Nations around the world have watched in horror at the five days of civil unrest in the United States following the death of George Floyd, a Black man being detained by police. But they have not been surprised.
Racism-tinged events no longer startle even America’s closest allies, though many have watched coverage of the often-violent protests with growing unease. Burning cars and riot police in the U.S. featured on newspaper front pages around the globe Sunday — bumping news of the COVID-19 pandemic to second-tier status in some places.
George Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis after a white police officer pressed a knee into his neck. It was the latest in a series of deaths of Black men and women at the hands of police in America.
Thousands gathered in central London on Sunday to offer support for American demonstrators. Chanting “No justice! No peace!” and waving placards with the words “How many more?” at Trafalgar Square, the protesters ignored U.K. government rules banning crowds because of the pandemic. Police didn’t stop them.
Demonstrators then marched to the U.S. Embassy, where a long line of officers surrounded the building. Several hundred milled around in the street and waved placards.
Protesters in Denmark also converged on the U.S. Embassy on Sunday. Participants carried placards with messages such as “Stop Killing Black People.”
The U.S. Embassy in Berlin was the scene of protests on Saturday under the motto: “Justice for George Floyd.” Several hundred more people took to the streets Sunday in the capital’s Kreuzberg area, carrying signs with slogans like “Silence is Violence,” “Hold Cops Accountable,” and “Who Do You Call When Police Murder?” No incidents were reported.
Germany’s top-selling Bild newspaper on Sunday carried the sensational headline “This killer-cop set America ablaze” with an arrow pointing to a photo of now-fired police officer Derek Chauvin, who has been charged with third-degree murder in Floyd’s death, with his knee on Floyd’s neck. The newspaper’s story reported “scenes like out of a civil war.”
In Italy, the Corriere della Sera newspaper’s senior U.S. correspondent Massimo Gaggi wrote that the reaction to Floyd’s killing was “different” than previous cases of Black Americans killed by police and the ensuring violence.
“There are exasperated Black movements that no longer preach nonviolent resistance,” Gaggi wrote, noting the Minnesota governor’s warning that “anarchist and white supremacy groups are trying to fuel the chaos.”
In countries with authoritarian governments, state-controlled media have been highlighting the chaos and violence of the U.S. demonstrations, in part to undermine American officials’ criticism of their own nations.
In China, the protests are being viewed through the prism of U.S. government criticism of China’s crackdown on anti-government protests in Hong Kong.