to the street.

There were some reports of journalists being attacked and police were seen at one point escorting a man to the side of the road who was bleeding from the head, with blood over his clothes and camera.

A crowd then followed a group of officers to outside the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where protesters shouted "answer for your crimes" and "no justice, no peace".

Police formed two lines and rested their batons on their shoulders, shouting "get back" to protesters as they separated the crowds.

A Nine News Australia reporter was also filmed abandoning his live broadcast to flee as tensions flared up.

Organisers in Hyde Park gave masks and gloves to protesters, who were asked to sit two metres apart unless they were from the same household.

Thousands of activists, including members of the railway worker's family, descended on Victoria Station - where Ms Mujinga was working at the time of the spitting incident - holding a sign that read "Justice for Belly Mujinga".

Separate peaceful protests also took place in Edinburgh and Belfast, where around 2,000 demonstrators took over the main road in front of the landmark City Hall for more than two hours, forcing police to divert traffic.