Last night’s protest at London’s Westfield shopping centre was part of a movement against police racism and violence that’s growing internationally, reports Peter Norman.
In solidarity with the growing anti-racist movement developing in the USA, a die-in was held for Eric Garner last night in West London, organized by London Black Revs, the NUS Black Students Campaign and London Campaign against Police and State Violence.
Eric Garner’s murder, at the hands of a police chokehold, and his last words, “I can’t breathe”, repeated 11 times, have become a rallying cry for thousands of anti-racists across the USA. These thousands have been staging die-ins, sit-ins, blockades and other tactics to get their message across and with a swathe of anger, creativity and anti-systemic politics are building an inspiring and impressive movement.
While, in scale, social weight and geographical spread, there might not be the movement here that there is in the US, we certainly have something and it is growing. Estimates of yesterday’s die-in range from 600-1000. More multi-racial and female led than most other protests in the UK, this demonstration ran rings around the Metropolitan Police for hours, staging road blockades, carrying out an open-mic session in the middle of the street, entering and re-entering Westfields shopping centre and winning onlookers and shoppers to participation in the demonstration.
An impressive demonstration drawing the links between the murders of Michael Brown, Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner and the countless other victims of police and state racism in the USA, with our own cases of racist injustice here, from the police murders of Mark Duggan and Sean Rigg to Jimmy Mubenga’s death at the hands of G4S.
In their own typical, repressive fashion, the police hit, kicked, intimidated and eventually kettled protesters numerous times, eventually resulting in the arrests of 76 people on suspicion of public order offences. These arrests only add fuel to the fire, stress the need for arrestee solidarity and emphasize which institution it is that makes the situation so dire that “we can’t breathe”.
The movement around state racism is building. It’s diverse in background, united in sight of its enemies, emancipatory and inspiring. It’s time for it to connect with local communities where police racism, stop-and-searches, and the like are a day-to-day issue. That’s where the movement can be strengthened and developed.
Salute to the organisers and those involved in the initiating of the demonstration.