Thousands of protesters have amassed in London’s Hyde Park in an anti-racism demonstration calling for justice over the death of George Floyd.
Chants of “black lives matter”, “no justice, no peace” and “we will not be silent” rang out as protesters waited for the demonstration to begin.
Star Wars actor John Boyega delivered an emotional speech as the demonstration got underway, telling fellow protesters he was “speaking to you from my heart” and he didn’t know if he was “going to have a career after this, but f*** that”.
The 28-year-old actor from Peckham, in southeast London, made references to other black Americans who have died in the US, as well as the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in London in 1993.
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.
Bland, from Texas, died in prison in 2015 after being arrested during a traffic stop. Her death was ruled a suicide.
“I need to you to understand how painful this s*** is,” Boyega said. “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.”
Boyega urged protesters to make the demonstration “as peaceful and as organised as possible”.
Videos and images shared from the protest on social media showed the proceedings have been peaceful. As demonstrators marched towards Parliament Square, next to the Houses of Parliament, vehicles were heard honking in support of the protest.
Organisers initially asked those attending to sit two metres apart unless they were from the same household and were told to keep their arms stretched out to ensure social distancing could be maintained when moving around the park.
But as the numbers grew, many protesters were seen standing close together. Organisers still tried to maintain social distancing and most people donned face masks and gloves.
As protesters marched, UK police chiefs released a joint statement saying they “stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified” by the death of Floyd.
Floyd died last week after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck for over eight minutes. His murder sparked outrage and protests which have been erupting all over the US and the world in recent days.