I was part of a group of people who attended the assembly at Windrush Square, Brixton yesterday. It initially started with around 200 people who gathered together for the Black Lives Matter protest. We subsequently marched through South London, stopping at the house of Cherry Groce for one minute’s silence. Cherry Groce was the unarmed black woman who was shot by the cops, which led to the Brixton Riots in 1985.
We marched together peacefully for about five miles through South London all the way to Hyde Park to assemble at Marble Arch. All the way through, we were followed by an increasing number of cops, including TSG, who were overheard to be worried about what’s happening in the USA happening here. Consistently, cops refused to remain two metres away from members of the protest who were trying to observe social distancing when they moved. Cops without masks or protective personal equipment approached every single person on that protest and entered into their space, even when requested not to, in order to inform them that they were breaching current COVID-19 legislation. The organisers insisted that we do not antagonise the cops and this was observed, despite there being one banner that had “FCKCPS” written on it.
At Marble Arch, the remaining fifty or so protestors gathered to hear the names of people murdered by the police read out. We could barely hear what was being said because there was a police helicopter hovering overhead and perhaps a hundred police officers gathered around surrounding the socially distanced protesters for Black Lives Matter. None of the police officers were observing social distancing, and only one officer was wearing a mask. When asked about it he said that they’d really like to but they simply don’t have it.
During the one-minute silence after the names of the people murdered by the Metropolitan police were read out, two groups of police officers were observed chatting and planning their next move. The one-minute silence hadn’t even ended and a column of about thirty police officers marched through the middle of the assembled people and arrested a woman of colour who had been quite vocal throughout the protest, including being very positive and supporting, also saying very well that she knew people would be arrested whilst we assembled on the other end. We followed to the best we could to try and ascertain which police station this person was being taken, and we were told that because she was an adult we were not to be informed. This was the moment when members of the crowd became upset that there had been an arrest, and that we had not been allowed to disperse without there being an arrest.
I do question what would have happened if the police had not been there. Probably we would have marched, assembled, said what we wanted to say, and then left. I confess, I was angry with the police and I did express that to them, that I thought they did not need to make any sort of arrest and certainly, they did not need to target that particular person if so, but they chose that very strategically.
As I was leaving the area I was repeatedly pushed and bullied by the police, my arm was eventually twisted behind my back until I was lifted by 5 police officers and slammed into the pavement and then knelt on, it was only when I began to chant “I can’t breathe” did they started to relax. I was then put into the back of the van with my arms in reverse stack handcuffs and left there for an hour despite repeatedly explaining how much pain I was in.
My experience is nothing compared to the daily experience of many people of colour and people who are consistently abused by the police. From my experience, what I realised is that despite the controversy and the difficulty of entering into the streets and public spaces while COVID-19 is still ongoing, there is a necessity for us to gather and to resist against police brutality, and against the domination of the state into our lives, especially when those people who are meant to be protecting us are constantly flouting the law themselves. It cannot be one law for them and a different law for us.
Social distancing laws only serve to protect the rich and those who are able to actually social distance rather than those who are persistently brutalised and murdered by the police on a daily basis. As some of the organisers of the Saturday BLM march said, the police are much more likely to kill us before COVID ever does. If there’s already 60,000+ deaths from COVID across the UK, then what does it matter if we stay in or not, our government is simply not providing any sort of protection, and the police are simply complicit in those murders as they travel around spreading the virus themselves and not obeying the laws which are meant to protect us…
Forgive me for being slightly wiped out from the recent experiences, but I’m proud to be one of the six and one of the twenty-three and I’m proud to fucking spend time in a cell in order to be out there and to resist police brutality and the ongoing oppression of the state. To call on all people who care about this and who really believe that black lives matter, that all lives matter, then to assemble on Wednesday and in future assemblies to support and indeed to shield people of colour from subsequent arrests and to put our own bodies and our own privilege on the line and to no longer maintain this silence knowing that our silence is violence and our silence is racism. Hope to see you all out there. Fuck cops.
Photo: Guy Smallman