Anti-racism campaign asks Brits to ‘take the knee’ on their doorsteps for George Floyd

April Roach
Demonstrators kneel in protest against the death of George Floyd in Washington. A anti-racism group is calling for Brits to join a socially distanced protest on Wednesday at their doorsteps: REUTERS

An anti-racism campaign group is calling on Britons to "take the knee" on their doorsteps for a socially distanced protest in solidarity with those demonstrating in the US.

Stand Up to Racism (SUTR) has organised the protest for 6pm on Wednesday as part of a day of action against discrimination in response to the death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.

The 46-year-old African American died last week after a police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck.

His death sparked outrage around the world with protests taking place in many US cities and around the world.

SUTR said the campaign was inspired by the kneeling protest staged by American football star Colin Kaepernick in 2016 that has become synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The protest comes the day after a review by Public Health England found black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) people are at significantly higher risk of dying from Covid-19.

Campaigners are now calling for a public inquiry into the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on BAME communities.

Weyman Bennett of SUTR said: “Racism is the underlying condition that continues to kill black and BAME communities. Take the knee at 6pm because there is a boot on the neck of millions of people in the BAME community.

“Part of the cure for the virus of racism is to embrace anti-racism and anti-fascism.”

SUTR’s Sabby Dhalu said: “BAME communities are suffering disproportionately from Covid-19, economic decline and police brutality.

“We call on people to ‘take the knee’ on their doorstep in solidarity with George Floyd, at 6pm, Wednesday 3 June. We stand for justice for George Floyd and say Black Lives Matter.”

A separate protest has been planned in London’s Hyde Park at 1pm on Wednesday, while a further demonstration is scheduled for 1pm on Saturday in Parliament Square.

The latest demonstrations have not been endorsed by the London chapter’s umbrella group Black Lives Matter UK, which is “currently not calling protests due to the life-threatening reality of the pandemic”.

The spokesperson for Black Lives Matter London defended calling for mass gatherings amidst the coronavirus crisis, and urged demonstrators to wear face masks and gloves.

Large gatherings are still banned under shutdown rules, and on Tuesday Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon asked protesters to find an alternative to physical demonstrations.

Speaking at her daily briefing in Edinburgh, she said: “Right now, it is the case, unfortunately and regrettably, that large gatherings of people could pose a risk to health and indeed to life.

“We need to find ways of allowing people to make their voices heard and to make the points that many of us want to be made and to be heard right now, but to do so in a way that is safe and is not putting people protesting or wider communities at risk.”

The Met Police said its approach was to engage with protesters and encourage them to follow social distancing rules.

Last Sunday, thousands of people took part in Black Lives Matter protests in London’s Trafalgar Square and outside the US embassy, while demonstrations were also staged in Cardiff and Manchester.

Thousands of people in Dublin protested outside the US embassy on Monday.

There were 23 arrests in London on Sunday, at least three of which were for breach of Covid-19 legislation.

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