MORE than 1,000 people took a knee in Southend to protest against racism across the world.

Campaigners and residents, the majority donning face masks and displaying placards for the Black Lives Matter movement, congregated outside The Forum in Elmer Square on Saturday.


Social distancing was maintained during the protest

The movement was spurred on by the death of George Floyd in the USA on May 25.

Mr Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.

Protests began after a video showed the 46-year-old being arrested.

During his arrest, a white police officer continued to kneel on his neck even after he pleaded that he could not breathe.

Four officers have been charged in relation to his death.


The Southend protest, which saw 1,300 people attend, was co-organised by Sam Adams, and featured several guest speakers.

Before campaigners entered the square, dots were spray-painted into the floor so that people could stand two metres apart to respect social distancing regulations due to the coronavirus pandemic.


Hand sanitisers and masks were also provided to people.

A number of guest speakers attended, including Washington Ali from Community Asylum Seekers Together (CAST), which assists asylum-seekers and refugees, offering advice and support and directing them to appropriate services.


Washington Ali gave a speech

Mr Ali said that "until black lives matter, all lives cannot matter" arguing the Black Lives Matter cause was not saying black lives were more important than any others, but equal.

Another speaker was Glenda Caesar, a victim of the UK Windrush scandal in 2018 which saw people wrongly detained and some times wrongly deported from the country.


Glenda Caesar

Ms Caesar came to Britain legally as a three-month-old child in 1961 from Dominica, and has lived in the UK ever since.

She was sacked from her job as an administrator in a GP’s practice in 2009 and was subsequently denied unemployment benefits.

She said: "I am proud to be British, but now we need to cut the shackles off and say we will not tolerate racist behaviour anymore, black lives matter."

A final speech came from Tim Sneller, from the activist group Stand Up To Racism.


Tim Sneller

He said: "There's a slogan I've come across many times through years of campaigning, and that was 'black or white, unite and fight'.

"You can see that here today.

"We don't want division between ourselves and we don't want it for our children and grandchildren."

He added: "One of the slogans out of Covid is no return to normal. We want a new normal."

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All photos by Gaz de Vere