Stunned silence, angry protests as world watches U.S. unrest

Stunned silence, angry protests as world watches U.S. unrest

U.S. angst over George Floyd’s death in police was once again the a focus of global attention, with 20 seconds of dead air from one world leader perhaps the most striking comment on the unrest engulfing the world’s most powerful nation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took a dramatic, unexpected 20-second moment of silence before carefully answering a reporter’s question on the U.S. protests and President Trump’s handling of the crisis, a string of pained expressions flickering across his face as he tried to formulate a reply.

“We all watch in horror and consternation what’s going on in the United States,” a subdued Mr. Trudeau finally said during his daily news conference, noting Canada has racial problems of its own to confront.

“It is a time to pull people together. … It is a time to listen, to learn what injustices continue despite progress over years and decades,” he added, declining to directly criticize Mr. Trump.

Demonstrations highlighting racial injustice have been seen around the globe as protesters in the Netherlands, U.K., Canada, Brazil, and New Zealand have joined calls for change.

European Union’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said European countries have been “shocked and appalled” by the circumstances surrounding Mr. Floyd’s death.

“All societies must remain vigilant, against the excess of use of force and ensure that all such incidents are addressed safely, effectively and in full respect of the rule of law,” Mr. Borrell told reporters in Brussels.

“We have to be sure, everywhere, especially in societies which are based on the rule of law, democratic representation and respect for freedoms and liberties, that people who are in charge of taking care of the order are not using their capacities in the way that has been used in this very, very unhappy death of George Floyd,” he said. “This is an abuse of power, and this has to be denounced and combated in the States and everywhere.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also offered up support to peaceful protests and said the outcry following Mr. Floyd’s death is “more than legitimate.”

“I can only express my hope that the peaceful protests do not continue to lead to violence,” Mr. Maas continued, “but even more express the hope that these protests have an effect in the United States.”

Like their counterparts in the U.S., a large crowd of French protesters defied a police ban on large gatherings to protest the Floyd killing. Thousands reportedly also marched Tuesday in Australia and Sweden.

A small protest even broke out outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Tel Aviv, despite the fact Israel is one of the most pro-U.S. countries in the world.

The demonstrators, who numbered over 200, held signs reading “Black Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter” and “If you aren’t livid, you’re not listening.” Some carried placards with Mr. Floyd’s name written.

Hong Kong’s pro-China leadership appeared to savor the irony of the U.S. policy struggling to get violent protest under control — following a long string of criticisms from the Trump administration over Hong Kong’s treatment of pro-democracy demonstrators.

“We have recently seen these kind[s] of double standards most clearly with the riots in the United States,” Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam told reporters.

“We can see how local authorities have reacted,” she continued. “But then last year when we had similar riots in Hong Kong, what was their position?”

The Trump administration last year condemned weeks of anti-government protests in Hong Kong that repeatedly turned into violent clashes with police forces. Last week, the State Department announced it intends to end “special treatment” for Hong Kong in direct response to efforts by Beijing to impede on the city’s autonomy.

“Foreign governments have been responding in a high-profile manner, some have threatened certain actions,” Ms. Lam said, “and I can only say that they are adopting double standards.”

• This story is based in part on wire service reports.

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