Several hundred people joined forces to attend a Black Lives Matter event in central Reading on Saturday 13 June. It is the second event in the town marking the recent death of George Floyd at the hands of the police in the US state of Minnesota and was part of a series of national protests across Britain designed to highlight racism within the UK.
In contrast to violent scenes in London – during which many people were injured and one far-right protester was pictured urinating on the site of a memorial to murdered PC Keith Palmer – the Reading event saw a diverse crowd of people converge on Forbury Gardens for speeches and song designed to celebrate the diversity of the town.
Mindful of social distancing organisers handed out masks, gloves and hand-wash at the entrance to the park which was selected for the event given the anticipated numbers of people and the desire to adhere to guidelines on containing the virus.
Several speakers addressed the crowd from the central bandstand of the park including several representatives from Reading-based BAME groups. One young woman read a speech to the crowd with the opening statement: “Seeing so many people here today makes me proud of Reading.” The crowd roared in response.
One attendee said: “I’ve been on so many protests throughout my life but this is the first time I have seen such diversity on a protest. It’s also great to hear the voices of so many black people rightfully taking centre stage – let’s just hope this is the beginning of something new.”
Reading Labour Party’s BAME officer, Boubacar Dembele, explained: “Those people who spoke before me during the protest showed that there is power within us, the power to bring about change for Black, Asian and All People of Colour. Yes, we are a minority in the UK, but being less in number doesn’t make us any less important as human beings.”
Dembele added: “The Black Lives Matter protest that took place in Reading is only possible thanks to a young, inspiring woman called Shannon. She brought out the best out of what Reading has to offer and showed how welcoming and inclusive of a town it is.”
- A petition is set to go live soon which the Labour Party is hoping people will support and sign.