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The world reacts as American cities erupt in anger over George Floyd's death

Cities across the globe rallied with U.S.
Cities across the globe rallied with U.S. 01:49

As anger erupts in American cities over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, the international reaction has ranged from moral grandstanding by U.S. adversaries, to rallies in solidarity with black communities on the streets of London and Berlin.

Below is a look at the reactions in other nations, from street level to the highest offices of government.

United Kingdom

The British government said Monday that people must be allowed to hold peaceful protests and reporters should be free to carry out their work after a small number of journalists were detained while covering the U.S. protests.

"The violence we have seen in the U.S. over recent days is clearly very alarming," Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman said Monday. "People must be allowed to protest peacefully. As the Foreign Secretary said yesterday, the footage of George Floyd's death is deeply distressing and our thoughts are with all those who have been affected."

The spokesman called the arrest and reported injuring of some journalists by police "very concerning." A BBC News crew tweeted video earlier in the day of their camera operator being charged by an officer in riot gear in Washington D.C.

"Journalists all around the world must be free to do their job and to hold authority to account without fear of arrest or violence," said spokesman James Slack.

World Reacts To George Floyd Death
Police officers block a road close to the Embassy of the United States of America as people join in a spontaneous Black Lives Matter march through central London to protest the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis and in support of the demonstrations in North America on May 31, 2020 in London, England. Hollie Adams/Getty

As CBS News' Haley Ott reported, thousands of people marched through London on Sunday to support the demonstrations in the U.S. sparked by Floyd's death. Starting at Trafalgar Square and moving through the city to the U.S. Embassy, British demonstrators chanted slogans including "I can't breathe," and "Black Lives Matter."

"This is our respect to people in America who are suffering right now," Paige Adjarhore, 18, told CBS News. "We're too far away to go there and help them, but this is us showing that we support them. We're with you and we feel your pain," she said.

Floyd's death prompts protest in London 01:06

The demonstration was in violation of U.K. lockdown rules to stop the spread of the coronavirus, which forbid large gatherings. The police did not disperse the crowds, but said at least five demonstrators were arrested: Three for violating coronavirus lockdown rules and two for assaulting officers.

Further protests are planned over the coming week in London. 

China

Chinese state media has weighed in on the protests in the U.S., comparing them to last year's violent anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong that Beijing accuses the U.S. and other foreign forces as encouraging.

A commentary on state broadcaster CCTV Saturday described the violence between police and protesters in the U.S. as a "cup of bitter wine distilled by the U.S. politicians themselves." Racism, the commentary said, is the "darkest shadow on American history and the scar that will not heal."
 
Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said Monday that the protests in various American cities "once again reflect the racial discrimination in the U.S., the serious problems of police violent enforcement and the urgency of solving these problems." China hopes the U.S. will "safeguard and guarantee the legal rights of ethnic minorities."

China approves Hong Kong security bill 07:07

The protests are an opportunity for China to allege double-standards and counter criticism from foreign governments and the Western media over its handling of the Hong Kong protests, its treatment of Muslim minorities in the northwestern region of Xinjiang and other human rights issues.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying referenced Floyd's death on Twitter, replying to a criticism from U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus over Hong Kong with just the three words: "I can't breathe."

CBS New correspondent Ramy Inocencio said the pointed jab was clearly meant to imply that Washington should focus on the mass protests in the U.S. before criticizing China for what it's doing in Hong Kong.

New Zealand

Several thousand people marched Monday in New Zealand's largest city, Auckland, to protest George Floyd's death and show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
 
The protesters marched from Aotea Square to the U.S. consulate, where they kneeled. They held banners with slogans such as "I can't breathe" and "The Real Virus is Racism." Hundreds more joined protests and vigils elsewhere in the country, on a day that was a public holiday.

Auckland Black Lives Matter Rally Held In Solidarity With U.S. Marches
Protesters march down Queen Street in Auckland, New Zealand, June 1, 2020, in a rally organized in solidarity with protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. Hannah Peters/Getty

The protests were peaceful. Protesters said they were also standing up against police violence and racism in New Zealand.

Russia

The official reaction to the unrest from Russia's government has been limited to a short comment from President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, saying the Kremlin was closely following the situation in the U.S., but that Moscow considers it to be an internal affair.

CBS News' Alexandra Odynova reports, however, that several state officials have taken aim at comments made by Susan Rice, who served as national security adviser under President Obama and then U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Rice suggested that Russia could be fueling the unrest through inflammatory content spread via social media.

"This is right out of the Russian playbook as well," Rice said, adding that the claim was based on her professional experience, not any knowledge of contemporary intelligence.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied any Russian involvement and said he did not believe Rice's remarks reflect Washington's official position, according to the state-owned Tass news agency.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused Rice of "barefaced propaganda" and attempts to "play the Russian card again" in a post on her Facebook page.

Australia

Fearful of conflict, organizers canceled a peaceful protest planned for Sydney over the death of George Floyd in the United States. A rally planned at Sydney's downtown Hyde Park for Tuesday was canceled on Monday after people threatened to create "havoc and protest against the event," an organizer said on social media.
 
The rally was presented as a peaceful protest against the overrepresentation of indigenous Australians in Australia's criminal justice system as well as in solidarity for Floyd who was "brutally and inhumanly murdered."

Thousands of protesters are expected at similar rallies planned for the Australian cities of Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide on Saturday.
 
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Sydney Radio 2GB on Monday "there's no need to import things ... happening in other countries here to Australia," referring to violence, looting and destruction amid the U.S. protests.

Iran

State television in Iran, which has in the recent past violently put down nationwide demonstrations by killing hundreds, arresting thousands and disrupting internet access to the outside world, has repeatedly aired images of the U.S. unrest.
 
Foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi urged the U.S. government and police to stop the violence against their own people during a press conference in Tehran on Monday.
 
"To American officials and police! Stop violence against your people and let them breathe," Mousavi said and also sent a message to the American people that "the world is standing with you." He added that Iran is saddened to see "the violence the U.S. police have recently" set off.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded to Floyd's death and the ensuing protests on Saturday, tweeting a sardonically re-edited statement from his U.S. counterpart Mike Pompeo, which originally criticized Iran's actions, along with a call to "wage war against racism." 

Brazil

Hundreds of people protested crimes committed by the police against black people in Rio de Janeiro's working-class neighborhoods, known as favelas. 

Police used tear gas to disperse them, with some demonstrators saying "I can't breathe," repeating Floyd's own words.

Brazil Protest
People protest against crimes committed by the police against black people in the poor neighborhoods known as favelas, just outside Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, May 31, 2020. The protest, called "Black lives matter," was interrupted when police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Silvia Izquierdo/AP
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