London — Actor and producer John Boyega addressed a crowd of thousands of Black Lives Matter demonstrators in London’s Hyde Park on Wednesday, telling them he was speaking out even though it might negatively affect his career.
“This is very important,” he said. “This is very vital. Black lives have always mattered. We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting.”
It was theto take place in London in under a week, after thousands marched through the capital on Sunday in response to the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis. While they chanted Floyd’s name, they also focused on injustices in Britain.
“The U.K. is not innocent,” demonstrators shouted, highlighting the recent case of Belly Mujinga, a train worker who died of the coronavirus after being spit on by a white man claiming to have the disease. Police in Britain recently closed the case without filing any charges.
Organizers hushed the crowd and asked people to remain seated to listen to Boyega, who starred as Finn in recent “Star Wars” movies.
“I need you to understand how painful it is to be reminded every day that your race means nothing. And that isn’t the case anymore. That is never the case anymore,” Boyega said.
“We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd. We are a physical representation of our support for Sandra Bland. We are a physical representation of our support for Trayvon Martin. We are a physical representation of our support for Stephen Lawrence. And Mark Duggan,” he said.
In 2011, rioting broke out across Britain after 29-year-old Mark Duggan, a black father of four, was gunned down by police under disputed circumstances.
As Boyega addressed the crowd, British Prime Minister Boris Johnsonto the country’s Parliament — and was criticized for taking so long to do so by his chief political rival.
“What happened in the United States was appalling. It was inexcusable. We all saw it on our screens, and I perfectly understand people’s right to protest what took place,” Johnson said, but he stressed that protests “should take place in a lawful and reasonable way.”
Britain’s police chiefs also weighed in Wednesday, issuing a joint statement from all of the nation’s forces saying they “stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life. Justice and accountability should follow.”
The police said there was a “long established tradition of policing by consent” and working with communities across the U.K., adding: “Officers are trained to use force proportionately, lawfully and only when absolutely necessary. We strive to continuously learn and improve. We will tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it.”
“It is very, very important that we keep control of this movement and we make this as peaceful as possible,” Boyega said. “Because you know what, guys, they want us to mess up. They want us to be disorganized. But not today. Not today.”
Tucker Reals contributed to this report.