BRUSSELS — From Sydney to Paris, world outrage at George Floyd’s death in the U.S. was growing Tuesday as the European Union’s top diplomat said the bloc was “shocked and appalled” by it and thousands marched in Australia’s largest city.
Chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe,” about 3,000 protesters held an impassioned but peaceful march through central Sydney on Tuesday demanding fundamental change in race relations.
In France, protests were planned for the evening in Paris and across the country after calls from the family of a French black man who died shortly after he was arrested by police in 2016. A protest was also planned in The Hague, Netherlands.
Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a white police officer in Minneapolis who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death set off protests that spread across America.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell’s remarks in Brussels were the strongest so far to come out of the 27-nation bloc, saying Floyd’s death was a result of an abuse of power.
Borrell told reporters that “like the people of the United States, we are shocked and appalled by the death of George Floyd.” He underlined that Europeans “support the right to peaceful protest, and also we condemn violence and racism of any kind, and for sure, we call for a de-escalation of tensions.”
Protesters around the world have expressed solidarity with Americans demonstrating against Floyd’s death.
In Sydney, a mostly Australian crowd, but also including protesters from the U.S. and elsewhere, marched for around a half-mile under police escort in the authorized, two-hour long demonstration.
Many said they had been inspired by a mixture of sympathy for African Americans amid ongoing violent protests in the U.S., but had turned out to also call for change in Australia’s treatment of its indigenous population, particularly that involving police.
“I can’t breathe‚“ notably were the final words of David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.
“I’m here for my people, and for our fallen brothers and sisters around the world,” said Sydney indigenous woman Amanda Hill, 46, who attended the rally with her daughter and two nieces.
“What’s happening in America shines a light on the situation here. It doesn’t matter if it’s about the treatment of black men and women from here or from another country; enough is enough.”
A total of 432 indigenous Australians have died in police detention since a 1991 Royal Commission — Australia’s highest level of official inquiry — into Aboriginal deaths in custody, according to a running analysis by The Guardian newspaper.
Australia has also never signed a treaty with the country’s indigenous population, who suffer higher-than-average rates of infant mortality and poor health, plus shorter life expectancy and lower levels of education and employment than white Australians.
Ray O’Shannassy, one of the rally’s organisers, said he hoped that, touched off by the situation in the U.S., the upswelling of protest seen in Sydney could, this time, lead to long-term change. A larger rally is planned for Sydney on Saturday.
In France, family and friends of Adama Traore have called for gatherings in the evening in Paris and across the country.
The Traore case has become emblematic of the fight against police brutality in the country. The circumstances of the death of the French 24-year-old man of Malian origin, just after his police arrest in 2016, are still under investigation by French justice authorities.
Paris police formally banned the protest in the French capital as all public gatherings are still not allowed in the country amid the virus crisis.
The lawyer for two of the three police officers involved in the French man’s arrest, Rodolphe Bosselut, said the Floyd and Traore cases “have strictly nothing to do with each other” because the circumstances are different.
Bosselut told the AP the death of Adama Traore is not linked with the conditions of his arrest but due to various other factors, including a pre-existing medical condition.
Traore’s family said he died from asphyxiation because of police tactics.
In a video message posted on social media, Traore’s sister, Assa Traore, said her brother and Floyd “had the same words, their last words: I can’t breathe,” she said.
In Europe on Monday, thousands spilled across streets in Amsterdam to denounce police brutality while around 1,000 people gathered in Barcelona at the gates of the U.S. Consulate for a peaceful protest.
Germany’s foreign minister said Tuesday that peaceful protests in the U.S. following Floyd’s death are “understandable and more than legitimate,” Heiko Maas said “I can only express my hope that the peaceful protests do not continue to lead to violence, but even more express the hope that these protests have an effect in the United States.”
Meanwhile, more African leaders are speaking up over the killing of Floyd.
“It cannot be right that, in the 21st century, the United States, this great bastion of democracy, continues to grapple with the problem of systemic racism,” Ghana’s president, Nana Akufo-Addo, said in a statement, adding that black people the world over are shocked and distraught.
Kenyan opposition leader and former Prime Pinister Raila Odinga offered a prayer for the U.S., “that there be justice and freedom for all human beings who call America their country.”
Like some in Africa who have spoken out, Odinga also noted troubles at home, saying the judging of people by character instead of skin colour “is a dream we in Africa, too, owe our citizens.”
And South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, recalled leading a small protest outside the U.S. Embassy several years ago over the apparent systemic killings of blacks. Mboweni said the U.S. ambassador at the time, Patrick Gaspard, “invited me to his office and said: ‘What you see is nothing, it is much worse.’”
Rick Rycroft reported from Sydney. Associated Press writers Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, Aritz Parra in Madrid, Spain, Franck Jordans in Berlin, Germany and Sylvie Corbet in Paris contributed to this report.