United Kingdom

London Black Lives Matter protest: police 'take a knee'

A line of Metropolitan Police officers 'took a knee' in tribute to George Floyd today as thousands of protesters gathered outside Downing Street.

At least 15,000 Black Lives Matter protesters including actor John Boyega and singer Liam Payne gathered in London, ignoring social distancing guidelines, as a show of anger against the death of Mr Floyd in the US.

And at least 2,000 of those demonstrated in front of Downing Street, shouting 'take a knee' at Metropolitan Police officers guarding security gates.

Four officers obliged, to the approval of the crowds, who urged other officers to follow the example of their colleagues. The 'take a knee' movement started in the US with NFL star Colin Kaepernick and has become a symbol of anger and solidarity against racism across the world.

In the US, officers recently started taking a knee in support of protesters following days of unrest after Mr Floyd's killing at the hands of police.  

There were pockets of anger among the crowd, however, with protesters chanting 'f** Boris' and 'f** Trump'.  

At least three missiles were thrown at police lines, with one officer punched and at least one demonstrator arrested. A cameraman was struck by a glass bottle and was pictured having his wound tended to by police. 

However, the abuse was sporadic, with the crowd largely shouting down the culprits during the demonstration outside Downing Street. 

Huge crowds had gathered in Hyde Park this afternoon as many campaigners wore face coverings and held signs with messages such as 'Please, I can't breathe', 'BLM' and 'Colour ≠ Crime'.

The rally comes as global demonstrations gather pace following the death of 46-year-old black man Mr Floyd who died after white police officer Derek Chauvin put his knee on his neck for nine minutes in Minneapolis on May 25. 

Today, Star Wars actor Boyega told the crowd: 'Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain't waiting.'

Police were generally keeping in the background of the protest while their helicopters circled above. Banners included 'Enough is Enough', 'Remember Smiley Culture', 'Remember Cherry Groce', and 'UK is not innocent'.

After leaving Hyde Park, the protesters clambered onto traffic lights as they marched down Park Lane towards Victoria. 

They then rallied in Parliament Square in the heart of Westminster where some of the demonstrators climbed up a statue of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill. 

Bob Marley's Three Little Birds blared out on a loudspeaker. One protester wore a Colin Kaepernick shirt after the black American footballer who started the knee protest in the US. Thousands of demonstrators at times went down on one knee chanting 'George Floyd, George Floyd.'

It comes after UK chief constables joined forces to say they were 'appalled and horrified' by the death and called for 'justice and accountability', while warning those attending protests to do so while maintaining a safe distance.  

Separately, anti-racism campaign group Stand Up to Racism is urging Britons to 'take the knee' on their doorsteps at 6pm tonight for a protest against discrimination which is also backing the Black Lives Matter movement. 

Police officers outside Downing Street take a knee in front of thousands of Black Lives Matters protesters demonstrating against the killing of George Floyd

Police officer goes to one knee in front of protesters outside Downing Street this afternoon in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement

The police officers showed solidarity with the protesters near Downing Street this evening as they demonstrated against the killing of George Floyd

US Capitol police kneel as demonstrator protest the death of George Floyd at the US Capitol today. Police officers have been 'taking a knee' to show solidarity

Police officers in Fayetteville, North Carolina on Monday take a knee when demonstrators confronted them on Monday

A police officer shakes the hand of a protester in Trafalgar Square today, as thousands of Black Lives Matter supporters demonstrate against the death of George Floyd

A police officer takes a knee in front of protesters near Downing Street today during a 'Black Lives Matter' protest following the death of George Floyd

An injured police officer, who appeared to have been struck in the head by a thrown object, is assisted by his colleagues during a Black Lives Matter protest at Trafalgar Square

This cameraman was left bloodied while covering the protest outside Downing Street today. He is thought to have been struck by a glass bottle

Cameraman being treated after he was hit by a glass bottle as he covered the Black Lives Matter protest in London today

A police officer helped the man and wrapped a bandage around his head as blood poured from the head wound near Downing Street

Police officers scuffle with a protester near the entrance to Downing Street during today's demonstration for George Floyd

Police officers scuffle with two protesters at today's demonstration. At least one protester was arrested following the clashes

A police officer grapples with a demonstrator outside Downing Street today. It appeared to be an isolated incident, with the demonstration peaceful in the main

Protesters scuffle with Police officers near the entrance to Downing Street, during an anti-racism demonstration in London

Protesters and police officers clash near Downing Street during a 'Black Lives Matter' protest this afternoon against the death of George Floyd

Police officers react to an orange peel being thrown at them as they scuffle with a protestor near the entrance to Downing Street

A protester was arrested after brief scuffles with the police outside Downing Street during the mostly peaceful protest today

At least 15,000 Black Lives Matter protesters gather in London today as a show of force against the death of George Floyd

People wearing face masks hold banners at Hyde Park in London during a Black Lives Matter protest this afternoon

Protesters face a line of police officers during the Black Lives Matter protest through London this afternoon

After rallying in Hyde Park, the protesters marched on Parliament Square where some of the demonstrators clambered on to the statue of wartime prime minister Winston Churchill

Supporters at the protest in London this afternoon wear face coverings and hold up signs with messages including: 'We will remember the silence of our friends' and 'If you're not angry you're not paying attention'

Protesters march away from Hyde Park during the Black Lives Matter rally in London this afternoon

Protesters embrace during a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Hyde Park today that saw thousands demonstrate

Demonstrators observe social distancing as they meet in London's Hyde Park today to protest against George Floyd's death

Protesters wearing face masks gather for the demonstration at Hyde Park this afternoon

Boyega, 28, told fellow demonstrators gathered for a Black Lives Matter protest he was 'speaking to you from my heart'. The British actor referenced two other black Americans who controversially died in the US, as well as the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993.

He said: 'We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd. We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland. 

'We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin. We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence.'

He added: 'I'm speaking to you from my heart. Look, I don't know if I'm going to have a career after this, but f*** that.

'Today is about innocent people who were halfway through their process. We don't know what George Floyd could have achieved, we don't know what Sandra Bland could have achieved, but today we're going to make sure that won't be an alien thought to our young ones.

'We are are appalled and horrified': Full statement from UK chief constables on George Floyd protests 

'We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow.

'We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then. Our hearts go out to all those affected by these terrible events and hope that peace and order will soon be restored.

'In the UK we have a long established tradition of policing by consent, working in communities to prevent crime and solve problems. Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. We strive to continuously learn and improve. We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it.

'Policing is complex and challenging and sometimes we fall short. When we do, we are not afraid to shine a light on injustices or to be held to account.

'The relationship between the police and the public in the UK is strong but there is always more to do. Every day, up and down the country, officers and staff are working to strengthen those relationships and address concerns. Only by working closely with our communities do we build trust and help keep people safe.

'We know people want to make their voices heard. The right to lawful protest is key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate. But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people. So for whatever reason people want to come together, we ask that people continue to work with officers at this challenging time.' 

'I need you to understand how painful this s*** is. I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing and that isn't the case any more, that was never the case any more.'

He urged protesters to remain peaceful as they demonstrated over the death of Mr Floyd.

'It is very, very important that we keep control of this moment. That we make this as peaceful and as organised as possible,' he said.

'Because they want us to mess up, they want us to be disorganised, but not today.

'This message is specifically for black men, black men we need to take care of our black women.

'They are our hearts, they are our future, we cannot demonise our own, we are the pillars of the family.

'Imagine this: a nation that is set up with individual families that are thriving, that are healthy, that communicate, that raise their children in love, have a better rate of becoming better human beings, and that's what we need to create.

'Black men, it starts with you. It's done man, we can't be trash no more. 

'We have to be better.

'You lot came today, you left your kids, and when you see your kids they're aimlessly playing, they don't understand what's going on. Today's the day that we remind them that we are dedicated and this is a lifelong dedication.

'Some of you are artists, some of you are bankers, some of you are lawyers, some of you own shop stores.

'You are important, your individual power, your individual right is very, very important, we can all join together to make this a better world.'

Protesters were initially asked to sit two metres apart unless they were in the same household and were told to keep their arms stretched out to ensure social distancing when moving around the park.

However, as numbers grew, many of the protesters were seen standing at close distance as organisers still tried to maintain appropriate spacing. 

Protesters chanted 'black lives matter' and 'we will not be silent' as they waited for the demonstration to begin.

Most of the protesters wore masks or gloves.

Filippa, a 20-year-old student, said: 'I know that I'm healthy. So this felt more important than to stay inside when I have the opportunity.'

Protesters rally in the heart of Westminster in the shadow of the Houses of Parliament to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement

Actor John Boyega is seen (centre) being embraced in the crowd during a Black Lives Matter protest at Hyde Park today

Actor John Boyega, pictured left with a megaphone, and musician Liam Payne, pictured right with girlfriend Maya Henry, were among the celebrities to attend today's rally in London

A tear appears to roll down Boyega's cheek as he takes part in the anti-racism demonstration in London today

Star Wars star Boyega tells the crowd in London today: 'Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important' 

Boyega said of black people in London today: 'We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless'

Musician Liam Payne, pictured with his girlfriend Maya Henry, was also among the celebrities to attend today's rally in London

John Boyega, the boy from Peckham who became a world star

Star Wars actor John Boyega, who was born in Peckham, South London, in 1992 to parents of Nigerian descent, has regularly spoken out about race issues.

He was also one of the last people to see Damilola Taylor alive before the ten-year-old was murdered in Peckham.

Boyega's family, who also lived in Peckham, took in the boy when he first moved to London from Lagos.

His mother Abigail worked with disabled people, and his father Samson Adegboyega is a Pentecostal minister. 

His first role was as a leopard in a school play while at primary school, before he was noticed by Theatre Peckham and started acting there from the age of nine.

Boyega's first major film role was Attack the Block in 2011 before he made his Star Wars debut as Finn in The Force Awakens in 2015.

The 28-year-old actor has told how he has encountered racist abuse since childhood - and fears for his family and friends who live in America.

He has again been outspoken on social media in recent days following the death of Mr Floyd.

Last week he tweeted 'I f***ing hate racists' and condemned 'white racists' in an Instagram video, saying they had 'ruined the world' and that he did not want to 'work in fear' when in the US. 

It comes after a joint statement from UK chief constables said today: 'We stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life.

'Justice and accountability should follow. We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then. 

'Our hearts go out to all those affected by these terrible events and hope that peace and order will soon be restored.'

It added that officers in Britain have a 'long established tradition of policing by consent, working in communities to prevent crime and solve problems'.

The statement added that forces will 'tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it' but acknowledged that 'sometimes we fall short'.

It added that police would 'uphold and facilitate' the right to lawful protest, but warned demonstrators that the coronavirus lockdown is still in place.

They said: 'Coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people. 

'So for whatever reason people want to come together, we ask that people continue to work with officers at this challenging time.' 

Today, Prime Minister Boris Johnson told the Commons that he can understand the anger and the grief felt following the death of Mr Floyd.

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford said: 'In the seven days since George Floyd was murdered, the UK Government has not even offered words, it has not expressed that pain, it has shuttered itself in the hope no-one would notice.' 

Protesters wearing face masks, hold up placards and raise clenched fists during outside the Houses of Parliament today

Police walk through the crowds during the Black Lives Matter protest in London this afternoon

Protesters kneel in front of police during the Black Lives Matter protest through Central London this afternoon

Black Lives Matter protesters march through London today after the demonstration began in Hyde Park

A van bears the Black Lives Matter movement name on its side while being driven through London today

Black Lives Matter demonstrators march through London today as the protest against George Floyd's death continues

Police stand outside the Scotland Yard headquarters in London today during the Black Lives Matter protest

Participants in a Black Lives Matter protest rally at Hyde Park in London today in memory of black man George Floyd

Black Lives Matter protesters march through London today after the demonstration began at Hyde Park

Protesters shout during a Black Lives Matter demonstration at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

An aerial photograph of Black Lives Matter protesters at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

Protesters hold up a number of different signs during the event, at Hyde Park in London today, including one which read: 'Use your white privilege, save lives'

The demonstrators are pictured in this aerial view during the Black Lives Matter protest in London this afternoon

A woman is seen with the phrase 'I can't Breathe', uttered by George Floyd before his death, painted on her face at Hyde Park

A protester wearing a face mask 'takes the knee', as many others are expected to this evening, at Hyde Park in London today

Demonstrators hold banners during the Black Lives Matter protest at Hyde Park in London this afternoon 

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

A woman wearing a face mask stands up at Hyde Park in London today, holding a sign saying 'Black Lives Matter'

TV reporter screams live on air as she is attacked by screwdriver-wielding man yelling 'Allahu Akbar' while covering protest

Nine News' Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh, above, was seen clearly shaken

A reporter screamed live on air as she was attacked by a man yelling 'Allahu Akbar' and wielding a screwdriver while covering the Black Lives Matter protest in London.

Nine News' Europe correspondent Sophie Walsh was attacked while broadcasting this morning, according to the Australian network.

Footage was not captured of the attack but Ms Walsh can be heard screaming and seen clearly shaken afterwards while relaying the incident to one of her colleagues.

She said: 'Sorry, I just had someone come up and try and... yeah. 

'A man just came up and grabbed me. He's not armed. A man just came up and grabbed me though.'

A fellow presenter reported the attacker 'made motions to stab her' with footage showing a man being detained by two police officers and held against a car bonnet.

Ms Walsh later wrote on Twitter: 'Thank you for your messages. The man has been arrested for threats to kill and carrying a weapon. I'm shaken but okay. 

'Big thanks to my incredible cameraman Jason Conduit who chased him down armed with a light stand and got him arrested.' 

He added: 'Can I ask the Prime Minister what representations has he made to his ally Donald Trump? And at the very least Prime Minister, say it now - black lives matter.' 

The Prime Minister responded: 'Of course black lives matter and I totally understand the anger, the grief that is felt, not just in America but around the world and in our country as well.

'I totally understand that and I get that and I also support, as I've said, the right to protest.

'The only point I would make to the House is that protests should be carried out lawfully and in this country, protests should be carried out in accordance with our rules on social distancing.'

Also today, Stand Up to Racism has organised a 'take the knee' protest for 6pm as part of a day of action against discrimination in response to the death of Mr Floyd.

SUTR said the campaign was inspired by the kneeling protest staged by American football star Colin Kaepernick in 2016 that has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement. 

A further demonstration by Black Lives Matter is scheduled for 1pm on Saturday in Parliament Square.

Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered outside St George's Hall in Liverpool as part of a separate Black Lives Matter protest.

Merseyside Police said in a tweet that while it recognised people's right to demonstrate peacefully they should still adhere to social distancing guidelines.

It comes as a review by Public Health England found black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19. 

Campaigners are now calling for a public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of Covid-19 on BAME communities.

Weyman Bennett of SUTR said: 'Racism is the underlying condition that continues to kill black and BAME communities.

'Take the knee at 6pm because there is a boot on the neck of millions of people in the BAME community.

'Part of the cure for the virus of racism is to embrace anti-racism and anti-fascism.' 

A black man and a white woman hold their hands aloft in a show of defiance during today's protest, attended by thousands

Protesters take part in a demonstration at Hyde Park in London today over the death of black man George Floyd

Protesters, some wearing face masks, raise clenched fists during the Black Lives Matter protest in London this afternoon

People take part in a demonstration today at Hyde Park in London today over the death of George Floyd

A woman holding a megaphone raises her arm in the air as dozens of other protesters, many wearing masks, surround her and applaud

Campaigners wearing face masks hold up placards and raise clenched fists during the well-attended event at Hyde Park

Protesters take part in a demonstration at Hyde Park in London today over the death of black man George Floyd

CALIFORNIA: Musician Harry Styles, with a face mask, attended a similar rally yesterday across the Atlantic in Los Angeles

Four protesters kneel on the ground and hold hands as they came together to demand action over the death of George Floyd

People hold banners at Hyde Park in London during the Black Lives Matter protest today

Protesters wearing face masks hold up signs during a Black Lives Matter protest at Hyde Park in London today

Protesters hold up signs during a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park in London today

People wearing face masks hold signs at Hyde Park during today's Black Lives Matter' protest

People observe social distancing during the Black Lives Matter rally in London this afternoon

A man holds a banner saying 'white silence is violence' during the protest in London today

People wearing face masks hold banners in Hyde Park during the protest this afternoon

The protests in London today come after violent demonstations across the United States

Protesters hold up placards as people gather for a demonstration at Hyde Park today over the death of George Floyd

A protester wearing a face mask holds a sign saying 'I can't breathe' in London this afternoon

People wearing face masks hold signs in Hyde Park during today's Black Lives Matter protest

A woman wears a face mask saying 'silence is violence' during the protest in London today

Four women walk while wearing face masks and holding banners at London's Hyde Park today

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

People wearing face masks hold banners in Hyde Park during this afternoon's demonstration

Protesters wearing face masks hold up signs at today's Black Lives Matter protest in London

Protesters take part in a demonstration at Hyde Park today over the death of George Floyd in the US

SUTR's Sabby Dhalu said: 'BAME communities are suffering disproportionately from Covid-19, economic decline and police brutality.

'We call on people to 'take the knee' on their doorstep in solidarity with George Floyd, at 6pm, Wednesday 3 June. We stand for justice for George Floyd and say Black Lives Matter.'

Large gatherings are still banned under shutdown rules, and yesterday Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked protesters to find an alternative to physical demonstrations.

Speaking at her daily briefing in Edinburgh, she said: 'Right now, it is the case, unfortunately and regrettably, that large gatherings of people could pose a risk to health and indeed to life. 

Demonstrators socially distance while gathering for the protest at London's Hyde Park today

People participate in the Black Lives Matter protest rally at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

A woman wearing a face mask holds a banner in Hyde Park during the protest this afternoon

People wearing face masks hold signs at Hyde Park during today's Black Lives Matter protest

People sit at Hyde Park and hold banners at the Black Lives Matter protest in London today

People hold banners in Hyde Park during the Black Lives Matter protest in London today

People hold banners in Hyde Park in London today during a Black Lives Matter protest following the death of George Floyd

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Hyde Park in London this afternoon

Activists wear face masks as they hold up signs during today's demonstration at Hyde Park 

'We need to find ways of allowing people to make their voices heard and to make the points that many of us want to be made and to be heard right now, but to do so in a way that is safe and is not putting people protesting or wider communities at risk.'

The Met Police said its approach was to engage with protesters and encourage them to follow social distancing rules.

Last Sunday, thousands of people took part in Black Lives Matter protests in London's Trafalgar Square and outside the US embassy, while demonstrations were also staged in Cardiff and Manchester.

Thousands of people in Dublin protested outside the US embassy on Monday. There were 23 arrests in London on Sunday, at least three of which were for breach of Covid-19 legislation. 

Two people hold up banners during the demonstration at Hyde Park in London this afternoon

Protesters wearing face masks hold up signs at today's Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park

Protesters wear face masks and observe social distancing during the protest in London today

People wearing face masks as they sit at Hyde Park during today's Black Lives Matter protest

A woman hands out a Socialist Worker poster with the phrase 'Black Lives Matter' today

A woman wearing a face mask with the message 'I Can't Breathe' is seen in Hyde Park today

A protester wears a mask displaying the words 'I can't breathe' at today's protest in London

A protester holds a sign and face mask during the Black Lives Matter protest in London today

One person holds up a sign saying 'Isolate for 2 weeks after protest' in London this afternoon

George Floyd (left), a 46-year-old black man, died last week after white police officer Derek Chauvin (right) put his knee on his neck in Minneapolis on May 25 for nine minutes

US President Donald Trump has declared that 'the National Guard is ready' as he repeated his threat to send troops to New York City to 'put down' the Floyd protests - but the violence in the city was less severe last night.

Thousands ignored mayor Bill de Blasio's 8pm curfew to continue their demonstrations, but police arrested more than 200 people as night fell and some of the rampant destruction of the previous few days was quelled.

The calmer scenes were echoed across much of America where protesters once again turned out in force but the confrontations with police were subdued and widespread rioting was limited.

It followed a day of anger from President Trump's critics over the way he threatened to deploy the military to quell riots across the US and cleared protesters in Washington DC so he could visit damaged St John's Episcopal Church.

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