Over the last couple of years, the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter has grown from a social media campaign to being the subject of media headlines throughout the world. Borne from the frustrations of seeing unwarranted police brutality against black men and women in the US, this active movement calls for action against the marginalisation of black people. There is no doubt that this movement has inspired activists internationally, but how relevant is this campaign in the UK?
If we were to compare the UK and US directly there is one clear difference within the operations of law enforcement and that’s the use of weapons, specifically guns. Americas more relaxed approach to gun laws makes it a lot easier for trigger happy cops to injury or kill a civilian than our gunless officers. Which is why (taking into account difference in country sizes) American police can kill the same number of people in a day that UK officers do in a year. Thus although not absent, the fear of being killed or seriously injured by a police officer is far less for a Black British than an African American. Consequently, in the UK the movement has become much more than what it originated from, it has overflowed into a general feeling that black lives do MATTER in every sense of the word. From black deaths in police custody to climate change to stop and search issues, the BLMUK has formed a group of injustices as their basis for protests.
Black Lives Matter UK started as a group of people who chose to stand and support the fight faced by our ‘brothers’ and ‘sisters’, so to speak, in the US, but has since made headlines when members of the group shutdown London City airport to protest the UK’s environmental impact on black people. Personally, when I heard about this ordeal I was extremely confused. How had this movement gone from a group of fierce, vibrant and driven black people performing peaceful marches in central London to 8 or 9 people protesting on an airport runway?
Despite my apprehension, this incident was being claimed by the leaders of BLMUK stating that it was an act to ‘highlight the UK’s environmental impact on the lives of black people locally and internationally’. But this lead me on to question who is really running BLMUK? Has the hashtag been hijacked for the use of someone else’s agenda? The fact that BLMUK are standing up to discriminating issues faced by black men and women in the UK is great, however many feel that the concern of police brutality has been stripped from the core objectives. Just because the circumstance may not be as severe on our side of the pond doesn’t mean it should be abandoned, black people face bureaucratic violence with no valid explanations every day. These people’s stories need to be at the heart of the movement in order to bring change in our society.
By Toro Kehinde www.torosthoughts.wordpress.com