Thousands gather for UK Black Lives Matter despite pleas to stay away

6 June 2020, 14:34

By Megan White

Thousands of people across the UK have gathered for anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Protesters gathered in London, Manchester, Cardiff and other major cities in support of Black Lives Matter despite social distancing rules remaining in place.

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Tensions rose outside Downing Street later in the afternoon, with protesters chanting "no justice, no peace" and "say his name, George Floyd" amid a heavy police presence.

Demonstrators have been advised to wear face coverings and to try and remain two metres apart where possible due to the coronavirus pandemic.

People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London
People take part in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Parliament Square, London. Picture: PA

Boxing hero Anthony Joshua led protesters in Watford, addressing the crowds in his hometown while wearing a Black Lives Matter hoodie.

In London, a huge crowd gathered in Parliament Square, brandishing placards and chanting.

The majority of the demonstrators were wearing masks and face coverings, with some also opting for gloves.

Placards carried by demonstrators referenced the coronavirus crisis, with one that said: "There is a virus greater than Covid-19 and it's called racism."

Many other signs said "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace".

After gathering in Parliament Square, the group split, with many heading to Downing Street while others walked in the direction of the US embassy.

Demonstrators weaved in and out of cars in Nine Elms Lane, with vehicles forced to stop due to the number of people.

LBC’s Senior Reporter Matthew Thompson said there was a “festival atmosphere” in Parliament Square but added “social distancing very much out the window yet again.”

As the rally began, one organiser used a megaphone to tell the crowds: "We are not here for violence. Today is sheer positivity, today is sheer love."

Protesters pass by the US embassy
Protesters pass by the US embassy. Picture: LBC News

She added: "Today we will not commit any violence to anyone."

During a minute's silence, hundreds of protesters went down on one knee while raising one fist in the air.

The crowds then began chanting "no justice, no peace" and George Floyd's name.

A group of motorcyclists also gathered on Whitehall to support the protesters, blare their horns and rev their engines.

One protester said there was "definitely the same kind of treatment" of black people in the UK as in the US.

"We're literally living in the history books, we're going to be teaching our future children about this, and I want to say I was here to support that," Bobbi, who did not give her last name, said.

"The racial injustice that black people and ethnic minority people have had to face over centuries, it has to be done for them."

A large crowd marched from Parliament Square to the US Embassy
A large crowd marched from Parliament Square to the US Embassy. Picture: LBC News

The 26-year-old, from Chingford, said she hopes action continues.

"I don't think it should be something that because of what happened to George Floyd, we talk about it now, we have this for a couple of weeks and then to back to our normal lives.

"Because then what's the point? It needs to continue."

In a speech shared online, Anthony Joshua told people in Watford: "We can no longer sit back and remain silent on this senseless, unlawful killings and sly racism on another human being - based on what? Only their skin colour.

"We need to speak out in peaceful demonstrations - just like today, so well done Watford.

"We must not use a demonstration for selfish motives and turn it into rioting and looting."

Around 2,000 people joined in a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Cardiff on Saturday over the death of American George Floyd.

Protesters filed into Bute Park in the Welsh capital's city centre holding placards to hear from speakers addressing injustices black people face across the world.

Crowds generally kept to two-metre social distancing and many wore face coverings and gloves, while only a small police presence watched over the peaceful protest.

Before the protests started, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick asked people not to attend.

Speaking on LBC this morning, she said: "Feelings have been running incredibly high, a huge amount of conversations and dialogue and anger.

"I would ask people to express that in any other way than gathering on the streets.

Thousands of people gathered outside the Houses of Parliament on Saturday
Thousands of people gathered outside the Houses of Parliament on Saturday. Picture: PA

“If they do gather on the streets then my officers will of course seek to uphold the law, but they will make a case by case decision on what is presented in front of them.”

Meanwhile London Mayor Sadiq Khan said people should protest "peacefully, lawfully & safely" adding "we must protect each other from COVID19."

UK action began last weekend as sympathisers knelt in symbolic solidarity with George Floyd and other black victims of police brutality.

While echoing US grievances, British activists have also pointed to hate crimes in the UK.

Campaigners have wielded placards stating “The UK is not innocent,” alongside the names and faces of victims of racial violence in the country.

The death of Mr Floyd has sparked mass protests in the US, UK, and elsewhere in the world.

He died after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protests in the US.