In London, Black Lives Matter protests continue every weekend, six weeks after the protests sparked by George Floyd’s killing on 25 May first spread to the UK. Although smaller than the first June protests, they are still getting from 500 to 2000 people. In Brighton on Saturday 11 July, 5000 joined the protest after a video circulated of a man shouting “I can’t breathe” while being restrained by Sussex Police.
Initial demonstrations were very heavily young, Black, and working class, though with significant representation from all ethnic backgrounds. Now the protests have larger white contingents. They are still more lively and youthful than most demonstrations, but lack the urgency and palpable sense of anger of early June.
For thousands of young people, these demonstrations are their first ever. Workers’ Liberty activists on these protests have found a greater interest in what socialists have to say, and propose in the way of ongoing activity, than on almost any other demonstrations.
The demonstrations have been promoted mainly through Instagram, and most do not have easily identifiable organisers or organisations behind them. The original group formed in 2016, Black Lives Matter UK, has promoted the demonstrations, but not organised them, because of concerns about covid-distancing.
Some have been organised by UK Black Pride, a non-political LGBT organisation that organises Pride celebrations; United.Ldn, an Instagram and Facebook page set up in June 2020, which may or may not be linked to a limited company registered in 2019; and All Black Lives UK, which describes itself as a “youth-led movement”.
The youth-led All Black Lives UK now has a Bristol branch, protests in London every Sunday, and a set of demands, which include:
• Scrap stop and search and end the racialised war on gangs;
• Safeguard children against racial discrimination and bullying from teachers and students; decolonise the curriculum;
• Address racial health disparities such as the Black maternal mortality rate and the disproportionate risk of mental health issues;
• Implement recommendations from the Windrush Lessons Learned review, the Lammy Review, Timpson Review, McGregor Smith Review and Angiolini Review.
The many detailed reforms these reviews recommend are not spelled out, or addressed in speeches. It is not clear whether the organisers want to form a political organisation, or an NGO, or a community group.
Sooner or later the activists will want to move on from repeating the same sort of street protest each weekend to longer-term activity. Labour, unions, and the left urgently need to join the Black Lives Matter movement, mobilise for demonstrations, debate clear demands to fight racism and police brutality, and offer clear and accessible paths for ongoing organisation and campaigning.