Socialist Worker

Protests across Britain show the breadth of Black Lives Matter movement

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2710

Taking the knee in Tower Hamlets, east London

Taking the knee in Tower Hamlets, east London (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Thousands of people “took the knee” at Black Lives Matter protests in towns and cities across Britain on Wednesday.

It marked the fourth national day of action, organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR), in the wake of the police murder of George Floyd and the US uprisings. 

There has been a wave of protests, involving tens of thousands of people, in the last few weeks. 

Up to 200 people took the knee for 8 minutes 46 seconds at 6pm in Mile End Park in Tower Hamlets, east London. It’s the same amount of time that the police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck before he died.

And afterwards, fists raised in the air, people chanted, “Black Lives Matter.”

Yulilee, a migrant and Movement for Justice supporter, told the crowd that “enough is enough”. “We need to abolish racism,” she said, “we need solidarity, we need justice, we need peace.

“No human should suffer like black lives have suffered all of these years.”

Yulilee stressed that “without us standing up as black people, it won’t change” and called on people to “come out and have our voices heard”. “If there is no justice, there’s not gonna be any peace,” she added to loud cheers.

The borough’s Labour mayor, John Biggs, came to “show my solidarity and support for Black Lives Matter”. “In Britain, in many ways, things are better, but we know that racism is still a very pernicious and powerful thing,” he said.

Biggs added, “We don’t need to disband the police—some of you may disagree—but we do need them to be accountable and to listen.”

Abdi Hassan, a Somali campaigner, said that “we have serious issues” in Tower Hamlets and called on local politicians to “try to do better”. “In this borough in January, 16 Somali boys were arrested and rounded up.

“They were thrown into prison for issues that could have been tackled through proper rehabilitation or safeguarding.”

Actions

Meanwhile, around 50 people joined an SUTR protest at the nearby Wanstead Flats in Forest Gate in Newham, east London. The local group organised another event under the flyover in Canning Town.

In Newington Green, north London, around 50 people took the knee in a socially distanced protest.

Around 200 people joined a SUTR protest in York. Isobel, a socialist and anti-racist activist, reports, “The location this week was at the site where a racist attack took place last week.”

“There were great speakers from around York again and powerful contributions on an open mic.”

There was lots of support from Labour Party members as around 45 people joined a protest in Bearwood, Birmingham.

In Manchester supporters of SUTR took part in a number of actions in the city. Around 60 people protested in Chorlton Park, 20 for the first time in Alex Park on Moss Side, 20 in Stretford and 20 in Bury.

And in the city centre, activists took the knee in the Oxford Road with a SUTR banner.

On the Town Moore in Newcastle supporters of SUTR North East took the knee and unfurled a banner demanding, “Black Lives Matter.” There was also a protest in Berwick-upon-Tweed.

In West Wales, council workers in Swansea came outside to take the knee and Swansea City fans took the knee on the old Vetch field soccer ground. Around 50 people also protested in Llanelli town centre—and further west in Pembroke Dock activists took the knee.

On the same night, around 200 racists attacked a protest by 200 refugees and their supporters in Glasgow’s George’s Square. It was organised by the National Defence League, the rebranded fascist Scottish Defence League (SDL), to “defend” statues.

The far right organised protest attracted Loyalists, who chanted, “Fenian Bastards,” and, “Rule Britannia.”

A protest last weekend had been organised by the Loyalist Defence League. 

A statement from Stand Up To Racism Glasgow said, “We strongly condemn the racist thugs allowed by police to run riot in George Square tonight. Racist thugs who used a protest called under false pretences to attack people rightfully protesting in solidarity with asylum seekers in our city.

“The tiny fascist group that has rebranded as the “National Defence League” called the protest tonight to “defend” against a non-existent threat to the war memorial.

“The violence we witnessed by many who answered that call underlines the urgent need for all anti-racists to forge unity and oppose this poison wherever it rears its ugly head.” 

Around 100 people came out across three sites in Chesterfield and one in Matlock despite thunder, lightning and torrential rain.

There were two protests in Walthamstow, north east London, of 120 and 80 people.

Other events took place in Coventry, Lancaster, Nottingham, Sheffield, Stourbridge, Rotherham, Croydon, and many other places.

The protests across Britain show the breadth and depth of the Black Lives Matter movement. In a sign of how the movement gains, Oriel College Oxford said it was recommending removal of the racist Rhodes statue on Wednesday.

We need more action.


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