At the time of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner in 2014, the Black Lives Matter movement quickly spread to the UK, where similar police brutality three years earlier had led to the murder of Mark Duggan. A wave of fury was unleashed then in Britain, with riots and protests erupting across the country in the summer of 2011.
Now, with the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police in Minneapolis, USA, another wave of protest has exploded onto the streets of America. And, once again, activists in Britain are showing solidarity with their brothers and sisters across the Atlantic - only too able to empathise with this sight of endless racism, repression, and police violence.
We publish here reports by Socialist Appeal supporters in London and Manchester, where demonstrations against racism and police brutality - and in solidarity with George Floyd - took place over the weekend.
By Lewisham Socialist Appeal supporters
Thousands marched from Trafalgar Square to the US embassy on Saturday, protesting against the racist murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd at the hands of the police.
Though these names are new to us, the problem is as an old one. As a result, the protest was not just about Floyd and Taylor’s deaths, but more generally about police brutality.
In their own words, Black Lives Matter activists are “demanding acknowledgement and accountability for the dehumanisation of black life at the hands of the police. We call for radical, sustainable solutions that affirm the prosperity of black lives.”
This broad aim was reflected on the demo, with people chanting “Say my name, George Floyd”, “I can’t breathe”, and “Black Lives Matter”.
The crowd was young, diverse, and energetic. Many bus drivers beeped in solidarity with the movement; a clear sign of workers’ support, even though their routes were being disrupted.
There were some chants of “one solution, revolution”, but the focus was primarily on the institution of the police.
The outpouring of solidarity and the high turnout were energising. For the movement to move forwards, this energy now needs to be channelled into clear, radical demands.
On the one hand, the demand to end racist killings at the hands of the police, seems straightforward, and was being made loudly on the protest.
But on the other hand, we must emphasise that this cannot be achieved within the capitalist system. This police violence and racism is a symptom of the violence and racism inherent within capitalism: a system based on exploitation and oppression.
Revolutionary demands are therefore necessary for the Black Lives Matter movement.
The anti-racist struggle should also be linked to the class struggle – with the BLM movement joining forces with the labour movement to kick out this racist Tory government.
The murder of George Floyd is a spark that has ignited all the accumulated combustible material of anger and discontent in society – in the USA and in Britain. The task now is to organise radicalised workers and youth – black and white - against the real culprit: capitalism.
By Billy Timimi, Brunel Marxists
A crowd of thousands gathered in Trafalgar Square in London over the weekend to protest against police brutality and the systematic racism of the capitalist state.
We were demonstrating in solidarity with those protesting in the United States, in response to the killing of George Floyd. But that one death alone can not properly explain why thousands showed up across the world, including in London, to protest amidst a deadly pandemic. This was a protest against the rampant violence and racism seen under capitalism, and particularly from the police.
From 2013 to 2019, US police killed 7,666 people; and black Americans were 2.5 times more likely to be killed. And as the chants rightly pointed out: the "UK’s not innocent". Although British police kill less often, they are a repressive force that is still often violent, and just as discriminatory.
We marched from Trafalgar Square, past Downing Street, and on to the American embassy. Protestors responded equally angry to both locations.
In an attempt to calm the crowd, police officers came to the gates of Downing Street, in order to try and talk with activists. Unsurprisingly, this didn't calm the situation down, but led to an angry chant of, "Say his name! Quit your job!"
We have become tired of empty words from public officials, who constantly claim that they won't let such crimes happen again; who claim that they are ready to bring about change. But nothing changes. Instead, we just get more of the same.
The demonstration was peaceful, and few arrests were made. However, there are many videos online of police provoking incidents with protestors, causing the situation to escalate, no doubt looking to justify arrests.
I saw one such astonishing incident with my own eyes: as the protests were dying down, a police officer walked straight into a protestors sign, a stationary object, then proceeded to try and grab it from him. As the protest held onto the sign, the policeman became more aggressive and angry, and started to shout. Luckily, the remaining crowd told the officer to calm down and he walked away.
The Met initially claimed that five arrests were made - three of which were for breaching COVID-19 social distancing regulations. This is a complete farce: almost all of the protestors were wearing masks, yet not a single police officer was wearing one. As ever, the police believe they are above their own laws.
Trafalgar Square in London right now, standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, George Floyd and protestors across the world. pic.twitter.com/5sYlXePcpv— Ian Mantgani (@mant_a_tangi) May 31, 2020
One of the main chants of the protest was "no justice; no peace". But what kind of justice should we be demanding? Is it the arrest and conviction of all four officers at the scene, and raising Derek Chauvin’s murder charge from third-degree murder to first degree murder?
This would certainly be a first step. But it won't be enough. This isn't a case of one ‘bad apple’ in a system that otherwise usually works. Instead, George Floyd's death was one of countless deaths caused by police brutality.
In order to achieve true justice, we need a complete transformation in society. Capitalism - and the institutions designed to defend it - are inherently racist. To see real, lasting change, we need to sweep away the corrupt, repressive force of the state, and the capitalist system that it serves.
By Hal Nickson, Manchester Marxists
On Sunday, several hundred people gathered in St Peter's Square, Manchester, demanding justice for George Floyd, and an end to police brutality and racism.
Considering that the demonstration was called at a day’s notice, and in lockdown conditions, the attendance was very impressive. Protestors wore masks and tried to maintain social distancing.
The demonstration seemed to be a completely independently organised grassroots action, led by a handful of young black people, and consisting overwhelmingly of younger people - black and white - with homemade placards.
At the beginning, we bent down on one knee in a moment of silence, before marching round the city centre. The mood was very energetic, with chants of "black lives matter" and "no justice, no peace". Placards and speakers called for solidarity with black people in the US, as well as pointing out the racism of the British state.
The protest provided a small hint of the ferment building in society, which has accelerated over the past weeks. That an incident across the Atlantic was able to draw out a large, energetic protest of fresh faces, even during lockdown, is an indication of this mood of anger.
Any illusions in reforming the system are being rapidly burnt away. The conclusion being drawn is increasingly clear: the whole system needs to be toppled. As Socialist Appeal activists inscribed on our banners, in the words of Malcolm X: "You can't have capitalism without racism.”
Thousands protest in London against racism and police violence
By Cat Karnon
The protests against state-sanctioned racist murder are developing an internationalist character.
Black Lives Matter demonstrations - which started in Minneapolis, USA, following the murders of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor - have spread to Brazil, Argentina, Nigeria, Germany, Kenya, the Netherlands, and also the UK.
As international solidarity builds, many are beginning to link the struggle against racist police brutality in the US to capitalism.
There is a growing understanding that racism is directly connected to capitalism. “The UK is not innocent” is now one of the most commonly heard chants at the protests, which have erupted across the country.
On Wednesday 3 June, tens of thousands gathered in London’s Hyde Park, with a procession that marched all the way to Downing Street. The most common chants were: “Justice for Belly Mujinga”; “Say his name, George Floyd”; “Say her name, Breonna Taylor”; and “Black Lives Matter”.
The demonstration was well-attended by Socialist Appeal activists from London, who attended to show support for the insurrectionary movement in the USA against police violence. We distributed hundreds of leaflets, quoting Malcolm X and other black revolutionaries, linking the question of racism to the capitalist system.
One comrade had a sign that said “end racism = end capitalism”. This led to lots of people coming up and asking to take a photo of it - an unmistakable sign of the radical mood on these demonstrations.
A group of young men interviewed by Socialist Appeal showed further evidence of this, stating that “as long as you have a capitalist system there is gonna be racism. It’s time for us to f**k s**t up!”
This shows how revolutionary consciousness has become, especially amongst the youth. But also that the movement still requires leadership to show the path to a positive alternative.
The task going forward is to continue to explain that the only way to fight systemic racism is with socialism.
Hackney activists mobilise in solidarity
By Daniel Morley
Following the massive protest in central London, activists organised a rally and mass meeting outside Hackney Town Hall in the evening. The demonstration was organised at very short notice by local activists, and so publicity was very limited. And yet up to 1000 people came along (it is hard to tell, especially with social distancing), completely filling up the square.
An activist from the NEU spoke about racism in schools and the need for unions to be at the forefront of organising the fight against racism.
Well known anti-racist campaigner Patrick Vernon also spoke, and said that when the coronavirus crisis is over, we must build a new society free from all bigotry.
And Oktay Shabaz from the Kurdish community organisation DayMer gave an excellent speech, quoting Fred Hampton: “We're going to fight racism not with racism, but we're going to fight with solidarity.”
The size of the protest was an inspiration, showing how deep the anger at racism is, how international this movement is, and how much potential it has.