Nearly six months since the death of George Floyd, we have seen a resurgence in the Black Lives Matter Movement in the UK. Even closer was the rise of the movement within Norwich, which started with a protest on 7 June 2020.
The first BLM protest in Norwich was huge, with an estimated 2000 people turning out to demonstrate. But despite the necessity for action, the event was marred in controversy at a time of a national lockdown. Measures were made to keep in line with the government’s restrictions, ensuring social distancing measures were adequately maintained whilst distributing face masks as well as hand sanitizers to all protestors. In the wake of a global pandemic, organisers knew they were taking a risk. Nonetheless, they continued to operate in the safest and most appropriate manner possible after the BLM movement began to take shape across the city.
Protesters knelt on one knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time it was alleged the officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. The intention was clear : to demonstrate how the actions taken by one police officer were shared and replicated by far too many others.
The movement within Norwich saw the rise of the Black Community Rising – a female led group set up in order to combat inequality. The final two protests were filled with music, dancing, and singing. After 10 weeks of direct action in the area, local organisers dropped ties with BLM, becoming ‘The Norwich Movement’, with the aim to focus on education and positive change rather than protests and the celebration of Black culture.
Alongside the grass roots movements, businesses in the local area also stepped forward to offer ongoing support. The cosmetics store, Lush, created a display each week of placards from the protest whilst providing a safe space to wash hands and fill up water bottles before and after the event.
Having attended and covered protests in the UK for the last eight years in different capacities, this was by far the most emotive and passionate movement I have seen.
Running protests across multiple weeks and being able to maintain momentum was no easy feat. The reaction shows how the message of the movement – equal treatment regardless of skin colour as well as the complete destruction of systemic racism – bears significance for the local community.
Protests don’t always lead to immediate change, seen through the lack of legislative arrangements made in response to anti university fees and NHS pay-rise protests. However in this case, direct action worked and headway has already been made. Many have put this down to the hard work and dedication of local activists, realising the need for actions that educated and informed people and reorganising accordingly.
This includes a much greater focus on Black culture, running education workshops for people to engage with its rich ethnnic history. What’s more, it seems the only way forward is through educating people to develop a clearer understanding of the historical struggle faced by the Black community, encouraging greater dialogue over what can still be changed to improve the movement.