Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of west London on Sunday in the first ever Million People March to protest against systemic racism in the UK.
Organisers hope the march will continue the conversations about race started by the Black Lives Matter protests and give minority ethnic people “a louder voice”.
The march takes place this year in lieu of the annual Notting Hill carnival, which is being held online only because of coronavirus. Organisers said they aimed to incorporate the same spirit of freedom through peaceful protest.
About 400 demonstrators walked along Bayswater Road from Notting Hill tube station, finishing in Hyde Park.
At several points along the way the crowd stopped, sitting down in the road and even breaking into a rendition of Redemption Song by Bob Marley, as demonstrators raised their fists.
Protesters stopping to sit in the road during the Million People March demonstration in London on 30 August. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
The march was organised by Ken Hinds, an adviser to Scotland Yard, Sasha Johnson, a youth worker and activist, the rapper 2 Badda, and the author Anthony Spencer.
Spencer said fighting systemic racism was a “huge task” and likened the struggle to rowing “from one side of the Atlantic to the other”.
He said the movement aimed to introduce a new race offenders register, to prosecute those committing race offences.
“We’re looking at bringing in laws to protect our black citizens. We protect everything else. We protect dogs, we protect eagles, we protect dead statues. Let’s protect people for a change. Let’s protect black people.
“Once we see there’s actual true intention to protect the lives of black people and change systemic suffering, we will stop marching and we will work with the government.
“Racism has been defined by the white population, not by us. We need to redefine racism to start this conversation again.”
A protester sits in the road blocking the traffic as people gather in Westbourne Park for the inaugural Million People March from Notting Hill to Hyde Park in London on 30 August. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty Images
Hinds previously accused the Metropolitan police of discrimination after he was threatened with arrest for organising the march. The force eventually dropped its investigation into him after accepting that as a political protest the march was exempt from Covid-19 regulations.
Under the Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020, protests of more than 30 people are allowed as long as the organisers have completed a risk assessment.
The Million People March comes the day after thousands of people gathered in Trafalgar Square in central London to protest against lockdown restrictions and the wearing of face masks.
Police attempted to disperse crowds and arrested two men on suspicion of breaking newly-imposed coronavirus regulations.
Organisers of Sunday’s demonstration reminded those involved several times throughout the day to adhere to physical distancing measures as much as possible.
Johnson said she hoped the movement would “empower the community to strive for better”.
“As a people, we’re not going to stop until we have equal rights and justice,” she said. “Our message is listen to us, hear our words, we want sustainable and tangible change.
“We don’t just want tokenistic promises, we don’t want it to come from a hegemonic standpoint. We want it to be for the people.”
Originally published: 2020-08-30 12:30:24