Socialist Worker

Militant marches demand Black Lives Matter across Britain

by Sadie Robinson
Issue No. 2708

Protesting in Whitehall

Protesting in Whitehall (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A monster march snaked through London on Sunday as tens of thousands of people protested to say Black Lives Matter. 

Big demonstrations also took place in towns and cities across Britain including 20,000 in Bristol, up to 20,000 in Glasgow, 6,000 in Edinburgh and 2,000 in Colchester, Essex.

There have now been over a week of demonstrations sparked by the murder of George Floyd by a cop in the US. They show no signs of abating.

On Sunday protesters gathered at the US Embassy in Vauxhall, south London. The gathering was supposed to start at 2pm.

Yet by 1.30 big crowds were already at the embassy, and streams of people were heading towards it from all directions. The action turned the whole area into one big demonstration. 

The crowd filled the whole of the road outside the embassy while more people marched to join it in the roads next to Vauxhall Tube station.

Maki says we need a revolution

Maki says we need a revolution


The mood was militant, with many protesters denouncing not just racism but the system that creates it. 

Christele, a designer and supervisor at a restaurant, joined the protests for the first time as it was the first chance when she wasn’t working. “Racism isn’t just an issue that can be swept under the carpet,” she told Socialist Worker.

“It’s been in our society for centuries. But now it feels like there is a global interest in peace and justice. You think to yourself, if not now, when? This is the perfect time to take action.”

When asked if she thought if we can get rid of racism in the current system, Christele said there needed to be a bigger kind of change. “Our generation has come to realise that there’s a lot of things that don’t work very well in our society,” she explained.

“It’s not just racism, it’s things like climate change.”

Goldsmiths university student Maki agreed. She carried a homemade placard reading, “Racism cannot be separated from capitalism—Angela Davis.”

“Capitalism needs to go,” Maki told Socialist Worker. “Then we will be able to get rid of racism. We need a revolution but I don’t know how that would even happen. But we need to keep the momentum up.”

Racism and revolution in the United States
Racism and revolution in the United States
  Read More

One placard read, “The system is against black lives,” while another said, “The only minority destroying this country is the rich.”

Zak told Socialist Worker that the scale of the protests reflected more than just anger at racism, but anger at the myriad of ways the system fails ordinary people. “You can see the pain that people are feeling,” he said.

“After coronavirus, the economic situation is going to be bad for a lot of people. It’s a tipping point—people feel enough is enough.”

Gathered 

DJ Amy was writing her placard—“No Justice, No Peace”—near Vauxhall station as the protest gathered. “There are so many reasons to be here,” she told Socialist Worker. “The police violence is disgusting. 

“But the government doesn’t give a shit, they’re just sitting there in their second homes. That’s part of the problem—they just don’t get it.”

Amy said she thought the police should be defunded. University student Chris agreed. “A lot of people are for reform, but I’m just for the all-out abolition of the police,” she told Socialist Worker.

“I think they should be totally defunded.”

Outside the US embassy

Outside the US embassy (Pic: Guy Smallman)


And there was a sense of frustration at the fact that people are having to fight the same battles that previous generations fought. Chuka told Socialist Worker, “My dad was doing the same thing in the 1970s. It’s really sad to be here doing it again today. 

“And people will probably be doing it again in 20 years’ time too.”

Aisha added, “Black lives haven’t mattered for a very long time. I’m here as a South Asian ally with black people. Anti-blackness exists in my community. You can see it by the sale of skin whitening creams and skin bleaching.”

Zak said it was important for ordinary people to show solidarity with each other. “Look around you—it’s not just black skin here, it’s everybody,” he said. “It reflects the injustices that are going on.”

‘We are rebelling against the system that allows racism to exist,’  say US protesters
‘We are rebelling against the system that allows racism to exist,’ say US protesters
  Read More

And he said that the protests needed to take place, despite the coronavirus lockdown. “Most people are wearing masks,” he said. “The necessity of the movement overrides the virus.”

Several placards read, “Racism is a pandemic.” There was a sense that the threat posed to black people by police violence and racism was at least as significant as the threat posed by the virus.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic, but racism is a pandemic too,” recruitment worker Yvonne told Socialist Worker. “Everyone needs to fight it. It’s not something black people can get rid of by ourselves.”

Sunday’s march was made up of young black and white people, but more older people are also joining the protests. It won a lot of support as it marched across Vauxhall Bridge and towards Victoria, before reaching Parliament Square and Downing Street.

Drivers honked horns and held placards out of their windows. Two very young children shouted, “No justice – no peace!” from their window as protesters marched past. Another woman waved a Palestinian flag, while others applauded the demonstration or raised their fists in solidarity.

Protesters’ willingness to take action, and defy Tories’ and cops’ warnings not to demonstrate, should be celebrated. We need more action by ordinary people to resist racism and win a better world.


Bristol protesters tear down statue of slave owner 

Protesters on Glasgow Green

Protesters on Glasgow Green (Pic: Andrew McGowan)


A fantastic protest in Bristol saw the statue of slave owner Edward Colston pulled down.

One protester knelt on the statue’s neck for eight minutes, to mark the length of time that a cop knelt on the neck of George Floyd before he died.

Protesters then chucked the statue into Bristol harbour. One activist said, “There’s been a petition circulating for years to remove the statue. I guess the people got fed up of asking.”

Colston ran a company that shipped 84,000 African men, women and children to the Americas into slavery. Around 19,000 of these are estimated to have died during the crossing.

He was a mass murderer.

Home secretary Priti Patel said toppling the statue was "utterly disgraceful". The true disgrace is that the statue ever existed.

Around 20,000 people joined the protest in Bristol. Sophia told Socialist Worker, "It was a really amazing day with very little police presence and very young.

"After the march thousands stayed to hear moving speeches. Of course the highlight of the day was the Colston statue being torn down and thrown in the harbour.

"In place of the statue, people laid their placards down, and people made speeches on the plinth from where the statue once was."

There were huge numbers in other places too.

Up to 20,000 joined a demonstration in Glasgow. Some 6,000 marched in Edinburgh and 500 protested in Stirling.

In Coventry, reports Andy, "Around 2,000, mainly young, black and white protesters assembled in the city centre in the rain.

"After speeches they marched along the ring road and through housing estates, circling through large parts of the city. Everywhere they went they met people banging pots and pans and giving raised fist salutes.

After four hours they marched onto the M6 from junction 3 to junction 2,  blocking the motorway in both directions. Again motorists tooted their horns and gave raised fist salutes.

"They were still marching at 9pm, seven and a half hours after the protest began."

And there were impressive turnouts in smaller places too.

Colchester, Essex, saw up to 2,000 people turn out for a protest in Castle Park Gardens. Protester Tony Sullivan told Socialist Worker, “Castle Park Gardens was turned into a sea of young people black and white.

“About 1,500 - 2,000 took the knee for eight minutes in a moving and powerful moment of solidarity with George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Crowd

A huge crowd gathered in Nottingham and around 1,000 in Wolverhampton. Around 100 turned out in Pontypridd, south Wales, and 500 in Stirling.

Several hundred mostly young people took the knee in Manchester city centre. Placards read, “It’s not white vs black it’s everyone vs racists,” and, “I can’t breathe.”

Over 200 gathered outside Barnsley town hall in South Yorkshire. Protester George Arthur told Socialist Worker it was “the largest demo in Barnsley for years”.

“People were lifted by reports of yesterday’s protests,” he said. “There was well disciplined social distancing and it was very young. And there was lots of support from passing traffic.”

More protests took place in Chester, Thanet in Kent and Derby as well as many other places.

One man, Lightz, who organised the Derby protest said, “This is an amazing turnout.

“I am aware of coronavirus but there’s an even worse disease and it is called racism.”

Did you join a Black Lives Matter protest this weekend? Please get in touch and send us a report and pictures to [email protected]

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