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Anti-racist protesters ‘take the knee’ in show of solidarity

‘Black Lives Matter’ demo outside Town Hall in response to shock death of George Floyd in the US

05 June, 2020 — By Sam Ferguson

‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters call for an end to racial inequality as they kneel outside the Town Hall following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis

DOZENS gathered outside the Town Hall to protest against racial inequality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd during a police arrest in the US.

They “took the knee” in solidarity with the protests which have spread across the globe since footage emerged of Mr Floyd’s death in ­Minneapolis. A police­man knelt on the 46-year-old’s neck for almost 10 minutes. Four officers in the US have been arrested and now face charges.

Demonstrations were held in Hyde Park on Wednesday and more “Black Lives Matter” protests are planned for the capital this weekend.

At Islington Town Hall on Wednesday, protesters carrying banners and flags listened to arranged speakers and voices from the small but passionate crowd, falling silent to remember BAME people who have been killed unlawfully during police contact across the world.

Speakers attacked the “divisive” politics of US President Donald Trump, and drew parallels between Mr Floyd’s death and the Grenfell Tower disaster, the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence and the Windrush scandal.

They also called on the UK government to recognise the harm caused in the UK by racial inequalities, and questioned why the Town Hall was illuminated in purple this week to show solidarity after Mr Floyd’s death, while UK BAME deaths went unmarked.

Toufik Kacimi, of Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, said: “We all identify as human beings. Our lives matter. Our first enemy is this sort of politics that divides us instead of bringing us together.”

Eleanor Petersen, an Islington resident directly affected by the Windrush scandal, said: “When our children leave us every day we hope they are safe, and we pray no harm will come to them or us. But the sad reality is that there are people out there who threaten us.”

She added: “The police are meant to protect us, and the fact that they didn’t protect George Floyd is terrifying and heartbreaking. We can’t let them divide us.”

Also speaking at the protest was Labour’s Hillrise councillor Michelline Ngongo.

“I come from the Republic of Congo, and I know the feeling of being a foreigner,” she said. “We need to live in solidarity. We will never stop this battle until things are changed. Black people’s lives matter.”

Meanwhile, another Labour councillor, Claudia Webbe, who was elected as MP for Leicester East in December, used a parliamentary speech to call on the UK to “reassess the racial disparities” in the criminal justice system.

Mr Floyd had gasped “I can’t breathe” in the final moments of his life.

Cllr Webbe, who represents Bunhill in the south of Islington, spoke on a video-call with thousands of activists on Saturday before a day of action organised by the Black Lives Matter movement in Trafalgar Square.

She said: “It is a grim testament to the inescapable nature of state-sanctioned racism that viral videos of unarmed African-Americans being killed by white police officers have become commonplace in recent years.

“Yet even within this depraved normality, the footage of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police has understandably provoked a wave of revulsion, anger and revolt amongst African, Asian and minority ethnic communities across the world.”

She added: “The UK government must take this opportunity to reassess the racial disparities in our own criminal justice system.

“Now is the time to end the severe class and racial inequalities that exist across the world.”

President Trump has taken a hard-line approach to protests in the US, calling in the military after some shops and stores were looted.

Teargas and rubber bullets have been fired at protesters, while videos of trucks and police cars being driven into crowds have also circulated. One protester has died.

Cllr Webbe added: “The discriminatory use of tear gas and rubber bullets is a continuation of the narrative as we have known it for centuries, that racism is predicated on the regulation and control of black communities.”


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