Death of George Floyd puts global spotlight on racism and police brutality

Protests against the recent murder of 46-year-old African-American George Floyd are gaining global momentum.

Floyd died in police custody in Minneapolis after now ex-Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes. A video of the incident went viral, immediately sparking protests and riots in Minnesota.

As of June 1, protests calling attention to police brutality and systemic racism have spread across more than 140 American cities. Many countries outside of the US have held protests in solidarity with American protesters, with some using the momentum caused by Floyd’s death to bring attention to their own issues of racism and police brutality.

United Kingdom

Thousands of protesters gathered in London over the weekend in a show of solidarity with the American Black Lives Matter movement.

On 31 May, protesters marched from Trafalgar Square to the US Embassy, holding “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe” signs. “I can’t breathe,” were Floyd’s last words, captured in the viral video. According to the Washington Post, the protests in London resulted in five arrests: two for assaulting a police officer and three for breaking covid-19 social distancing mandates.

Demonstrations also took place in central Manchester and in Cardiff, in front of the Cardiff Castle. Each drew hundreds of participants. Many protesters were motivated to speak out about the UK’s issues with systemic racism.

As the New York Times reports, in England and Wales, the black population has been disproportionately affected by coronavirus, with black people twice as likely to die from it than white people.


Around 2,000 protesters marched in front of the US Embassy in Copenhagen on 31 May, chanting “No justice, no peace.” The Copenhagen Police described the protests as peaceful, according to the Local.


In Berlin, protests started on 30 May. Around 2,200 protesters marched and rallied outside of the US Embassy, holding signs and chanting messages of solidarity. Similar protests were held in the days following. A mural of Floyd’s face was painted on a remaining section of the Berlin Wall, next to the words “I can’t breathe.”


In Tel-Aviv and Jaffa, crowds demanded justice for George Floyd and Iyad al-Hallak, an autistic Palestinian student who was fatally shot by police on 30 May.

Al-Hallak was on his way to school when he was shot seven times by Israeli police, who believed he had a gun. So far, there is no investigation into Al-Hallak’s murder.

Police brutality has become commonplace in occupied Palestinian territory, according to a report made by the UN. Many signs read at the protests read: “Justice for Iyad, justice for Floyd” and “Palestinian Lives Matter.” 


A small candlelight vigil was held in Mashhad to mourn Floyd’s death. 


On 1 June, thousands of protesters marched in Perth.

Many Australians who stand in solidarity with protesters in America are speaking out about Australia’s history of racism and police brutality against indigenous tribes.

According to the New York Times, since 1991, more than 400 indigenous people have died in police custody in Australia, though no police officers have been convicted of murder.

In 2015, David Dungay Jr, a 26-year-old aboriginal man, died in police custody. Like Floyd, his last words were “I can’t breathe.” On 1 June, the hashtag #AboriginalLivesMatter was trending on twitter in Australia.

A protest in Sydney scheduled for 2 June was cancelled after a group of people threatened to protest against the event, the Guardian reports. 

New Zealand

Tens of thousands of New Zealanders protested in Auckland over the weekend. Like Australians, many protesters are advocating for indigenous rights and an end to police brutality. Protesters are also calling on Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to denounce Floyd’s murder. 


Thousands marched in Toronto on 30 May, both rallying for the conviction of the officer involved in Floyd’s death, and justice for Regis Korchinski-Paquet.

Korchinski-Paquet was a 29-year-old black woman who fell from her balcony on 27 May after police were called to her home to investigate reports of an assault.

While the police have claimed the death was a suicide, many believe she was killed by the police. Protesters held signs reading “Justice for Regis” and “Not Another Black Life.” The latter is both a slogan and the name of the activist group that organized the march.


A large, formal protest scheduled for 2 June will take place in Paris, where Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old black man, died in police custody in 2016. Like Floyd, Traoré died after being pinned to the ground by police. For many Parisians, Floyd’s death is a stark reminder of the country’s own problem with racism and police brutality.

Traoré’s surviving family members were vocal in calling for an organized protest to bring awareness to police brutality. Small protests in front of the US Embassy in Paris took place over the weekend.


On 28 May, demonstrators marched in Milan and held a performance-art flashmob in front of the US Embassy. Protests were also held in front of the US Embassy in Rome on the same day. Both of the protests called for an end to police brutality and systemic racism in the US.


Protesters gathered near the Rio de Janeiro state government palace on 31 May. The protest largely vocalised citizen anger with Rio de Janeiro’s history of police brutality, especially within its Favelas, low-income slums. In 2019 alone, more than 1,400 people died at the hands of the police, according to ABC News. The majority of the murders occurred within Favelas. According to the Guardian, the Rio de Janeiro police force is one of the most violent in the world. The protest on Sunday ended after police began spraying crowds with tear gas. 


On May 31, a crowd gathered outside of the US Consulate in Krakow to protest Floyd’s death. Residents organized a small, street-side memorial for Floyd, where mourners and other activists could leave flowers and candles.

Activists in countries such as Chile, Syria, Switzerland, Spain, Ethiopia, and China have also responded to Floyd’s death with peaceful demonstrations of solidarity.