A march for justice for Shukri Abdi advances another important campaign in the battle against systemic racism, reports Lucy Nichols
We are one year on from the tragic death of Shukri Abdi, a 12-year-old schoolgirl from Manchester. Shukri was a Somali refugee, who settled in the UK with her family in 2017. Instead of finding safety and solace in Britain, Shukri was repeatedly tormented by her classmates, who eventually murdered her in 2019.
Her death was originally ruled an accident by Greater Manchester Police, though it has since become clear that other children murdered Shukri, by forcing her to jump into the River Irwell in Manchester. Shukri couldn’t swim, and tragically drowned in this river.
On Saturday, thousands of people marched through central London to demand justice for Shukri (though similar marches have been organised all over the world, with protesters as far away as Los Angeles).
A continuation of the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that we have seen over the last month or so, today’s march was fairly well attended. Young people came out in full force – the average age can’t have been above 20 – and the vast majority of protesters came from London’s large British-Somali community.
Gathering from 1pm at Marble Arch, protesters cleared a space to allow a small group of Muslim comrades to pray, before the demonstration set off down Oxford Circus. Throughout the protest, demonstrators made clear the link between Islamophobia and anti-black racism, and speeches to the largely Somali demonstration emphasized the prejudiced faced by East Africans in Britain.
No punches were pulled when it came to highlighting the racism of the British state: the chant ‘Boris is a racist’ made repeat appearances, as well as more explicit references to the Prime Minister and the Metropolitan Police – who had a heavy presence during the protest. ‘No Justice, No Peace’ was repeated throughout the day, and was often heard in Somali in addition to English. After a peaceful and reflective sit-in on Whitehall, where various well-known members of the Somali diaspora in London made speeches, the protest marched on to Parliament Square.
Here protesters encountered a (very) small group of fascists stationed next to the statue of Churchill. Unsurprisingly, these fascists were massively outnumbered by the growing crowd of protesters and quickly escorted away by the police. No violence erupted, and the counter-protesters clearly failed in altering the mood of the demonstration, which was still focused on demanding justice for a murdered child and her grieving family.
The march then crossed Parliament Square. Under the statue of Mandela, a young female speaker warned of the dangers of reformism, arguing that it is capitalism that lies responsible for racism: this cannot be reformed away. She argued that the state that holds the ultimate blame for Shukri Abdi’s horrific treatment and the poor response of the police to her murder. In her powerful speech, she called for unity between not only black people in Britain, but for people of all backgrounds; we must come together to fight racism.
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