The death of black American George Floyd has sparked protests against racism around the world.

He died after police officer Derek Chauvin was seen kneeling on his neck in footage that went viral on social media. Floyd's last words were "I can't breathe".

Chauvin is being charged with seconde degree murder while three other officers also at the scene face charges of aiding and abetting murder.

The incident has been condemned internationally and has sparked protests worldwide - from marches in large cities like New York, LA and London to towns like Basingstoke and Andover. 

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Everyone participating has been united in a common cause - to fight against systemtic racism. 

Here is everything you need to know about what is going on and why. 

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What is Black Lives Matter all about?

Black Lives Matter is an international human rights movement, originating in the African-American community in the United States, that campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people.

The movement was started in 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman after he killed Trayvon Martin in 2013. Today, the Black Lives Matter Foundation, Inc. is a global organisation that is active across the world and has a UK-based charity. 

The guiding principles are to eradicate white supremacy and intervene in violence inflicted on Black communities through advocacy, fundraising and education.

Writing for Harpers Bazaar in 2019 Rachel Elizabeth Cargle said that Black Lives Matter is “a rallying cry for a shift in statistical numbers that show that people who are black are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed, compared to a white individual.”

The movement also calls for change in the way black people are treated. Black people in the US are twice as likely to be killed by a police officer while unarmed, compared to a white individual. According to a 2015 study, African Americans died at the hands of police at a rate of 7.2 per million, while whites were killed at a rate of 2.9 per million.

Why is saying "all lives matter" offensive?

It may feel a natural reaction to respond to one group centering its experience with, "but what about all lives? Shouldn't all lives matter?". 

The truth is black people are disproportionately impacted by police violence and systematic racism in the UK.

Statistics show black men are more likely to be sent to prison than their white counter-parts for committing the same crime, they are more likely to be stopped by the police and officers are more likely to use force when arresting black men. 

Troubling figures also show black women in the UK are four times more likely to die during childbirth than white women. Black women are also seven times more likely to be arrested than white women. 

As well as facing systemtic racism, black people suffer from everyday microagressions. These incidents are verbal, nonverbal and environmental slights, snubs, or insults, whether intentional or unintentional, which communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative messages to target persons based solely upon their marginalized group membership.

This could be asking to touch a black person's hair, asking where they are "really" from and generally being derogatory. According to a psychological study carried out in New York, these incidents have a damaging and detrimental affect on people.

Respondents said that "backhanded communications" can make them feel as if they don't belong, that they are abnormal or that they are untrustworthy. Some described the terrible feeling of being watched suspiciously in stores as if they were about to steal something, for instance. Some reported anticipating the impact of their race by acting preemptively: One man noted how he deliberately relaxes his body while in close quarters with white women so he doesn't frighten them.

In a report by The Guardian revealed black people experience microaggressions on daily basis such as being mistaken for staff at a restaurant, or being wrongly suspected of shop lifting. 

“Racism and discrimination for BAME people and minority faith groups isn’t restricted to one area of life,” said Zubaida Haque, the trust’s deputy director told The Guardian. “If you’re not welcome in a restaurant as a guest because of the colour of your skin, you’re unlikely to get a job in the restaurant for the same reason. Structural and institutional racism is difficult to identify or prove, but it has much more far-reaching effects on people’s life chances.”

The phrase "all lives matter" ignores the reality that black people face and ignores the systemic racism that exists both in the UK and the US. 

Campaigners say the term "Black Lives Matter" isn't equivalent to saying other lives don't, but rather that Black lives should matter as much as white lives.

Alicia Garza, one of the creators of the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag, explained in 2014 how Black lives mattering is a precondition for all lives mattering:

She said: "Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean your life isn’t important – it means that Black lives, which are seen as without value within White supremacy, are important to your liberation. Given the disproportionate impact state violence has on Black lives, we understand that when Black people in this country get free, the benefits will be wide-reaching and transformative for society as a whole. When we are able to end the hyper-criminalization and sexualization of Black people and end the poverty, control and surveillance of Black people, every single person in this world has a better shot at getting and staying free. When Black people get free, everybody gets free."

While Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor of Princeton University told the New York Times that the idea that "all lives matter" has always been an assumption.

He told the paper: “The entire point of Black Lives Matter is to illustrate the extent to which black lives have not mattered in America.”

Why are British people protesting?

While the Black Lives Matter movement started in the US, it is widely acknowledged that systemic racism is as much a problem in the UK is it is overseas.

Action in the UK began last weekend, as supporters knelt in symbolic solidarity with George Floyd and other sufferers of police brutality.

As well as echoing US grievances, British activists point to hate crimes in the UK. Campaigners wield placards stating “The UK is not innocent,” alongside names and faces of victims of racial violence in the country.

In a recent incident, Belly Mujinga - a Black railway worker - died from coronavirus having been spat at by a man claiming to have the virus. British Transport Police said there was no evidence to substantiate criminal offence.

What does Black Lives Matter have to do with Basingstoke?

Basingstoke is a multicultural town and the far-reaching concequences of structural racism are felt all over the country. 

Organisers of Basingstoke's protests have said they want to highlight the discussion of privilege and racism locally to raise awareness. 

Community leaders have expressed their sympathies to the plight of George Floyd and said it is important not to be complacent about the fight against racism.

In a statement Cllr Ken Rhatigan, leader of Basingstoke council, and Cllrs McCormick, Tilbury and James said: "We must do all we can as civic leaders in demonstrating how we value inclusivity and will protect and champion those who are experiencing violence or discrimination. We pledge together to continue to recognise and celebrate diversity and continue to make our borough a place where everyone is welcome and treated fairly and with respect."

When are the next protests in Basingstoke? 

There is a peaceful protest taking place in Eastrop Park on Saturday, June 6, at 12pm.

There is a second peaceful demo planned for Saturday, June 13, at War Memorial Park. 

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But what about lockdown?

Mass gatherings remain forbidden and lockdown restrictions are in still in place.

Protest organisers have been asking participants to wear protective gear and observe social distancing.

Many protests, including those in Basingstoke, have successfully maintained distance.

Those attending have defended their decision to protest, saying the plight of racial inequality is a worthy cause. Some have gone into self-imposed self-isolation for two weeks, after the protest, to ensure they do not pass on any suspected illnesses. 

Tips for those protesting 

Organisers are circulating information and advice as follows:

  • Stay peaceful
  • Wear protective masks and gloves
  • Bring anti-bacterial gel
  • Follow the two-metre social distancing guidelines
  • Bring identification and emergency contact information
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes 
  • Take sun-protection
  • In case of arrest, carry essential medicines (e.g. inhalers) on your person
  • Women on periods are advised to wear pads instead of tampons in case toilet access is restricted