Refugees welcome here – No to Islamophobia – Yes to diversity
At 1pm today around 3500 Anti Racists gathered for a peaceful protest called by Black Lives Matter Leicester, to express solidarity with the movement for justice for George Floyd, but also to call for change to British education and attitudes. Black Lives Matter Leicester was formed by a network of young people from Leicester and organisers said they hoped that the message would be heard by the government and offer hope and support to young black people. The protest was supported by the police and Leicester’s City Mayor as well as Councillor Deborah Sangster and a message of solidarity from Labour MP Diane Abbott was also read out. Organisers called for protesters to adhere to social distancing guidelines and face masks and hand sanitiser were given out.
There were reminders of the words of Matin Luther King “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” and a call from one of the speakers to ‘Be the change you want to see in the world’. The protesters took the knee for 9 minutes – the amount of time that police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on neck of George Floyd – a powerful illustration of both the length of time and the physical effort to carry out this act.
The speakers, mainly BAME young people, spoke of their experiences of racism in the UK, but also made the links to wider issues the crowd began chanting ‘We want Revolution” within the first few minutes. A Leicester secondary school teacher spoke of the inequalities within the education system with lack of expectation from teaching staff being linked to the low attainment of GCSEs particularly for black boys . There were also calls for a change in the curriculum to include more Black History – it was noted also that the majority of literature taught in schools was written by “Middle Class White Men – who are all dead”. There was also a call for solidarity between people of colour – one speaker reflected on her own South Indian, Muslim community who despite suffering their own oppression might be less likely to support black struggles in the wider movement.
The struggles of LGBT people and for black women were highlighted with speakers talking of their own experiences and there were calls for solidarity within the Black Lives Matters movement for these struggles. There were calls to white people present to acknowledge their privilege but also to commit to educating family and friends about what this privilege means and committing to learning to use this privilege to support BAME struggles. There were also performances of poetry and music before the organisers called on protesters to carry the momentum forward with further action in the future.
Report and photos by Becky.