George Floyd, an African-American was murdered in broad daylight by Derek Chauvin, a White police officer who kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, until the man became unresponsive. He was declared death an hour later at the hospital where he was rushed to.
The tragic event took place on May 25 in Minneapolis, USA when a 47-year-old man was arrested on the suspicion of using a forged $20 bank note to buy goods in a store. Handcuffed and pinned down on the ground, Floyd pleaded for his life. In the disturbing video that went viral online, he was heard begging “please, I can’t breathe”.
Following Floyd's death, protests erupted across cities in the USA. The never ending racial battle of African-Americans against systemic racism and discrimantion spread in the streets and on social media. The Black Lives Matter movement had the lead and soon, protests were held across the globe.
In Malta, the public mobilized on June 8 in front of the parliament in Valletta. It was the first ever initiative under the flag, (or rather hashtag) of the civil rights movement born in 2013 in the USA, in response to the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman.
Photo. Regine Psaila
Hundreds gathered for the sit-in from 6 p.m.
The tiny island has a difficult story with migration.
The fact is, due to its geographical situation, the country is in the frontline of boat arrivals loaded with migrants coming from Libya. The strong anti migrant feeling is palpable in public discourse and migrants are suffering numerous abuses with regards to their rights.
"We hope to bring forth an understanding that black lives matter and that all lives can’t matter unless black lives do."
On the night of April 6, 2019, Lassana Cisse, a migrant from Ivory Coast was killed by shots fired from a car which then disappeared in the night. Two Maltese armed forces soldiers were later arrested and charged with a racial-motivated murder.
The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement in Malta joined the fight against police abuse of power in support of George Floyd, but also to demand justice for Lassana whose alleged murderers have been released on bail.
Speeches in Maltese and English were delivered during the event. A line about Cisse's tragic murder said: “this sit-in is a cry for justice, a demand to be heard and an acknowledgment that those who exploit people of colour and black people and who commit racial hate crimes such as with the murder of Lassana Cisse in April 2019, do it because they know that they can get away with it.”
Another line said: "We hope to bring forth an understanding that black lives matter and that all lives can’t matter unless black lives do."
On the signs displayed by the public attending the sit-in, one could read “Justice for Lassana”, “Patriotism does not justify racism” or “Skin colour isn't reasonable suspicion".
The peaceful protest was disrupted (watch the video from minute 9 to see the counter protest) by a group of men and women from the “patriotic ideology”, who chose the same spot for a counter protest, brandishing maltese flags and shouting “Malta Malta”. Law enforcement officers formed a barrier between them and the BLM in order to avoid clashes.