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Black Lives Matter protest in Liverpool. Photo: Madeline Heneghan

Black Lives Matter protest in Liverpool. Photo: Madeline Heneghan

Around the country, thousands of people marched, knelt and shouted against racism on Saturday. We report on some of the local Black Lives Matter protests

Liverpool

Madeline Heneghan

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Photo: Madeline Heneghan

From a one-man daily protest at the gates of Princes Park, thousands gathered in Toxteth on Saturday afternoon to march through the city centre to St Gerges Hall in the second mass demonstration in Liverpool demanding racial justice for George Floyd. The march was organised by members of the Toxteth community, inspired by Buster Nugent, who’s anger and deep sadness at the footage of George Floyd’s murder led him to stand at the Gates of Princes Park for five hours with a sign bearing the words. ‘I am not OK’. He returned daily for eight days, drawing more and more support. As we assembled this afternoon, free masks, visors, gloves, water and placard-making materials were distributed among the crowd, all donated.

As we marched through town chanting ‘No Justice no Peace’ and ‘Black lives matter’, our numbers swelled and nearly every motorist sounded their horns in support. As we poured into St George’s plateau we were welcomed by the Brazilian beats of the Katumba drummers. Carla Mohammed, whose son died after being restrained by police in Liverpool One shopping centre in 2016, spoke first about her continued fight for justice for Mzee who was 18 at the time of his death. There was no shortage of speakers over the course of the afternoon with young people lining up to take to the microphone and express not only their anger but their hope at the massive show of solidarity, with an estimated 3000 people, of all ages and backgrounds cheering and chanting their support.

Croydon

Jamal Elaheebocus

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Photo: Jamal Elaheebocus

A couple hundred people gathered in Park Hill Park, Croydon on Saturday as part of the Black Lives Matter campaign. The crowd was very mixed in terms of age; there were plenty of young people, but also a number of families. It was mainly made up of black and white people, both in similar numbers. The protest started with a 8 minutes 46 seconds silence in remembrance of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives. This was followed by several speakers, mostly young black people and several Croydon councillors, including the Mayor of Croydon.

Enfield, London

Elaine Graham-Leigh

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Photo: Chris Wood Photographer

Enfield is an outer London borough where the far right have sometimes been able to build. This Saturday, though, it was the anti-racist majority that were out in force in two Black Lives Matter protests called by Enfield Stand up to Racism. With around 700 people across the two protests, this was the biggest local mobilisation for many years. It was also an encouragingly mixed mobilisation, with veteran local politicians and anti-racism campaigners standing shoulder to shoulder (in a socially-distanced way) with young people involved in a campaign for the first time.

A few fascists turned up at the first protest, in Enfield Town, ostensibly ‘to protect the war memorial’, which was of course not in need of protection by or from anyone. They slunk off when they saw how badly they were outnumbered. At the second protest, in Palmers Green, they didn’t show their faces at all.

While we were setting up in Palmers Green, the police arrived and asked us how many people we were expecting. We told them we had no idea, as we had never before organised a protest in a park in a pandemic. In the event, the momentum of this movement meant that we were able to mobilise many more than we expected, even in what might seem to be unpromising circumstances. Our task now is to keep building so we don’t let this extraordinary moment slip away.

Huddersfield

Pat Fulgoni

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Photo: Pat Fulgoni

It was a fantastic sight. A few thousand peaceful demonstrators out in Huddersfield in support of #blacklivesmatter and #justiceforgeorgefloyd which was originally scheduled to take place last week, but got pushed back a week by West Yorkshire Police. The wait, however only helped gather momentum.

Pat Jones of local Stand Up To Racism Kirklees enthused “it was brilliant to see so many diverse groups of young people carrying on the long & proud history of standing up to racism in Kirklees”.

Referring to recent racist events in Holmfirth, Organiser Corrine Bray said beforehand, "I am also pulling up for the boy who was told to kiss the white boy's shoes as well because that rubbish should not be happening in 2020.”

Since the murder of Jo Cox MP a few miles down the road by a far right extremist, the local Huddersfield Love Music Hate Racism group has responded by running a series of well-attended events, even flying dub veterans and John Peel faves Zion Train over from Germany for the last one. 

It must be remembered that despite a history of BNP councillors, Huddersfield and Kirklees as a whole is a highly multicultural area and it was fitting that today's Black Lives Matter protest that started outside the train station in St George's Square then marched to the town’s lush Greenhead Park, so often the venue for the much loved and greatly missed Carnival and Mela festivals, both recently brutally axed under Tory austerity.

Newcastle

David McAllister

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Photo: David McAllister

Around 300 Black Lives Matter protesters followed last week's successful mobilisation with another protest at the Monument in the city centre. The atmosphere was peaceful but determined, as various people spoke up about the racist society in which we live and that black people need everyone's solidarity. 'No justice, no peace' was a key chant, as some locals showed their support by displaying banners out of windows.

We stood our ground against a sizable counter-demonstration of fascists and racists, who have taken advantage of the framing of 'protecting our heritage' by surrounding the Monument. They then proceeded to attack the BLM protesters with beer cans and smoke canisters, with one attack even coming while protesters were taking a knee to honour George Floyd.

This disgusting violence shows the far right for what they really are, and underlines the importance of BLM and the wider anti-racist movement in taking on the official racism of Johnson's government, the systemic racial inequalities throughout society, and the fascist thugs who feed off of it. We will not be beaten off the streets!

Harrow, London

Shabbir Lakha

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Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Around a hundred people gathered in Harrow town centre for a socially-distanced Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday. There were several speakers who talked about the systemic racism in this country and connected the racist murder of George Floyd in the US with what is happening in Britain. They spoke about the police murders of black people here, the willful neglect that killed 72 people in Grenfell tower 3 years ago this weekend, the hostile environment, and the disproportionate number of BAME people dying from coronavirus, among other things.

The chants rang out and echoed: No justice, no peace. Justice for Belly Mujinga. Boris Johnson is a racist. Justice for Grenfell. I can't breathe. Say his name, George Floyd.

It was a protest of mixed ages and races that was especially powerful after the Prime Minister told us our movement has been "hijacked by extremists" and issued a curfew on Black Lives Matter protests on Saturday. To their shame, a number of local councillors, Tory and Labour Right, had attempted to ban the protest. Ridiculously, Katie's statue where we gathered was boarded up and fenced off. Simply to maintain the idea that we are mindlessly violent and hellbent on pulling down any and all statues, Harrow council spent money to board up the statue of a little girl celebrating the pedestrianisation of the town centre.

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