#BlackLivesMatter London Protest: Sunday 7 June
London Student had the opportunity to attend the Black Lives Matter protest taking place on Sunday 7 June. The protest began on Nine Elms Lane, which leads to the U.S Embassy, with a whole street blocked off for tens of thousands of protesters according to Reuters. The atmosphere was electric, and inspiring. There were numerous chants of “Black Lives Matter” and “Say his name: George Floyd”, as well as chants of “Boris Johnson is a racist” and “Fuck Trump”, with the protesters calling for Johnson and Trump to step down as a result of the systemic racism many black and non-black people of colour (POC) face in the country.
After an hour of standing by the embassy, the protest turned and marched past Vauxhall station and across the bridge into Westminster. Protesters were handing out leaflets answering basic legal questions should they run into the police throughout the protest. One said: “You do not have to give you name and address under any stop and search power,” referring to recent reports that police were kettling protesters and forcing them to give up private information before allowing them to leave the area on Saturday 6 June.
Human rights charity Liberty are concerned by these reports and have suggested that this action by police was “potentially unlawful.”
There were a number of protests across the UK simultaneously, in Manchester and Bristol specifically – protesters in Bristol pulled down a statue of the slave trader Edward Colston and threw it into the river. Many have condemned the act but others have praised it as Colston was a known slave trader and was instrumental in making Bristol a major port for slavery. In London, protesters defaced the Winston Churchill statue in Parliament Square, crossing out his name with a black live and writing “was a racist” underneath.
We have chosen a number of images and videos from the Sunday protest to showcase in this article, and we want to reiterate that London Student stands with the Black Lives Matter movement and all those protesting for the fundamental rights of black and non-black POC everywhere.
Disclaimer: We have blurred the faces of protesters whose faces were easily visible in images to protect them from retribution or future arrest.
Since the weekend, many have been inspired by the Bristol protesters tearing down Colston’s statue. A number of other statues and monuments have been taken down or changed as a result:
- The statue of King Leopold II of Belgium, who was responsible for the deaths of millions of Africans after invading and running an exploitative regime in the Congo, has been removed from Antwerp.
- Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, approved the swift removal of Robert Milligan, another slave trader who founded the West India docks, outside the Museum of London Docklands.
- Liverpool University had announced they would rename one of their student halls, which was previously named after former Prime Minister William Gladstone. Gladstone’s father, Sir John Gladstone, was a infamous slave trader, who received the largest amount of ‘slave compensation’ after the abolition of slavery in 1833.
- A square in Plymouth is set to be renamed by the City Council. It is currently named Sir John Hawkins Square – a petition calling for a renaming has been signed by over 3,000 people since Sunday. John Hawkins is described as “the first English slave trader.”
- A council leader in Wales has expressed support for the removal of the statue of slave owner Sir Thomas Picton from Cardiff City Town Hall.
Some members of the public have taken to social media to criticise the removal of the statues, and the renaming of Liverpool’s student halls and Plymouth’s square. A lot of them are echoing similar thoughts, suggesting that the country is “too politically correct,” that we are “erasing our history,” and suggesting that the government is “giving in to extremists.” As of Tuesday 9 June, Netflix and the BBC have both decided to remove comedy show Little Britain from their streaming platforms, which has also encountered criticism. The show contains many homophobic, racist, transphobic and ableist jokes, as well as instances of black face.
Many black and non-black POC and their white allies are understandably very happy about these changes, especially with how quick the turnaround has been since the last protest, and following on from the biggest civil rights movement in the United States since Martin Luther King Jr. #BlackLivesMatter.
Photography and videography credit: Michele Theil