“Black Lives Matter” was the urgent call to arms ricocheting off government buildings in Whitehall, central London, on Saturday.
An estimated 50,000 people assembled to demand justice for George Floyd and rail against police brutality. The protest was young, black and powered by a sense of urgency—not just against violent cops, but the entire murderous system.
Kayci, who had come to the protest with her friends, said, “It’s important to be here because it represents who we are.
“We live in this society of black heritage and people need to see the justice and see that we are people too.”
She added “Racism is a problem all the way around the world—it’s just as prevalent in the Britain as in the US.
“But we need to support the movement wherever we are.”
Aaliyah said a key aspect was “the numbers” on the demonstration. “It shows how strong our movement is and how many people feel passionately about this,” she explained. “And I think that’s important because we all have a voice, but together we’re stronger.
“It is important for our future children and the generation after us.
“We have little cousins, little siblings and it’s important that we stand up for them and they won’t have to go through what we have.”
Whitehall was gridlocked with protesters and several breakaway marches led activists off through the streets. They chanted, “Boris is a racist,” and chalked the names of those murdered by the cops on an Abraham Lincoln statue.
Later in the day mounted police were used against demonstrators in Whitehall. There were denunciations of protesters’ supposed violence after a cop fell from her horse, but in fact she had ridden into a traffic light.
First time protester Thema said the experience of being on the demonstration left her feeling “proud”. “The pride comes from seeing different ethnicities, different backgrounds, all coming to support the cause,” she said.
“This isn’t a phase—this is a change that needs to happen.”
Thema says she was “feeling too shy to speak out” before she came to her first protest. “But now everyone is speaking out,” she said. “I have courage to talk about the issues. “That’s why I think it’s so important to keep spreading the word.
One of the most popular chants on the demonstration was for transport worker Belly Mujinga. Protesters climbed onto the window ledges of government buildings and led chants demanding justice.
Belly died from coronavirus after being spat at by someone who claimed to have the virus. Police asked the Crown Prosecution Service on Friday to review evidence into her death and see if there were charges worth pursuing.
The cops’ decision comes after Belly became a figurehead for the Black Lives Matter movement in Britain.
Activists draw connections between Belly’s life being considered disposable and how George Floyd was treated at the hands of the cops. Lusamba Katalay, Belly’s husband said, “Black lives do matter.
“Belly’s life mattered. It mattered to me, to our daughter, our friends and family, to Belly’s colleague and now it matters to many thousands of you out there.”
He said the family “continue to have questions about the police investigation”.
Protester Kevin said developments in Belly’s case “show that we are being heard by coming out”. “So we’ve got to keep doing it and things will change again,” he said.
He called for an end to police brutality and “not as many stop and searches—that needs to get cut down”.
Now everyone is speaking out. I have courage to talk about the issues. That’s why I think it’s so important to keep spreading the word.
First time protester Thema
Protests continue to rage across the US on Friday night—forcing some limited promise of reform from authorities.
In Minneapolis, the city where George Floyd was murdered, police are now banned from holding people in chokeholds and neck restraints.
In New York, healthcare workers organised a rally in Union Square. Organiser Hillary Duenes said, “We want to redirect the respect that was given to us throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
“And give that same respect to members of the community who are on the frontline fighting for social justice.”
Activists across the US marked what would have been the 27th birthday of Breonna Taylor—a woman gunned down by police in her own home.
Back in London, the Tories and cops said people shouldn’t march.
But protesters are determined that being on the streets is critical to building the momentum. “Apart from putting stuff on social media you have to actually do something about it,” said Courtney.
She said you have to “demonstrate some action and do something tangible and show support”. For Timika, the movement to demand justice for George Floyd was just part of “the whole way the system is set up.” “It’s hard for people to get work, it’s hard for people to buy their houses, it’s hard for black people to own buildings,” she said.
“It’s hard for us to really establish ourselves. Nobody’s asking for a handout, we’re asking to change the system slightly so that its easier for us to get into the same position as anyone else is into.”
This movement is asking fundamental questions and leaving deep roots.
A round-up of workplace struggles
A round-up of transport workers’ struggles