On Friday, people in Vilnius rallied in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and the ongoing anti-racism protests in the US.
Organisers of the rally said around a thousand people gathered at the heart of the Lithuanian capital. The demonstration was later split into two, as the police had issued a licence for a smaller event. “Opinion surveys [in Lithuania] show year after year that those that could be considered of a different race, like Roma people, migrants, or refugees, are not welcome in our society,” said Jūratė Juškaitė from the Lithuanian Centre of Human Rights (LCHR). “This shows that the problem exists [also in Lithuania].”
Marching from Katedros Square to the US embassy, a mixed crowd of locals and foreigners living in Lithuania chanted “no justice – no peace”. They also held placards saying “I can’t breathe”, the words repeated by George Floyd as he was pressed down by a police officer before his death.
According to the people at the march, it is important to speak up about the issue of racism not only in the US, but also in Europe and Lithuania.
“We are all human beings and we deserved to be treated with decent respect,” said Patricia, who is originally from Nigeria and is currently studying in Lithuania’s second city, Kaunas. “Living here, I definitely experience acts of micro aggression, so it’s a personal issue.”
But Patricia was also happy to see that a large crowd gathered to express their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, as this “gives hope that people everywhere are starting to care”.
The two crowds later walked to the US Embassy where they kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the exact time the police officer kneeled on G. Floyds kneck.
There was also a group of about a dozen counter-protesters opposing the march.
Earlier this week, Lithuanian activists have expressed solidarity with American protesters by leaving flowers and candles outside the US Embassy in Vilnius.
The protests over the killing of black American George Floyd by a police officer have been sweeping across the US for the past week.
Support rallies have also been taking place in countries across Europe, including France, United Kingdom and Germany.