Activists braved bad weather to fill Parliament Square in the British capital during the day, but more heated scenes unfolded in the evening when a small number of protesters clashed with police outside Downing Street, the official residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
In one incident, video posted online showed a police horse suddenly bolting, causing its officer to crash into a street light and fall to the ground. The loose horse then caused panic as it ran through groups of protesters, before making its way back to police stables.
The officer is receiving hospital treatment but her injuries are not life-threatening, London’s Metropolitan Police said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, sizable crowds defied calls from the government and police that people should stay home to limit the spread of Covid-19.
They joined together to chant Floyd’s name and “Black Lives Matter,” at one point all taking a knee in unison outside Parliament.
“I feel that what happened in the US was just a spark, that sparked everywhere … I do think George Floyd’s death sparked it across the world and I think it’s amazing,” one protester told CNN. “It’s a worldwide issue, no matter where you are. It’s an issue everywhere, we all need to rise up,” another added.
The rally follows similar demonstrations in the city in recent days. Last weekend protesters flocked to Trafalgar Square, and on Wednesday actor John Boyega gave an impassioned speech at an event in Hyde Park.
And it comes despite warnings from politicians that mass gatherings should not take place while the country is in lockdown. “I completely understand people’s desire to express their views and to have that right to protest, but the fact of the matter is, we are in a health pandemic across the United Kingdom,” UK Home Secretary Priti Patel said Saturday during an interview with Sky News.
“I would say to those that want to protest, please don’t,” she added.
While little social distancing has been observed at the demonstration, people were seen handing out free masks and gloves to protect protesters from spreading the virus.
Officers were not wearing protective riot equipment during the daytime rally, but as the protests wound down in the evening scenes turned more tense and officers with protective equipment were deployed.
Police said a total of 14 arrests were made and 10 officers received injuries, but noted that the majority of protesters had acted peacefully.
“We understand peoples’ passion to come and let their voice be heard, they protested largely without incident,” Superintendent Jo Edwards, the spokesperson for policing the demonstration, said in a statement.
“Our officers have been professional and very restrained but there was a smaller group intent on violence towards police officers.”
An investigation is being carried out regarding the horse incident, the statement added. Videos appeared to show that the horse suddenly bolted from a police line.
“To the thousands of Londoners who protested peacefully today: I stand with you — and I share your anger and your pain,” London Mayor Sadiq Khan said on Saturday evening. “To the tiny minority who were violent — you endangered a safe and peaceful protest and let down this important cause.”
Crowds gather in France
In France, similar protests took place on Saturday.
Protesters in Paris carried signs reading “Justice for George Floyd” and “Racism is also a pandemic,” and chanted “being born black is not a crime” as they formed crowds outside the US Embassy.
Several thousand demonstrators gathered on the Champs de Mars in front of the Eiffel Tower.
French authorities had banned such rallies, citing health measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. The US Embassy was barricaded Saturday morning to prevent public access.
But demonstrators still gathered Saturday in Paris and in other cities, including Lille, Marseille, and Nice. French TV stations showed police firing tear gas and clashing with protesters in Lille.
On Tuesday, a demonstration banned by the police prefect brought together at least 20,000 people in Paris in support of the family of Adama Traoré, black man who died in 2016 under Paris police custody.