This is a special AWTWNS news item for 27 November 2014. It may be reproduced or used in any way, in whole or in part, as long as it is credited.
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“From Ferguson to London: No Justice, No Peace!”
Close to two thousand people took over the streets of central London Wednesday night in anger at what’s happened in Ferguson. The protest began in the shadow of the US Embassy, the largest in the UK. A deep feeling of solidarity with the fighters in Ferguson marked the crowd. Family members of young Black men murdered by “London’s finest” spoke movingly of how they felt the pain of the family of Michael Brown – the pain that a mother or sister knows at seeing her son or brother cut down before his life had really even begun. They also spoke of how they felt the rage that Michael Brown’s family must have felt as the US authorities slammed the doors of justice right in their face with the Grand Jury decision – just as the British injustice system had done to them time and time again. As the sister of a young Black man who had been murdered by the police put it, “people around the world understand the anger and frustration that people feel when their loved ones are murdered by the police in the streets.” Another speaker noted that the US was born in slavery and genocide – but that the slave ships crossing the Atlantic were usually English.
Hundreds of Black youth were joined by students from London’s elite universities, activists from Occupy, anarchists, and a handful of youth from the Middle East and North Africa who’d seen the same kind of repressive apparatus at work in Missouri as had bloodily suppressed their own rebellions in the “Arab Spring”. People snatched up copies of Carl Dix’s call to bring AmeriKKKa to a halt – eager to hear what revolutionary communists in the US had to say. The police stood back – seemingly unprepared for the size of the crowd, or its militancy as it broke away from the Embassy and moved swiftly to take to London’s streets. But if the authorities had some idea that the marchers were merely expressing sympathy for people “across the pond”, and that this had nothing to do with them, then they were quickly set straight. The marchers blocked the capital’s traffic arteries for hours. Thousands of Christmas shoppers and tourists in London’s Oxford Street and Piccadilly Circus heard the youths’ chants of “No justice, No Peace, Fuck the police!”, “Black lives matter!”, “From Ferguson to London, we want justice!”, and “Darrell Wilson do your time, Being black is no crime!” – this was a generation for whom Ferguson was just about as familiar as Manchester or Birmingham – and just as close to their hearts.
More people joined in as the youth marched in a steady rain headed to the country’s seats of power, past 10 Downing Street and to the infamous Scotland Yard, HQ of the Metropolitan police. Time and again vanloads of riot police would arrive at the scene – just as the youth flew off in a completely different direction. As the march went past Big Ben and Parliament, many began to chant, “Burn it down!”, reflecting people’s deep disenchantment with the workings of parliamentary democracy. The marchers soon reached Parliament Square, a historic centre of dissent that the authorities have been trying to close off. In recent weeks the police had erected 10 foot fences around the Square’s entire perimeter, mainly to keep out Occupy protestors. Just last weekend 200 police had fought off 100 or so activists who’d attempted to occupy the Square. But tonight the marchers just rolled over the Square like a wave, and by the time they’d left not a single foot of police fence was left standing.
Almost no-one had expected such a large turnout – the night had begun with only a couple of hundred, but word spread through social media and the numbers grew quickly and steadily through the evening. One chicly dressed young Black woman from Sweden who was visiting England said she was protesting for the first time in her life: “I can’t believe I’m here, I don’t do things like this. But two hours ago in my hotel room I saw this was happening and something inside me just said I couldn’t stay away.”
The rebellion in Ferguson and the protests around the US stirred memories of the rebellion that rocked Britain for three days in 2011 when an unarmed Black man, Mark Duggan, was shot down by the police in cold blood in north London. The authorities and the media have worked hard to paint that rebellion as a “mindless riot”; the police took revenge for the mass fighting against them, arresting some 4000 people, with arrests still taking place even today based on CCTV footage. One speaker defiantly upheld the so-called riot and proclaimed that it was really a mass rebellion against police murder and injustice.
Many of the youth were exhilarated at the solidarity and community characterizing the protest, at seeing such a mix of Black and white standing together side by side against the system’s enforcers. They had been brought together by a powerful cause, and by the fiery spirit of the defiant fighters of Ferguson that had lit hearts and minds in a distant country, an ocean away.