International reaction to George Floyd killing

Some critics use US unrest to highlight what they see as American hypocrisy on protest movements at home vs abroad.

Demonstrators from Australia to Europe identified with the cause of US protests and urged their own governments to address racism and police violence.

Opponents of the United States’s foreign policy under President Donald Trump, meanwhile, took the opportunity to pour scorn on the violence that has engulfed the country after the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed Black man, by police officers in the city of Minneapolis last week.  

Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His killing set off protests that spread rapidly across the US.

Thousands of protesters marched through downtown Sydney, Australia, on Tuesday, voicing their solidarity with Americans demonstrating against Floyd’s killing.

Protesters in Australia’s largest city chanted, “I can’t breathe” – some of the final words of both Floyd and David Dungay, a 26-year-old Aboriginal man who died in a Sydney prison in 2015 while being restrained by five guards.

Demonstrators carried placards reading, “Black Lives Matter”, “Aboriginal Lives Matter”, and “White Silence is Violence.”

Linda Burney, an opposition spokeswoman on Indigenous Australians, said more than 430 Indigenous people had died in Australian police custody since 1991.

While Indigenous adults make up only 2 percent of the Australian population, they account for 27 percent of the prison population.

“I think we should be using it as an opportunity,” Burney told Australian Broadcasting Corp, referring to Floyd’s death. “Whether we like it or not, it doesn’t take much for racism to come out of the underbelly of this country.”

American hypocrisy

Some have seen the US unrest as a chance to highlight what they see as American hypocrisy on protest movements at home versus abroad. 

China’s foreign ministry spokesperson called out US racism as “a chronic disease of American society”. China’s comments come at a time when relations with the US are particularly strained.

Chinese state media is giving extensive coverage to the violent protests roiling American cities, while the unrest has also featured widely in Chinese social media.

On social media platform Weibo, at least five news items on the protests were among the top 20 trending topics by midday, led by reports Trump had been temporarily taken to a bunker as protesters surrounded the White House.

On Twitter, the protests also featured widely among the top 20 trending items, with the hashtag #BunkerBoy at a prominent second place.

In Europe, thousands spilled across streets in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, to denounce police brutality, and those demonstrating in Paris urged the French government to take police violence more seriously and held up signs including “Racism is suffocating us”.

The EU’s diplomatic chief Josep Borrell condemned the “abuse of power”, saying Europe is “shocked and appalled” by the police killing of Floyd. He urged US authorities to rein in the “excessive use of force” as Trump ordered the military to intervene.

Germany announced its support for the demonstrations.

“The peaceful protests that we see in the US … are understandable and more than legitimate. I hope that these peaceful protests won’t slide further into violence, but even more than that I hope that they will make a difference in the United States,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told reporters.

‘Let them breathe’

Iran’s foreign ministry called on the US to “stop violence” against its own people.

“To the American people: the world has heard your outcry over the state of oppression. The world is standing with you,” foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi said at a news conference in Tehran.

“And to the American officials and police: Stop violence against your people and let them breathe,” he told reporters in English.

Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, meanwhile, questioned foreign criticism of China, including from the US, over an imminent national security law being imposed in the Chinese territory.

“They take their own country’s national security very seriously, but for the security of our country, especially the situation in Hong Kong, they are looking at it through tinted glasses,” she said.

‘Unhelpful adversity’

Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo said Black people across the world are “shocked and distraught” by Floyd’s killing.

“Black people, the world over, are shocked and distraught by the killing of an unarmed Black man, George Floyd, by a white police officer in the United States of America,” Akufo-Addo said in a statement.

“We stand with our kith and kin in America in these difficult and trying times.”

Kenyan opposition leader and former prime minister Raila Odinga offered a prayer for the US “that there be justice and freedom for all human beings who call America their country”.

Like some in Africa who have spoken out, Odinga also noted troubles at home, saying the judging of people by character instead of skin colour “is a dream we in Africa, too, owe our citizens”.

And South Africa’s finance minister, Tito Mboweni, recalled leading a small protest outside the US Embassy several years ago over the apparent systemic killings of Blacks. Mboweni said the US ambassador at the time, Patrick Gaspard, “invited me to his office and said: ‘What you see is nothing, it is much worse’.”

Zimbabwe summoned the ambassador of the United States to the country over remarks by a senior US official accusing it of stirring anti-racism protests following Floyd’s death. 

In an interview with ABC News, US national security adviser Robert O’Brien referred to Zimbabwe and China as “foreign adversaries” using social media to stoke unrest and “sow discord” after the killing.

Zimbabwe’s foreign ministry spokesman James Manzou said US Ambassador Brian Nichols was called in to explain O’Brien’s remarks. Government spokesman Nick Mangwana said Zimbabwe did not consider itself “America’s adversary”.  

“We prefer having friends and allies to having unhelpful adversity with any other nation including the USA,” Mangwana said.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies