A List Of Upcoming UK Anti-Racism Protests And How To Take Safety Precautions During The Pandemic

Katie O'Malley
Photo credit: Elijah Nouvelage - Getty Images

From ELLE

We will continue to update this article with more information as the situation develops.

Across the world, anti-racists are taking to the streets to demand justice for the death of George Floyd, to speak out against against police brutality and to further the rights of black people.

Last week, a 46-year-old man was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis who knelt on his neck and suffocated him to death. Footage of Floyd’s death, taken by a bystander, showed the nightclub bouncer lying face down with his hands in cuffs, repeatedly saying ‘I can’t breathe’.

Floyd’s death is the latest in a horrifying number of killings of African-Americans by police in the US in recent years and has reignited anger across the world on behalf of black victims of police brutality and other racial injustices.

In addition to nationwide protests and riots in the US, which began on May 27, countries such as the UK, Brazil, Australia and Spain have joined in solidarity to demonstrate against police violence towards black people and show support for anti-racist movements.

Earlier this week, thousands of Londoners took part in protests, holding signs which read ‘Justice for George Floyd’ and ‘Black Lives Matter’, referring to the movement founded in 2013.

Photo credit: PAU BARRENA - Getty Images

It’s important to note that the UK Black Lives Matter Twitter account has stated that it is not associated with the planned protests in London and is ‘currently discussing the implications of calling a mass march in the middle of a pandemic that is killing us the most’.

So far, the @LDNBLM group – an information hub for Black Lives Matter campaigns across London – has been behind the scheduled protests in the UK and is sharing information on how to take part in them.

As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, a dilemma has presented itself: whether or not to join the mass gatherings to protest injustice at the risk to public health and safety.

While lockdown measures have relaxed in recent weeks in the UK, the government advises individuals to not gather in groups of more than six people from different households and to adhere to two-metre social distancing guidelines. According to the latest NHS figures, 49,324 people have lost their lives as a result of the virus in the UK. And there is evidence to suggest that black Britons are dying at twice the rate of their white counterparts at this time, which makes the UK Black Lives Matter group's concerns critical.

However, many people will feel that fighting racial injustices is so important that they want to demonstrate, despite the risks.

As a result, we've rounded up a list of UK protests scheduled to take place this week and ways that you can take as many safety precautions as possible while demonstrating.

Where will the UK protests take place?

Peaceful protests in the UK have recently taken place in cities including London, Cardiff and Manchester.

In London, protesters gathered at Trafalgar Square on Sunday before walking to the gates of Downing Street and on to the US Embassy, while those in Manchester were seen chanting in St Peter’s Square.

Photo credit: Dan Kitwood - Getty Images

Here is a list of the peaceful protests scheduled to take place in the UK this week:

London

The LDNBLM scheduled protests are as follows:

  • Hyde Park, London on Wednesday June 3 at 1pm
  • Parliament Square, London on Saturday June 6 at 1pm
  • US Embassy, London on Sunday June 7 at 2pm

On Sunday, LDNBLM advised protesters to self isolate for two weeks if they do plan to take part in the demonstrations.

‘It's very vital for the safety and well-being of your household and to prevent further spread of COVID-19,’ the organisation’s tweet reads.

You can follow the latest information on the London protests on Twitter via the hashtag #LDNBLM.

Twitter user @shayzoya has also been sharing posts about demonstrations that have taken place in other areas of the UK, including those in Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff.

A protest is also believed to be taking place in Victoria Square, Birmingham on Thursday June 4.

Other nationwide protests are rumoured to be in the works, such as one in Liverpool on Tuesday June 2 at 7.30pm outside St. George’s Hall, but are yet to be confirmed.

For those unable to take part in protests but want to show their support to Black Lives Matter-focussed organisations, find out how to here.

Is it safe to protest in the UK during the coronavirus pandemic?

Strictly speaking, the protests scheduled to take place in the UK this week go against government advice regarding social distancing during lockdown.

On Sunday, London’s mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: ‘Lockdown has not been lifted. The virus is still out there.’ He also reminded people to keep their distance.

On Monday he added: ‘We must do more to highlight racism, discrimination and inequality, but we must also stay safe.’

The international protests have sparked criticism on social media, with many people fearing that large gatherings like the demonstrations could result in a rise in Covid-19 cases. However, others have accused critics of double standards and emphasised the importance of protesting despite the threat of the virus.

The dangers of contracting the virus during the protests are undeniable, but infectious disease experts have said that the fact that they’re being conducted outside could mitigate the risk of transmission.

‘The outdoor air dilutes the virus and reduces the infectious dose that might be out there, and if there are breezes blowing, that further dilutes the virus in the air,’ Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, told the New York Times.

Photo credit: NurPhoto - Getty Images

However, he also noted that having seen photos of recent protests, there has been ‘a lot of running around, which means [protesters are] exhaling more profoundly, but also passing each other very quickly’.

Other experts have raised concerns about the proximity of protesters to each other and the fact that some aren’t wearing face masks.

The publication also states that the police have been using ‘non-violent’ forces, such as tear gas, to disperse crowds, which cause people to cough, ‘and increase respiratory secretions from the eyes, nose and mouth, further enhancing the possibility of transmission’.

‘There are a huge number of asymptomatic carriers, and that makes it hugely risky,’ Dr. Howard Markel, a medical historian who studies pandemics, told NYT.

Analysis by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has also recently found that black people are more than four times as likely to suffer a coronavirus-related death than white people, after accounting for age.

How can you stay safe during the protests?

In addition to the dangers of crowd control interventions such as tear gas and pepper spray (read more on that here), protesters must stay vigilant of the risks of standing alongside other protesters, if they take to the streets.

Dr. John Swartzberg, who works on infectious diseases at UC Berkeley, has informed BuzzFeed News that it's important to wear goggles, glasses, and some other eye protection during the protests to protect yourself against coronavirus.

‘We don't know how important a face shield is or goggles are, but we think it's sufficiently important that we have healthcare workers wear a face shield,’ he told the publication.

Here is some advice on how to stay safe from the virus and ‘non-violent’ forces that you may encounter at a protest:

Wear a mask

Last month, Public Health England officially requested that people wear protective face coverings or a mask 'in enclosed public spaces such as shops, trains and buses, to help reduce the spread of coronavirus’.

Photo credit: Hannah Peters - Getty Images

It goes without saying that protests will involve individuals coming into far closer contact with others than they would at their local supermarket and on public transport so it’s essential that they wear PPE if they decide to take part in demonstrations.

Anna Davies, a research facilitator at the University of Cambridge and author of this study on face masks recently told us that it’s advisable for people to wear a face mask ‘anywhere they are in an environment where maintaining social distancing (two metres) is impractical or logistically impossible.

'Covering your nose and mouth to lower the risk of transmission is a socially responsible thing to do – you’re helping to protect not only all the people in that space, but all of the people they come into contact with, who may be vulnerable.'

Adhere to social distancing guidelines

Footage and photos of recent demonstrations in the US have suggested that staying at least two metres away from others in a protest isn’t easy to do.

However, it is crucial to try to maintain as much distance as you can in order to reduce the spread of the virus.

Read more information about what social distancing entails by the NHS here.

Protect yourself from tear gas

Tear gas is being used as a way to disperse crowds across the world. Common symptoms from exposure to the gas include skin burning, blurred vision, a running nose, chest tightness, coughing and nausea.

Photo credit: Gina Ferazzi - Getty Images

There is no antidote for tear gas so treatment relies wholly on individuals managing symptoms and protecting themselves from its effects as much as possible.

To prevent the effects, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises those exposed to immediately move away from the source of the gas and seek fresh air, cover their mouth, eyes, nose and skin as much as possible and remove clothing that might have been contaminated.

‘Vapor from tear gas settles to the ground, so it’s a good idea to seek high ground if possible,’ it notes.

People are also advised to bathe ‘with soap and water to get the vapours off your skin’.

While there are no definitive long-term effects known from exposure to tear gas, the CDC advises people to ‘seek medical attention immediately’ if they have health concerns.

Take your contact details and prescribed medication

In the same way that you would when you attend large gatherings like festivals, it is advisable to take a form of identification and a note card with ‘In Case of Emergency’ contacts.

Remember, if you have a known allergy which requires a prescribed epipen to stop an anaphylactic reaction, carry your adrenaline pens with you at all times and ensure the are in date. Read more about this here.

What have Black Lives Matter-focussed organisations said about the protests?

On Saturday May 30, the UK Black Lives Matter Twitter account tweeted that it stands in ‘solidarity with all those whose hearts feel broken from the news of the killing of George Floyd’.

However, it added that it was not affiliated with the London Black Lives Matter group and any of the Black Lives Matter London accounts.

On Sunday May 31, the account noted that there were several arrests made at one of the #BLMLDN protests over the weekend.

In response, the organisation shared legal information collated by Green And Black Cross (GBC), a grassroots environmental and social justice organisation focused on combating struggles with legal training and resources. The GBC ‘bust cards’, as they’re know, can be downloaded here.

If a protester is arrested, GBC advises individuals to say ‘no comment’ to all police questions ‘during casual chats, “booking ins” and interviews'.

‘Do not accept a caution without advice from a recommended solicitor,’ it added.

The organisation shared a list of contact details for those who may be able to assist following an arrest and the number for the Protest Support Line.

Additional information includes details about stop and searches, what to do if you witness and arrest and advice on limiting the harmful effects of tear gas.

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