Around 200 peaceful protestors gathered in a town centre to share their support for the global Black Lives Matter movement against racial injustices and police brutality.

Globally, people of all colours have been uniting to express their solidarity after the death of George Floyd, and hundreds of years of police brutality and racism.

The message ‘Black Lives Matter’ has been chanted time and time again – in hopes to tackle the racial injustices in the world due to a person’s colour of skin.

While in the UK thousands of peaceful protestors are gathering at notable spots such as Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square, a group of youngsters decided to host their own protest yesterday (June 2) in Hemel Hempstead town centre in The Marlowes Shopping Centre.

Smaller communities are not held accountable

The organiser of the event, a 20-year-old black woman, decided it is “too strong of a cause to sit and do nothing about” and managed to gather a large group at the town centre.

She said it felt important to hold a localised protest, as these always happen in large cities rather than “right on their doorstep”.

The organiser said: “I think it’s unhelpful because the marginalised people living in these rural communities in smaller towns often feel isolated and it’s difficult to connect to each other and speak out against racism they’re enduring from that community.

“Nobody should be able to look past the injustices going on in the world on the basis that it doesn’t affect them.

“I think if smaller communities are not held accountable for their racism, when there is a lot of cases, than how can we move forward together if some of us are a few steps behind?”

The protest started off as an idea as a small gathering in the town centre with some signs. But the group spread the message through group chats and social media to grab the attention of the wider public.

At first there were around thirty people in attendance, but as the group began to chant and express their feelings and experiences, more began to follow, and share their support.

The group began to march around the town centre, with permission from the police, and as 200 people joined the crowd, there was over 22,000 views on a Facebook Live stream.

The protestor explained that while global protests were ignited following the death of George Floyd as a police officer knelt on his neck, protests in the UK are just as significant.

Watford Observer:

A mural for George Floyd at Belfast (Photo: PA)

Racism in the UK

She said that racism can appear more “overt” in the US, but that’s not to say it is “covert” in the UK.

She said: “In reality, people in the UK are facing microaggressions on a daily basis, they are facing their peers being ignorant to them.

“We have a deep history of racism and colonialism in the UK, which massively contributes to the society today which is a racist and corrupted one. It is very difficult when we had such a huge hand in creating today’s society through colonisation, through the British Empire, to say no we have not done anything.

“It’s time for their voices to be heard, just as loud.

“Nobody should be able to get up and walk away from this table, we all need to sit down and discuss it as the human race to move forward.”

In her own experience the organiser said she is victim to many microaggressions, whether being called the ‘N word’, joked as a slave or other insensitive comments.

She said: “I’ve been told that God put me (black people) in the oven too long and came out burnt, or people say ‘you’re such a good friend, I don’t event think of you as black.”

The organiser recalled she was just fourteen when she first saw a video of a black person being killed by a police force, Mike Brown.

Deaths like these and viral footage of brutality happened time and time again, but when turning to her white friends she noticed “it was not something they wanted to hear about”.

She said: “I’m not sure why George Floyds’ death has caused such a massive uprising, because I’ve seen – especially from my white counterparts – support for the movement.

“I think a lot of it is due to the pandemic, a lot of us are living on our phones and it’s hard to look away from.”

“It was really beautiful to see solidarity.”

Change is needed

Watford Observer:

Footage at the protest in Hemel (Photo: UGC)

For anyone who is not black wishing to help, she encourages them to educate themselves about the historic injustices, talk to their black friends about their experiences of racism in their lives and “have a conversation why this hasn’t come up before”.

She said: “Keep our voices heard because it’s been silenced for such a long time. Educating and communicating are the best thing we can do right now because knowledge is power.”

The global protests are taking place during the global pandemic of Covid-19, while protestors at Hemel maintained social distancing, she said that those worried about the virus can still help by spreading the word, donating to causes and providing resources.

The Black Lives Matter movement has always had a level of resentment from select individuals, with a near automatic response “All Lives Matter”.

The organiser explained that “all lives cannot matter until black lives matter”.

She said: “If you are on a street and one house is on fire, you’re not going to spray them all on water, you’re going to spray the one on fire.

“Black people are being incarcerated and murdered by the police force at alarming rates and they’re facing harsher sentences than their white counterparts for lesser crimes.”

When asked what it’s like to deal with racism, she said: “It’s like mosquito bites, every microaggression is a mosquito bite, you have one in the morning, then one in the afternoon.

“It hurts initially and it’s painful and aggravating, but you can deal with it. But when you get to a point when you are absolutely covered in mosquito bites that’s when people get angry and snap.

“And I cannot blame them to be honest, it’s a horrible feeling to be dehumanised to such an extent.”

Assistant chief constable Bill Jephson said: “Police Constables and PCSOs attended to monitor the event and ensure the safety of those protesting, and the wider public.

“We understand that people across Hertfordshire and beyond will rightly feel horrified about the death of George Floyd in America and we stand shoulder to shoulder with those across the country, and indeed the world, who are both saddened and angered by the way Mr Floyd lost his life on the 25th of May.

“The right to protest is well established in this country and policing respects the right to free speech and indeed, has a role to facilitate peaceful protest.

“However, I would not want to see anyone become ill with Covid-19 as a result of mass gatherings. I would urge everyone to consider their health, and the health of others at this time.

“We want everyone in the county to feel safe, and to have trust and confidence in their local police.

“There are always ways to improve but recent events have made the constabulary more determined than ever to continue working closely with all of our communities, while learning and striving to deliver fair and proportionate policing for everyone.”