Anti-racism protesters rally around world, topple statue

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People gather in Barcelona, Spain, Sunday, June 7, 2020, during a demonstration over the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on May 25. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

BERLIN – Thousands of people took to the streets of European cities Sunday to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, with protesters in the English port of Bristol venting their anger at the country's colonial history by toppling a statue of a 17th-century slave trader.

Demonstrators attached ropes to the statue of Edward Colston before pulling it down to cheers and roars of approval from the crowd.

Images on social media show protesters appearing to kneel on the statue's neck, recalling the death of George Floyd in Minnesota on May 25 that has sparked worldwide protests against racism and police violence.

Floyd, a black man, died after a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck even after he pleaded for air while lying handcuffed on the ground. The statue met with a watery end as it was eventually rolled into the city’s harbor.

It wasn't the only statute targeted on Sunday. In Brussels, protesters clambered onto the statue of former King Leopold II and chanted “reparations,” according to video posted on social media. The word “shame” was also graffitied on the monument, reference perhaps to the fact that Leopold is said to have reigned over the mass death of 10 million Congolese.

Protesters also defaced the statue of former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in central London, crossing out his last name and spray painting “was a racist” underneath. They also taped a Black Lives Matter sign around its mid-section.

The day's demonstration in London had begun around the U.S. Embassy, where thousands congregated — most it seemed wearing masks against the coronavirus — to protest Floyd's brutal death and to shine a light on racial inequalities at home.

“Everyone knows that this represents more than just George Floyd, more than just America, but racism all around the world,” said Darcy Bourne, a London-based student.