Black Lives Matter and the Right to Protest
[Trigger warning: contains references to racial violence]
Last year, 4000 miles away from Minneapolis, George Floyd’s racist murder deeply resonated in the UK. Within days, the Black Lives Matter campaign became the largest anti-racist protest seen in Britain since the 19th-century abolition movement.
From Scotland to Cornwall, people poured out into the streets across the UK to protest.
Protests of grief. Of anger. Of solidarity and of action.
As in the US, racism and policing in the UK have often been interlinked. Black people in Britain have a higher risk of dying following contact with the police. Last year, the police’s own figures showed that Black people were up to eight times more likely to have Tasers used against them than White people. And before Covid, Black people were up to 40 TIMES more likely to be stopped and searched by police.
But Black Lives Matter protests here were met with suppression. In Belfast, unjust fines were used to try and prevent them from going ahead at all. And in London, police horses were used to charge against protesters – a dangerous police tactic which is never OK, and led to people being injured.
And, one year on, the very right to protest is under threat. The current proposed Policing Bill doesn’t try to tackle discrimination or institutional racism – instead, it stands to make it worse. If passed, the Bill would increase stop & search policies - linked with racism - and almost certainly impact Black communities disproportionately. It would also discriminate against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
Looking back at the BLM marches last year, it’s clear that the largest anti-racist protests in over a century should be celebrated – not used as an excuse to extend police powers, take away our freedoms and further entrench institutional racism.
This is why the Bill needs to be dropped.
Right now, Human Rights in the UK are at risk. A new Bill giving police sweeping powers - including additional powers to shut down peaceful protests - is going through Parliament.
This Bill is part of a worrying trend of assaults on human rights laws and protections in the UK. In short, we need your help. Take action here and call on our Prime Minister to stop the assault on our freedoms.
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.