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'Star Wars' star John Boyega gives emotional speech at London protest

Gary Dinges and Kim Willis, USA TODAY

Celebrities are joining thousands of protesters as they crowd the nation's streets and demand justice for George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck as he gasped, "Please, I can't breathe!"

After promising his social media followers he would be "on the ground for a few protests," "Star Wars" actor John Boyega was photographed Wednesday raising his fist in solidarity and making an emotional speech over a megaphone during a march in London.

"Black people, I love you. I appreciate you," the British star said. "Today is an important day: We're fighting for our rights, we're fighting for our ability to live in freedom. … Today, you guys are a visible representation of that." 

"Every black person here remembers the time when another person reminded you that you were black," an emotional Boyega continued. "I need you to understand how painful this (expletive) is. 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."

"We are a physical representation of our support for George Floyd," he said. "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.”

At times Boyega's voice broke, and a tear ran down his cheek. "Black lives have always mattered,” the actor said as his fellow demonstrators cheered. “We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting."

Actor John Boyega speaks to the crowd during a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park on June 3.

"I'm speaking to you from the heart. Look, I don't know if I'm going to have a career after this, but (expletive) that," Boyega said. He added: "We can all join together to make this a better world … to make this special."

The official Star Wars Twitter account shared its support for the star, saying Lucasfilm, which produces the franchise "stands with John Boyega."


Ben Affleck was spotted protesting in Los Angeles in a photo that made the rounds on Twitter Tuesday. In the image, the "Justice League" star holds a sheet of paper with the words "Black Lives Matter," as well as a poster advocating for the First Baptist Church of Venice, a historic black church in danger of being razed.

A woman standing next to Affleck in the photo wearing sunglasses and a face mask appears to be the actor's girlfriend, "Knives Out" star Ana de Armas.


Actress and talk show host Keke Palmer was recorded Tuesday making an impassioned plea to military members to march alongside protesters and "make history." 

"You have to pay attention to what's going on," she said. "We have a president that's trying to incite a race war and the borders are closed. We can't leave. You have people in here that need your help. This is when you stand together with community, with society, to stop the governmental oppression. Period. We need you." 


Singer Harry Styles kneeled with protesters in Los Angeles on Tuesday.

"I stand in solidarity with all of those protesting," he wrote in an Instagram post over the weekend. "I’m donating to help post bail for arrested organizers. Look inwards, educate yourself and others. LISTEN, READ, SHARE, DONATE and VOTE. ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. BLACK LIVES MATTER."

Model Emily Ratajkowsk, who shared a photo of herself at a protest in Los Angeles over the weekend, was spotted again on Tuesday, holding up a sign that read "defund the police."

"Everything is political," she tweeted Tuesday. "Everyone should be involved."

"Hart of Dixie" actress Jaime King was handcuffed Tuesday during a protest in Los Angeles, she shared on social media. 

"EVERYONE WAS PEACEFUL," she added.

"Game of Thrones" star Richard Madden also took to the streets of Hollywood to protest, posting a picture of the California National Guard to his Instagram Story on Tuesday.

"Riverdale" star Cole Sprouse wrote on Instagram Monday that he was arrested while protesting in Santa Monica, California, and that he considers "peace, riots, looting" to be "an absolutely legitimate form of protest."

According to Sprouse, he was "standing in solidarity" with protesters on Sunday when the crowd was warned they would face arrest if they did not retreat. Many turned to leave, the actor wrote, but another line of police officers blocked their route.

Shortly after, police began restraining protesters with zip ties, Sprouse added.

"It needs to be stated that as a straight white man, and a public figure, the institutional consequences of my detainment are nothing in comparison to others within the movement," he continued. "This is ABSOLUTELY not a narrative about me, and I hope the media doesn’t make it such."


On Monday, Jamie Foxx participated in a peaceful "kneel-in" protest in San Francisco, where participants chanted "I can't breathe" and took to one knee to honor Floyd. "My Hollywood friends, you gotta get out here. You can't sit back, you can't tweet, you can't text," said Foxx, taking the microphone in front of City Hall, as seen in a video taken by Los Angeles Times reporter Johana Bhuiyan. 

On Friday, Foxx spoke at a protest in Minneapolis alongside community leaders and social justice activists. 

"We’re not afraid to stand. We’re not afraid of the moment," Foxx said during an impassioned press conference at Minneapolis City Hall. "To watch this man plead for his life as I sit with my two daughters, my nephews who had just come from the grocery store."

He continued: "I’m not a celebrity, I’m from Terrell, Texas. These are my brothers. This means everything, because at the end of the day, when we see you guys out here on the front lines, we want to let you know you've got support."

John Cusack tweeted that police came at him with batons as he documented protests in Chicago on Saturday. 

"Cops didn't like me filming the burning car so they came at me with batons. Hitting my bike," he wrote, adding that officers "gently tuned up my bike."

"Get out of here! Move!" a man can be heard yelling in the video as he appears to strike Cusack's bike. "All right, all right, I'm going," Cusack replies.

"Ugly scene everywhere now cops restraint seems over," he wrote. "Nasty violence energy everywhere."

It was unclear whether the actor was participating in the protest. USA TODAY has reached out to Cusack's representative and the Chicago Police Department for comment.

Kendrick Sampson says he was hit by rubber bullets and a police officer's baton while protesting in California.

The "Vampire Diaries" and "Insecure" star took to Instagram on Saturday to show video from marches in the Los Angeles area.

Actor Kendrick Sampson says he was hit by rubber bullets and a police officer's baton while protesting George Floyd's death.

"They're gonna arrest all of us," Sampson said in one video clip. "Just to let y'all know, they're telling us to disperse, but they boxed us in."

Tagging "Black lives matter supporters," he also tweeted for elected officials to "defund police." 

On Sunday, he shared more footage, writing, "The violence comes entirely from LAPD ... THREE COPS coming at me ganging up on me (even though they have on riot gear and many weapons) as they did many protesters as I defend someone on the ground that they were beating!!! These are acts of war they are committing against us."


Machine Gun Kelly shared photos and video from Los Angeles that showed the unmasked rapper holding a sign on Saturday that read "Silence Is Betrayal." He captioned the image "justice soon ..."

Earlier in the week, he'd slammed "white privilege" on Twitter, writing, "i’m ashamed someone who looks like me could treat another human like this, but they been doing it since the beginning of time. our generation has be the one’s to stop it."

Photos of Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello attending the Miami protest were also shared online. In a photo tweeted by Miami Herald reporter Bianca Padró Ocasio, both stars are seen wearing face masks and holding up signs. Mendes' reads "Black Lives Matter."


Nick Cannon posted photos of himself wearing a hoodie emblazoned, "Please I Can't Breathe" as he marched in Minneapolis over the weekend.

"We All Tired of it ..." he wrote on one post, "BUT THEY GON HEAR US LOUD AND CLEAR!!!" 

Musicians Halsey, Tinashe and Lil Yachty also shared their participation in protests.

On Monday, Halsey described the injured protesters she encountered who had been demonstrating peacefully.

"With all of our medical professionals being CONSUMED and EXHAUSTED with Covid, there is little to no medical attention available," she wrote on Instagram. "I have first hand treated men women and children who have been shot in the chest, the face, the back. Some will lose vision some have lost fingers. I have been covered in innocent blood."


A number of other celebrities also have taken up Floyd's cause, either via in-person protests or social media.

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Contributing: Charles Trepany

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: George Floyd protest: John Boyega speaks, Keke Palmer urges soldiers