Anti-racist protests have been held in cities across the UK over the past two weeks, in solidarity with US campaigners for Black Lives Matter.
Protests broke out in Minnesota in late May after George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, died in police custody having been knelt on at the neck by a police officer for almost nine minutes.
Footage of the incident – that has since gone viral – shows the unarmed Mr Floyd gasping and pleading “I can’t breathe”, after police apprehended him for the alleged use of a counterfeit $20 bill.
The incident revived #BlackLivesMatter activism on an unprecedented scale.
Protests across the UK took place featuring marches, chants, speeches, mass lie-downs and spoken word. Here’s what to know:
Why are Brits protesting?
UK action began in early June, as sympathisers knelt in symbolic solidarity with George Floyd and other sufferers of police brutality.
As well as echoing US grievances, British activists point to hate crimes in the UK. Campaigners wield placards stating “The UK is not innocent,” alongside names and faces of victims of racial violence in the country.
In a recent UK incident, Belly Mujinga – a Black railway worker – died from coronavirus having been spat at by a man claiming to have the virus. British Transport Police initially concluded that her death was not linked to the incident and closed the case, but The Crown Prosecution Service has been asked to review evidence following a petition signed by more than a million people.
UK protest dates and locations
For London protests follow this link.
Most of the events have been organised by different groups and individuals, not always involving the city’s central Black Lives Matter group.
Most protests have already taken place, although there are some organised for upcoming dates.
Reading – Town Hall, 12pm
Kings Lynn – Town Hall, 2pm
Hemel Hempstead – Town Centre, 2.30pm.
To find events in your local area, try searching “BLM [AREA]” or “Black Lives Matter [AREA]” on Twitter.
What about lockdown?
It should be noted that lockdown restrictions remain in place, with mass gatherings forbidden.
Protest organisers have asked participants to wear protective gear and observe social distancing, and many of the campaigners have successfully maintained distance.
Nevertheless, many marches have seen large crowds in close proximity, and dozens have been arrested, some on lockdown breaches.
The UK Black Lives Matter Twitter account has said it is not affiliated with the protests, and is “currently discussing the implications of calling a mass march in the middle of a pandemic that is killing us the most”.
Speaking to the Standard, the protest’s London organisers said “It’s a very difficult situation, where black people are disproportionately dying of Covid-19, but black people are also disproportionately dying in the police and prisons system. People should not be made to choose between one or the other.”
Support can also be shown without in-person protesting, with options to donate to either victims or protesters.
For those taking to the streets, remaining peaceful, observing social distancing, and staying as local as possible are lawful limitations to action.
Are the protests peaceful?
So far, UK protests have been predominantly peaceful, however arrests were made at events in London over the weekend, and there were injuries. Event posters have stressed that violent escalation will not be condoned by organisers.
The situation in the US has grown increasingly anarchic and fragile. Riot police have made thousands of arrest, deployed teargas and rubber bullets – including on peaceful protesters outside the White House – and forcibly removed journalists from the scene.
The whereabouts of many US protesters is unknown, with missing person groups circulating on Twitter.
President Trump has threatened to use military force to “solve the problem,” should governors fail to put an end to the movement.
“If a city or state refuses to take the actions necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them,” he announced on Monday.
Information for protesters
Organisers are circulating information and advice as follows:
- Remain peaceful
- Bring protective masks and gloves, and if possible wet-wipes or anti-bacterial gel
- Observe two-metre social distancing guidelines
- Pack food and water
- Bring identification and emergency contact information
- Wear comfortable shoes
- Take sun-protection
- In case of arrest, carry essential medicines (e.g. inhalers) on your person
- Demonstrators on their period are advised to wear pads instead of tampons in case toilet access is restricted by events or arrest