Black Lives Matter activists protesting against racism in the UK have blocked roads in three major cities including London, where traffic has been brought to a standstill outside Heathrow airport.
As the movement carried out a coordinated day of action, police tried to end demonstrations in London, Birmingham and Nottingham during the morning rush hour on Friday.
By midday, protesters who had chained themselves to one another remained in place in Nottingham city centre, bringing buses and trams to a halt, and on the approach to Heathrow, causing lengthy tailbacks.
Black Lives Matter UK (UKBLM), a loose network of anti-racism activists, called the action – which it is describes as a “shutdown” – to coincide with the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police during a hard stop.
We call a nationwide #Shutdown because #BlackLivesMatter, because this is a crisis.
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Natasha Nkonde, a UKBLM activist, said: “[Duggan] represents another death in police custody with no consequences. Black people are overrepresented in these cases. In the past year we’ve had Mzee Mohammed, Sarah Reed, Jermaine Baker – we are in a crisis about the brutality being inflicted on black people. Sarah Reed had mental health issues and was beaten up by the police and found dead.
“We’re upset about the 3,0000 deaths in the Mediterranean this year and of course post-Brexit we know there’s been a 57% increase in hate crimes. We are seeing people talking about how they are being attacked, abused in the streets.
“Other forms of protests have been exhausted and so the disruption today is bringing back to the mainstream discussions around black lives and the racist structures and inequalities we know about.”
Outside Heathrow protesters unfurled a banner saying “This is crisis” and lay on the road chanting “black lives matter” on the approach to the Heathrow tunnel, bringing traffic, which was busy because of the school holidays, to a standstill. The Metropolitan police said they were called to the scene just before 8.30am.
They said they had arrested 10 people, four of whom had been taken to west London police stations and six who had attached themselves to each other who they were trying to release.
Earlier, traffic was stationary from junction four of the M4 and people were advised to leave the motorway at an earlier junction. But the Met said the M4 was operating normally, although one lane of the approach to Heathrow remained closed.
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Nkonde said: “The delays for people on their way to holidays are regrettable but we’re talking about injustices, 1,500 families [whose relatives have died in police custody], who have been given no justice, no convictions.”
She said more action causing disruption on Friday was possible.
In Nottingham, protesters attached themselves to each other and lay across tram lines in the city centre, halting traffic.
A Nottinghamshire police spokesman said: “Officers are currently on scene and are negotiating with a small number of protesters. It is believed that the unplanned demonstration is in line with a national #?BlackLivesMatter? protest. Our priority will remain the safety of everyone involved and to bring the demonstration to a peaceful conclusion.”
In Birmingham, activists chanted “no Justice, no peace” as they blocked traffic on the approach to the city’s airport.
A West Midlands police spokeswoman said four women and one man had been arrested on the A45 in Solihull, close to Birmingham airport, just before 7.30am on suspicion of obstructing the highway and failing to comply with section 14 of the Public Order Act. She said it was unclear what the protest was about as officers were waiting to interview the suspects.
Aside from the blockades, Black Lives Matter rallies are planned on Friday in Alexandra Park, Manchester, and St Peter’s Gate in Nottingham, both at 6pm, and Altab Ali Park in east London, at 6.30pm.
The UK movement is following in the footsteps of its US counterpart, which was formed in response to a number of police shootings of black people.
Calling for Friday’s protests, the group has highlighted that black people are more likely to be stopped and searched, arrested, convicted, die in police custody and receive harsher sentencing. It also said black people were more likely to be unemployed than white people, more likely to be permanently excluded from school and referenced the increase in reported racist hate crimes since the Brexit vote.
Nkonde says the group is a mix of people, from full-time campaigners and organisers to students and people working in various professions.
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