HUNDREDS of thousands of people yesterday defied warnings about the COVID-19 threat and continued to protest in the streets of London,Ottawa,Dublin ,Melbourne,Sydney and Washington to take the knee for the late black American,George Floyd .
The protests tagged Black Lives Matter (BLM) were sparked by the May 25,2020 killing of Floyd ,by a team of Minneapolis,Minnesota white policemen.
One of the cops, Derek Chauvin ,was caught on video kneeling on the neck of his victim for over eight minutes until he died.
Demonstrators thronged the Parliament Square in Westminster a day after ministers urged them to obey social distancing rules and not gather in groups of more than six.
Nigeria-born world heavyweight boxing star Anthony Joshua was one of the protesters in Watford, north London.
He wore a black jumper emblazoned with the words: ‘Black Lives Matter’ and hobbled along on crutches.
It was a precaution after feeling a ‘twinge’ in his leg recently.
The crowd brandished signs and chanting.
The Britain Secretary of Health and Social Welfare Matt Hancock had pleaded with residents not to gather for demonstrations in cities like London, Manchester and Birmingham to stop the virus’s spread.
Mr Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing on Friday he could understand why people were ‘deeply upset’, but said people in the UK should not attend large gatherings.
He added: “Like so many I am appalled by the death of George Floyd and I understand why people are deeply upset but we are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat.
“The reason that it is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific incident.
Echoing Hancock’s position,Secretary of State for the Home Department, Priti Patel,said on Twitter: “Please for the safety of all of us, do not attend large gatherings – including protests – of more than six people this weekend.
“As Matt Hancock said, coronavirus remains a real threat and people must protect themselves and their families from this horrific disease.”
But throngs showed up anyway despite the cold weather, the spitting rain and warnings by the police that mass gatherings would violate the rule that only six people from different households could gather outside during the pandemic.
The Prime Minister of Canada ,Justin Trudeau , also joined demonstrators in taking a knee outside the country’s parliament in Ottawa in solidarity with the protesters.
A similar protest rocked Dublin in solidarity with the family of George Floyd.
Protesters gathered outside the US embassy in Dublin, with organisers handing out personal protective equipment, saying they were taking necessary measures to ensure as much social distancing as is possible, in the face of Garda warnings of potential breaches of Covid-19 regulations.
The events were organised amid worldwide protests for justice in the case, as well as an opening of conversations on racial inequities in societies around the world.
The story was not different in Melbourne and Sydney , Australia despite warning by Prime Minister Scott Morrison against the marches because of the coronavirus risk.
People turned out in solidarity with Americans protesters calling for justice in the death of Floyd.