Thousands gather at Hyde Park to support protests against police brutality

Andy Wells
Freelance Writer

Thousands of people have gathered at Hyde Park in London in a show of support for those protesting over the death of George Floyd in the United States.

He died after a white officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protest.

Floyd’s death has sparked a wave of anti-racism demonstrations all over the world.

Protesters carrying Black Lives Matter placards came together at the London park in Floyd’s memory.

People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Hyde Park, London, in memory of George Floyd. (PA)
People observe social distancing as they participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Hyde Park, London. (PA/Getty)

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

Most protesters wore masks or gloves and were pictured sitting apart from each other to observe social distancing, as requested by organisers.

Read more: Black people more likely to be fined in London under coronavirus laws

Explaining why she was at the protest, Filippa, a 20-year-old student, told PA: “I know that I’m healthy. So this felt more important than to stay inside when I have the opportunity.”

Star Wars actor John Boyega gave an emotional speech at the demonstration in which he referenced the deaths of two other black Americans who died in the US and the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in the UK.

He told demonstrators: "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."

A protester wearing a face mask holds a sign saying 'I can't breathe' during a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park. (PA/Getty)
People begin to gather ahead of the Black Lives Matter protest rally in Hyde Park. (PA/Getty)

Labour says it supports those in the UK showing "solidarity" by protesting over the death of George Floyd, but called for those joining the demonstrations to follow distancing advice.

The Hyde Park protest came as chief constables from across the UK issued a joint statement saying they "stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified" by Floyd’s death.

In a statement, the chief constables, the chair of the National Police Chiefs' Council, the chief executive of the College of Policing and the president of the Police Superintendents' Association said: "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.”

Protesters wearing face masks, hold up placards and raise clenched fists during a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park. (PA/Getty)
Protesters hold up placards as people gather for a demonstration in Hyde Park. (AP)

They also urged people who want to make their voices heard to be aware that "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".

The police leaders' statement continued: "We are also appalled to see the violence and damage that has happened in so many US cities since then.

Read more: Boris Johnson says ‘Black Lives Matter’ at PMQs

“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, demonstrators previously protested outside the US embassy in south London and in Trafalgar Square following Floyd's death.

The police joint statement went on to highlight the tradition of policing by consent and said officers are trained to use force "proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary".

Protesters take part in a demonstration over the death of George Floyd. (AP)
Protesters appear to follow social distancing rules as they stand apart during the Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park. (AP)

The statement continued: "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."

Boris Johnson – who said in the Commons on Wednesday that Floyd's death was "inexcusable" – has faced calls to review sales of riot control equipment to the US.