PRETORIA/JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – Demonstrators gathered outside U.S. missions in South African cities on Monday to condemn the killing of George Floyd, the black man whose death in police custody has set off a wave of protests worldwide and ignited a debate about race and justice.
Protesters led by opposition party the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) carried placards saying “Black Lives Matter” and “Black people are not slaves” outside the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria and consulates in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The leader of the ultra-left EFF, Julius Malema, told a crowd of several hundred protesters outside the embassy that it was important for South Africans to stand in solidarity with African Americans.
“We left our homes to come here and say enough is enough,” Malema said. African Americans had supported the anti-apartheid movement and “when they are going through such a difficult period it’s important that we too pay solidarity”, he added.
South Africa remains deeply scarred by its apartheid and colonial past, with attempts at racial reconciliation frequently marred by incidents of racism.
Twenty-six years after the end of white minority rule, white people still control much of the economy despite accounting for just 8% of the population.
EFF protesters also knelt at a busy intersection in Johannesburg’s financial district for 9 minutes, about the amount of time a white police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck before he died in Minneapolis on May 25. Some of them wore T-shirts with the words “I can’t breathe”.
Videos on social media showed EFF protesters in Cape Town singing “What did we do? Our sin is being black” in the isiZulu language.
Reporting by Shafiek Tassiem in Pretoria, Alexander Winning and Promit Mukherjee in Johannesburg; Writing by Tanisha Heiberg; Editing by Alison Williams