BLM protests London June 2020
© Reuters / Henry Nicholls
Demonstrators wearing protective masks during a Black Lives Matter protest in Parliament Square, London, June 6, 2020
Thousands have descended on central London to protest the death of George Floyd. Defying the government's lockdown rules, the demonstrators marched on Parliament Square.

Nearly two weeks after Floyd died under the boot of police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, protests against police brutality have spread across the world. Far away from the riots and arson engulfing the US, crowds of demonstrators packed the rainy streets of London on Saturday to show solidarity with the 'Black Lives Matter' movement in the US.

In Parliament, "easily tens of thousands" of people showed up, according to one socialist activist. Carrying signs reading "I can't breathe" - a reference to Floyd's final words - they banged drums and chanted 'Black Lives Matter'. At one point, the crowd took a knee for a minute's silence in Floyd's memory.

"It's important, having a black child myself, that he knows that he can actually grow up and be safe in the society we live in," one protester and mother told RT. "We're not as bad as America," she added, "but we're not innocent."

Similar gatherings took place across the city, and in cities throughout the UK. Crowds assembled in Manchester, Leicester, Sheffield, and Bristol, among other locations.

However, the British government has cautioned that such gatherings could trigger a spike in coronavirus cases, which are still being reported at a rate of more than 1,500 per day. Before the protest, Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned would-be demonstrators to stay at home to "protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease." London's Metropolitan Police, meanwhile, have reminded the public that large gatherings are currently "unlawful."

"What's the point in saving a whole lot of people from coronavirus if certain minorities are just going to be shot by police?" one protester argued. His sentiment was echoed by others, with one woman telling RT that protesting police brutality is "more important" than following lockdown advice.

Online, legions of commenters disagreed. As the Metropolitan Police's Twitter account live-tweeted Saturday's gathering, angry commenters demanded that the force "do some actual policing" and "enforce social distancing." To date, Covid-19 has claimed more than 40,000 lives in the UK this year, while police officers shot two people dead. One was a suspected terrorist while another threatened police with knives.

Three days earlier, an anti-racism protest outside Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Downing Street offices descended into chaos when demonstrators mounted a police barrier and brawled with officers. Those officers who gave in to the crowd's demands and took a knee looked on as protesters climbed a World War I memorial and daubed graffiti on nearby buildings.

The demonstration will not be the last organized by Black Lives Matter activists in the UK. Sunday will see a protest outside the US Embassy in London, with organizers calling for "justice for the multiple black people who have been killed and harmed by the police."