Amy Gilligan reports from last night’s #LondonToFerguson rally
Around 2,000 protesters – young, black and white, people of all genders, lead by women – raced through the streets of central London last night to demand justice for Michael Brown and show solidarity with demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri.
The London protest came in the wake of Monday’s decision against indicting Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot Mike Brown dead in August. Marchers expressing their rage at police killings and brutality worldwide – and the refusal of the system to hold police to account.
The evening started outside the US embassy in Grovesnor Square. By 7:30pm around 1,000 had gathered to hear speakers including Carole Duggan, aunt of Mark Duggan, and Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg. Both spoke about their battles to get justice for loved ones who’d died at the hands of the police – and of the importance of solidarity in their struggles.
NUS black students officer Malia Bouattia argued that police cannot work on behalf of black people and that we will always find ourselves in opposition to them. She called on us to “organise, organise, organise”. The secretary of the Paddington No. 1 RMT branch brought solidarity greetings from his union and called on US labour unions to take up this struggle against racism as their fight.
Hannah Dee from Defend the Right to Protest (DTRTP) spoke about how the struggle against police violence was an international one. The rally ended with a speaker from London Black Revolutionaries, who had initiated this evening’s protest along with DTRTP, NUS Black Students, BARAC and the United Families & Friends Campaign. AJ drew links between police violence and wider racism in society such as attacks on immigrants and the rise of UKIP. He added that we’re now seeing a new generation leading the fightback against racism.
Protesters then staged an impromptu march that brought traffic in central London to a standstill. They headed off through Mayfair before doubling back on to Oxford Street, Regents Street and Piccadilly Circus.
The march was fast moving and took a zigzag route that kept one step ahead of the police. Even those on the protest weren’t always sure about where we were going to end up next. Throughout the two hours demonstrators kept up chants of “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” and “No justice, no peace!”
The march got a surprisingly warm and positive reaction from passers-by, including shoppers, theatre-goers, bus drivers and shop workers. We eventually headed to Charing Cross police station where the crowd chanted “Who killed Mark Duggan? Police killed Mark Duggan.” We finally made our way to New Scotland Yard via Trafalgar Square, Downing Street and Parliament Square.
There had been some confusion earlier in the week when Stand Up To Racism called a protest 90 minutes earlier than the one already announced for 7pm. In the event the various organising groups cooperated, with the earlier event merging into the later and larger one. But this kind of disunity is unnecessary. There is a new movement against racism emerging in Britain – and we should be giving it our full support.
This new movement is young and it is militant. It has experience of the state and isn’t afraid to confront it. It is a movement that we should celebrate. And it is a movement we should help grow.