STREET DEMO: Lee Jasper, centre, leads on marchers
AN ANTI-RACIST campaign group took to the streets of London last week in tribute to killed American teenager Trayvon Martin.
Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (BARAC) brought together up to 250 people from across the UK in anger of the prevalence of institutional racism both at home and abroad for a high-profile march through central London.
Marking seven days of protest fuelled by the dismay of George Zimmerman’s acquittal of Martin’s murder, campaigners with banners and placards marched from the US embassy to Downing Street on Saturday afternoon (July 27).
BARAC co-chair Lee Jasper explained that Martin’s killing in Florida had a huge effect on the worldwide black community and echoes the racist issues faced in Britain.
Speaking after the event, Jasper said: “Despite only a seven-day turnaround, it was a remarkable protest involving a couple hundred people who are passionate about making sure our rights are listened to and upheld.
"We had a very noisy and dynamic group of supporters and we will continue to make our voices heard.”
The rally followed widespread protests in over 100 US cities against Zimmerman’s trial result, and the boycotting of Florida – where the trial took place – by famous entertainers such as soul legends Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan.
Author Ann Samuel, from Harrow, said supporting the protest was important in stopping similar incidents happening in Britain.
“It’s about social justice,” she told The Voice.
“Everyone should be able to live their life in peace. When a young boy loses his life in that manner, it’s a tragedy for us all. Human rights must respected.”
Martin Turner from Wandsworth added: “My wife [Margot] and I are appalled by the way this young black boy [Martin] has been killed by a white man and he was acquitted. It just isn’t right in my opinion.”
The past 18 months have been a pivotal period for Britain’s black community following a number of court trials and inquiries into the suspicious deaths of Jimmy Mubenga, Kingsley Burrell, Azelle Rodney and Smiley Culture which exposed substantial failures within the police force and other authorities.
Additionally, in recent months the Stephen Lawrence family have been back in the spotlight following revelations from Peter Francis, a former undercover police officer, that he was pressured by his superiors to dig up dirt on the dead teenager’s loved ones.
Led by BARAC, the march was supported by the Unite, the Public and Commercial Services union, the National Union of Teachers, the Socialist Worker and other anti-racism civil liberty groups, half a century after civil rights leader Dr Martin Luther King delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech to more than 250,000 onlookers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington DC.
Having studied the Martin case intently, Khalid Afzal, from Birmingham, said the killing made him worry about the future of race relations.
“I was expecting at least manslaughter [for Zimmerman] but he didn’t even get that. It’s unacceptable and it affects us over here. People are committing murder and getting away with it.
“Today it is Trayvon Martin, tomorrow it may be my kids. We need justice.”