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Demonstration

Photo: Shabbir Lakha

For the third time this week, tens of thousands of people gathered in London to demand an end to police racism, reports Lucy Nichols

Today, the protest began in Parliament Square, and 50,000+ protesters from every walk of life (though still quite young) came together to protest state racism. Chants of ‘Black Lives Matter’ echoed round Westminster before the demo fell silent as protesters spent a few minutes kneeling in remembrance of George Floyd, a name now synonymous with Black Lives Matter demonstrations the world over. 

After about half an hour or so of speeches, the demonstration set off with the aim of reaching the US Embassy, just south of the river. As they marched through London, protesters were again met with enthusiasm from passers-by and onlookers. Buses, mopeds and cars beeped their horns in solidarity with those marching. Eventually, the march broke into two separate groups – the first marched past and through the council estates of Pimlico and the surrounding area, where residents banged pots and pans out of windows, waved flags and held up home-made placards. Throughout the day, protesters were met with enthusiasm and support from the people of Central, West, and South London. 

Eventually, the group at the front of the march doubled back and met up with the rest of the protesters. The two groups merged together and marched over Vauxhall Bridge, which was brought to a complete standstill for hours as tens of thousands of angry protesters made their way towards the US Embassy. 

It was then that things became complicated; though a small part of the march managed to push their way towards the US Embassy, the majority were stopped by police and forced to turn back towards Vauxhall. For the best part of an hour, protesters tried to block off traffic to and from Vauxhall bridge, though police presence was minimal by now – aside from a dozen empty bully vans parked on the road leading to the US Embassy – so protesters were left to grapple with oncoming traffic. Around 4:30pm, protesters had begun to disperse and the march effectively came to an end. 

Though the majority of today’s protesters didn’t quite reach the US Embassy, the message conveyed by the demonstration remains clear: the UK is not free of racism, and this is something that must be protested. The demonstrations taking place throughout Britain were triggered by the tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota; but there are deeper causes behind the recent eruption of anger. Racism is as entrenched in the British state; this is why three years on from Grenfell, survivors remain without homes. It is why Mark Duggan was shot and killed by police nine years ago, and why Belly Mujinga was forced to work in the dangerous conditions that led to her death. This is also why piecemeal changes from the top cannot address the oppression which is endemic to the system we live under. So, after today, it is crucial that we continue to relate to the current mood and organise the mass movement from below which is necessary to uproot the systemic inequality which blights so many people’s lives.

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