Thousands of protesters flocked to Manchester city centre in support of the Black Lives Matter movement earlier this month.
These demonstrations came after George Floyd, a black man, was killed in America by Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.
His death triggered protests across America and around the world, calling for a reduction in police brutality and greater accountability.
Our reporter Ruby, spoke with three Manchester residents to understand how they felt about the death of George Floyd, the demonstrations and the state of racism in Manchester today.
Simon Dixon, from Timperley, who attended the protest, believed that despite COVID-19, the demonstration in Manchester was justified.
He said: “There is a level of institutional racism in society and the protest movement is one of the vehicles that allow people to be heard. It’s about believing in a cause and the cause, I believe in. It took precedence over the pandemic because we are being precautionary to prevent a disease whereas I’m speaking up against injustices that are already happening.
“There is never a right or wrong time to stand against injustice, there is just a time. So, you have a choice, you have to make a balanced decision.
“When I was a kid I got stopped by the police for no apparent reason because I was doing something that they felt looked suspicious. Thirty, forty years on, my son has experienced that same thing. Have things changed? I think there is still underlying institutionalised racism that occurs. What has changed, however, is the degree to which there are protests and there is hope. We can voice our opinions. There is a difference in that previously when you saw injustice it was the black community standing up, but what you have now is not just black people saying this is wrong but black and white people saying this is wrong and this needs to change.”
Iyabo, from Chorlton, who was also at the protest, said: “I felt the demonstrations were justified. If you take COVID-19 and take a historical perspective of racism, there is no comparison. Racism has had a far bigger impact on far more people and has killed far more people than COVID-19 has.
“Walking into Manchester City Centre, a group of young white men shouted ‘immigrants’ at us. So, it’s still out there on the street. It’s embedded in the way people think and the way people are brought up, in information people are given in schools.
“But in the UK, there has been a shift. People can talk about it far more openly. Being racist is less acceptable, verbal racism and active discrimination is totally unacceptable whereas, in the 1970s and 1980s, it was acceptable to discriminate on the basis of race or cultural background for job interviews.”
Emma Beresford, also from Chorlton, remembers the 1981 riots and protests in Moss Side, she said: “It makes such a difference having social media so that people can actually see what has happened. In the 1980s when there were riots in Moss Side, it was really hard to convince people about what was happening, how there was a lot of police brutality and the way the police treated young black people. You really had to fight to convince people. Whereas now, because you have the video recordings, people see for themselves and can’t really question what has happened.
“The press can be a problem in that they focus on only violence. They misrepresent what have been largely peaceful demonstrations. Although interestingly, things like the statue of slave owner Edward Colston in Bristol being toppled, I think, they largely agreed with. And that’s being backed up by other statues being taken down. So, that’s been very positive.
“To decrease racism in this country we need to look at the curriculum which, thanks to Michael Gove, became very British centred, very unrepresentative. We need to look very carefully at what young people are being taught about the history of racism and for them to be taught an unbiased view which gives them the full picture of what the British Empire did to other countries and isn’t just romanticised.”
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