Thousands of people met on Saturday 27 June for the Black Trans Lives Matter demonstration in central London. This demonstration took place in the context of the BLM movement, in place of the annual Pride march. In recent years, Pride has been co-opted by big business. But Saturday's demo reflected Pride's radical origins, and showed what it needs to return to.
Beginning at Wellington Arch, there was a sense of militant anger among protestors. Moving towards Parliament, slogans such as “No justice, no peace” and “The UK is not innocent” were chanted almost by the whole crowd in unison. With further demonstrations called for the following weekend, there is no sign this mood will cool any time soon.
“Pride started as a riot”
The Socialist Appeal bloc marched in solidarity with trans people and people of colour. Speaking to those in attendance, there was enormous anger at the use of police violence in the UK, as well as in the USA and internationally. There was an urgent desire among those present to organise to abolish the police, and to fight the discrimination of the Tory government.
Recent Tory attacks on trans rights have unleashed more momentum into the BLM movement, with demonstrators marching with pride and defiance against discrimination towards black and trans people.
Slogans were chanted, and music blared out along the march. Protesters were receptive to our revolutionary slogans on the demo, including “We won’t be calm, we won’t be quiet; Pride started as a riot”, and our calls for revolutionary change.
Many people we spoke to at the demo were keen to get hold of our leaflets about the struggle against capitalism and racism. They were open to in-depth conversations about the future of the BLM movement. Many discussed the fight against capitalism and the need for socialism.
Capitalism and oppression
Working-class people of colour and the LGBT community are some of the most oppressed in society, facing class exploitation as well as systematic discrimination and racism. Trans people face much higher rates of sexual abuse and homelessness, whilst themselves being scapegoated as potential abusers. 89% of trans people have had suicidal thoughts at one time, highlighting the impact of the discrimination they face.
Demonstrators on Saturday were mainly young. Activists reflected anger at the state’s use of violence and the systematic oppression seen under capitalism. The disproportionately high death toll from the COVID 19 epidemic amongst BAME people has been an especially raw reminder of these structural inequalities that exist under capitalism.
The demand to dismantle the police – one of the main demands coming from the BLM movement internationally – highlights the role of the state and police in capitalist society. “Who do you serve? Who do you protect?” was one of the chants on Saturday’s demonstration.
Many placards called for fundamental change to the police; and most of the people we spoke to saw the need for radical alternatives to the existing state structures, based on democratic control by working-class communities.
Slogans such as “The UK is not innocent” brought to mind not only recent injustices in policing in the UK – such as racist stop and search surveillance and harassment – but also Britain’s own colonial legacy as an imperialist, capitalist state.
An injury to one
The Tories’ attacks on trans rights, and their public defence of racist statues, shows their commitment to sowing prejudice and division among the working class. But despite this, the BLM movement retains widespread support. More people are becoming radicalised by events in the USA and the UK; and now there are links being built between different layers of oppressed people.
Going forward many recognise the need for class solidarity in the struggles ahead – and the need for grassroots organising to keep demands such as ‘abolish the police’ radical, and not something co-opted by NGOs, corporations, and liberal politicians.
The labour movement should take note of the size and militancy of Saturday’s demonstration. Connecting these struggles with the fight of all working class people against oppression and exploitation is a key task facing Labour and trade union leaders.
It is striking how Sir Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has been hostile to BLM activists and silent on Tory attacks against trans people. It is a basic principle of the labour movement that an injury to one is an injury to all. Starmer and the union leaders should be in the frontline against racism and discrimination.
Socialists fight against all the attacks, oppression, and exploitation of the capitalist system. The working class organising in the struggle for socialism is the only way to overcome prejudice and oppression.