The outcry began in Minnesota, but campaigners spread the spark of the movement to towns around the world. In the UK, even as the coronavirus pandemic gripped the country, tens of thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets of its major cities.
Yet the movement also spread outside Britain’s big urban centers, as anti-racist campaigners challenged institutional racism in smaller towns and cities which have less ethnic diversity and are less known for their activism. The tragedy of Floyd’s death inspired ordinary people, thousands of miles away in the UK, to fight for institutional change in their communities under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” (BLM).
Six months later, here are some of the voices of those continuing to fight for racial equality outside of the global spotlight.
Maia Thomas, 21, is an activist who campaigns for Black history and anti-racism to be taught in English schools.
In June, Thomas used social media to organize a peaceful protest and vigil for Floyd in Exeter, a small, historic city in the English county of Devon, around 170 miles southwest of London.
“People were shouting at me in the street ‘you’re pretty for a Black girl, you should use your looks instead of your voice,’ and ‘White supremacy will always win.’ I was threatened online by people saying they were going to attack, kill me and come after my family,” she told CNN.
Thomas said she was physically assaulted by a man in Exeter. After the protest she said she required security patrols in the city’s shopping center where she worked.
“I was given a key card to go through the back-exit doors just in case I was being followed,” she said. “At times my manager escorted me. It was serious.”
Despite the violence Thomas says she experienced, she regards the march as a success.
“There were more Black people at the protest than I’ve ever seen in the whole time that I’ve lived in Devon,” Thomas said.
Thomas’ views on education had an immediate impact. Scores of schools and other educational institutions have asked for the 21-year-old’s help to run equality workshops.
Thomas is also a part of “Black Lives Matter Somerset,” helping to produce Black History packs for schools and working to increase diversity within her local council. Next year she will attend a conference in Berlin as a UK delegate to speak about Britain’s BLM movement.
She has no intention of stopping anytime soon, but says campaigning can feel overwhelming: “Every organization, business, school and individual does not realize how draining it is to constantly relive trauma because no one has actually wanted to listen until now.
“I realized in Zoom calls, assemblies and talks if it was any other subject, the school or council would pay for a speaker,” she added. “So why should we as activists and educators be doing this for free?”
Liza Bilal is a 21-year-old student and one of the most prominent faces in Britain’s BLM movement. In June, Bilal and five young activists arranged a protest in Bristol, a port city in southwest England that has strong historic links to the UK slave trade. Britain enslaved 3.1 million Africans between 1640 and 1807, transporting them to colonies around the globe, according to Historic England, a public body. Many of them left on ships from Bristol.
The protests were a call to be heard, said Bilal. “People have been petitioning for the statue to come down for decades and were routinely ignored by the council.”
Bilal believes Floyd’s death forced people outside the US to reflect on their own issues with racism. She said the brutality of his death awakened “a lot of people that hadn’t really thought about systemic racism before.”
“Black and Brown people have been disproportionately affected. We know that’s nothing to do with biology and everything to do with systemic racism,” she said.
Yet the surge of protests has also had unintended consequences. Bilal fears the summer’s demonstrations have emboldened Britain’s far-right groups.
“In the summer I saw a group of White supremacists. I think there were maybe around 200-300 guarding the Cenotaph [war memorial] which is next to the plinth from which Edward Colston was torn down,” she told CNN.
The backlash hasn’t halted the All Black Lives campaign’s mission. They continue to hold monthly protests and weekly panels.
“We have to have a resilience that is unbreakable in the face of something as pervasive as White supremacy,” said Bilal.
“They’re not getting interviewed. They’re not getting the breaks. There’s been a lack of awareness that something structural [has] to adjust,” Campbell told CNN.
In June, hundreds of people staged anti-racism rallies in the center of Glasgow. Campbell said the protests were the Black community’s demand for change.
“This generation has decided that the racism, daily microaggressions, and experiences of exclusion from a job market — they’re no longer prepared to tolerate it. They felt the George Floyd moment. They said no more,” Campbell said.
Campbell helped create an employment working group that monitors diversity in council departments. He worries that without enforcing inclusive hiring initiatives, equality would remain a pipe dream.
According to Campbell, changing place names and removing statues isn’t enough to fight racism in Britain. Instead, he believes consciously challenging racism is necessary.
“People in Scotland too often presumed that you are anti-racist by default. In a racist society, especially one with a colonial history like Britain, you have to be actively anti-racist,” said Campbell.
“It’s the unconscious biases, that translate into institutional practices, that discriminate against non-White people.”
Robert Walcott, a director of SADACCA, believes BLM should primarily help Black people in their day-to-day lives, rather than educating White audiences.
“I want to focus on what we are doing after the protests. I’d like to see more of what we’re doing to support ourselves as opposed to trying to raise the issue to a White audience,” he told CNN.
Walcott’s mother is a part of the Windrush generation, the Caribbean immigrants who moved to the UK from the late 1940s at the invitation of the government.
The cruel consequences of tougher immigration policies implemented from 2012 were revealed five years later, in what came to be known as the Windrush scandal.
Those who had arrived decades earlier, without papers to prove their legal status as citizens as such documentation wasn’t needed before, had been denied government services, wrongly detained or even deported.
“I think there is a slight disconnect between the Windrush elders because they don’t fully understand why there is such hostility from young people towards the situation,” he said.
Walcott said that “racism was a fact of life” for the Windrush generation, who see younger Black people as currently having more opportunities than they did. “There have been more opportunities for Black people [created] in their lifetime,” he added.
“There is a fragility of people who are still refusing to accept that racism is the world’s number one pandemic. Still people don’t even know what racism is or about England’s major role in the slave trade,” said Robert Cotterell, SADACCA chairman.
Before the protests “there were no conversations at all from institutions and key players in the city,” said Cotterell.
SADACCA has continued discussions with authorities and institutions in Sheffield that “traditionally have had, and still have, issues around institutional structural racism.”
Despite the growing interest in hearing Black voices, Cotterell says anti-racism activists aren’t fairly compensated for their time and work.
“They can’t keep using us as the experts because if we were White, we’d be getting paid for our knowledge,” Cotterell told CNN. “If we were White, we would become consultants, we’d be getting paid… £1,500 a day.”
Nadia Thomas, 25, says she was forced to cut ties with a close family member after receiving relentless offensive messages due to her supporting BLM.
“My relative sent me a meme from the film ‘Zulu’ where all the British soldiers took over South Africa and knelt, about to go into battle. It said, ‘me and the boys, hashtag taking the knee,'” Thomas told CNN.
With a mixed-race background and having both White and Black parents, Thomas was shocked by her White relative’s insensitivity. The relative had worked for her Antiguan father for many years.
“It’s an awakening and it goes beyond ignorance,” she said.
In June this year Thomas and a group of friends organized a BLM protest. “At first, I couldn’t take part, I didn’t even want to turn on the TV,” she said.
As Thomas watched the cause spread globally she became less skeptical.
She felt responsible for confronting the racism within her own town — no matter how small or rural. “Since Brexit, [Donald] Trump and Boris [Johnson]… people aren’t afraid to be racist. I always thought it was a passive ignorance in this country and now I see blatant racism. It’s clearly always been here and it’s now allowed by people in power,” Thomas told CNN.
Thomas is working on ways to tackle racism in Chepstow. “I’ve got a meeting with the Labour Party and my constituency to do with Black history and diversity workshops in school curriculums,” she told CNN.
“Nationally, this needs to be addressed. I don’t want to just protest. I want to shake up the world.”
“We were followed home. We were threatened. We were told people were coming to find us. I moved out of my house for a few weeks just because someone followed me home,” said Gueye who is mixed-race Senegalese-British.
In response to the backlash, she founded the Local Equality Commission, a racial equality group that runs workshops to challenge racism in rural areas.
“The main aim of that was to try and suture some of the divides that occurred because of the protests that we organized,” Gueye told CNN. “We wanted to reaffirm to people that this isn’t a problem that’s going away.”
According to Gueye, education on racism is needed most in rural areas: “The UK doesn’t seem to understand how the BLM movement in the US resonates with the UK. In rural areas we don’t have the exposure to diversity. There is no exposure to this knowledge.”
The voices of Gueye and others in small towns demonstrate the power of protest, education and allyship. As the national focus on BLM dies down, Gueye aims to keep the conversation alive in Gloucestershire.
“George Floyd’s murder is the perfect example of the police brutality that happens frequently throughout the world, throughout the US, throughout the UK. We are in a system that is failing Black people,” said Gueye.
“Everything that has happened over the past six months has been a trajectory towards change,” she added. “It’s about trying to engage with people who don’t necessarily understand or empathize with what we’re trying to fight for.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described Khady Gueye as the co-founder of the Local Equality Commission. She is the founder of the group.
Pelosi to move forward with impeachment if Pence doesn’t act to remove Trump
“In protecting our Constitution and our Democracy, we will act with urgency, because this President represents an imminent threat to both,” Pelosi said in the letter to Democrats on Sunday night laying out next steps.
The House will try to pass a measure on Monday imploring Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment, through which he and the Cabinet declare Trump “incapable of executing the duties of his office, after which the Vice President would immediately exercise powers as acting president.” If Republicans object, as is virtually certain, Democrats will pass the bill via a roll call vote on Tuesday.
“We are calling on the Vice President to respond within 24 hours,” Pelosi wrote. “Next, we will proceed with bringing impeachment legislation to the Floor.”
But it’s not clear when exactly the Senate will take up the House’s measure. The Senate isn’t scheduled to return until Jan. 19, but will hold pro forma sessions on Tuesday and Friday. In theory, a senator could try to pass the House resolution by unanimous consent, but as of now it appears unlikely that it would pass.
On Monday, multiple House Democrats plan to introduce impeachment resolutions that would become the basis of any impeachment article considered by the House later this week.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-R.I.), who will introduce an article of impeachment against Trump on Monday, said on Sunday that roughly 200 Democrats have co-sponsored the measure.
Currently, 211 voting members (plus three nonvoting members) support Cicilline’s legislation, and they are hoping to reach 217 voting members by Monday morning, enough for the House to impeach Trump, one Democratic source familiar with the matter told POLITICO.
A small number of Democrats have opted not to co-sign the bill, but privately say they will vote to support the resolution on the floor, the source added.
The impeachment effort in the House is likely to be bipartisan, with Democrats expecting at least one GOP lawmaker — Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois — to sign on. A handful of other House Republicans are seriously weighing it, according to several sources, though those lawmakers are waiting to see how Democrats proceed, and some are concerned about dividing the country even further.
Among the GOP members whom Democrats are keeping an eye on are Reps. John Katko of New York, Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Fred Upton of Michigan, Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington.
Across the Capitol, at least two Republicans — Sens. Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska — have called on Trump to resign. On Saturday, Toomey told Fox News, “I do think the president committed impeachable offenses,” but told CNN the next day that he does not believe there is enough time to impeach.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has also said he would consider articles of impeachment.
Another option has emerged among some Republican and moderate Democratic circles — censuring Trump — though it remains highly unlikely to advance.
A censure resolution would gain far more support in the GOP than impeachment. Some Republicans have privately been pushing for that route and are trying to get Biden on board, according to GOP sources. That group of Republicans is also warning that impeachment could destroy Biden’s reputation with Republicans.
But censure is considered a nonstarter in an incensed House Democratic Caucus, where members see it as a slap on the wrist that gives Republicans an easy out.
The Democrats’ enormous step toward impeachment on Sunday comes after Pelosi and other top Democrats held a private call on Saturday night in which they discussed the potential ramifications that a lengthy impeachment trial could have on Biden’s presidency.
Democratic leaders discussed several options to limit the political effects on Biden’s first 100 days, with one option — floated by House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) — for the House to delay the start of an impeachment trial in the Senate by holding on to the article of impeachment.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has sent out a memo to senators explaining that the Senate could not take up impeachment until Jan. 19 at the earliest, absent unanimous consent.
A final decision has not been made, and House Democrats will discuss the matter on a 2 p.m. caucus call on Monday.
Lawmakers are already privately expressing concerns about returning to the Capitol for multiple days this week, worried about both a potential coronavirus outbreak and whether the building is secure, given how easily an armed pro-Trump mob invaded on Wednesday.
The Capitol physician urged House lawmakers and staff to get tested in a memo Sunday, saying they might have been exposed to someone who had the virus while huddling for safety in a large committee room for hours on Wednesday. During the hourslong lockdown, several Republican members refused to wear masks despite being offered them by Democrats worried about the spread of the deadly virus.
Melanie Zanona, Olivia Beavers and Marianne LeVine contributed to this report.
Matt Hancock Scraps “Unnecessary Training Modules” Blamed For Slowing Vaccine Rollout
5 min read
Matt Hancock said people will no longer need to undertake training including an anti-terrorism course to give the coronavirus jab after MPs said “bureaucratic rubbish” was delaying mass vaccination.
It comes as MPs called for the government to produce targets for the number of people given immunity before lockdown can be lifted.
The health secretary said a series of “unnecessary training modules” are being scrapped to speed up the process of getting people qualified to deliver the jab.
Speaking in the Commons, Sir Edward Leigh said he was shown by his fellow the Tory MP, a qualified GP, the “ridiculous form” he had filled out to start delivering the vaccine.
“When he’s inoculating an old lady, he’s not going to ask her if she’s come into contact with Jihadis or whatever, so the Secretary has got to cut through all this bureaucratic rubbish,” he said.
In response Mr Hancock said: “I am a man after Sir Edward’s heart and I can tell the House that we have removed a series of the unnecessary training modules that had been put in place, including fire safety, terrorism and others.
“I’ll write to him with the full panoply of the training that is not required and we have been able to remove, and we made this change as of this morning and I am glad to say it is enforced.
“I am a fan of busting bureaucracy and in this case I agree with him that it is not necessary to undertake anti-terrorism training in order to inject vaccines.”
Dr Fox had earlier challenged Boris Johnson to drop the “bureaucracy” and “political correctness” of the forms vaccine volunteers must fill out.
He told MPs: “As a qualified but non-practising doctor, I volunteered to help with the scheme and would urge others to do the same.
“But, can I ask the Prime Minister why I’ve been required to complete courses on conflict resolution, equality, diversity and human rights, moving and handling loads and preventing radicalisation in order to give a simple Covid jab?”
Mr Johnson said he had been “assured by the Health Secretary that all such obstacles, all such pointless pettifoggery has been removed”.
The government has been attempting to recruit thousands of volunteers to help with a mass vaccination programme, and with the recent approval of the more easily deliverable Oxford/AstraZeneca version has today revealed the location of seven mass vaccination centres set to open next week.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman told journalists at a briefing they would be at Robertson House in Stevenage, the ExCel Centre in London, the Centre for Life in Newcastle, the Etihad Tennis Centre in Manchester, Epsom Downs Racecourse in Surrey, Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol and Millennium Point in Birmingham, and it is expected they will be run with a combination of NHS staff and volunteers.
But so far the government has not said how many people need to be inoculated before it has an impact on the coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Hancock was asked by a number of MPs if the measures could be eased once the top few tiers in the vaccine priority list had been clear.
Former Conservative chief whip Mark Harper said once the top four groups, which includes care home residents and staff, frontline NHS workers, the clinically extremely vulnerable and everyone over 70 “we’ve taken care therefore of 80% of the risk of death”.
Adding: “What possible reason is there at that point for not rapidly relaxing the restrictions that are in place on the rest of our country?”
The health secretary replied: “We have to see the impact of that vaccination on the reduction in the number of deaths, which I very much hope that we will see at that point, and so that is why we will take this – an evidence-led move down through the tiers, when we’ve broken the link, I hope, between cases and hospitalisations and deaths.”
The ex-Tory minister and another doctor, Andrew Murrison, said: “The logic of anticipating what is going to happen in two or three or four weeks’ time from the number of cases we are getting at the moment is that we can do the same in reverse.
“That is to say, when we have a sufficient number of people vaccinated up we can anticipate in two or three or four weeks’ time how many deaths have been avoided.
“That means, since it cuts both ways he will be able to make a decision on when we should end these restrictions.”
Mr Hancock replied: “The logic of the case that Dr Murrison makes is the right logic and we want to see that happen in empirical evidence on the ground.
“This hope for the weeks ahead doesn’t take away, though, from the serious and immediate threat posed now.”
The Cabinet minister said the challenge for the government is to increase the amount of doses available, claiming “the current rate-limiting factor on the vaccine rollout is the supply of approved, tested, safe vaccine”.
He added: ”We are working with both AstraZeneca and Pfizer to increase that supply as fast as possible and they’re doing a brilliant job.”
But Labour’s shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called for the government to ramp up its vaccination programme to six million doses a week.
He told the Commons: “The Prime Minister has promised almost 14 million will be offered the vaccine by mid-Feb. That depends on around two million doses a week on average.
“Both [Mr Hancock] and the Prime Minister have reassured us in recent days that it’s doable based on orders.
“But in the past ministers have told us that they had agreements for 30 million AstraZeneca doses by September 2020 and 10 million of Pfizer doses by the end of 2020.
“So, I think people just want to understand the figures and want clarity. Can ministers tell us how many of the ordered doses have been manufactured?”
Mr Ashworth added: “Two million a week would be fantastic but it should be the limit of our ambitions, we should be aiming to scale up to three, then five, then six million jabs a week over the coming months.”
How South African police are tackling pangolin smugglers
Quiet, solitary and nocturnal, the pangolin has few natural enemies, but researchers believe it is the most trafficked mammal in the world. The tough scales covering its body are sought after for use in Chinese medicine, in the erroneous belief that they have healing properties.
The animal has also been of interest to researchers during the coronavirus pandemic. Related viruses have been found in trafficked pangolins, though there is continued uncertainty around early theories that pangolins were involved in the transmission of the virus from animals to humans.
After South African police seized a pangolin from suspected smugglers, BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding witnessed how vets tried to save the animal’s life.
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