Deputy News Editor
The global movement comes to Glasgow.
Nearly a thousand people gathered at the Glasgow Green on 7 June in solidarity with Black Lives Matter, an international human rights campaign combating systemic racism.
The gathering started around noon and dispersed around 3.30pm with most attendees gone by 4pm. The demonstration included speakers ranging from activists to local business owners who talked about their experiences with racism, the Scottish Police, and civil rights issues in the United States.
The organisers are not affiliated with BLM UK but support the group and stand in solidarity with their message.
The signs and speakers called to remember George Floyd, a black man killed by a Minneapolis Police officer, as well as calling for changes in Scotland. A speaker claimed that a black person is 18 times more likely to be stopped by police than a white person. They also called to remember Sheku Bayoh, a black man who died in custody in Fife. The protest not only demanded an end to police brutality in the US, but also brought up local racial issues with policing in Scotland.
One protestor and University of Glasgow student, Emil Eleftheriotis-Pratt, remarked about the event, “It was a very peaceful and moving event, with people coming together and sharing stories, to show that racism is not welcome in Glasgow.”
The event went off without incidents of property damage or police confrontation. Other BLM protests, particularly in the US, have resulted in property damage and one in the UK resulted in a statue being tossed in the harbour.
While the organisers did not get a permit nor notify the police, Police Scotland still placed vans on standby throughout the City Centre. At the event itself, only a handful of officers appeared in normal patrol attire. Some protesters worried that the police would issue fines for mass gatherings as per the Scottish Government’s protocol amidst lockdown, but none were issued and most people dispersed after the speeches.
There were two later arrests hours after the events, but details of their connection have not yet been disclosed by Police Scotland. Additionally, later in the day there were graffiti tags saying “BLM” and “ACAB”, an acronym meaning “All Cops Are Bastards” on statues in George Square and Kelvingrove Park. Police are investigating, but so far there is no connection to the protest.
Several people posted on Facebook, where the protest was organised, worrying that the event would increase the rate of coronavirus infections. One person who claimed they were a doctor said, “You are putting lives at risk and the evidence shows [people of colour] are at higher risk from covid.”
Another user commented, “I’m not white and I don’t think this is a good idea.”
This backlash led to the original cancellation of a protest in the Glasgow Green, as the protest that occurred was originally supposed to be held in George Square, but opted to move.
Barrington Reeves, an organiser of the demonstration, cautioned attendees: “Be as safe as possible, to socially distance, to wear a mask, do not attend if they present symptoms […] and only attend if a local.”
The majority of protesters wore masks and there were several booths handing them out. Reeves defended the decision to protest, arguing, “While it may not be the perfect time for protests, there rarely is a perfect time and we feel strongly that it is important to show solidarity and to have our voices heard.”
First minister Nicola Sturgeon said about Sunday’s protest: “I want to urge you to make your voices heard [in support of Black Lives Matter], we all feel very strongly about this, but I want to ask you to do so safely. […] [the demonstrations pose] a real risk to health and pose a real risk to life.”
The event came the same day Scotland announced its first day without new Covid-19 deaths since the start of lockdown.