Thursday, 2nd December 2021
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Pope, protests and football players: World reacts to US demos

Sports stars, politicians and religious leaders have queued up to condemn the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man whose killing has touched off once-in-a-generation protests across the US.

This photo taken and handout on June 3, 2020 by the Vatican Media shows Pope Francis, flanked by Monsignor Leonardo Sapienza (L) and Monsignor Luis Maria Rodrigo Ewart, holding a weekly live streamed private audience from the library of the apostolic palace in The Vatican, during the lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. Pope Francis said on June 3, 2020 “we cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism”, in reaction to the killing of a black man by US police that has sparked nationwide protests. But the pontiff also condemned the violence that followed George Floyd’s death in the city of Minneapolis last week as “self-destructive and self-defeating”. Handout / VATICAN MEDIA / AFP

Sports stars, politicians and religious leaders have queued up to condemn the death of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American man whose killing has touched off once-in-a-generation protests across the US.

Here is a round-up of global reactions to his death and the demonstrations that have convulsed the United States in the past week.

‘Intolerable’ racism
The Pope decried racism over Floyd’s killing — along with “self-destructive and self-defeating” violent protests that followed across the US.

“We cannot tolerate or turn a blind eye to racism”, he said Wednesday of Floyd’s killing.

He was not the only religious leader to speak out. Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei also chimed in — with a more political message.

“It is the true face of America, it’s what it has always done all over the world — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and other countries, and before that in Vietnam.”

Global marches
From Dublin to Wellington, Rotterdam to Paris, thousands gathered for protests this week in solidarity with the US demonstrations.

In the French capital, 20,000 protesters were out on the streets Tuesday, marching against the 2016 death of a black man, Adama Traore, in French police custody — and galvanised by the US demos.

“What is happening in the United States is an echo of what is happening in France,” said Traore’s sister Assa at the marches, where police arrested 18 people

There were more demonstrations across Europe on Wednesday, with protesters throwing Molotov cocktails outside the US Embassy in Athens at a rally in the Greek capital attended by three thousand people.

Several thousand protesters also turned out in Finnish capital Helsinki as well as Stockholm — although Swedish police broke up that rally due to coronavirus restrictions on large gatherings.

Further protests have been called in Portugal’s capital Lisbon on Friday, Poland’s Warsaw on Saturday and several Spanish cities on Sunday.

What started out as a campaign among music industry executive quickly swept across social media, with stars from Rihanna, Drake and Kylie Jenner posting a stark black square to their Instagram feeds on Tuesday with the hashtag #BlackOutTuesday.

The campaign initially called for music industry employees to take a day off work in solidarity with anti-racism protests, but mushroomed across the internet.

Journalists targeted
Reporters have been the target of some protesters — and police — prompting calls to protect journalists trying to do their jobs.

Australian diplomats are investigating after two reporters were assaulted live on air by police who clubbed reporter Amelia Brace with a truncheon and hit cameraman Tim Myers with a riot shield and punched him in the face.

Russia also said one of its journalists had been hurt in the protests, the foreign ministry demanding “urgent measures to prevent journalists from becoming targets of police impunity”.

UN, EU unite in criticism
The UN rights chief slammed “structural racism” in the US and the “unprecedented assault” on journalists covering the protests in fresh comments Wednesday.

“The voices calling for an end to the killings of unarmed African Americans need to be heard. The voices calling for an end to police violence need to be heard. And the voices calling for an end to the endemic and structural racism that blights US society need to be heard,” Michelle Bachelet said.

EU High Representative Josep Borrell said Europe was “shocked and appalled” by Floyd’s death.

“This is an abuse of power and this has to be denounced, has to be combatted, in the States and everywhere,” he added.

And in Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “sickened and appalled” by Floyd’s death.

“My message to President Trump, to everybody in the United States… is that racism, racist violence has no place in our society,” he said.

‘No fear’ from Europe’s footballers
England international Jadon Sancho displayed a T-shirt emblazoned with “Justice for George Floyd” on the weekend. “We shouldn’t fear speaking out for what’s right,” said the footballer.

As similar gestures spread around Europe — many players “taking a knee” during training sessions — officials were forced to open probes because the international rulebook bans players from showing political messages.

But Gianni Infantino, president of world football’s governing body FIFA said: “For the avoidance of doubt, in a FIFA competition the recent demonstrations of players in Bundesliga matches would deserve an applause and not a punishment.”

Other sports stars were also keen to vent, F1 driver Lewis Hamilton telling his fans on social media he was “completely overcome with rage at the sight of such blatant disregard for the lives of our people”.