LIZA BILAL: THE BRISTOL PEACEFUL PROTESTS AND FIGHTING RACISM 10,000 STRONG
Text by Liza Bilal
PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOSHUA J. SNEADE
JUNE 10th 2020
Over the weekend, on Sunday 7th June, a protest took place in Bristol that I, two other black women, and 2 queer men, organised. We were in complete shock when, in the first two days, we hit 1,000 people responding as ‘going’ on our Facebook event page. Imagine the state of our hearts when we found out that, on the day, over 10,000 people had shown up to the protest. 10,000 plus people came together in solidarity, with no violence amongst protestors, and no arrests by police. In a time when so much about the wellbeing of our world is in permanent uncertainty, Sunday the 7th of June 2020 marked a day of real communal power.
I, as an organiser, have felt an intense amalgamation of emotions throughout this whole process; at points feeling anxious, emotionally depleted and generally quite exhausted, all while mourning the loss of another black life. When George Floyd’s video had first surfaced, I actually made a point to actively avoid it. As a black person who uses social media, it does not take much to decipher how videos like George’s are going to unravel; unfortunately, it seems like every month, new stories of black individuals being brutalised by white authorities traverse their way around every corner of the internet and social media site. I, and so many black people I know, duck these videos at all costs, for the purpose of protecting ourselves from being triggered and traumatised over and over again. However, as I and my corroborators know, the crippling feeling of sadness and anger that emerges from these stories is inescapable.
After a few days of attempting to stay away from the story online, I decided that I needed a place to funnel this frustration I felt inside into, and I made a video addressing white and non-black POC’s that I later posted on my Instagram. That video then led to a conversation between I, and four other young people (three of whom where strangers to me at the time), which resulted in the protest that took place on Sunday. On this day, not only did the protest bring in huge diverse crowds of thousands, some brave and courageous individuals also tore down the statue of Edward Colston, an infamous slave trader, and threw the bronze in the harbour. A historical and hugely significant event in Bristol history.
Mobilizing has been difficult, and not without challenge. We as organisers faced inter-community disputes and lack of support from Bristol City Council, but the results of what we achieved over the weekend stirred up a global response that I’m sure not a single person that was involved could have predicted. We proved that our voices have power, and that there is tremendous strength in unity. That is the most integral part of fighting against injustice; realising and utilising the power of your voice. For white and non-black POC’s, this is extremely important for you especially. Realise the privilege that you have, and use that to uplift the voices of black people around you. Speak up when you are witness to racial injustice, especially in contexts where there are no black people around, or it may be unsafe for those black people to do so.
Fighting racism starts from where you are, and it does not end once the spur of global protests plateaus. The fight must continue on in our homes, in our work places, in our peer groups, in our places of education, and within ourselves. Keep on having those difficult conversations, keep on signing petitions and donating. Racism is a war that needs to end now, for the benefit of all of us.
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