Black Lives Matter protest: Portsmouth sees hundreds of people march for racial equality

FROM workplaces to schools, snide remarks to vile Facebook comments, racism is very much alive in Portsmouth.

Saturday, 27th June 2020, 6:23 pm
Updated Saturday, 27th June 2020, 6:24 pm
Black Lives Matter marchers in Palmerston Road, Southsea. Picture: Chris Moorhouse

For hundreds of years, black people have faced hardship and adversity at every turn, and while some progress has been made, they are still not viewed as true equals.

Now, from the fire sparked by the death of George Floyd in America, people in Portsmouth are fighting for one simple thing – to be treated fairly.

On Saturday, hundreds of people marched in protest from Guildhall Square to Southsea Common, under the Black Lives Matter banner.

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Ex-professional footballers, parents, grandparents and students all walked as one, regardless of colour of race, as part of the ongoing battle for equality.

There, many of them shared the horrific stories of the racism they have experienced right here, in our city.

Midia Medina, 27 from Fratton, was protesting alongside work colleague Ben Low, 32.

She has suffered from racist abuse throughout her life, but one incident at a previous job stands out in her mind.

‘It was only a few years back,’ she recalled.

‘I had just started there and someone at my work asked me if I would like to be called a coloured person, or a n*****.

‘I told them to simply call me by my name… I wasn’t in that job for long.

Midia also saw a former relationship, where she had been engaged, fall apart due to her partner’s grandfather, who told her she was ‘dirtying the bloodline’.

Experiences similar to this are common, she said, adding that she was grateful to have found so many other strong black women in Portsmouth, determined to lead the charge.

Ahead of the protest, a group of counter-protesters had gathered on the steps to the Guildhall.

There were a few verbal exchanges during the march itself, but it remained a peaceful affair – and while some disagreed with the event, there was plenty of support from tooting car drivers as they came past.

Once the march reached Southsea Common, a few people stood up to give speeches, talking further about their experiences with racism and the need to continue fighting against oppression.

Organiser Mariam Daniel, 24, was practically reduced to tears by the city’s response.

She said: ‘Our voices have never been heard like this before – seeing how many people turned up and how many more supported us from their houses or cars has made me feel quite emotional.

‘People don’t seem to realise quite what we go through. Our lives are still very different – racism exists in our schools, our health care system, our police force – it’s still very prominent in our society.’

For Portsmouth grandmother Amanda Bartlett, Saturday’s protest was something she ‘would never have experienced’ when she was a child.

She said: ‘I have lived in Portsmouth all my life.

‘But I was the only black girl in my school and was subjected to racism by both other pupils and the teachers themselves.’

‘They would always tell me it was just ‘sticks and stones’ but the reality was much harsher than that.

‘I am glad my granddaughter is able to march with me today. When I was younger this never would have happened.’

Down at Southsea Common, former Gosport Borough and Birmingham City footballer Richie Moran, 56, gave a speech about how far back racism goes in societies worldwide.

He said: ‘Nobody is saying that other lives don’t matter – of course they do.

‘But throughout history, the lives of black people have not, and that’s still the same today.

‘Saying all lives matter is a facade for people’s own racist beliefs. Treat us with the dignity that we deserve.’

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