Jacinda Ardern has said the death of George Floyd is “horrifying”, after being called out by Black Lives Matter protesters for her week-long silence on the issue.
On 25 May, Floyd died after police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck, causing breathing difficulties.
The white police officer has since been fired from the police department and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
As a result, protests spread across the world to condemn the act of police brutality – and New Zealand was no different.
Over 2,000 people gathered in Auckland on Monday, but condemnation soon turned to the New Zealand PM.
Rapper Mazbou Q told the crowd:
Jacinda Ardern, you must condemn the murder of George Floyd. You must call for the arrest of the three officers that were involved in that murder. The silence has been deafening.
A second speaker at the event echoed this sentiment, adding:
We urge you to publicly condemn what has happened and is continuing to happen in America.
Protestors on social media followed suit:
Then, on Tuesday morning, Jacinda Ardern was asked to react to George Floyd’s death on RNZ’s “Morning Report” show.
The situation… we all watched and it was horrifying. We’ve been having our own conversation, our own discussion as a country around issues of racism, violence [and] issues of extremism.
That's something that I imagine as a country we will continue, and that's something that's important to us as a nation that we don't shy away from those debates and those discussions.
Ardern also said she’s “totally opposed” to the arming of police in New Zealand.
During the same interview, the NZ PM said she “absolutely understands” the sentiment of people protesting across the country, she was concerned about social distancing in the wake or coronavirus:
We have the rules there for a reason and it is to look after people’s public health.
At the time of writing, New Zealand has recorded 1,152 cases of coronavirus and 22 deaths.
Remarkably, there have been no new cases across the country in the last 11 days. This is due to a strategy of "going hard and early", according to Ardern.