Europeans join global wave of antiracism protests

Mass demonstrations and clashes in cities across continent

Police officers surround the cenotaph in Whitehall, London, during a Black Lives Matter protest rally Sunday June 7, 2020, in memory of George Floyd who was killed on May 25 while in police custody in the US city of Minneapolis.  (Aaron Chown/PA Wire via AP)
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Protesters calling for racial justice rallied across Europe on Sunday, joining a wave of demonstrations sparked by the death of African-American George Floyd while being detained by police.

A video of the incident with Floyd pleading for air in Minneapolis as a white police officer knelt on his neck has sparked angry protests worldwide.

Demonstrators gathered as countries continued to discourage large gatherings to curb the coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands marched in cities across Britain.

For the second day running, some protesters clashed with police near Downing Street, prompting authorities to issue a dispersal order for Westminster that allowed them to remove people.

Hip-hop artist Stormzy joined protesters marching despite a coronavirus ban against large gatherings.

In Bristol, a city linked to the slave trade, the statue of trader Edward Colston was torn down Sunday and thrown into the harbour.

Singer Lewis Capaldi was among those marching in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh.

In Spain, several thousand people massed outside the US embassy in Madrid, shouting "I can't breathe", Floyd's last words, and demanding justice.

"Racism knows no borders," said Leinisa Seemdo, 26, a Spanish translator from Cape Verde.

"In all the countries where I have lived, I have experienced discrimination because of the colour of my skin."

Rome's Piazza del Popolo fell silent for eight minutes, about the time Floyd was pinned down by the policeman, as thousands of people knelt down in his memory  with their fists in the air.

"We can't breathe," shouted the crowd, after the collective silence.

People gather calling for justice for George Floyd, who died May 25 after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, USA, in Rome’s People’s Square, Sunday, June 7, 2020. People have been protesting throughout Italy to denounce the police killing of George Floyd and show solidarity with anti-racism protests in the U.S. and elsewhere. (Roberto Monaldo/LaPresse via AP)

"It's really hard to live here," said Senegalese migrant Morikeba Samate, 32, one of the thousands of migrants and refugees to arrive in Italy after the perilous crossing of the Mediterranean.

Opposition to that wave of migration has buoyed the far-right in Italy and elsewhere in Europe.

Floyd's death last month has unleashed the most serious and widespread civil unrest in the US since the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr in 1968.

The Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with second-degree murder while three fellow officers face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

More than 1,000 people on Sunday also gathered at a Black Lives Matter protest near the US embassy in Budapest.

"If we want to live in a better world, we need to radically change the way we live," Hungarian reggae singer G Ras told cheering protesters.

Almost 4,000 people attended two similar events in the Netherlands.

Protesters gather in Parliament Square during the Black Lives Matter protest rally in London, Sunday, June 7, 2020, in response to the recent killing of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis, USA, that has led to protests in many countries and across the US. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

In Lausanne, Switzerland, a black-clad demonstrator's placard read, "My colour is not a threat", while almost 10,000 people marched in Brussels, police said.

"The murder of George Floyd has clearly woken up a lot of people," said Ange Kaze, of the Belgian Network for Black Lives.

A few skirmishes broke out at the end of the Brussels rally, but a demonstration by 15,000 in Copenhagen ended peacefully.

MADRID, SPAIN - JUNE 07: A general view as demonstrators hold placards during a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd outside the United States Embassy on June 07, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.The death of an African-American man, George Floyd, while in the custody of Minneapolis police has sparked protests across the United States, as well as demonstrations of solidarity in many countries around the world. (Photo by Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images)

Fighting was also reported however at the end of a protest in Gothenburg, Sweden, where almost 2,000 people turned out for a march authorised for only 50 because of coronavirus restrictions.

As countries begin to emerge from lockdowns, governments are struggling to balance people's need to express anger against the risk of protests spreading the disease, which has killed more than 400,000 people worldwide.

In France, more than 23,000 protesters demonstrated on Saturday, and football players from a half dozen German teams knelt at the weekend in Floyd's memory.

His death occurred during a pandemic that has disproportionately affected black people and ethnic minorities in cities such as London, New York and Rio de Janeiro.

The economic recession triggered by virus lockdowns has hammered the poor and marginalised even more.

A combination of economic woes, social tension and anger at US President Donald Trump's response has refocused attention on racial divides like few other events since the 1960s.