CANBERRA – Demonstrators from Australia to Europe identified with the cause of U.S. protests and urged their own governments to address racism and police violence.
An indigenous Australian lawmaker called on governments to use George Floyd’s death as an opportunity to reduce deaths of indigenous people in custody.
Floyd died last week after he was pinned to the pavement by a police officer who put his knee on the handcuffed black man’s neck until he stopped breathing. His death in Minneapolis set off protests that spread across America.
Linda Burney, the opposition spokeswoman on indigenous Australians, said on Tuesday more than 430 indigenous people had died in Australian police custody since 1991.
“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.”
“It seems to me that there are lots of things that state and territory governments could do, and the federal government could do to lower the number of Aboriginal people in custody,” she added.
While indigenous adults make up only 2% of the Australian population, they account for 27% of the prison population.
Opposition leader Anthony Albanese backed Burney’s call. “There are far too many indigenous Australians who are incarcerated today. As a percentage of the population, this is a tragedy and it’s one that must be addressed as an absolute national priority,” Albanese told reporters.
European protesters carried similar messages. Thousands spilled across streets in Amsterdam to denounce police brutality, and those demonstrating in Paris urged the French government to take police violence more seriously and held up signs like “Racism is suffocating us.”
In Australia’s west coast city of Perth, hundreds of demonstrators who peacefully protested Floyd’s death sought to highlight injustices against indigenous Australians. Protesters carried banners with messages including “No Pride in Genocide” and tears appeared as the names of indigenous people who have died in Australian police custody were read to the crowd.
Some government leaders have seen the U.S. unrest as a chance to highlight what they see as American hypocrisy on protest movements at home versus abroad.
Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam She questioned the foreign criticism over an imminent national security law being imposed in the 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.
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