Link to this page: https://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/1090/30875
Anger at racism and class inequality
Working-class youth snap up socialist ideas
Mass protests erupt
London: over 100,000 on the streets - things will never be the same
A sea of protesters, wave after wave, poured out of the stations. They'd stuck to the 'stay at home' rules for months. Now their accumulated anger burst out.
What brought 50,000 to protest in Hyde Park in central London on Wednesday 3 June? What brought 100,000 to Parliament Square on Saturday 6 June? Or 100,000 again to the US Embassy in Battersea, south London on Sunday 7 June? The crowds were huge - you couldn't move at points - but all wore PPE, of course.
The racist murder of George Floyd was the start of a litany of issues. Cardboard placards and chants for Belly Mujinga - the London rail station worker who died from coronavirus after being spat on at work - were also everywhere.
One of the young Socialist Party members on the protest said he'd never experienced a protest like it. And no wonder. The people who came to these protests have changed in the last three months; the pandemic has changed them. They're less tolerant of injustice, and know who keeps society going: the working class.
Every demand the Socialist Party raised with protesters was enthusiastically welcomed. Across the three days, 600 queued up to find out about joining the Socialist Party.
600 also bought a copy of the Socialist. When protesters saw our headline - 'Fight racism, class inequality and capitalism' - they dived at us to buy it. "That's what I'm talking about - fight racism and class inequity, bruv!" said one protester.
When they saw our placards - Malcolm X saying "You can't have capitalism without racism," and the Socialist Party's demands for "Jobs and homes, not racism" - they snapped them up. "Yes! Exactly! This is what I've been debating with my boyfriend - we can't just fight racism, we have to fight the whole system," said another protester.
We ran out of placards and posters, such was the huge demand. We ran out of leaflets after distributing thousands and thousands. And £1,400 was donated to the Socialist Party's fighting fund.
The Socialist Party hosted an open mic on our portable mega sound system. When we mentioned capitalism, it was booed. When we mentioned socialism, it was cheered. I got up to speak on the open mic and said I was a socialist. "Yes!" I heard behind me.
We said: build a united movement against racism and link the struggle to defeat it with the fight for jobs, homes and safety for all. And other protesters who spoke on our mic agreed. How could they not? Working-class youth - black, Asian and minority ethnic, and white - had come to protest in their tens of thousands.
Marches set off across central London, going where they pleased. The police didn't dare try to stop them. It feels like if this movement gets organised, and links up with organised workers, things will never be the same again.
Oxford: "we have to dismantle the system"
We spoke to a young organiser of the Oxford protest, Sasha Johnson.
Why do you think so many people have come? "The younger generation want change. We don't want a system that doesn't serve equality. Sense of solidarity and unity of the working class."
What are your aims? "To have representation in our schools of our history, that all children should learn. I'm fed up of oppression and the working class feels the same. We have to challenge all injustice. We won't accept lip service from the councillors and the police, who say they support us but who stop young black men and strip them to their pants in the street."
How do you see the protests developing? "We have to start our own system, as the working class we are working to survive. We have to dismantle the system to get equality."
Birmingham: like nothing seen before
The protest on Wednesday 3 June was nothing like I'd ever been to. Thousands were listening to the Socialist Party's rolling mic, run by Deji Olay. Firefighter Dave Pitt got the crowd chanting.
15,000 working-class youth - black, white and Asian - came from the council estates. We sold out of everything. I emptied my car of every random leaflet I had left in there and they took the lot.
120 people left their names to find out about joining the Socialist Party, and we raised £140. We sold 50 copies of the Socialist.
There were big cheers whenever anyone mentioned Grenfell, criticised gentrification or attacked imperialism. For most protesters, it's gone beyond solidarity with the US. It's about Britain - and the world.
Around 5,000 turned out on Thursday 4 June. The original meeting place had to be moved because it was too small.
The atmosphere was peaceful yet angry. Even the West Midlands Police commissioner issued a statement supporting the demo and sending condolences to George Floyd's family.
The many speeches from ordinary protesters at the Socialist Party's open megaphone clearly showed the pent-up anger at years of low-level and not-so-low-level racism that is the daily lot for so many.
Bristol: slaver statue thrown in river
Bristol's College Green had over 10,000 protesting on Sunday 7 June. Many expressed great frustration and anger about "having to protest again and again to be free to exist," and highlighted that the "people on top count on our silence to keep the status quo."
The peaceful crowd then kneeled in total silence, before starting to march. In its path was slave trader Edward Colston's statue on Harbourside. The statue fell, its hands and feet tied, eyes covered. Protesters threw it in the river, while black marchers climbed on the empty base and rejoiced before the cheering and electrified crowd.
We sold dozens of copies of the Socialist - and gave out all our 2,000 leaflets in minutes.
The removal of Colston's statue was symbolically very important for Bristol. He transported 84,000 black men, 19,000 of whom contracted disease and died before even arriving, on the 'Middle Passage' from Africa to the Americas.
It said on the radio that Colston and his associates made Bristol a wealthy city. Wealthy for them and their families, maybe. A semi-secret organisation called the Society of Merchant Venturers profited from this human misery and exploitation. Its descendants still operate today, owning vast amounts of wealth and real estate across the city.
The protests brought out a far larger number of black and working-class youth than we have been used to seeing for some time.
Bradford: this is just the beginning
I was proud to stand with hundreds of protesters in Bradford's central square on 3 June, taking the knee to protest against racism and police brutality. What was overwhelming was the atmosphere of pure anger and the will to act.
It feels different to other protests. This movement feels more determined.
The Socialist Party was the only organisation that brought political material - our campaign stall was swamped and every 'join the Socialist Party' card was filled in.
We did get some harassment from the police for having a stall, but stood our ground. None of the protesters had a problem with us having the stall. They queued at it to sign up.
All the speakers at the protest called for this movement to go beyond demonstrations. The main rally cry from the working-class youth present: this is just the beginning. Young people are learning that it takes a fight, not just a march, to change things.
One of the main speakers, a young black student, said racism started from slavery and those who enslaved black people needed to create a false ideology of "backwardness" against black people. In the speaker's words, this was used to "pit us against each other." We echo this sentiment - capitalism needs racism to sustain the wealth and power of a tiny minority.
Under capitalism, the mass of ordinary people must be losers in order to prop up a handful of winners. Racism is one of the main battering rams used against the working class to do this. The Socialist Party is serious about building a mass movement against racism, and we equip ourselves with a socialist programme to defeat capitalism.
After a smaller protest on 6 June, around 500 turned out on 7 June. This time there seemed to be more politicised placards, quotes from Malcolm X, and slogans pointing to the systemic nature of police violence. We ran out of leaflets, and more people signed up to find out about joining the Socialist Party and bought the Socialist newspaper.
Wolverhampton: it's not just race, it's class
Over 1,000 workers and young people on 7 June. The Socialist Party dished out posters and leaflets with demands for a mass movement to defeat racism and the capitalist system that breeds it.
Unfortunately, this approach was not shared by many of the platform speakers, who spoke more about faith and individual self-improvement. Over an hour in, large portions of the crowd felt disconnected from this rhetoric.
With some leaving, we couldn't let frustrated young people walk away disenchanted. "The speaker talked about getting your PhD, but how can we dream of that when we can't even afford university?" we argued. People stopped, signed up and donated handsomely.
When we whipped out our megaphone and invited anyone to have their say, a young black woman energetically took it and led a march around the park and to the police station, lasting over an hour after the official event ended. Those drawn into action for the first time don't want this energy to evaporate.
Coventry: police kill here too
Several hundred people on Tuesday 2 June. Black youth led the protest on a spontaneous peaceful march across the city centre, rallying outside the police station twice. Chants of "no justice, no peace!" and "I can't breathe; black lives matter!" rang through the city as the huge demonstration blocked roads.
Speakers called for justice for other victims of police violence, including Darren Cumberbatch - a black man from Coventry who died in 2017 after police reportedly punched him ten to 15 times and used a Taser on him. Some also spoke about the fight for black lives across Africa, where they pointed to the mass exploitation of black people across the continent by capitalist colonialism and imperialism.
We sold loads of copies of the Socialist and ran out of our 300 leaflets before the protest ended!
Sheffield: biggest demo since public sector general strike
Biggest demo since the 2011 public sector strike rally. Maybe 5,000 throughout 6 June gathered in Devonshire Green. Overwhelmingly young, black and white, rounds of clapping, chanting, taking the knee, minute's silences for those killed swept around the park.
A spontaneous march took off, taking over the streets around the park. With most protesters on their first ever demo, the sense of empowerment was tangible, so much so that they marched again, and again.
Leicester: "we want a revolution"
Over 4,000 people in the city centre on 6 June. It was a mainly young and working-class crowd, very angry and enthusiastic, with the crowd even chanting "we want a revolution!" There was a range of placards saying things like "the system isn't broken, it was built this way."
There was an emotional kneel for George Floyd for eight minutes and 46 seconds. People were drawn to the Socialist Party stall and enthusiastic in our socialist ideas to fight racism. We sold many copies of the Socialist alongside donations to our fighting fund.
Up to 4,000 on 7 June. Many had an understanding that wide-ranging change needed to happen. Our 700 leaflets were not enough, we raised £100 and sold dozens of copies of the Socialist.
Around 2,000 people, despite scaremongering in the media - a huge turnout for any protest in Newcastle. The only thing stopping us from distributing more leaflets, placards, and copies of the Socialist was our supply!
Around 2,000 gathered in Bute Park after two different planned protests merged. Many people were interested in joining the Socialist Party and 60 bought copies of the Socialist.
Socialist Party Wales
Up to 2,000 in Brighton on 3 June, mainly youth, marched around town along the seafront, ending up outside the police station. Police guarding the station looked on bemused as the crowd demanded they take the knee. Our leaflets were snatched up.
Around 1,000 on 3 June, filling the high street with placards calling for social change. A mass mobilisation outside the BBC radio station in Northampton showed both the palpable anger and unity of the community. Protesters wore masks and there were no instances of violence or looting.
Northampton is home to many migrant communities who have been hit incredibly hard by Covid-19. When you look at the local council's systematic destruction of our services over the past decade and a half it's easy to see how cases rocketed across the town.
Attended by over 1,000, predominantly youth and overwhelmingly black and Asian. Our leaflets were well received as we ran out.
Well over 1,000 in Reading on Friday 5 June, overwhelmingly working-class young people. The biggest demo Reading has seen since the public sector mass strike of 2011. We sold out of the Socialist newspaper and ran out of leaflets. There was a mood of 'we have to build something out of this'.
About 1,000 mainly young people turned out on 7 June. We quickly ran out of leaflets. The mood was very angry - Middlesbrough is one of the most deprived towns in Britain and Europe.
1,000 gathered, one of the biggest demonstrations we've had in years. The crowd was enthusiastic about our ideas. Again the rally was overwhelmingly young and working-class. All our leaflets, placards and copies of the Socialist went.
It felt like 1,000 people were present. People wore masks and social distanced where possible. The atmosphere was electric. Every page of our sign-up sheets was overflowing with names. When we asked protesters what they thought was important to eradicate racism, the main answers were education, conversation, activism - and systemic change.
Over 500, overwhelmingly young, on Wednesday 3 June. The speeches were full of anger at police brutality in the US, but also racist policing and racism in Britain.
The speakers were all inspirational and harrowing, with personal experiences and anecdotes about their encounters with racism. But there was also the feeling of solidarity from such a large protest.
We gave out every Socialist Party leaflet we had, drawing the link between capitalism, austerity and racism.
Over 500 people gathered outside Durham Cathedral. Most of the demonstrators were young women. Socialist Party leaflets were eagerly accepted by everyone until we ran out of them.
In contrast, the far right held a counter-demo of about 50 in the Market Square under the statue of rich mine owner Lord Londonderry to 'protect' it.
Around 300, mostly youth, mostly working-class. Despite the wind and rain, we sold out of the Socialist and handed out our full supply of leaflets.
Socialist Party Wales
In The Socialist 9 June 2020:
Black Lives Matter
Lessons from history
Campaigns and reports