Oslo organisers agree to socially distanced George Floyd protest
The organizers of a racism protest outside the US embassy in Oslo have bowed to pressure from the health authorities and adapted it to limit the spread coronavirus.
As many as 17,000 had signed up on Facebook to attend the protest against the death of African American George Floyd during a police arrest, which was organised by the Oslo African rights organisation ARISE and Oslo University's African Student Association.
Now a maximum of 800 people will be able to take part physically.
Rawha Yohaness, one of the organisers, told The Local that she hoped the new plans would make a strong statement.
"The point is to show solidarity and show our support," she said. "We're living under very special circumstances now, and it's more about the symbolic value and starting a dialogue."
The Oslo 'We Can't Breathe protest' will now select 50 people to be part of a core demonstration group, who will meet at the American Embassy, kneel for eight minutes, and then proceed down to Eidsvoll Square in front of Norway's parliament.
Up to 750 other demonstrators will at the same time form a human chain around Oslo city centre, keeping a minimum of one metre distance.
"We're going to be streaming it so I hope that people will sign in and show their solidarity digitally," Yohaness added.
It is not certain, however, that the organisers will even be able to control the numbers, with many of those commenting on the event's Facebook page encouraging eachother to defy both the organisers and the authorities and turn up outside the embassy independently.
Photo: By Source, Fair use
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week has triggered mass unrest in the US and a chain of sympathy demonstrations across the world. The 46-year-old died after a policeman held him to the ground with a knee to his neck for several minutes.
Norway's health minister Bent Høie raised the alarm about the coming demonstration earlier on Thursday, adding that he was worried that the group's message would be overshadowed by public concern.
"I am afraid that if the demonstration leads to large gatherings of people, there will be more awareness of the risk of spreading the infection than awareness of an important issue," he said.
Harald Nilssen, the chief of Oslo's police, said that now the group has been denied an exemption from the infection control rules, and changed their plans accordingly, he was confident the protest could be held safely.
"There is a large crowd to take into account, but like all demonstrations, we have a good dialogue with the organisers and believe that this should be possible to do in a safe and secure manner," he said.
The organisers have posted a statement on Facebook detailing their new plans, where you can sign up for the human chain.