Protests in Australia, Japan embrace ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement
Thousands took to the streets in Australia on Saturday, and hundreds did in Japan, to support protests across the United States against police brutality, while demonstrations were expected in South Korea with a virtual rally in Thailand.
The rolling, global protests reflect rising anger over police treatment of ethnic minorities, sparked by the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis after a police officer detaining him knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes as fellow officers stood by.
Demonstrations, however, were limited by social-distancing curbs aiming at stopping the novel coronavirus pandemic.
In the United States on Friday, prominent Democratic politicians adopted the slogans of the protests and announced reforms, as tensions remained high in major cities after days of largely peaceful protests that saw sporadic violence.
In Brisbane, police estimated 10,000 people joined a peaceful protest, wearing masks and holding “Black Lives Matter” placards. Many wrapped themselves in indigenous flags, calling for an end to police mistreatment of indigenous Australians.
In Sydney, a last-minute court decision overruled a coronavirus ban as several thousand people marched, amid a heavy police presence, chanting: “Whose lives matter? Black Lives matter.”
Rallies were also held in Melbourne, Adelaide and other Australian cities.
In Tokyo, marchers protested against what they said was police treatment of a Kurdish man who says he was stopped while driving and shoved to the ground, leaving him with bruises.
Organisers invoked the U.S. protests, saying they were also marching in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I want to show that there’s racism in Japan now,” said 17-year-old high school student Wakaba, who declined to give her family name.
She and her friend, Moe, marching in their school uniforms, held a sign saying: “If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention”.
“No justice, no peace, no racist police,” the crowd chanted.
South Korean activists were planning to march in downtown Seoul later on Saturday, with organisers expecting several hundred people. Coronavirus curbs thwarted plans to gather in front of the U.S. Embassy, they said.
With pandemic restrictions in Bangkok, activists were going online, asking for video and photos of people wearing black, raising their fists and holding signs, and explaining why they “stand united behind Black Lives Matter”.
The Thai protesters plan to gather on the video-meeting platform Zoom on Sunday and observe 8 minutes 46 seconds of silence – the period that George Floyd was filmed pinned under the officer’s knee.