Black Lives Matter: Hundreds pack Portsmouth's Guildhall Square to protest against racism and death of George Floyd
HUNDREDS of protestors packed Guildhall Square to demonstrate over the killing of African-American George Floyd as well as racism in wider society.
Protests have spread throughout the US and overseas after the death in Minneapolis last month where Mr Floyd, 46, died after he was restrained by a police officer who has now been charged with second-degree murder.
A harrowing video has sparked calls for change after showing officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Mr Floyd’s neck for eight minutes with him gasping for air.
The anger and sense of injustice over Mr Floyd’s death has been felt 4,000 miles away in Portsmouth with the Black Lives Matter movement holding its protest outside the corridors of power in the city.
Chants of ‘black lives matter’ rang out as gatherers cheered on speakers who delivered personal stories of their own experiences whilst delivering scathing assessments of American and British police and society - with Hampshire Constabulary not spared criticism.
Others stuck the boot into US president Donald Trump and UK prime minister Boris Johnson - with them labelled ‘scum bags’
Scores of banners highlighted the depth of despair felt by demonstrators with signs of ‘Black Lives Matters’ featuring heavily alongside other messages such as ‘white silence is violence’ and ‘no justice no peace’.
Attendees donned masks, scarves and hoods during the ‘non-identifiable’ protest where many people’s faces were concealed.
Protestors, of all ethnicities, backed the messages, roaring their approval.
One of the high points of the protest happened when four-year-old Nala-Paris Mbah, of Milton, started a chant of ‘black lives matter’ after appearing at the top of the Guildhall steps alongside a speaker.
She said: ‘It was so fun. I want to go back up there. Everyone was shouting with me.’
Her proud mum Alexandra Ruddock, 27, said afterwards: ‘This movement means everything to us and we are here to support the movement because it is our fight too.
‘My daughter is 75 per cent black and this is going to affect her life too. We have to stop this racism now.’
Natty Crutchfield, who runs Natty’s, a Caribbean street food outlet, said: ‘It’s been amazing today, a great turnout. I loved seeing the mix of people here.
‘I feel like something has now changed. What happened in America has galvanised people.
‘When I’ve talked about racism before I’ve always felt like I was banging my head against a brick wall but it feels like more people are now listening.’
The 40-year-old, of Jamaican heritage who grew up in London and was once held at gunpoint by two white men, believes racism is still prevalent in society today but argues things are getting better.
‘We’re all the same. We need society to change and accept our differences - we should celebrate these,’ he said.
‘There is racism in the UK. It will take another few generations for things to change. But today has been amazing, really positive.’
Connie Cole, 18, who grew up in the city, said: ‘I’ve been with black people who have received racial abuse by other teenagers. If we don’t protest there will never be change.
‘We’re all here to support black people and see change.’
One female speaker pleaded for change: ‘It’s not just one or two (deaths), there are thousands. And it’s not just in the US it’s here in the UK - it’s scary to be black here.
‘I’m a black woman - we need to fight back.’
Organisers had stressed coronavirus restrictions, including not gathering in groups of more than six, were in force for the protest as people packed around Guildhall.
Portsmouth South MP Stephen Morgan said: ‘The harrowing footage of the murder of George Floyd has quite rightly shaken the world.
‘Tragically this is not a one-off event. It is endemic of a deep-set rot of racism that has infiltrated every aspect of society.‘If an innocent man can be killed in broad daylight by US police, then racism at every part of society must be present.‘I support the peaceful protests across the United States, organised by the Black Lives Matter group. George Floyd must not become just another name.
‘His shocking death should be the catalyst for change around the world.’
Prime minister Mr Johnson said on Wednesday that Mr Floyd's death had been ‘appalling’ and ‘inexcusable’.