The first day of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protest in London saw thousands of people kneeling by parliament square; the chanting of distressed protesters mourned the innocent lives lost at the hands of police brutality and very faintly, the sounds of horses emerged from behind the protesters.
Thought provoking signs such as “I’M NOT TRYING TO START A RACE WAR, I’M TRYING TO END ONE” and “WILL TRADE RACISTS FOR REFUGEES”, were ubiquitous and even circulated on social media.
Not only did the unfortunate death of George Floyd re-ignite the BLM movement, it also catalysed and amplified public discourse about the legacy of oppression towards black people that has lasted centuries.
Activism has changed. Not only do the public protest, they voice concerns and start campaigns on social media for the masses.
Protesters flooded Twitter with concerns over media outlets misrepresenting the peaceful nature of the demonstrations as ‘violent’. With one Ellie Harrison, @ellievolves, tweeting a video of the demonstrators collectively dancing during the protest and said:
The media is flooding the news with ‘violent protest’ narratives but this is what #BLMprotest looked like to most people in london. Pls share this as widely as possible to help redress this victim blaming bs! #BlackLivesMatterlondon #blm #BlackLivesMattters 1/2 pic.twitter.com/tAUFoGWfFA— ellie harrison (@ellieevolves) June 7, 2020
Police brought horses to the protest which sparked controversy. Some argued that it seemed illogical to have a horse in such a crowded area.
Protesters were heard asking: How exactly can a horse help the police govern the area? Does it even seem fair for a horse to be in such a highly populated space with no ability to move? What if a protester mistakenly knocks or elbows the horse and the horse reacts by kicking?
Luckily, nothing of the sort happened on the first day of the protests, but there was an overwhelming sense of inevitability of this happening.
On June 10 a 19-year-old woman was hit by a police horse at the protest, as the officer mounted on the horse ran into a traffic light and subsequently fell off, leaving the animal to frantically run around.
Rachel, 22, said: “The demonstration was incredibly peaceful among fellow protesters, I saw no form of violence. Everyone was there for the same reason, we are tired of injustice towards innocent black people.
“One thing I did think was weird was having horses in a heavily crowded place. Not only is it unsafe for the protesters but unnecessarily agitating for the horses”
A poll on Instagram asked people whether they thought it was safe for horses to be in highly crowded areas in a protest. It found that 87% of people thought it was unsafe and 9% of people thought it was safe and the remaining 4% were indifferent.
Martin, 30, said: “I’m so grateful to have gone to the protests, I think if I didn’t go I would’ve been scared because of the fear mongering that was being presented on certain news channels. Having said that I was scared of the police racially profiling protesters at the demonstration”.
The Home Office reported in 2018 that Black/Black British people are 10 times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people.
This imbalance causes stress and anxiety in the black community, as they fear being stopped by the police for no reason.
Labour MP Dawn Butler was on her way to a Sunday lunch in a car with her friend when she was stopped by police. Butler called it “institutional racism within the police”.