200 join Black Lives Matter rally in park

July 14 2020

AROUND 200 people gathered in Page Park for a community demonstration against racism.

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter protests which have spread across the world after the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in the US, the event on June 20 accompanied the founding of a new group, Staple Hill Community Action Against Racism.

People of all ages and different races came together for the event, on the cricket pitch outside the Bean Tree Cafe, which allowed those attending to spread out and observe social distancing.

It was organised by Downend residents Susan Newman and Melody Beard, who were inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement but wanted to organise a community event to take local action against racism.

After a short introduction by Staple Hill and Mangotsfield ward councillor Ian Boulton, those attending ‘took the knee’ or sat in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, representing the length of time a police officer in Minneapolis had his knee on George Floyd’s neck before he died.

Daniel Harrhy addressing the crowd in Page Park

As people reflected, Daniel Harrhy, of Hanham, read out Mr Floyd’s dying words.

Desmond Brown, the independent chair of the Lammy Review Group for Avon and Somerset Criminal Justice Board, which works to end racial disparities in the area’s criminal justice system, gave examples of deaths of black people in police custody in the UK.

Desmond, who is also a former chair of Bristol’s Commission for Race Equality, said black and minority ethnic people in the area were far more likely to be stopped and searched by police and excluded from school as children.

Daniel then spoke on the need for people to step up and make change happen themselves, quoting film star The Rock, who said: “We must be the leaders we’re looking for.”

Carmen Anderson of the South Gloucestershire Race Equality Network told the gathering that racism often went undetected in the area because it was a less multicultural environment than central Bristol.

After the event, Susan said: “I’m feeling extremely emotional – it really did touch the heart of the community and it was brilliant that everyone was social distancing.

“Racism is real and present in Staple Hill and we all have our part to play in fighting it. If not now, then when? I’ve experienced racist comments in the area myself and we want to give people more confidence to be anti-racist, to show people they are not alone. This is the start of something.”

Ruth Belfield was among those who attended, along with her daughter Lexi, a Mangotsfield School pupil, and her parents, from Staple Hill.

Ruth said: “The whole Black Lives Matter movement is important – it’s about understanding more about racism and what we can do to achieve change.

For more information or to contact the group visit Staple Hill Community Action Against Racism on Facebook.