BLM UK protests: Moving the discussion off social media and into the real world
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On Friday 5th August, Black Lives Matter UK – or BLM UK – activists protested across different parts of the nation. Some chained themselves to the roads in areas such as Nottingham and on the M4 leading up Heathrow airport, grinding traffic to a complete halt in the latter area for about 25 minutes. Police were called to the scene at 8.25am after complaints of traffic congestion and a number of protestors were reportedly arrested across the sites where the demonstrations took place. These were timed; they took place on what would’ve been the fifth anniversary of North Londoner Mark Duggan’s shooting at the hands of the police – for which no conviction was made; an inquest jury decided that he was ‘lawfully killed’. There was an additional aim to commemorate four other Tottenham residents who were killed as a result of encounters with the police since 1985: Cynthia Jarrett, Joy Gardner, Roger Slyvester & Jermain Baker. The BLM UK activists outlined the reason for this nationwide ‘shut down’: “to mourn those who have died in custody and to protest the on-going racist violence of the police, border enforcement, structural inequalities and the everyday indignity of street racism”. This ‘shutdown’ has helped to formalise the presence of BLM UK. People sat up and took notice of the protests, whether or not they were in sympathy with them. A media frenzy ensued, causing an unquestionable impact upon mass conversation. All great change comes about through this initial step – discussion. There has been previous, albeit marginalised, kitchen-table and online talk of such a movement being needed in the UK, for the purpose of peacefully combating racial inequalities that take place in our own backyard. It only gained real traction yesterday when such talk surpassed the boundaries of social media and into the real world. It then became official: BLM UK have developed a real presence and there’s a chance that their agenda will be about more than just about standing in solidarity with the US; there’s work to do here, after all. Whether or not it is a ‘flash in the pan’/temporary hype, remains to be seen. Heathrow airport is the busiest in the UK and sixth busiest in the world. When protestors used their bodies to block the road, the plans of many holidaymakers and commuters were disrupted; while this was unfortunate for them, the often-covert racism that thrives in the United Kingdom is a huge inconvenience for the average black person and these protests demonstrated this perfectly. Recent statistics released by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) has shown that Black graduates are more than twice as likely to be unemployed. TUC has also found that Black workers with degrees are being paid 25% less than white colleagues, prompting the Union’s general secretary Frances O'Grady to conclude that: "Race still plays a huge role in determining pay”. Black people are three times more likely to be excluded from school and are twice as likely to die in police custody. They are stopped and searched at just over 3 times the rate of white people. According to a previous Healthcare Commission census, black people were 44 times more likely to be detained under the Mental Health act than their white counterparts.
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