1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

#BlackLivesMatter protests amid COVID-19 crisis

Isaac Mugabi
June 22, 2020

Protests against racism and social injustices in Europe threaten to spur coronavirus cases and hinder governments' efforts to fight the virus. The protests have also led to a reduction in social distancing behavior.

Black Lives matter protestors
Image: Reuters/L. Wasson

People in cities across Europe have taken part in demonstrations against racism and social injustice in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in the United States.

The May 25  killing of George Floyd, an unarmed African-American, by a white policemanin Minneapolis sparked the worldwide protests.

Protesting youths

Despite a ban on large events until at least the end of October to try to avoid a new wave of coronavirus infections, protests and demonstrations have been allowed to continue.

Despite this, authorities must take steps to reduce the infection risks, according to a document released by German Chancellor Angela Merkel's office last week.

In Germany, protests have taken place in large cities like Berlin, Cologne, and Düsseldorf, and the majority are the protesters are youths.

"In the wake of COVID- 19, I would say it's a dangerous thing," Joan Achieng Onyango, a student in Bon told DW. "Because I remember when we were protesting in Cologne, people somehow forgot that there was still the COVID-19 virus."

"Some people even forgot to put on their masks. There was no social distancing. So it means people forgot about what was going on right now."

"Like an African youth, when we have such gatherings, people feel hyped up. And sometimes we tend to forget about the important aspects, like maybe the current situation of infection," added Achieng.

Read also: EU declares 'Black Lives Matter,' condemns racism

Deutschland | Berlin | Black Lives Matter Protest
In Berlin protestors observed eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence in tribute to George FloydImage: Getty Images/M. Hitij

Rights above health concerns

DW's Emmanuelle Chaze covered the protests in Berlin and said that, despite social distance guidelines that had been put in place, protestors somehow got carried away and didn't bother to follow them.

"I was the middle of that crowd, and it was simply impossible to maintain social distancing. But for me, both as a citizen and a reporter, it was moving to see people gathering even if they knew there was a risk of infection," Chaze said.

But does it matter to maintain social distance while protesting? And why are young people not mindful about the threat of the coronavirus?

Joshua Odyek, a student at the University of Bonn, told DW that Black Lives Matter protests are important in Germany because, even right here, people of color experience racism.

"I think the threat from [the coronavirus] wasn't treated as a big of a deal, mainly because most people wore masks, and they tried to keep distance where necessary and disinfect their hands," Odyek said.

"People have gone through so much racism daily and have so much pain that at that moment, it didn't feel like a coronavirus is a big deal."

Read also: Opinion: Time for Africa to rid itself of racist colonial relics

Berlin | Black Lives Matter Protest
German police have also been accused of racism against blacks, a probe is underwayImage: picture-alliance/AA/A. Hosbas

Trafalgar 'battle' Square

Across Britain,Black Lives Matter protests have been on-going for the fourth straight weekend.In London, Trafalgar Square has become the protest epicenter. Police had warned everyone to stay home because the threat of spreading the coronavirus is too great. But the warnings were ignored.

Britain's interior minister, Priti Patel, warned against the protests because of the high risk of infection involved.

"I think we should all be very mindful of the fact that these gatherings will spread this disease and put people's health at risk, and that is simply not acceptable, and we want to prevent that," Patel warned.

For Achieng, the youth have to be cautious when taking part in demonstrations.

"I like demonstrations, but again, we also have to think, be critical, and take a step and think. If you have the mask, get the right mask as your weapon and then try to keep that social distance.