Updated: Mar 26
The Black Lives Matter movement has noticeably increased in notoriety following the death of an African American called George Floyd. Mr Floyd is believed by many to have been killed by a police force who used excessive force on a man who did not show signs of aggression. The facts surrounding the death are the following.
Facts around the death of Mr Floyd
The Minneapolis police force were called due to a suspicion of a counterfeit $20 bill being used to buy a single pack of cigarettes 25th May 2020.
Mr Floyd did not assault or threaten any officers during their intervention. He also did not seem to try to escape.
He was handcuffed, then pinned to the ground with the full weight of an adult male focusing the pressure through his shin on the neck of Mr Floyd for a period of 8 minutes 51 seconds
The police attempted to cover up their actions by fabricating a story that he become aggressive meaning the force was necessary.
Mr Floyd was in distress and pleaded that he could not breath and he was ignored by all four officers
Onlookers pleaded for the force to stop and the officers ignored their cries
Mr Floyd died with no attempt of resuscitation from the officers though an ambulance was called.
The protest was also about Belly Mujinga. This lady was spat on by a gentleman claiming to have COVID-19, she later died and the person was not charged with murder. The employers of Mrs Mujinga failed to contact the police and appeared to not take the incident seriously. They wiped out most of the footage of the incident before it could be handed over to the police. This greatly troubled the protesters and they felt her case needed to be highlighted as an injustice.
An undertone to the protest was how the protestors believed the police treated them. This was many people's opportunity to let the police know how they feel about them. Some of the people I spoke to had their own experiences with the police that was not pleasant.
Facts about UK Police and race
93% of the UK force is white in ethnicity (2018/19)
70% of intervention tactics is used on what the officer perceives as a white person (bearing in mind white people represent 86% of the country).
Two killings this year have been caused by police according to Wikipedia, both using firearms. (Sudesh Amman shot in streatham after stabbing people and Hassan Yahya after challenging officers with knives)
19.86% of CED (tasers) were used on what officers reported as a black person, 66.01% percent of CED use was for people perceived as white.
A black person is 5x more likely to be searched by a policer officer (according to stop watch)
My own experience with the police
I have been racially profiled by the police so I can understand why people feel very frustrated with the institution of the police service. I will briefly give my three incidents.
1) I was in a car garage supporting a friend whose car had been smashed into when stationary the night before. The car needed a new wheel.
A pair of unmarked officers had observed me going into the garage, showing my phone and proceeded to walk out with a mental bolt wrench. They accused me of trying to sell a stolen phone, even though I explained my purpose and even showed them the smashed car The garage worker did not verify their story and offered to take them to the car which they declined. I showed the images of the vehicle which was literally on the same road as where we stood. They insisted that I tell them what I was doing if the phone I had was not stolen. The situation ended when I repeated the phrase "place that fixes broken cars, picture of broken car"
2) I had come back from a gospel concert and was on my road walking home. I had just posted a letter and was proceeding to go home where a marked car stopped me in the middle of the road and prevented me crossing. They asked me what I was doing. I explained that I lived on the road and was heading home. The leading officer did not believe me and started accusing me. I decided to play along and spoke vaguely. I wanted to see where this was going. I noted that the type of language was likely to upset the average young person but decided not to give in to the provocation to get emotional and react.
Eventually I had enough and proceeded to reprimand the officer, highlighting if this would have been a young person they would of reacted to the provocation and asked why he would use such an approach. I gave the officer some straight advice and to my surprise the officer was no longer interested in talking to me and drove off. I really wanted the conversation to go on.
3) I had left work and was heading to the Victoria and Albert where me and some friends where going to look at a photography exhibition. I must have been driving less than 5 minutes when a police van heading in the opposite direction spun round and 3-4 officer approached my car (stuck in rush hour traffic). They asked me to get out and I declined and ask what the problem was. The officers stated I look like a gang member and that is why they were stopping me.
To be clear I was dressed smartly, I was playing no music and my posture when driving was normal. I asked the officer what a gang member looked like? They declined to answer. I told them that they should just say they stopped me because I was black, that would be much easier. They tried to persuade me to come out and I told them no, as to my knowledge there was no crime. They went on to say (after running my plates) that the car was a lease and that gang members use council lease cars. I had somewhere to go so I told them I am still wearing my work badge (ending their approach). They let me go, I got to my destination on time but bewildered.
I was not happy with the way I felt racially stereotyped and I wrote a letter of complaint explaining the narrative and asking what their description of a gang member was and for copies of the transcript. I got a sharp response stating that though I was not arrested it did not mean I was innocent and that they were not going to share any information requested as my freedom of information request was voided by the Secrets Act.
I do not speak for everyone and I will leave it to you to determine whether my examples were profiling or not.
The protests in Hyde Park
The following images and commentary is intended to be my own encounter whilst accompanying the protest on Wednesday 3rd June 2020. My aim was to capture a balanced reflection on the protest, capturing a fair summary of what occurred within my vision. I do not intend to use this as a platform to assert my views on the issue of Black Lives as I want to be as factual as possible. I am also conscience that I cannot speak on behalf of the black race.
I arrived around 12:00pm and the environment was calm and people were able to socially distance. People came from all over England to support the movement and were looking forward to the march.
The organisers had COVID signs, they encouraged people to distance themselves, they were giving out water, gloves and masks. It felt very well organised and thought through. Each area had a representative who would give information to the crowd, keeping people informed. At one point the family of Mr Floyd were cheered via the medium of facebook live as they watched London's efforts through a mobile phone. Legal observers were present and gave out cards to support people if they got arrested.
This lady made sure I took her picture stating she is from Nigeria and is glad that the young people had organised this protest. Interestingly she thought at first the Mr Floyd video was a hoax. She thought it would be deceiving video until she saw it. She was very disturbed. She stated the police are brutal, violent, doing too much stop and search, and did not want the UK to bring what the US police bring to their citizens (murder of people in cold blood).
Some of the leaders are shown here speaking to the media and to the participants awaiting the start of the march (scroll through gallery).
A selection of some of the protestors who had showed up to Hyde Park in London.
(scroll through gallery)
I spoke to the mother asking why she brought her baby here. She responded "Why not?" . She stated it was important to bring her daughter to the protest. She wanted me to take a photo of her and the sign, but I said no the t-shirt says it all.
I spoke to the boy on the right and asked him why he was here? He stated because the police have been violent towards Mr Floyd and killed him and that it was wrong. He was very shy but with some encouragement from his parents (I presume they were his parents) he was able to explain the cause he was here about.
People spoke of the brutality for others less known. In this case a Turkish youth who is believed to have been killed for listening to forbidden music. Other people in the park did not care about George Floyd or the States but was concerned about their own encounters or that of their community and wanted their voice to be heard. For them this was their best opportunity.
These adults were dancing as they waited for things to begin. The lady in yellow had a bluetooth speaker, she played music throughout the protest.
The emergency services were present and put on a brave smile. They would have known that a lot of the energy would be directed at them, however they did there best to engage positively with the participants. As you can see, there was no riot gear or fire arms visible (though armed units were near by as is standard due to the risk of large gatherings). Medics were present incase they were needed. Some officers documented what was occurring for their records.
Some did not want to be in the crowd but wanted to see what was happening. This male and others climbed on trees, in order to see what was happening.
The man on the left was happy to watch from a distance. The gentleman on the right was happy to strum his guitar, though he did not sing, he stated he was not there for the protest.
This was the start of the march, the crowd were led out of the park. Due to the gates this process took a while. I quickly made my way to the front.
These passionate young ladies appeared to be leading the crowd as they chanted.
A collection of images from the journey to Victoria from Hyde Park (scroll through gallery).
These images shows a van who randomly pulled in front of the march tooting the horn, giving the crowd something to cheer about. The gentleman in the middle was not apart of the March but followed in curiosity all the way to Brixton.
These images are not so positive. To the right (mainly) are police officers filming to gather evidence. A young man does his best to obstruct the film. Another young person takes over while more young men see whats happening and get in the action. Eventually there is a verbal confrontation, this resulted in light objects being hurled at the officers. One gentleman goes into the face of the officers and gets very aggressive and is quickly backed up by 3-4 other young men. They almost surround the officers but wisely the police 'leg it' as they had no back up. The reason why they were isolated was because the path way was not disclosed and was dynamically changing. It is unclear if their colleagues knew their location (scroll through gallery).
Cyclist had it good, it was easy for them to stay at the front and cruise along the streets. The movements were often fast paced. The bikes were able to keep up this pace throughout the hours I was with them. At some points the cyclist and faster pedestrians were asked to stop to allow the slower walkers to catch up (scroll through gallery).
This was the moment a bike had a collision with a police car. I missed the actually collision but heard the cyclist hit the floor and concerned protesters quickly come to his aid. Once it had became apparent that this car had collided with the bike (causing some grazing and bruising) the protestors started approaching the vehicle (to what it looks like confront the officers). The car accelerated down the road to avoid this. However angry protestors started chasing down the car. Fortunately some of the leaders caught on to this and chased after them and encouraged them to stop, calming the situation down pretty quickly. I don't recall seeing this cyclist again after the incident.
The bus stop was used as a stage and the people were reminded of the cause again. This served as a refocus on the peaceful protest and it also allowed others to catch up.
She spoke with enthusiasm and did not overkill it with long speeches, she got to the point and she rallied the troops then she moved on (scroll through gallery).
Here we can see in the centre two officers that were attacked earlier on back in their roles, this time not isolated but with a larger amount of officers. I spoke to them (at Brixton) asking them why they didn't call it a day. They shrugged it off and stated they were in it till then end.
The police were very well organised considering the lack of an agreed route and the sudden switches in direction. When the crowd headed to Downing Street to let the Prime Minister know how they feel about him they quickly formed a barrier. There were some minor verbal expressions of hate "We hate you", "Go *&^&*^&* yourself" however the leaders once again refocused the group and tensions mellowed. Again speeches were made, the crowd were rallied and the crown moved on (scroll through gallery).
Just as the police organised themselves to stand outside New Scotland Yard, a leader opted to change the direction as this target was "too obvious" (scroll through gallery).
Some bus drivers and cars honked their horns in support. The buses had to stop their routes and let their passengers off. Most of them had a smile and engaged with the protests positively.
Here the protestors lined outside the houses of Parliament peacefully. The police allowed the protestors to gather, protest. Some wanted the officers to kneel however the leaders stated the police have a job to do and commended them on their conduct which had not provoked the protestors. The crowd were asked to take a knee, which was a mark of respect. The leaders announced this was the end of the protest and to peacefully go home and disburse so that no shame was brought on the movement. To my knowledge the walk was over. One of the leaders stated he was going home to South and I truly under-estimated how many would follow (scroll through gallery).
During the gathering an MP came out to meet the crowd suited and booted. His name was Barry Gardiner who was later critised for breaking the social rules (the protestors were fine with him coming out). He defended himself on his page by stating "I know I had an obligation to set an example. The rules are important in overcoming this epidemic and I do not want my action to undermine people's willingness to maintain social distancing.... The anger generated by my breach of the social distancing rules must not be allowed to detract from the vital message that Black Lives Matter and that we all have an obligation to fight racism. The killing of George Floyd must be a catalyst for action."
The Crowd went through Lambeth North through Kennington and were met by bewilderment and support from onlookers. Some had to work and were glad to have caught some of the protest on their own door step (scroll through gallery).
Here is one example of many passers by who were happy to see the protest even though the crowd had just blocked his path of where he was driving to. Many cars had to U-turn and find alternative routes.
Passers by observing from a distance another rallying speech (see gallery).
One of the leaders cracks a joke about taking it easy for a moment to let every catch their breath to the amusement of even the officers monitoring the movement. The police had some time to relax for a moment and the slower walkers had a chance to catch up. Cars were still at this time needing to find alternative ways out to get to their destinations (scroll through gallery).
This young man was upset that the march had gone to Brixton. He stated "They don't care about us" "They don't care about south" he later explained to me that he thought the police had forced them to come to Brixton. He wanted the march to go back to central where the power of the country is.
This man shouted out the protestors "Repent", "Stop sinning", "All lives matter". This did not go down well with the protestors. Some of which challenged him and asked him why he did not support. This led to an unhealthy conversation, from what I heard he was blaming the sin of the marchers for what was happening in the world. However he did not listen to what the protestors had to say which many had to walk away from whiles others challenged. I eventually had to calmly talk to the person to explain why his approach had not gone down well and the matter got defused.
At Brixton a lady asked everyone to gather in a circle. The people then asked her to speak but she did not feel that she should be the one to so she thanked all for supporting. This with my ending of an overall peaceful and well organised protest (scroll through gallery).
To conclude covering the event was an interesting experience. It was hard at times to take myself away from the cause and to document what was occurring, however I knew that capturing the event honestly would be a more efficient use of my time. I saw a well organised but at the same time dynamic protest. I saw people unite under one cause. Time will tell whether this and other events cause society to change.