Over 450 people met in Durham centre today with placards in a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest, among hundreds of thousands protesting across the world.
The protest in Durham was organised by Greg Venyo and Jerome Yates, two students at the University who grew up in the local area.
We felt that Durham wouldn’t be silent as usual on these issues and watch the protests in LondonJerome Yates
Marchers chanted “George Floyd”, “Say his name”, and “Black Lives Matter.” Placards read “I can’t breath”, “Enough”, “Silence is consent” and “Love kills hate.”
Having congregated on Palace Green, speakers gave accounts of their experiences of racism, and how the British education system has failed to represent black experiences.
Among the speakers were the two organisers, Venyo and Yates, as well as Odia Daley and Modupe Daramola. The platform was then opened up to the audience.
Marchers kneeled at 13.25pm for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same length of time George Floyd was pinned down before his death. When the cathedral bells rang at half past the hour, attendants raised their fists in solidarity.
Speaking to Palatinate, Yates said: “We set up the Facebook page on Thursday and asked people to share and it took off.
“We felt that Durham wouldn’t be silent as usual on these issues and watch the protests in London. And we wanted to stress the need for action and the need for changes to education within this country regarding racism. The need to tackle it and look at our racist past and present rather than ignore it all together!
“Very proud of Durham today.”
The organisers emphasised that the march should obey social distancing measures. In a post before the march, Yates encouraged people to “Remember masks, gloves, signs, and social distancing.”
After the march, Yates said on Facebook: “lost for words. Thank you everyone. So much. So so much. We did it.”
One student who attended the march told Palatinate that: “The whole thing was just really powerful, it made me feel quite positive about the future as a whole, and at Durham University specifically since so many people present were students.”
Another said: “I didn’t imagine the organisers would pull off the numbers we saw. Go Durham!”
The protests are in response to the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man in Minneapolis on May 25th. Since then the protests in the UK have, as well as providing solidarity to protests in the United states, intended to highlight issues with racism faced from law enforcement, daily life and education domestically.
The protests have gone ahead, defying the advice of health minister Matt Hancock, who urged people to not attend protests if there were more than six people present, as the UK’s death toll passed 40,000 yesterday.
The protest was peaceful, although twenty five police were present as a precaution.
There was also a small counter protest of roughly a dozen in Market Square which was described as “intimidating” by those attending the Black Lives Matter march.
Video: Casey Bernas
Image: Zoë Birkbeck (@zbirkbeckphotography on Facebook, @zoebirkbeckphotography on Instagram)