George Floyd protests planned across Scotland and UK as Nicola Sturgeon and ministers warn against mass gatherings

Anti-racism protests are planned across the UK this weekend

Anti-racism protests are planned across Scotland and rest of the UK this weekend in the wake of the death of George Floyd - but ministers have urged people to avoid mass gatherings.

African American Mr Floyd died after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25, sparking days of protests in the US.

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Demonstrators are expected to converge on Parliament Square in London on Saturday and the US Embassy in the capital the next day, while other events are planned across the country.

Nicola Sturgeon and UK Health Minister Matt Hancock have urged people to avoid mass gatherings. Pictures: PA

North of the border a demonstration is set to go ahead in Edinburgh this Sunday (June 7) in Holyrood Park. A similar event is expected to take place in Glasgow's George Square tomorrow.

But UK ministers have urged people not to gather in large numbers and police have warned that mass demonstrations could be unlawful.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that he was "appalled" by the death of Mr Floyd, but stressed that the UK was still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remained a "real threat".

Mr Hancock told the daily Downing Street briefing on Friday he could understand why people were "deeply upset", but said people in the UK should not attend large gatherings.

He added: "Like so many I am appalled by the death of George Floyd and I understand why people are deeply upset but we are still facing a health crisis and coronavirus remains a real threat.

"The reason that it is vital that people stick to the rules this weekend is to protect themselves and their family from this horrific disease.

"So please, for the safety of your loved ones, do not attend large gatherings including demonstrations of more than six people."

His comments were echoed by the Scottish Government on Friday who urged Scots to “stay at home”.

Speaking at yesterday’s daily coronavirus briefing First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I want to urge you to make your voices heard. We all feel very strongly about this, but I want to ask you to do so safely.

“Coming together in mass gatherings right now is simply not safe - it poses a real risk to health and it poses a real risk to life.”

She added: "Please for the safety of all of us, do not attend large gatherings - including protests - of more than six people this weekend.

Video footage shows Mr Floyd gasping that he cannot breathe during the arrest by four officers. They have since been charged over the death which sparked days of protest in the US and Black Lives Matter (BLM) demonstrations across the world.

Clashes have broken out between police and protesters in the US, with officers recorded firing tear gas and rubber bullets on crowds. Some people looted shops.

After a largely peaceful demonstration in London’s Hyde Park, during which Star Wars actor John Boyega gave an impassioned speech, tensions later escalated outside Downing Street. There were 13 arrests.

In an open letter to the British people on Friday, US ambassador to the UK Robert Wood Johnson said it was through peaceful protest that injustice was most successfully addressed.

He added: "The US Embassy in London is united with the British public in grief over the tragic death of Mr George Floyd, which deserves universal condemnation.

"We offer our deepest condolences to the Floyd family.

"His death is a reminder that as a nation we must do more to fight racism and injustice."

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