The stories of those involved
After the murder of George Floyd by 4 Minneapolis Police officers and countless other cases of racially motivated hate crimes across the US by citizens and police – the UK stood alongside the United States this weekend in a number of Black Lives Matter protests across the country.
While demanding action against those responsible for the death of George Floyd and other victims of racism across the US, the UK marches put a spotlight on racism here in our own country with protesters demanding justice for those here in the UK.
Thousands of cardboard signs had plastered across them the names of victims of racism in this country including Stephen Lawrence, Belly Mujinga, Shukri Abdi and more. Many were also critical of the systematic racism in place, the police and those currently in charge of the country.
The vast majority of the protests that took place in Parliament Square on Saturday were generally peaceful and included protesters calling for justice, kneeling to show solidarity and marching through the busy roads of London.
The centre of the city came to a halt while the masses passed through – much to the delight of the delayed drivers who smashed their horns in support or came out onto the roofs of their cars to join in with the crowds. While walking through the protests we noticed one woman who climbed on to the roof of her car and had jumped up and down on it so much that the roof of the car had caved in. A pick-up truck loaded with a heavy sound system also made its way through the crowd blasting Pop Smoke and Tupac tunes.
People were climbing on bus stops, traffic lights and statues all in an effort to raise their cardboard message the highest.
Towards the end of the day there was some trouble with the protesters, police had to control parts of the crowd – however this seemed to be a tiny minority of those involved in the marches and the protests had largely died down. For the most part of the day the police were barely seen and let the crowd go ahead with no issues.
Matt Hancock and Cressida Dick, who warned against protests the day before, were made to look clowns as a huge amount of people, more than most had predicted, turned up to support Black Lives Matter in London. Despite the ongoing Pandemic, those who turned up felt this issue was more important and raised signs that read “Racism is also a pandemic”.
After speaking to many of the protesters, there was a general feeling of anger and frustration with the recent events; yet everyone I spoke to also seemed to feel immensely encouraged and motivated about changing things after seeing the amount of people that had come out to protest. This felt like a significant turning point in Britain – thousands turned up to support Black Lives Matter – and this was despite the ongoing pandemic.
We talked to lots of those involved to find out more about why these protests are happening and to hear the stories of some of those calling out racism.
“How could anybody stay at home huh?! I’ve been campaigning since 1985 for justice, for black and immigrant people, for asylum seekers, for women in particular because we’re invisible in the social justice movements.
We’ve been making sure our voices are heard because of the terrible thing that happened to not only George Floyd but the other sisters and brothers in the US who for years have been slaughtered and those here in the UK who’ve been killed by police – who then get away with it.
This kind of crowd that’s come out, as they have all around the world, is a mixture of black and white, immigrant and indigenous. We are all here for one thing and that is to absolutely change this world.
A combination of Covid, the pandemic of poverty and the pandemic of racism are really a catalyst moment for the movement. I’ve not seen this in the years that I’ve been organising and now we have a real chance to change something.
But the first thing we have to do is stick together and not let anybody steal our grassroots movement because there will be plenty of ambitious politicians or NGO’s who will want to seize this moment for their agenda, but their agenda is not our agenda, our agenda is to change the world, our agenda is to invest in caring and not killing. We can do that by taking back: the military budget, the police budget, the budgets that put us down and slaughter us and jail us and incriminate us. We can take those budgets back into our own hands.
This is a moment where we come together because we are catching the same fire and we have to put it out together!”
“It’s important to be here. I think everybody should be here just so everyone can get equality.
I think as a black man, I’m tired of seeing people of my colour being killed.
Today, seeing this many people around us of all colours of all races coming together for one love one peace – we all bleed the same blood at the end of the day. That’s why I’m here today.
The sign I made is, ‘I’m tired of being perceived as aggressive’, a lot of the time young black people, especially young black men, are perceived as being aggressive all the time.
People are walking down the street, crossing the road when they see me – just because of my skin colour. I’m sick and tired of it. I want change.
I don’t want to be perceived as someone who is bad. I’m not, I’m a good guy”
“We are out here to fight the injustice in the justice system all across the board for black people.
We’ve had enough now it has been going on for far too long.
People have been ignoring it for far too long. This George Floyd thing has just made it apparent now. It’s in your face, it can’t be denied – we have to do something about it now!
What we need to do is get organised, get someone speaking for the people and take it to the people that can actually make real change. Because right now it is just people in the street.”
“(Nathan) We are here to support everything that is going on. This type of thing has been going on for years. This is ridiculous now.
It’s not just the fact that this man was killed, it’s the fact that so many more instances of what’s happened have been ignored.
People stand up and they just get put back down. This is what happens when people turn a blind eye and brush it under the rug. This is what happens! People protest and stand up together – that is what matters.
(Ranni) People say that the system is broken, but the system isn’t broken, the system was created against us in the first place.
It needs to be completely reformed so that everyone has equal opportunity because at the moment we don’t have that. We get stood on, we literally get stood on and it needs to change.
(N) The UK and the US were built on systematic racism. It goes all the way back to slavery. People say the system is broken but it has never changed. That is what we need, massive change.
People start to get scared because of protests like this and things might get violent but this is what happens when you turn a blind eye to everything that goes on.
(R) This is the safest I’ve ever felt in London. I don’t get why our skin colour is threatening.
(N) This is the safest I’ve ever felt outside my own house, subconsciously the black community is seen as a threat and I don’t understand why. We’re not threatening people. It’s a ridiculous thing and I’m just hoping there is going to be so much change from this.”
See images from the protests below.
Words and Pictures by Greg Kennedy