HUNDREDS of protesters gathered in Oxford's South Park this afternoon to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

Many people wore gloves and face masks at the socially-distanced demonstration, which had been moved from Bonn Square due to the expected high demand. 

Several protesters raised placards as a host of speakers addressed the crowd, with similar scenes taking place in cities across the UK.

Read also: All the pictures from Black Lives Matter protest in South Park

Among those to stand up and talk was Gary Smith from Bicester, also known as DJG, who implored protesters "not to be pushed down in any way, shape or form."

Demonstrations have been held across the world since the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis, America, on May 25.

Oxford University PhD student, Leah Crowder, also spoke at the protest and the 22-year-old American was encouraged by the turnout. 

She said: "The George Floyd murder sparked the biggest civil rights movement in the United States since the 1960s.

"More importantly, it has sparked worldwide solidarity, with protests on six continents.

"The reason that happened, I believe, is because all of these countries experience intense, systemic racism and people are challenging the systems in their own countries."

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She added: "It feels really good to see so much support from the United Kingdom and people of all races."

The demonstration attracted a host of younger protesters, including 16-year-old Caitlin Brookes, from Oxford.

She said: "I felt it was important because racism in Britain is never talked about.

"We talk about it as if it's this far-off thing and I think it's really important for everybody to show their support and educate yourselves.

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"Know that just being not racist isn't enough and being anti-racist is what we need to be to make sure everybody has a life and gets the opportunities they deserve."

Ross McLeod, a 24-year-old research assistant living in the city, added: "I think it's important to stand up for human rights all over the world.

"The stuff going on in America can't stand and even though we're in the UK we need to show solidarity."

He added: "Change needs to happen in the UK, so it's demanding that as well."

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Several of the county's political leaders also showed their support for Black Lives Matter.

Oxford City Council leader Susan Brown said the authority "stands in solidarity" with the movement and is committed to "eradicating these injustices in our city".

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She added: “We also know that there is much progress to be made until our vision of a truly inclusive, people-focused and world-leading city is realised.

“Oxford City Council values individualism and freedom. We want everybody to have a voice, to not feel silenced and to be supported in speaking out.

"Our commitment to celebrating difference and championing diversity extends to every facet of people's lives.

"From home to the workplace and in the broader public arena, we are here to support anyone experiencing discrimination and bias, whether conscious or unconscious.

“Above all, at this time we are here to listen to people in our communities who are scared, angry and hurt by what we have been witnessing and by injustices they may face in their own lives.”

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Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon, backed the socially-distanced event, despite being unable to attend.

Ms Moran has signed a cross-party letter calling on the government to halt the sale of tear gas, rubber bullets and riot shields to the United States.

She said: “I and the Liberal Democrats stand firmly with the Black Lives Matter movement — we can’t allow George Floyd to be just another name.”

The demonstration drew some criticism for endangering social distancing guidelines, with Oxford Stand Up to Racism not backing the event and instead asking people to 'take the knee' at 6pm today.

Meanwhile, UK police leaders published a joint statement pledging to tackle "bias, racism or discrimination", while reminding the public of government guidelines preventing people gathering in groups of more than six.

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The statement said: “In the UK we have a long established tradition of policing by consent, working in communities to prevent crime and solve problems.

"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. 

“Policing is complex and challenging and sometimes we fall short. When we do, we are not afraid to shine a light on injustices or to be held to account."

It added: “We know people want to make their voices heard. The right to lawful protest is key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate.

"But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people.

"So for whatever reason people want to come together, we ask that people continue to work with officers at this challenging time.”