More #BlackLivesMatter protests across Staffordshire!

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On Saturday 13th June two more #BlackLivesMatter protests took place in our county – in Leek and Stafford.

In Leek around 30 people assembled at 12pm by the Nicholson War Memorial (clock tower) where they sat and spoke with each other about the situation and how to work together against racism in Staffordshire Moorlands. There was a small police presence and one incident of someone approaching the group with the mistaken presumption that someone might ‘spray’ the memorial. Many passing cars beeped their horns in solidarity, and at 1pm the group held a round of applause and left the area peacefully.

Well done Leek for a successful protest held at short notice!

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photo Rick Davenport

In Stafford, a massive turnout of up to 1,000 people were at Market Square and a lively and extremely organised protest took place. Speakers addressed the crowd, who responded with enthusiastic applause and cheers of solidarity. The speeches continued to flow as the floor was opened up and person after person took to the steps to make their contribution. People spoke about how racism appears in society, from institutions as well as in every day occurrences, and we were encouraged to challenge racism wherever it’s found, even if it feels uncomfortable. Other people spoke about the necessity of social movements to create change and referenced historical examples as a case in point. And many people expressed how proud they were that Stafford had held a phenomenal demonstration against racism, and how the momentum needs to continue in the coming weeks and months. At the end, attendees were asked to remain silent for eight minutes and 46 seconds. This was the length of time it took George Floyd to die as a police officer closed his windpipe by pushing their knee into his throat. The silence was a moving tribute.

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Police were visible but remained very much on the sidelines throughout, and the organisers wore coloured tops to help with stewarding. Although the square was packed, there was a concerted effort to stay within socially distanced groups, and the vast majority of attendees wore face masks which were handed out for free. There are reports of some kind of ‘counter’ presence at the war memorial in Victoria Park, where a photo has emerged of around 10 people sitting on the steps drinking cans, with one person holding their arm in the air in a highly questionable pose. Presumably this group was disappointed that the 1,000 anti-racists in town had no interest whatsoever in this war memorial.

The last few days have seen incredible numbers of people turning out for #BlackLivesMatter in what seems to be every town in the country. The numbers in our area, from Leek, through Stoke and to Stafford, are no exception. It’s clear that people are ready to take action against racism, and we at NorSCARF hope that every single #BlackLivesMatter protester goes away and begins to organise for more anti-racist activity wherever they go; in their schools, workplaces, neighbourhoods, and on the streets.

To help build the movement in Stoke and Staffordshire, NorSCARF is now offering a reduced membership rate of £1. You don’t have to be a member to work with us, but all funds help us to carry on monthly meetings and support members in fighting against racism. Join us if you want to get organised against racism and fascism!

See media reports of the day here:
https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/hundreds-turn-out-black-lives-4223935

https://www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/stoke-on-trent-news/police-issue-statement-after-black-4224318

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/politics/2020/06/13/hundreds-join-peaceful-black-lives-matter-protest-in-stafford-with-pictures-and-video/

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