Protests against racism and state violence exploded across the world this weekend (6-7 June 2020), following the murder of George Floyd. From the toppling of a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol, to the protest demanding justice for Sheku Bayoh in Kirkcaldy, people took to the streets in over 150 towns in England, Scotland and Wales, with the message: ‘The UK is not innocent.’ We have compiled a list at the bottom of this article.
Report by Rachel Eborall, with input and photos from rs21 comrades and supporters across the UK.
The murder of George Floyd has ignited a global movement. People came out initially in disgust at the sheer violence of the Minneapolis Police but this movement escalated as it has highlighted the systemic racism that runs through our system. George Floyd’s murder was the catalyst for a movement years in the making. Racism permeates every part of our society.
This movement is shaped by Covid-19. Part of the anger on the streets comes from the fact that BAME people are more likely to die from Covid-19. Another factor determining the character of the movement is the fact that national organisations didn’t want to call large protests in which social distancing couldn’t be adhered to. However, without established organisations calling the demonstrations, individuals or new groups called demonstrations and the call was answered. The anger is too much to bear individually and the need to act collectively was overwhelming. Activists in Britain have also seen that protests in the US have won real concessions, which was more reason to get on the streets.
We have seen massive numbers in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester and, of course, Bristol. London and Manchester have seen multiple protests in different areas of the city and on consecutive days. These protests have been predominantly led by young black people, and in London they have met with repressive and violent tactics including kettling and mounted charges.
— nonouzi (@Gerrrty) June 7, 2020
This movement isn’t just confined to large cities, 150 protests have occurred in cities, towns and villages all across England, Wales and Scotland. Cities such as Newcastle, Liverpool, Leeds, Birmingham, Sheffield and Cardiff have a long history of political protest and diverse communities so we may expect these cities to host large Black Lives Matter protests. We have local protests in various parts of London such as Brixton, Hackney, Lewisham, Stratford, Tooting, Wanstead, Kilburn, and Wandsworth. These have been well attended by local people who couldn’t travel into central London.
Protests in smaller cities not associated with political events such as Bath, Chester, Durham, Norwich, Peterborough, Plymouth, Portsmouth, Preston, Salisbury, St Albans and Truro (to name but a few) were also organised. Many of these events were called by individuals some of whom had never been on a protest before. People brought homemade placards often bearing the slogans the movement: ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘I can’t breathe’, ‘No Justice! No peace!’ Speakers weren’t arranged in advance. Instead, local people spoke from the crowd, often talking about their own experience of racism. Many also articulated a desire for radical change and the need for collective action.
Over a hundred smaller towns and villages also organised protests. These events were often arranged by mutual aid groups that had been established to support people during the Covid crisis. Towns that organised protests included Alton, Aylesbury, Blackpool, Cleepthorpes, Chatham, Glossop, Frome… in fact, it’s impossible to list them all. Organisers commonly report being overwhelmed by the response.
Although it isn’t possible to describe all the protests, there are a few that need a special mention. Tunbridge Wells which for so long as been a shorthand for conservativism attracted thousands of people. The protest was organised by a 17 year old school boy who moved to Tunbridge when he was ten.
Another protest that should be mentioned is the Black Lives Matter protest in the Scottish town of Kirkcaldy. This is particularly important following the death of Sheku Bayoh, 32, who died in police custody in 2015 after being restrained by police officers in Kirkcaldy. The family is still fighting for justice hopefully pressure from the street movement will result in judicial action.
All over the world people are coming together to challenge racism. Through this movement a new layer of activists are developing into movement leaders.
Towns that protested across England, Scotland and Wales:
Henley on Thames
Ross On Wye
There were also protests in Belfast and Derry in the north of Ireland.
There were also protests in Belfast and Derry in the north of Ireland, where the police imposed punitive fines on demonstrators and organisers for supposed breaches of social distancing regulations. Sign the petition to remove punitive fines imposed on protesters in Belfast following social distancing.