Second week of global protests against racism

A protester in the Japanese capital Tokyo showing her solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Smoke bombs erupting over riot police during a rally against racism and police brutality in the French city of Marseille. A fight between
A fight between protesters supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and their opponents in central London last Saturday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
A protester in the Japanese capital Tokyo showing her solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Smoke bombs erupting over riot police during a rally against racism and police brutality in the French city of Marseille. A fight between
A protester in the Japanese capital Tokyo showing her solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. PHOTO: REUTERS
A protester in the Japanese capital Tokyo showing her solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the US. Smoke bombs erupting over riot police during a rally against racism and police brutality in the French city of Marseille. A fight between
Smoke bombs erupting over riot police during a rally against racism and police brutality in the French city of Marseille. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON/PARIS • Thousands took to the streets in cities worldwide for a second week of rallies to support the Black Lives Matter movement in the US, but also to highlight problems in their own countries.

There were rallies in cities across Europe last Saturday, with thousands demonstrating in France, and clashes breaking out in Paris and the south-eastern city of Lyon.

Yesterday, thousands in Tokyo took part in a march, calling for an end to racial discrimination and police abuse in the US.

In London, police arrested several far-right demonstrators.

The international rallies come in the wake of the killing last month of black American George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

At the end of a rally in Paris, police stopped people from launching a march through the streets of the French capital, firing tear gas after some protesters pelted them with projectiles. In Lyon, police used water cannon and tear gas at the end of a demonstration attended by about 2,000 people.

The Paris rally was called by a pressure group campaigning for justice for Mr Adama Traore, a young black man who died in police custody in 2016. Mr Traore's sister, Ms Assa Traore, one of the driving forces of the group, called on those attending the rally to "denounce the denial of justice, denounce social, racial, police violence".

The rallies in France came at the end of a week when the police watchdog revealed it had received almost 1,500 complaints against officers last year - half of them for alleged violence.

In London, far-right protesters clashed with police in the city centre after gathering to counter an anti-racism march. Thousands of people defied anti-coronavirus rules to assemble around Parliament Square. Footage on television news channels showed some agitators throwing punches, bottles and smoke bombs at officers as well as fighting with rival protesters.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the violence, saying "racist thuggery has no place on our streets".

A London protest by the Black Lives Matter group originally planned for Saturday had been switched to Friday to avoid clashes with counter-protesters. But several hundred Black Lives Matter activists nevertheless demonstrated on Saturday in London.

Anti-racism protests went ahead in other British cities, including Brighton in the south and Liverpool in the north.

In Switzerland, thousands marched in several cities, with the largest gathering in Zurich, where 10,000 people turned out.

Police said one officer was hurt after a few hundred hard-left activists there began throwing projectiles. They made several arrests. Earlier last week, around 10,000 marched against racism in Geneva.

In Germany, around 2,000 rallied in the southern city of Stuttgart, the DPA news agency reported. In the north, another 500 turned out in Lubeck and 250 in Hamburg. There were no reports of any trouble.

Over in Australia, thousands turned out in several cities for the second weekend running, despite official warnings that demonstrations would undermine the country's success in suppressing the coronavirus. The biggest protest was in Perth, Western Australia.

Many protesters carried signs such as "Stop deaths in custody" and "White Australia stop lying to yourselves", highlighting the deaths of more than 400 indigenous people in custody over the last three decades.

Smaller protests for Aboriginal rights were held in Darwin, capital of the Northern Territory, and towns in neighbouring Queensland - both regions with numerous indigenous communities.

In Asia, hundreds gathered in a Taipei park with some holding signs with slogans such as "This is a movement, not a moment".

Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday criticised the anti-racism protests in the US for sparking crowd violence, in his first comments on the issue.

"If this fight for natural rights, legal rights, turns into mayhem and rioting, I see nothing good for the country," Mr Putin said in an interview with Rossiya-1 television.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 15, 2020, with the headline 'Second week of global protests against racism'. Print Edition | Subscribe