Furious chorus of 'No justice, no peace - No to racist police!' as over 400 people block a main road in rush hour - Jack Hazeldine reports
An angry and energised anti-Trump protest march converged on Bridewell Police Station in central Bristol last night, after a local black man was tasered by police. Over 400 protesters under the banner of ‘No to racism, no to sexism & LGBT hate, no to war’ surrounded the entrance, blocking a main road in rush hour. The crowd - dominated by students and young people - chanted in furious chorus, “No justice; no peace - No to racist police!” as local TV cameras looked on.
Tumultuous cheers of support greeted loudhailer calls for continued demonstrations and campaigning to press, on the one hand, for the officers responsible for the tasering of the entirely innocent east-Bristol resident, Judah Adunbi, to be held accountable for their actions. And, on the other, for a mass anti-racist movement that aims to help oust this Tory government along with the toxic racist rhetoric and policies that shape our public institutions.
'A racist attack'
The story of Judah Adunbi has now garnered widespread national media attention, down to both its particular violence in the deployment of the police taser weapon into the face an innocent 63-year-old black man and additionally the very indicative and sickening fact that that this was incurred on someone who is “one of the founders of the Independent Advisory Group set up by the police with the BME community in Bristol several years ago” and who had already been mistakenly identified and accosted by police in a similar manner in 2007. In an interview with a local newspaper, Mr Adunbi has said candidly that he believes this was a “racist attack” and he felt “frightened and terrified because of what happened previously".
Not only was he forcefully constrained at great length as he lay helpless on the ground, taser still attached, but, according to local press, Mr Adunbi “spent the next ten hours at Patchway police station” and “was charged with assaulting a constable in the execution of their duty and a public order offence, but the charges have now been dropped". Local police bosses have referred themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission over the incident - and the investigation will be closely followed by local residents and campaigners, in the knowledge that justice over police abuses is notoriously hard-fought.
A struggle with the system
Indeed, since the replication of Black Lives Matter protests across the UK last summer, it has been increasingly highlighted by activists and community organisers that this is a struggle against systematic racism, and that, for instance, black people are three times more likely to be Tasered than white people.
With this in mind, it made complete sense then for this appalling local incident, and all it evokes, to become a tangible focal point of fury for protesters who had come to stand in mass solidarity, in significant part, against the threat of a greater persecution of minorities and police brutality from oppressive state forces. From an incoming American state administration led by racists, bigots and reactionaries, with a President who has promised to unleash militarisation of the police and smeared the Black Lives Matter campaign as inciting police killings - a poisonous politics looming large across the world which will no doubt give assurance and political fuel to the UK’s own racists in government, the police and across society.
This international linkage of struggle, along with the identification of the violent oppression of black people and minorities with the ‘law enforcement’ and judicial systems, was also cemented in the minds of many protesting in Bristol last night by the enraged and utterly dynamic Black Lives Matter march of 1,000 Bristolians last July (which was launched in solidarity with US protests against police shootings). Assembling in the historically African-Caribbean neighbourhood of St Pauls right through the city centre; and was thought to be the largest march in a generation organised by members of the community.
The passion, conviction, and sense of militancy of last night’s protest were a reminder of that incredible protest last summer - the likes of which many hope to see soon again on Bristol’s streets.
Indeed as the hundreds-strong crowd, toting placards from ‘No to Trump, No to war’ to ‘Pussy grabs back’, departed from the police station toward the harbourside, the striking chants of “Say it loud, say it clear: immigrants are welcome here” rang out along the central avenue, even as a towering effigy of Donald Trump burned from its grotesque head outwards, beautifully ablaze and greeted with uproarious cheers, as blazing fragments littered the foot-pounded road surface.
As we marched in these minutes there was a palpable feeling of intensely human and compassionate unity, in a jubilant defiance to the oppressive powers that hold sway over us.
Strangers exchanged words and laughs as a TV reporter going ‘live to camera’ was caught up in the surge; loudhailers were passed around younger activists who moved to lead the front of the protest; and it felt in fact like even the smallest barriers were being broken down between the different people jostling in this onward-pressing crowd.
This forward momentum and attendant spirit of justice and freedom was still keenly felt as the march rallied, with loud acclaim greeting an exhortation for all to join the ‘It’s Our NHS’ national demonstration on March 4th and the UN anti-racism day national protest on March 18th (both in London), to build a movement to defeat the reactionary social and economic agendas of our right wing government right here at home.
There was warm enthusiasm too for the announcement of upcoming meetings in Bristol that should demonstrate opposition to a system of racism and violent oppression that often cuts across national borders: standing up to racism with former Guantanamo Bay prisoner Moazzam Begg, and a Bristol Stop the War Coalition forum calling for a clean break from the ‘Special Relationship’ with the U.S. (or, as the protest’s home-made banners put it: Dump Trump!).
Jack Hazeldine is an organiser in the People's Assembly and Stop the War.
Based in Bristol, he has coordinated the largest demonstrations and public meetings in the city in recent years: against austerity, in support of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership of Labour, over the Junior Doctors' struggle and against the British bombing of Syria. He is currently travelling between the UK and Catalonia, building the solidarity campaign and corresponding on events.
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