Several flout social distancing rules in London as thousands gather to protest George Floyd’s killing

Holding up placards saying “Justice for George Floyd”, thousands marched on Sunday across central London and Manchester, many of them flouting lockdown norms amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The protesters gathered to offer support for American demonstrators even as they ignored the UK government rules banning crowds because of the pandemic.

The Metropolitan police told India Today that it was “not an organised” protest, implying that permission was not taken for the agitation.

“Several people have been arrested for breaking the social distancing rules or for misbehaving with the police officers,” police said.

Earlier, the Metropolitan police tweeted: “Police are aware of demonstrators gathering outside the US Embassy in Nine Elms this afternoon. Officers are on scene and engaging with those in attendance. An appropriate policing plan is in place.”

People gather in Trafalgar Square in central London on Sunday, May 31, 2020 (Photo: AP)

With placards reading “Racism has no place” and “I can’t breathe,” something that the Floyd repeatedly told the policeman holding him down, protestors marched along the river Thames to the front of the US Embassy. At Trafalgar Square, everyone chanted, “No Justice, No Peace.”

Demonstrators then marched to the US Embassy, where a long line of officers surrounded the building. Several hundred milled around in the street and waved placards.

Protesters in Denmark also converged on the USEmbassy on Sunday. Participants carried placards with messages such as “Stop Killing Black People.”

The protests triggered in Minneapolis after a white police officer in Minneapolis killed Floyd on Monday by pressing a knee into his neck while taking him into custody. Protests exploded in dozens of US cities on Friday night. The unrest has since become a national phenomenon as protesters decry years of deaths at police hands.

The unrest comes at a time when most Americans have spent months inside over concerns surrounding the coronavirus, which the president has called an “invisible enemy.” The events of the last 72 hours, seen live on national television, have shown the opposite: a sudden pivot to crowds, screaming protesters and burning buildings, a stark contrast to the empty streets of recent months.

The large crowds involved, with many people not wearing masks or social distancing, raised concerns among health experts about the potential for helping spread the coronavirus pandemic at a time when overall deaths are on the decline nationwide and much of the country is in the process of reopening society and the economy.

On Saturday, at least 13 officers were injured in Philadelphia when peaceful protests turned violent and at least four police vehicles were set on fire. Other fires were set throughout downtown.

In the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of a 1921 massacre of black people that left as many as 300 dead and the city’s thriving black district in ruins, protesters blocked intersections and chanted the name of Terence Crutcher, a black man killed by a police officer in 2016.

(Photo: AP)

In Tallahassee, Florida, a pickup truck drove through a crowd of protesters, sending some running and screaming as the vehicle stopped and started and at one point had a person on its hood, police said, but no serious injuries were reported. Police handcuffed the driver but did not release his name or say whether he would face charges.

In Los Angeles, protesters chanted “Black Lives Matter,” some within inches of the face shields of officers. Police used batons to move the crowd back and fired rubber bullets. One man used a skateboard to try to break a police SUV’s windshield. A spray-painted police car burned in the street.

And in New York City, video posted to social media showed officers using batons and shoving protesters down as they made arrests and cleared streets. Another video showed two NYPD cruisers driving into protesters who were pushing a barricade against a police car and pelting it with objects, knocking several to the ground.

(With inputs from AP)

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