Policing ‘Black Lives Matter’

A new report on the policing of Black Lives Matter protests in the UK earlier this year has produced some damning findings. Below we summarise the report and publish a photo essay by Kadeem Marshall-Oxley, who took part in some of the protests.

The report

The report by the Network for Police Monitoring, ‘Britain is not innocent’: A Netpol Report on the policing of Black Lives Matter protests in Britain’s towns and cities in 2020, took evidence from over 100 witnesses, including protesters, legal observers, and arrestee support volunteers.

Among the significant areas of concern highlighted by the report are:

  • Excessive use of force and the disproportionate targeting of black protesters, with baton charges, horse charges, pepper spray and violent arrests.
  • Kettling, enclosing large numbers of protestors – including children and potentially vulnerable people – in confined spaces for up to eight hours, making socially distancing impossible and with no access to toilets, food or water.
  • Neglect of Black Lives Matter protesters experiencing violence from far-right organised counter-demonstrators, with examples of a seriously injured protester being searched rather than supported and others being ignored.

The report questions the motivations for the restrictive responses to many Black Lives Matter protests and finds that racism affected the manner in which police operated. Netpol concludes that the policing of these protests was institutionally racist.

The failure of the police to facilitate the public’s right to protest leads Netpol to call an alternative model in which non-police organisations are engaged instead in the management of future protests.

Kadeem Marshall-Oxley took part in the protests and writes here about his experience

On June 1st, a swathe of protestors came past my address, so I came outside to join them. We walked from Brixton to Marble Arch. My excitement from the scenes I witnessed from the first day encouraged me to carry on being involved in marches. I felt important and like a part of history.

“The UK is not innocent” – during the first protest this was one of the most noticeable banners I saw referencing victims from the UK who had died as a result of state violence. This was important to me because I have experienced police brutality myself and I wanted to represent those who were not as lucky as I was to have survived. I agree that the UK is not innocent and echo the thoughts of the activists who speak about us having greater knowledge of the actions of our police here.

On June 6th, I attended the protests and spoke together with 4Front about racism, police brutality and injustice. I performed spoken word outside Parliament square, moving to different sites around Westminster throughout the day in a well organised day accompanying 4Front. Fighting the Power: Britain after George Floyd  (Temi Mwale : 8:23 – 10:23).

On the 7th June I attended the march from Pimlico. We walked through Whitehall to Trafalgar Square, and finished at Buckingham Palace, and on the way there people were hanging out of their cars (including bus drivers) beeping at protestors in encouragement.

I went to the protests motivated by the opportunity to be involved in something larger than my own views and experiences. I think whether or not people previously felt/showed discomfort in relation to racism and systemic issues didn’t matter, and many people came out regardless to be part of history and signal their intention to make a positive change in society.

In addition, the type of work I had been doing previously with other social justice organisations such as StopWatch and No More Exclusions made these marches and this movement very special to me.  I also marched in acknowledgement of the death of George Floyd and the other lives lost to police brutality and state violence across the world. My dad recently passed away during the pandemic so I thought it was a good way to salute him. In the UK, I feel like there are significant comparisons in the themes we experience globally as black people and to me personally it was a monumental and a potentially direction-shifting response to racism and something I was compelled to be a part of.

The BLM 2020 Protests were the first marches I had attended, and I found it to be a constructive and well organised experience, apart from a couple of occasions where I saw officers trying to restrict protestors’ right to protest. I didn’t see any protestors going out of the norms of protesting and, for example, being violent towards police, which is not to say that didn’t happen I just didn’t witness it personally. I got the feeling that everyone could sense the magnitude, despite COVID, to get together for a collective cause. If you were from a certain background and had experienced racism, the global understanding was unifying. 

“No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police”

Fighting the Power: Britain after George Floyd– Black people “Demanding change” 6:03 – 7:10 

“All lives matter, we’re all equal”: that’s not true because “All lives” don’t matter unless “black lives matter.” 

See Kadeem’s video clips here

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