SHAUN BAILEY: Violence at the Black Lives Matter protests is a betrayal of our cause
The universal revulsion felt across Britain at the killing of George Floyd could be a catalyst for tremendous positive change.
People of all colours, in every walk of life, have been sickened by the footage from Minneapolis of a black man gasping for breath as he died, with the knee of a white police officer held across his neck for almost nine minutes.
I am convinced that this shocking act can trigger a pivotal moment for race relations across the world.
An injured police officer, who appeared to have been struck in the head by a thrown object, is assisted by his colleagues during a Black Lives Matter protest at Trafalgar Square
That’s why I am horrified and deeply troubled by the images of violence and abuse among protesters outside the gates of Downing Street and in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday. A handful of anarchists and rabble-rousers risk undoing all the good that protesters have been working so hard to achieve. It is a betrayal of our cause when one yob throws a punch at a policeman or hurls foul-mouthed language at men and women in uniform who want only to ensure a peaceful demonstration.
Such violence obscures the real importance of the demos in Hyde Park and elsewhere this week. Such violence obscures peaceful protesters’ core message: that black people everywhere deserve better from the justice system.
It’s certainly true that institutional racism in America is different from in the UK. Policing in the United States is innately aggressive, which is why reports of black people being murdered by men in uniform are shockingly common.
People participate in a Black Lives Matter protest rally in Trafalgar Square on Wednesday
But justice and policing in Britain still have a long way to go before they are perfect. That’s why it was so moving to see several police officers near Downing Street ‘take the knee’ yesterday, adopting the gesture that American footballer Colin Kaepernick created as a silent statement against racism. I want to cheer every policeman and policewoman who did that. And I want to cheer the chief constables across this country who declared that they ‘stand alongside all those across the globe who are appalled and horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life’.
For Britain’s top police to have made that statement is a massive step. They are calling for ‘justice and accountability’ following the death of Mr Floyd, and that will resonate across the country.
So too will actor John Boyega’s rallying call yesterday to black men to step up and support each other. I want these messages to ring out clearly – and for violence and hatred never to smother them.
Shaun Bailey is Conservative candidate to be Mayor of London.
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