Protests sweep the country: London, Newcastle, West Midlands, Edinburgh

Submitted by AWL on 17 June, 2020 - 7:25
Stourbridge BLM demo

London

By Jay Dawkey

There were maybe 2,000 people at the Central London demonstration in Hyde Park on Friday 12 June. About 60-40 black-white, overwhelmingly young.

Demands and chants were mostly “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice No Peace”. Speakers included a pan-Africanist; an author and lecturer (booed when he talked about entrepreneurship and aspiring to be a multi-millionaire); a guy from the West Papua campaign.

The others were not introduced and all said they weren’t that used to speaking. Ideas included: better training for police, psych evaluations, appeal to MPs (not clear on what), teach black history, more local protests, fight for gay rights, trans rights, women’s rights, everyone’s rights (but “this isn’t about class” — followed by the same speaker saying “We are here for working-class people of all races”).

The two organisers argued against people going into London on 13 June and for people to protest in their area.

On the weekend 13-14 June, while there was only a small anti-racist presence in central London, there were local events across the city, for example a good few thousand at a Hackney-Islington protest at Newington Green.

The Brighton protest on 13 June was reckoned at maybe 10,000. Many further protests are planned for the weekend 20-21 June and after. See BLM instagram and elsewhere.

Newcastle

By Abel Harvie-Clark

On 6 June, around 2,000 people gathered in the centre of Newcastle to protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. The protesters were young and diverse.

The megaphone became the instrument of many black people to powerfully tell their stories, spread knowledge and encourage further action. The casual racism that still infects all levels of society was called out. Experience, contemporary and historical, was discussed and confronted, really important education for many in attendance. Anger, sadness and fear about police brutality were expressed, but matched too by a brilliant pride and confidence in the strength and potential of Black communities and culture.

Political implications were not ignored either, with strong awareness and opposition to the Johnsons and Trumps who thrive off inequality, racial injustice and white supremacy. We should think about demands on Newcastle City Council, Northumbria Police, the UK government.

Another demonstration was called for Saturday 13 June, but unfortunately with a very different outcome. Conflicting information from established North East antiracist groups did not help turnout, and a few hundred antiracist protestors arrived to find Monument occupied by 300 drunk, aggressive and vile racists. Racist taunts, chants of “You’re not English” and “White lives matter” were directed at our crowd.

Things turned into a shouting match at some points. The conflict turned ugly. By around 2.30 pm, when our crowd took the knee and observed a silence in remembrance of those killed by the police, the far right group launched bottles and full beer cans at our crowd, hitting young children and sending some to hospital.

The police response was to squeeze our crowd into a smaller space, whilst the fascist crowd surrounded us from front and back, and still weren’t cleared by the police. By 5.30 pm the police dispersed our crowd, whilst riot police fought with the increasingly drunk and violent crowd opposing. Although the police were admittedly the only thing stopping us getting seriously hurt, they decided to clear a peaceful antiracist crowd whilst violent fascists remained.

West Midlands

By Daniel Round, Stourbridge activist and Clarion editor

4,000 in Birmingham on 4 June. 1,000 in Wolverhampton on 7 June. Dudley, Nuneaton, Solihull and a number of other West Midlands towns have also drawn large crowds.

In Stourbridge, a Black Lives Matter rally drew one of the largest crowds for a demonstration in the town’s recent history with over 200 people turning up. Lots of students and young workers said the event was their first ever demo.

After the rally, attendees spread out around the side of the ring-road in the town centre and knelt in remembrance of George Floyd, before waving placards and signs for passers-by to see. Some featured the faces and names of black men who have died in police custody in the UK, such as Sean Rigg. Others featured slogans such as “Justice for Windrush”, “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter” and “Refugees are welcome here”. Many drivers beeped horns and passengers cheered in support through car windows.

A pathetic group of six or so far-right counter-protesters gathered nearby and shouted “White lives matter” before skulking off early on in the rally.

• Longer report here.

Edinburgh

By Emily Booth

In my opinion, Edinburgh's BLM protest was a perfect protest. It was mandatory to wear masks, and anyone found not wearing one would be given one by volunteers. Purple spots painted on the grass indicated where households could stand to keep social distancing in place. We kneeled and listened to beautiful poetry and heartfelt speeches about injustice and racism within our societies, and we clapped and chanted and waved our signs high. Even dogs came wearing placards that said "I bite racists" and "bark bark!" I had never felt a stronger sense of community than when I saw BLM sprayed into the side of the hill at Holyrood Park and saw so many people stand up and shout that black lives better.

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