I got to Parliament Square at about half-past twelve and it was already heaving with people. Chants of ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘No Justice, No Peace’ bounced around the crowd with heightened volume and fervour. In between all of this noise were people offering free masks for the few people who didn’t have some kind of face covering, The crowd was mostly on the young side and very mixed in terms of race and gender. Many were holding signs ranging from witty jabs like ‘Nah - Rosa Parks 1953’ to calls to action such as ‘teach colonisation in schools’ and there were signs highlighting an intersectional focus like ‘Black Trans Lives Matter’. All these ideas came together in a general unifying energy and solidarity.
This came to a head at 1pm with everyone collectively kneeling in complete silence to honour the memory of George Floyd, creating an incredibly powerful moment where the silence was punctured only by the police helicopters flying overhead.
From the square, we marched through the streets of London to the US embassy. There were constant chants about Boris Johnson, Belly Mujinga and ending white supremacy. The march had an almost party-like vibe at points, like a celebration of unity, NWA’s ‘Fuk Da Police’ blended with beeping horns as bus drivers raised the black power fist. People leaning out of the windows of their flats were even banging pots and pans or holding their own home-made signs.
It’s kind of an indescribable feeling to be in the centre of political and economic power for the nation, and seeing it taken over by (mostly young) people marching for what’s right. Cars, buses, vans and any other vehicle had to stop for us due to the sheer size of the crowd. Even the police couldn’t do anything to stop this ‘unlawful’ protest – they only took any sort of action after the crowds had thinned considerably, with the violence paling in comparison to thefar-right led disorder a week later.
We’re yet to see if this marching translates to anything meaningful politically, like we’ve been seeing in some parts of the US, or if the UK government will continue a decades-long tradition of only paying lip service to racial issues. In spite of this, when I was in that crowd, with shouts and an overwhelming unity, change felt possible - and that’s something right?