Black Lives Matter, Italy, Austria, Finland

This June 2017 rap music video from Italy is called Karima 2G – POLICE.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Wave of protest in European cities: ‘Killing of George Floyd an important moment for awareness’

In more and more European cities, people demonstrate against racist violence and discrimination. The death of black arrestee George Floyd and the ongoing wave of demonstrations against it in the United States are causing many people to take to the streets.

Racism has already been massively demonstrated against in France, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands in the past. Now this also happens in countries where anger about racial discrimination has never or rarely caused large numbers of people to protest.

“The situation in Italy is sometimes similar to that in America,” said Anna Maria Gehnyei. “Here too many black people are killed. But no one talks about it. And the violence comes not only from the police but from everywhere.”

Better known as the rapper Karima 2G, Gehnyei hosted the stage of a major anti-racism demonstration in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo on Sunday.

Thousands of people showed up, “far more Italians than ever before have made a stand together against racism,” said Gehnyei. During the demonstration, the crowd held an eight-minute silence, about as long as Minneapolis policemen held George Floyd on the ground.

This Bloomberg news agency video says about itself:

Several hundred people protested peacefully in Rome’s Piazza del Popolo to denounce the killing of George Floyd and show solidarity with anti-racism protests in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In English and Italian, protesters chanted “I can’t breathe!” and kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time George Floyd was pinned under a white police officer’s knee before he died.

The NOS article continues:

If you’re black, then you can’t avoid racism in Italy, Gehnyei says. “My father is from Liberia. In the 1990s, he worked for an embassy. He was regularly stopped by police officers. They assumed he stole the embassy car.”

According to Gehnyei, many male migrants are victims of violence. And many black women are mistaken for prostitutes on the street. “It’s actually a constant stream of verbal and physical abuse, and no one is protecting you,” said Gehnyei. “You are not safe anywhere.”

When asked whether Italy also has a certain fatal incident of great symbolic value, such as Floyd’s, Gehnyei says no. “Not one. We have a long list. Many migrants are killed by [neo-fascist] extremists.” But she acknowledges that the death of American George Floyd is an important moment of awareness, including in Italy.

This 4 June 2020 video is called Austria: Thousands flood Vienna streets in “Black Lives Matter” protest

“It was so beautiful to see Muslims, Jews, asylum seekers, Roma, white and black mobilize,” said Austrian MP Faika el-Nagashi about the demonstration last Thursday in Vienna. It was the largest demonstration in that country in decades, several Austrian media report.

El-Nagashi, the spokesman for diversity and integration of government coalition party The Greens, is enthusiastic about the massive turnout of an estimated 50,000 demonstrators. But she didn’t want to be directly involved in organizing it. “I stayed in the background because I wanted to keep politics out of it.”

“Eruption of unity”

The demonstration took place in a central square with a memorial to commemorate Marcus Omofuma, a Nigerian asylum seeker who died in 1999 during his deportation flight from Vienna. He was tied up by Austrian police officers and had duct tape taped to his mouth. On landing it turned out that he had been suffocated. The officers received a light sentence. It has become a symbol of the anti-racist movement in the country.

“A few weeks ago, a right-wing party called for that statue to be removed to make the park greener and more child-friendly,” said El-Nagashi. People would like to erase history under the guise of quality of life. “Omofuma is still a loaded name.”

Since the beginning of this year, her party, The Greens, has been in government. “But for months now, our major coalition partner, the conservative ‘Christian democrats’, has been blocking all of our human rights proposals. For example, to help asylum seekers trapped in Greek camps. And now, after three months of coronavirus lockdown, the time had come to say: enough. It was an outburst of unity, led by the black community.”

This 3r June 2020 video from Helsinki, Finland is called (translated) Left Youth Chair Liban Sheikh and Suldaan Said Ahmed in Black Lives Matter Protest.

“I’m 18 years old and just finished my commercial education. I’m a fashion model and I love to travel.” That’s how Sara Balhas introduces herself. She co-hosted one of the most surprising demonstrations in Helsinki last week.

“I was following what was going on in America, and I told my girlfriend that I felt powerless because I didn’t do anything about it. So the girlfriend sent me a text saying ‘hey, we should protest too.'”

Balhas agreed. “I went to find out how to get a permit. And I made some posters and flyers. We’re just two girls, but we did it. We thought we should do this.”

500 people were expected. It became 3,000. People from all backgrounds. At the start of the demonstration, all attendees knelt, following the example of many anti-racism protests in the US. “Our protest was not directed at the police. We were concerned with racism in general.”

And that is also in Finland, says Balhas. “My mother was a black Moroccan, my father Lebanese. People used to look at my mother disapprovingly when there were not many black people in this country.”

The discrimination against black people is sometimes subtle, says Balhas. “When you walk on the bus, they hold their breath. Or they say things like go back to your own country. They laugh at you at school and if your last name is not Finnish, you won’t get a job. You leave a shop, they’ll check if you’ve stolen something. I go through it all myself.”

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