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Protesters hold up signs saying "I can't breathe"

Manchester's Black Lives Matter weekend protests bring thousands into the city centre

  • Black Lives Matter's peacful protests brought thousands to the city centre
  • Demonstrators call for an end to institutionalised racism
  • Attendees knelt for George Floyd and held a two minute silence
  • People shared their expriences of racism and pushed plans for change
Two protesters hold up sign saying Are you anti-racist?
Image by Isaac Piper

 

Protesters hold up MLK quote "There comes a time when silence is betrayal"
Image by Isaac Piper

 

Protesters hold up signs saying "I can't breathe"
Image by Isaac Piper

Since the days of Jim Crow, black communities worldwide have pleaded with society to recognise and remove institutionalised racism from within the criminal justice system and beyond.

With the message still being processed in 2020, nationwide protests took place over the weekend, motivated by the mobile footage documenting the murder of George Floyd, 46, Minnesota, an unarmed black man who died after being forcibly restrained by the neck by a police officer while shouting the words, "I can't breath."

Group of BLM protesters in Piccadilly Gardens

With numbers reaching the thousands, groups of mainly young people gathered in Manchester city centre, standing together against the systemic racism that is prevalent throughout the world, disproportionately harming black people.

Saturday’s protests brought sunshine and the highest number of people, organising in Piccadilly Gardens at 1pm. The crowd began by kneeling with a two-minute silence dedicated to George Floyd.

Moving in a circuit, down Market Street, into Deansgate and back into Piccadilly Gardens through St Peter’s Square, the thousands of protesters brought traffic to a halt as they marched with handmade signs and loud chants.

BLM young protester waves sign on bin
'Covid Kills People, Racism Kills Communities'

Crowd kneel to give George Floyd a two minute silence

 

Reflecting on the protest, Patrick, 59,  said: “As a black man, what exactly is it people dislike about me? It’s fantastic to see the younger generation out here, but they need to carry on with this momentum.

“I’m nearly 60. In my time I’ve seen a lot of movements take place, but the energy today is powerful. Young people mustn’t let anyone take this fight away from them. Keep pushing and change will come.”

The UK is not innocent

After the march, a smaller crowd congregated around the statue of Motherhood in Piccadilly Gardens. Manchester musician, Chunky, spoke out about a letter written in 1863 by Abraham Lincoln.

Lincoln celebrated the mill workers of Manchester for supporting the cotton embargo that helped to bring an end to slavery in the US, despite the impact to their own livelihoods.

Staff in Lancashire mills stood in solidarity to end the importation of cotton handpicked by African slaves, opposed to Liverpool who had confederate flags decorating the banks of the Mersey.

After raising the point about Manchester’s contribution to helping end the slave trade, Chunky addressed the absence of uniformed police and community leaders such as the Mayor, Andy Burnham, asking the question: “Andy, where are you?!”

Group of BLM protesters in Piccadilly Gardens

Speaking to the crowd, a young man said: “The UK is not innocent. On this picture that I hold here is my cousin, Adrian McDonald.

“Adrian died at the hands of police brutality. He was tasered and my cousin died in a van on the way to the station. Each day those police wakeup to their children, they’re breathing today.

"My cousin doesn't wake up to his son, he doesn’t wake up to his partner. I’m hurt. It’s not just the US, it happens here.”

Outlined in the Lammy Report (2017), the BAME proportion of youths in prisons increased by 16% to a total of 41% between the years 2006-2016.

The mass incarceration of black communities is a real problem within the Anglo-American establishment, with a disproportionate chance of being prosecuted or killed by police in the US and UK, hence why protesters are still shouting: “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police!”

UK police figures reveal 39 custody-related deaths between the years of 2017 to 2019, with 17 of those deaths involving the use of police force.

Black people made up 35% of custody-related deaths involving the use of force, despite only representing 3.3% of the population (2011 Census), they also disproportionately account for 12% of the adult prison population.

Three BLM protesters in Piccadilly Gardens

Sunday's protests began at 2pm, with demonstrators proceeding to again march through the city centre, setting centre stage in St Peter’s Square, where a passionate display of unity was felt as hundreds kneeled to respect all black lives stolen by police brutality.

Crowds moving down Deansgate
Image by Isaac Piper

Helping to promote and organise the Sunday protest, Tyrek Richard-Morris - a journalism student at Manchester Metropolitan University - said: “It isn’t enough to share a hashtag.

“They’re great for starting a trend, but aren’t enough for making a lasting change. Black lives matter. That isn’t a trend. We need to get together to start something that will last.”

Tyrek Morris-Richards addresses the crowd
Tyrek Morris-Richards addresses the crowd. Image by Caleb Nelson, aAh! Magazine.

Tyrek proposed plans to raise a platform for black voices within the community by financially supporting black media that represents the real attitudes and opinions of the black community, working in their interest, not against them.

BLM protest sign

Six years ago, the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, an 18 year old black man, in Ferguson, Missouri, by a white police officer sparked outrage across the US, resonating loudly in the UK. The Ferguson protests generated a new wave of black activism, with users on Twitter using the #Ferguson and #blacklivesmatter over 40 million times.

To understand the reference to ‘systemic racism’, the power struggle between uniformed law enforcers and black communities has trickled down for generations. St Louis County Police Department, which covers Ferguson, was established in 1809, to protect the area's economic interests. Officers were paid to protect people and private property from Native Americans. 

Police simultaneously enforced the slave codes to exert total control over minorities. Slave codes gave state police complete control to oversee Africans' movements, from education and trade, to prohibiting gatherings and issuing punishments, including death, without any legal consequence.

BLM March through Deansgate

BLM sign that mentions Covid-19 restrictions

Protests took place around the UK over the weekend and not just in the big metropolitan areas. Manchester Metropolitan University journalism student, Jess Stoddard, captured the mood at a protest in Bournemouth.

Meanwhile, here in Manchester, a young female protester responded to the critism she was facing from friends and family for attending the protest during the lockdown by saying: "If you're questioning why we're protesting, or you're hating on the movement, then I'm really upset you feel that way. Protests are about making a change and taking action

"Corona is dangerous - I get it. But racism is more dangerous. We are fighting a different pandemic - racism."

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