SSDP’s UK committee stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and those currently protesting against police brutality in the US, the UK and across the globe.
George Floyd was an unarmed black man who was killed after a police officer from Minneapolis, USA, kneeled on his neck for almost nine minutes, while telling the police officers surrounding him “I can’t breathe”. His horrifying death opened the eyes of many to the injustices faced by people with Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic [BAME] heritage today, sparking mass protests across the globe demanding an end to state violence against black people.
But this issue is not an issue unique to the United States. In the UK, there are a disproportionate number of COVID-19-related deaths among BAME individuals and BAME individuals are among the worst hit financially by COVID-19. Black workers are paid up to 20% less than their white counterparts. Black people are 9x more likely than white people to be stopped and searched for drugs despite using drugs at a lower rate and the proportion of all arrests made as a result of stop and search is much higher for black individuals than white individuals. Black and Asian people are convicted of cannabis possession at 12x the rate of white people despite lower rates of cannabis use. People from BAME backgrounds constitute only 14% of the population in England and Wales and yet make up 25% of its prison population. Up until as recently as 2015, UK taxpayers were still contributing to the payment of reparations to former slaveowners. And these are just a few examples.
SSDP’s UK committee are committed to advancing racial equality and ending discrimination through our work. The War on Drugs is inherently linked to ongoing racial violence and inequality and, by advocating for more just drug policies, we aim to help put an end to such systems of oppression. Right now, it is paramount that members of our network in the UK educate themselves on BAME issues, to exercise their democratic right to protest if they are able and it is safe to do so and to donate to support the Black Lives Matter movement.
There are many things you can do to help from the UK.
Can I protest under coronavirus regulations? Current coronavirus regulations ban gatherings of more than 6 from different households. Be aware of this if attending a protest. Practice social distancing and wear a mask.
Do I have to answer police questions? If you’re stopped by police, normally you don’t have to tell them your name, what you are doing or where you are going. Bear in mind some police have used refusal to answer questions as a reason to believe you are breaching coronavirus rules.
Can police arrest me? If you’re gathering in a group of more than 6, the police have the power to ask you to disperse or return home. You could be arrested or fined if you don’t. Police should give you the chance to go home voluntarily.
If you are arrested, the police should explain that you’re being arrested, what offence you are being arrested for, and why the arrest is necessary. If arrested, say ‘no comment’ to all questions until you have free advice from a solicitor with special knowledge about protests. Don’t accept a caution without advice.
Solicitors offering free 24-hour advice:
ITN Solicitors: 0203 909 8100
Hodge Jones Allen: 0844 848 0222
Commons: 020 3865 5403
Bindman: 020 7305 5638
You have the right to tell someone about your arrest, an interpreter if English is not your first language, and an appropriate adult if you are under 18 or a vulnerable person.
For protest support: firstname.lastname@example.org
Using your voice
Pushing back against racism can start with bringing your family and friends into the conversation. Although it may be difficult, it is important now more than ever to have conversations with family and friends to bring to light the inherent biases we all have. Only once we have identified these biases can begin to overcome them.
Use your voice as a consumer by supporting black owned brands and businesses. Now is a good time to put your money where your mouth is and offer support to businesses, especially during COVID-19. To find a comprehensive list of black owned business in the UK please visit www.ukblackowned.co.uk
Another important way to share the BLM message is through social media platforms. There are a huge number of accounts providing excellent resources that can be used to educate yourself and others. A few of these are listed below. A word of caution, as ever when taking information from social media, use common sense. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Please remember that ‘sitting on the fence’ is itself racist. This fight is not left-wing vs right-wing but racist vs non-racist. To stay neutral in these situations only helps the oppressor.
Educate yourself further
- White Fragility by Robert DiAngelo (article)
- The Racial Contract by Charles W. Mills (book)
- Article discussing how the Racial Contact is relevant during the pandemic
- Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon (book): Philosophical, clinical, literary and political analysis of the deep effects of racism and colonialism on the experiences, lives, minds and relationships of black people and people of colour.
- The New Human Rights Movement by Peter Joseph (book): Draws from economics, history, philosophy, and modern public-health research to present a bold case for rethinking activism in the 21st century.
- How To Argue With A Racist: History, Science Race and Reality by Adam Rutherford (book): A denunciation of racist stereotypes and pernicious eugenics – an account of genetics and its dangerous misuse through history.
- The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander (book): Discusses how the ongoing “War on Drugs” and the resulting mass incarceration of African Americans is the moral equivalent of Jim Crow.
- To Exist Is To Resist: Black Feminism in Europe edited by Akwugo Emejulu and Francesca Sobande: Gives a European feminist perspective on contemporary race theory and issues.
- JSTOR have made several articles free explaining the fight for Civil Rights and the struggles Black people (especially in Academia) face
- Freedom Is A Constant Struggle by Angela Davis: Compiles thoughts and essays by the pioneering activist Angela Davis on everything from the legacy of Apartheid to the nature of the Ferguson protests and the many ways in which racism has clouded feminist thought through the years.
- The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin: divided into two parts: one is a letter written to Baldwin’s 14-year-old nephew on the 100th anniversary of the abolition of slavery, and the other is a powerful reflection on the author’s formative years in Harlem.
- Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward: Memoir recounting the deaths of five black men in the author’s life.
- They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, And A New Era In America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery: Recounts the evolution of the Black Lives Matter movement from the front line.
- Inglorious Empire: What The British Did To India by Shashi Tharoor: Documents the systematic subjugation of India to British colonisation.
- Your Silence Will Not Protect You by Audre Lorde: Compilation of civil rights activist Audre Lorde’s speeches and writings.
- Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge: Journalist Reni Eddo-Lodge writes about her frustration with the way that discussions of race and racism in Britain are being led by those who aren’t affected by it. An article she wrote on this issue for the Guardian is available here
Films and documentaries
- When They See Us: Based on events of the April 19, 1989, Central Park jogger case and explores the lives of the five suspects who were falsely accused of charges related to the sexual assault of a female victim, and of their families.
- 13th: Explores the history of inequality in the US, focusing on the fact that the nation’s prisons are disproportionately filled with African Americans.
- Time: The Kalief Browder Story: This series traces the tragic case of Kalief Browder, a Bronx teen who spent three horrific years in jail, despite never being convicted of a crime.
- Who Killed Malcolm X: Decades after the assassination of African American leader Malcolm X, an activist embarks on a complex mission seeking truth in the name of justice.
- Alt-Right: Age of Race: This documentary follows a white power leader and an Antifa activist leading up to the Charlottesville riots in the first year of Trump’s presidency.
Memorial fund for Belly Mujinga, a black railway worker who died two weeks after being spat at while working at Victoria station in London by a man who claimed he had coronavirus
Stop Watch UK fundraiser ‘National campaign for fair and accountable policing’
ColorForChange petition: Demand for the officers who killed George Floyd are charged with murder