Nations around the world have watched in horror at the five days of civil unrest in the United States following the death of 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 American riot police 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.
In the German capital of Berlin, hundreds of protesters picketed outside the U.S. Embassy on Saturday evening under the motto: “Justice for George Floyd.”
Thousands gathered in central London on Sunday to offer support for American demonstrators. Chanting “No justice! No peace!'' and waving placards at Trafalgar Square, the protesters ignored U.K. government rules banning crowds because of the pandemic.
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.
Hu Xijin, the editor of the state-owned Global Times newspaper, tweeted that U.S. officials can now see protests out their own windows: “I want to ask Speaker Pelosi and Secretary Pompeo: Should Beijing support protests in the U.S., like you glorified rioters in Hong Kong?”
Hua Chunying, a Chinese Foreign ministry spokesperson, pointed out America's racial unrest by tweeting “I can't breathe,” which Floyd said before his death.
In Iran, which has violently put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds, arresting thousands and disrupting internet access to the outside world, state television has repeatedly aired images of the U.S. unrest. One TV anchor discussed “a horrible scene from New York, where police attacked protesters.” Another state TV message accused U.S. police agencies in Washington of “setting fire to cars and attacking protesters,” without offering any evidence.
Russia also expressed a lack of shock.
“This incident is far from the first in a series of lawless conduct and unjustified violence from U.S. law enforcement,’’ the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “American police commit such high-profile crimes all too often.’’
There also have been expressions of solidarity with the demonstrators.
Over the weekend, Lebanese anti-government protesters flooded social media with tweets sympathetic to U.S. protesters, using the hashtag #Americarevolts. That's a play on the slogan for Lebanon’s protest movement — Lebanon revolts — which erupted on Oct. 17 last year. Within 24 hours, the hashtag #Americanrevolts became the No. 1 trending tag in Lebanon.
In another expression of solidarity with American protesters, about 150 people marched through central Jerusalem on Saturday to protest the shooting death by Israeli police of an unarmed, autistic Palestinian man earlier in the day. Israeli police mistakenly suspected that the man, Iyad Halak, was carrying a weapon. When he failed to obey orders to stop, officers opened fire.