Socialist Worker

Fury at police killings in the US sparks Black Lives Matter protests across Britain

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2512

On the protest in Brixton last Saturday

On the protest in Brixton last Saturday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The racist killing of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by police in the United States last week has sparked an eruption of anger.

Videos of their deaths, uploaded to social media, have been viewed millions of times. Thousands of people have taken to the streets.

Protests took place in the US in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and Minneapolis, Minnesota, where the murders took place.

More broke out in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Memphis, Nashville, Newport, RI, New York City, Oakland, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Washington D.C. and other cities.

The police responded with violence and mass arrests.

Micah Xavier Johnson used a protest in Dallas to target the police. He killed five officers, injured seven more and wounded two other people. It was an individual attack on the forces used by the state to violently repress ordinary people.  

Johnson had been trained and taught to use violence by the US army during a tour in Afghanistan.

Demonstrations took place last weekend in Britain as well. Thousands turned out with a few hours’ notice. 

Anthony Hamilton told Socialist Worker, “Last Friday the first of the solidarity demonstrations in Britain started on London’s South Bank. It started small, maybe ten people near the skate park after a call was put out on Twitter.

“The woman who first made the call said she never expected anyone to act on it. She only thought her friends would turn out. But quickly over 100 protesters gathered.

“The average age was about 18 years old. We headed off to Parliament Square.

Cheered

“On the way we were cheered on by crowds of people. By the time we reached the steps onto Westminster Bridge I turned to see over 1,500 people marching behind me.”

The protest had a big impact on those who took part.

“The atmosphere was electric,” said Anthony. “As we took the streets, confidence grew. At first people were unsure about marching on the road and where to go.

“But before long we were marching past Downing Street, on to the BBC and finally the US embassy.”

Another protest took place in Brixton, south London, on Saturday.

It started as a small gathering of a couple of hundred people and grew into a march of some 2,000.

At Oxford Street on Sunday the mood was militant and defiant. When police tried to arrest someone, people surrounded them and they backed off.  

Some marchers said the problem isn’t just racist cops but the system. “Capitalism is the root cause of oppression,” said Ikram, who was marching in Brixton.

“We need to offer a different solution. Capitalism is given chance after chance to fix these problems but fails each time.” 


Protesting in Birmingham

Protesting in Birmingham (Pic: Geoff Dexter)


Black power salute at solidarity demo

Some 700 people marched in Bristol at 24 hours’ notice under the slogan of “Black Lives Matter” last weekend.

The crowd gathered in the car park of the Malcolm X centre in the heart of the St Pauls area of Bristol.

The majority of the protesters were black people from St Pauls—word had spread around via social media and word of mouth.

We marched to the college green in front of the council building. Everyone was uplifted by the protest and the sense of solidarity with those facing police murder in the US was felt by all there.

There was a one minute silence for those killed in the US, with the whole crowd doing the black power salute.

In Liverpool, a demonstration was called at 24 hours’ notice to show solidarity with the victims of racist, violent police in the US.

The orginal organisers postponed the demo only for others to decide to go ahead.

Around 150 people set off into Liverpool city centre chanting, “Black Lives Matter”, “No justice, no peace, no racist police”, “Hands up, don’t shoot” and other slogans.

Dozens joined the march and many more applauded and showed their support. It was notable the numbers of older white people clapping.

Police made no attempt to interfere, despite no one having sought permission.

Some 300 people marched on the Steel House Lane police station in Birmingham and sat down outside to hear performance from MCs and poets.

One of the organisers, Olivia, spoke to Socialist Worker.

She said, “We wanted to show the families of Philando Castille and Alton Sterling that we hear their cries across the seas and that we stand with them.” 

Thanks to Huw Williams, Alex May and Bridget Parsons


Protesters debate best way to build resistance and win

The protests have been a site of big debates about how to challenge institutional racism, the police and capitalism.

Some people argued that it’s possible to make the police less racist by getting more black officers.

But others said that in countries with black police forces ordinary people are still oppressed.

On the protest in Liverpool

On the protest in Liverpool (Pic: Alan Gibbons)


Protester Kelvin Mayers told Socialist Worker that winning liberation meant fighting for radical change.

“You can fiddle with the nobs, but unless you turn the whole machine off, nothing is going to change,” he said.

New layers of people have become politicised through these protests.

Protester Tobi told Socialist Worker there was a sense that “this is just the start of something, not the end point.”

Catherine, who was marching in Birmingham, explained the reasons behind the anger that brought people onto the streets.

“We went from chains to lynchings to bullets,” she told Socialist Worker.

“Our masters have changed but we’re still not free. We need to start standing up.”


'We need to show we care'

Capres Turner organised the 3,000-strong demonstration in London’s Oxford Street last Sunday.

She said, “I called it out of frustration and anger.

“Someone needs to show that London cares because racist murders are happening here too.

“Racism has been going on for a long time, but I saw a video of what had happened in the US and it horrified me.

“I thought something has to be down, now. The police will keep murdering people unless we do something about it.

“Today is an amazing turnout, and it’s full of the energy of young people. It’s so positive.

“We need to get rid of racism. Just because we are pro-black it doesn’t mean we are anti-white.

“We need to stand up for each other, and we can’t allow racism to go on from generation to generation.”

Thanks to Gary McFarlane


March against racism and austerity, Saturday 16 July

Zac Cochrane from Stand up to Racism spoke at the Brixton protest.

Zac Cochrane from Stand up to Racism

Zac Cochrane from Stand up to Racism (Pic: Guy Smallman)


He called on people to come on the No to Austerity, no to Racism, Tories must Go demonstration in London this Saturday.

A Black Lives Matter bloc has been organised to be part of the march, bringing together the fight against racism internationally with the struggle against poverty and injustice.

“All black people, all white people need to come out next Saturday,” he said.

He also urged people to link together the issues of refugees, institutional racism and police killings.

Protest—Saturday 16 July, 12 noon, assemble BBC Broadcasting House, London W1A 1AA. For details of the Black Lives Matter bloc go to BlackLivesMatter Bloc on No to Austerity No to Racism demo on Facebook

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.