Black Lives Matter: 2020's summer of unrest and the fight for justice

The protests rocked the UK over summer Credit: PA

While Covid-19 has put many things on hold this year the march for progress can never be stopped, and neither can the controversies that so often accompany it.

On May 25 2020, 46-year old George Floyd died after being restrained by police in Minneapolis, who held him down and pressed a knee to his neck.

In footage posted online, Mr Floyd, a black man, could be heard telling the officers that he could not breathe and calling out for his mother for eight minutes.

The incident sparked global outrage and led to both violent and non-violent protests across the world which was dominated by Black Lives Matter (BLM) groups.

Protests erupted across various states in the US

Following Mr Floyd's death, protests began in Minneapolis and spread to cities across America.

The demonstrations have morphed into wider anger over police killings of black men.

In Washington DC, two protesters told ITV News they were demonstrating about "racism, hypocrisy, dividedness" and "racial inequality" in the US.

Governors in several US states called in National Guard troops as protests intensified in early May.

Many protests were peaceful, but violence erupted at others, leading to the mayors of many US cities bringing in curfews.

In Washington, President Donald Trump sent tweets ridiculing protesters outside the White House who were among thousands nationwide incited by the death of Mr Floyd.

The demonstrations became a national phenomenon, with protesters decrying years of deaths at police hands.

The rise of US far-right group Proud Boys - which Donald Trump did not condemn

Donald Trump refused to condemn the actions of far-right group Proud Boys during the first Presidential Debate with Joe Biden.

The incumbent President was offered the chance to criticise the neo-fascists but instead said “stand back and stand by”.

The group has only been around for four years and has come to represent parts of the far-right in the US.

When specifically asked if Mr Trump would condemn white supremacists and militia groups, he was quick to shift the focus onto anti-fascist campaign group Antifa.

The president responded, finally: “Proud Boys - stand back, stand by, but I’ll tell you what, somebody’s got to do something about Antifa and the left because this is not right-wing problem... this is a left wing problem.”

“I would say almost everything I see is from the left wing, not the right wing,” he added. “I’m willing to do anything. I want to see peace.”

Mr Trump once infamously said there were good people “on both sides” after a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which saw one counter-protester killed.

His lack of response to many US far-right groups and lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement spurred the first black mayor of Montgomery to accuse Trump of being a "gas-lighter".

Mayor Steven Reed, a democrat, said he did not believe the president would would be the one to bring about change.

Speaking to ITV News he said: "Parts of these seeds have been planted under his [Trump's] administration because of the rhetoric and because of the actions that he has shown".

He said he had watched the footage of Mr Floyd's arrest twice.

"Once was the first time I saw it and the second time was to show my sons.

"I wanted to show them that heinous act because I didn't think there was any other way for me to get the point across."

Over the next few months, millions of people gathered in cities across the world to march in support of the BLM movement.

George Floyd's death sparked a global movement of protest and desire for change. Credit: AP

The UK was shaken by the movement, and despite the pandemic raging across the country protests broke out everywhere.

Major demonstrations took place in London in the first few weeks of June amid concerns about social distancing at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thousands of people marched through the capital, stopping to “take the knee”, a gesture of solidarity created by American football player Colin Kapernick in 2016 to oppose racial inequality.

Thousands of people gathered for the protests in London

Star Wars actor John Boyega told a crowd in Hyde Park that those gathered were “a physical representation of our support for George Floyd”.

“You are important, your individual power, your individual right is very, very important, we can all join together to make this a better world,” he said, urging demonstrators to remain peaceful.

Other celebrities who joined marches across the country included rapper Stormzy, footballer Rio Ferdinand, boxer Anthony Joshua and former Love Island contestant Amber Gill.

People young and old took part in protests. Credit: PA

Demonstrations also took place in other UK cities including Glasgow, Belfast, Manchester, Cardiff, Birmingham and Bristol.

While the demonstrations were largely peaceful, small scuffles with the police broke out at several protests and many were criticised for not following social distancing rules.

Patrick Vernon, author and social commentator, believes that the BLM movement was helped in some ways by the coronavirus crisis.

“The world stood still,” he said.

The image of George Floyd became a rallying cry for many Credit: PA

“Because the world stood still, that was a time when people could reflect in Britain about issues of discrimination in Britain.

“We have never made an effort to pursue time for reflection about our historical past.”

Several historical monuments were vandalised by demonstrators during the protests.

Black Lives Matter supporter 'didn't think twice' about saving suspected far-right protester

Patrick Hutchinson, the black man pictured carrying a white man to safety as far-right protesters caused chaos in central London, told ITV News he acted purely on instinct and because "we're all one human race".

As one suspected far-right protester was attacked by a small group of protesters supporting Black Lives Matter on Saturday, Mr Hutchinson stepped in with four friends to protect him.

"At the time I can’t remember thinking anything,” Mr Hutchinson, who said his friends were already around the man, protecting him from protesters, told ITV News.

Mr Hutchinson said: "It was absolute mayhem around this man, you couldn’t even see where he was.

"If you’re not there to stop it happening then you’re almost party to it just by being there and watching it."

He added: "The George Floyd incident that happened in America, if those three other officers had done what we did and stopped the man that murdered him, things would be very different.

"So we weren’t going to be party to it. I didn’t even think twice about doing it, it was just an instinct, I didn’t see colour I just saw a human being on the floor possibly coming to his end."

The toppling of the Colston statue was cheered by many

A demonstration in Bristol culminated in the toppling of a bronze memorial to 17th century slave merchant Edward Colston on June 7 – which protesters then dumped in Bristol Harbour.

The toppling of the statue reignited a debate across the country about the legacy some of Britain's most famous and influential citizens.

The home secretary Priti Patel said at the time: "I think that is utterly disgraceful. That speaks to the acts of public disorder that actually have become a distraction from the cause people are actually protesting about.

"It is a completely unacceptable act. Sheer vandalism and disorder are completely unacceptable.

Statues in central London – including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi – were boarded up to prevent them being targeted.

The statue defacing of the Churchill statue sparked outrage from across the country.

While the legacy of the former prime minister has been brought into question in recent years, many people in the UK still regard him as one of the greatest Britons to ever live.

After the statue was vandalised the local government had to board it up to protect it from other protests. Credit: PA

The image of the spray-painted words 'Churchill was a racist' led to condemnation from many in government and the public.

In the following weeks, counter-protests were staged in the capital by hundreds of self-proclaimed “statue defenders,” many of whom travelled from other cities by bus to attend.

More than 100 arrests were made in a single day after violent clashes between “defenders” and police, which was condemned by Boris Johnson as “racist thuggery”.

The counter protests often became violent Credit: PA

Media attention was drawn to the actions of Patrick Hutchinson, a BLM activist, who was pictured carrying an injured white man to safety.

Mr Vernon says the events of the summer have brought the conversation surrounding UK race inequality more into the public consciousness.

“As part of any reflection process you’re going to have people automatically be defensive. The question is then how do you have that conversation,” he said.

“We’ve been trying to have these conversations for a long time but this is the first time that the nation got involved.

Violence on the streets of London by far-right groups shocked the nation

“We have been carrying this burden of discrimination for a long time and Black Lives Matter gave people permission to articulate their frustrations and anger and experiences over many years and decades.”

Mr Vernon added that “ongoing national conversation” on race was needed about both the past and the future of the UK.

“Time will tell how open organisations and leaders are, not just in acknowledging current and historical discrimination, but how they are going to change their practices and create a culture of inclusion that respects and values black people and other communities,” he said.

Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

“Black history is not reflected in the curriculum or the national media discourse or popular culture.

“I think we have to be realistic, we can’t remove every single statue in Britain.

“But it’s not about knocking down statues, it’s about adding new statues and ways of celebrating multi-culture Britain.”

Thousands stage rally in countries across the globe against police brutality

Thousands of people gathered in countries across the globe in June to denounce police brutality and racial discrimination.

The march in Paris was one of the biggest of several Black Lives Matter demonstrations held across the globe.

The march in the French capital was led by supporters of Adama Traoré, a 24-year-old French black man who died in 2016.

Credit: AP/Family handout

Mr Traore did not have his identity card on him and reportedly ran as the police approached.

A huge portrait showed at the protests - half of Mr Traoré's face and half of Mr Floyd.

Mr Traoré's sister Assa told the crowd: "We are all demanding the same thing – fair justice for everyone."

She said her brother was also handcuffed and held down by police before he died, much like Mr Floyd had been in Minneapolis.