Belfast protests in wake of George Floyd’s death in US

'Raise the degree' calls for more serious charges against police involved in the death of George Floyd in the US. Credit: Presseye

Rallies have been held in Belfast, echoing the sentiments of those protesting in cities around the world in the wake of the death of a black man restrained by police in the US.

George Floyd died when a white officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck last Monday in Minneapolis.

George Floyd, 46, was known to loved ones as Big Floyd and was the father of a six-year-old daughter. Credit: Family photo

In a video shared widely online, Floyd is heard repeatedly saying: “Please, please, please, I can’t breathe. Please, man.”

Minutes pass, and Floyd becomes motionless - the officer leans his knee on his neck for several minutes more.

Video footage has circulated widely online of George Floyd telling officers he can't breathe. Credit: Eyewitness

The officer, 44-year-old Derek Chauvin has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.

He and three other officers have been fired, but many want Chauvin to face more serious charges and for more action to be taken against the other officers involved.

Demonstrations in the US have at times descended into chaos, turning to violence, rioting, with cities burning while curfews had to be imposed.

Violence has flared in the US during protests over George Floyd's killing. Credit: AP

At one point, President Donald Trump was rushed to a White House bunker by Secret Service agents as hundreds of protestors gathered outside.

The president and his family are said to have been shaken by the size and venom of the crowds.

In Belfast, dozens of people gathered in Writers’ Square for a vigil on Sunday night.

Then on Monday, plans had been in place for a rally at Belfast City Hall – while it was officially cancelled by organisers due to concerns that not enough non-white voices were to the fore, around 100 people still gathered.

Protesters adhere to social distancing outside Belfast City Hall. Credit: Presseye

Organisers had previously asked that the event be peaceful, with participants to silently stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

They had also asked those attending to adhere to social distancing and wear masks, given the Covid-19 situation.

Anesu Mtowa is a sixth form student and activist

I think rallies and protests are important because it shows that around the world, we will not tolerate black people being murdered. I hope that it opens people's eyes to how brutally systemic racism is and how this is not new. Black people have been dealing with this for centuries

Anesu Mtowa, sixth form student
People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll praised the protest Credit: Pacemaker

People in Belfast and across Ireland are horrified by the brutal slaughter of George Floyd caught on camera for the world to see in Minneapolis. They are fed up that on such a regular occasion members of the Black Community can be shot down in cold blood often without any punishment occurring. I send my solidarity to everyone across the world who is angry about this situation and all those who are fighting against racism.

Gerry Carroll MLA, Profile Before Profit
A placard is held aloft outside Belfast City Hall. Credit: Presseye

In protests around the world, many people have repeated chants of “I can’t breathe” – a harrowing reminder of what happened to George Floyd.

Others have written the words on their masks or on placards.

Tara Grace Connolly felt it was important to attend to event Credit: Presseye

As a white person, I am inherently privileged, and won't ever have to face the brutality people of colour face. If all I can do is stand at a protest, donate money or sign a petition to support POC then I'll do it if it means highlighting that POC's lives matter and are worthy of respect I don't even think of myself as some privileged, but just by virtue of being white I am more safe and my life is more respected than people of colour.

Tara Grace Connolly, QUB Student

A further protest is planned for Wednesday 3 June.