UK PM Boris Johnson condemns George Floyd killing as protesters take to London streets

People wearing face masks hold banners in Hyde Park during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis. (Reuters)
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Updated 03 June 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson condemns George Floyd killing as protesters take to London streets

  • Protesters, many of them in face masks, defied coronavirus restrictions
  • Some scuffled with police outside Johnson’s Downing Street office

LONDON: Thousands of people took to the streets of London on Wednesday to protest the death of George Floyd in US police custody, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the killing and told President Donald Trump that racist violence had “no place” in society.

Protesters, many of them in face masks, defied coronavirus restrictions and held aloft signs saying “Justice for George Floyd” and “Enough is enough!” as they marched from Hyde Park to the Whitehall government district in central London.
Some scuffled with police outside Johnson’s Downing Street office. Others paused and knelt as the procession moved on toward the US embassy, holding “Black Lives Matter” banners and raising clenched fists.
The demonstration is the latest in the British capital since Floyd, an unarmed African-American, died last week after a police officer in Minneapolis knelt on his neck.
The incident, which was captured on video by an eye-witness, has provoked global outrage, and seen the officer concerned charged with third-degree murder.
“I’m here because I believe in my rights as a black person,” said one protester, Lisa Ncuka, a 26-year-old student. “This is an important movement.”
“Everybody should be here fighting for equality. It’s not just the US’s problem. It’s the whole world’s problem and we need to come together and spread this awareness.”
“Star Wars” actor John Boyega, who was in the crowd, gave an emotional speech, saying the demonstrators were a “physical representation” of support for Floyd and other victims.

“We can all join together to make this a better world,” he said, urging a peaceful protest.
“Let’s let the United States of America, our black brothers and sisters, know that we’ve got their backs.”
Johnson, who has been accused of racism for his depictions in newspaper columns of black Africans, and Islamophobia over comments about veiled Muslim women, condemned Floyd’s killing.
Asked what his message was to Trump, he told reporters: “My message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States, from the UK is... that racism, racist violence has no place in our society,“
Johnson earlier made his first comments on the case to lawmakers in parliament, calling Floyd’s death “appalling, inexcusable.”
But he dodged questions about whether he had raised the issue directly with Trump, a key ally with whom he is hoping to strike a post-Brexit trade deal.
Johnson also backed the right to protest, but only if they were “lawful and reasonable.”
His comments echoed those of British police chiefs, who earlier issued a joint statement saying they were “appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life.”


People wearing face coverings react as they hold banners in Hyde Park during a "Black Lives Matter" protest following the death of George Floyd who died in police custody in Minneapolis. (Reuters)

But they appealed for people in Britain to “work with officers” as protests spread, just as the coronavirus lockdown is being eased.
“The right to lawful protest is a key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate,” they added.
“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.”
Britain has its own fraught history of racism within policing, with a landmark 1999 report finding “institutional racism” in London’s Metropolitan Police force.
The report was commissioned after the racist murder of a black teenager, Stephen Lawrence, at a bus stop in south London in 1993.
The police investigation was marred by a catalogue of failures that saw no-one convicted until 2012.
Despite programs of reform, a 2015 study by the Runnymede Trust, an educational charity which aims to promote a successful multi-ethnic Britain, found “systemic and institutional racism persists” within British policing.
“Britain is no stranger to racialized police violence,” it noted.
“Black and minority ethnic people are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system at every level, from arrests to stop and search, to imprisonment, to deaths in custody.”

New Delhi accused of ‘hate-mongering’ over virus

Updated 13 August 2020

New Delhi accused of ‘hate-mongering’ over virus

  • Despite a prominent temple in India becoming a disease hotspot, there has been no public uproar, as was the case when the Tablighi Jamaat was accused of spreading the disease earlier this year

NEW DELHI: Muslim groups and political analysts have accused the Indian government of double standards after a Hindu temple in the south Indian state of Andhra Pradesh said over 700 of its members had tested positive for coronavirus.

The accusation follows claims that the Tablighi Jamaat (TJ), a Muslim missionary group, were “super spreaders” after a New Delhi gathering in March.

“Our political class has accepted the hegemony of Hindu majoritarianism uncritically, and that has been the guiding principle in dealing with this health crisis. Taking an anti-Muslim stance characterizes the new normal,” said Hilal Ahmad of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a New Delhi-based think tank.

The Lord Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati said on Sunday that three people had died from the disease, including a head priest.

“Of the 743 infected, about 402 people have recovered, while
338 people are undergoing treatment in care facilities,” said Anil Kumar Singhal, the temple’s executive officer.

The temple reopened after months of lockdown on June 11 following “requests from devotees,” he added, while entry was monitored through “strict measures.”

However, despite the prominent temple becoming a disease hotspot, there has been no public uproar, as was the case when the TJ was accused of spreading the disease earlier this year.

At the time, the government had evacuated over 2,300 people and placed 1,800 in quarantine. Media reports said more than 25,000 people who had come in contact with the missionary group had been quarantined across India.

The government alleges that the TJ hosted gatherings of thousands of people from across India and abroad despite the coronavirus threat.

However, some believe that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is being “divisive” in its approach.

“Coronavirus in India is being used by hate-mongers to divide people in the name of religion,” said Shahid Ali, a TJ lawyer.

He added that when coronavirus cases were detected among the TJ group, both the media and a section of the ruling class “began propagating hate against Muslims.”

“As a result, common people started sidelining and threatening Muslims. Now, when there are so many coronavirus cases in Hindu places of worship, the media is silent. Coronavirus does not have a religion, but India gave coronavirus a religion,” he said.

However, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the comparison is misplaced and maintained its stance that the TJ was the “perpetrator” of the virus, while the Hindus in Tirupati are “victims.”

“When the TJ incident happened, there were very few coronavirus cases. The TJ demonstrated they were deviants violating lockdown. They intentionally kept everything under wraps,” said BJP spokesperson Sudesh Verma.

“We should stop politicizing the health issue,” he added.

“Coronavirus cases in India have reached 2 million, and those in temples or other places of worship are victims, not perpetrators. We should stop politicizing issues of health. These decisions, like any other decisions of government, are not taken on communal lines.”

However, some have disagreed and accused the authorities of being “anti-science” and stigmatizing Muslims.

“The government is anti-science and should have learned a lesson from the TJ incident and stopped religious gatherings. But now we know that the government and media were working with a particular agenda – they just wanted to victimize Muslims,” said Harjit Singh Bhatti, president of the New Delhi-based Progressive Medicos and Scientists Forum.

Bhatti raised the issue of a recent religious event in the city of Ayodhya, where the Indian prime minister launched the construction on a Hindu temple, in “a total disregard for anti-virus measures and protocols.”

He added: “If he does not follow norms, then how can he dare question others? Modi is a prisoner of his own politics.”