For the next generation - what city racism protests meant to those there
- Credit: Archant
Whether they stood in the city, hoods up to shield against the drizzle, or watched online, thousands of people across Norwich were united on Sunday afternoon.
Beginning in America after the death of George Floyd, who was killed after a policeman kneeled on his neck for more than eight minutes, protests for racial equality have spread across the globe.
The fine city was no exception. Peaceful protests were held at Millennium Plain, outside the Forum, and Eaton Park, and a live stream attracted hundreds of viewers to better allow for social distancing.
Kadesha Francis, 28, who lives in Tacolneston, was among those at the Forum, joined by her six-year-old daughter Mia, who carried a poster saying “friends always matter. It does not matter what colour skin we have”.
“She was asking if we could do a poster, she came up with the idea for the words,” Miss Francis said. “It was really nice to see her do that.
“The whole time she was taking it all in. Reading everyone’s posters and banners, and asking questions about what they were saying. When we got home she was talking about it, asking why can’t we all be friends with each other.
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“I’m mixed race and Mia is, and she gets a lot darker in summer. In Norfolk particularly she is aware that her skin is darker than other children’s, and children have pointed that out to her. It was nice to see the togetherness of the protest, it was really touching.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Didie Nturo, an insurance broke and photography enthusiast, who moved to Norwich in September 2018 and said he was proud to call the fine city his new home.
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He said protests were essential, particularly for the next generation.
“I’m from Manchester, which is a big city and very multi-cultural,” he sad. “When you come to Norwich it’s not very diverse.
“It was a peaceful and very positive protest. It helps people like myself, and knowing that when you come from a place like this you might feel like the minority but there are so many people who are pulling together.”
The 25-year-old, who lives in Thorpe St Andrew, said he hadn’t experienced racism since arriving in the city, but sometimes felt there was a lack of awareness around diversity.
It came after a week which saw Norwich make headlines over graffiti in the Pottergate underpass, painted by artist Ruth ‘Knapple’ Knapp in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Initially covered up by city council contractors due to a mistake with an automatic complaints system, she then repainted it with the city council’s blessing - but words including White Lives Matter were later daubed on it.
In a show of defiance, the artist repainted the graffiti for a third time on Monday said she would keep going - and was not in short supply of paint.
The back and forth and content of some of the additions prompted Norwich North MP Chloe Smith, who attended Sunday’s protest via live stream, to question Norwich City Council’s “criteria” for deciding which graffiti is offensive and which should be protected.
Elsewhere around the country protests continued, with Bristol receiving much of the attention after protestors pulled down a state of former slave trade Edward Colston and threw it into the harbour, a move praised by Norwich South MP Clive Lewis, who said on Twitter Mr Colston had been responsible for “immeasurable blood and suffering”.
Mr Lewis spoke on the live stream of the event on Sunday.
Though turn-out was good, it was a quieter day for Norfolk police. A spokesperson said the force stood alongside all those who were horrified by the way George Floyd lost his life.
“We understand that people want to make their voices heard and the right to lawful protest is key part of any democracy, which UK police uphold and facilitate,” they said
“But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread and we therefore continue to encourage people to follow the government regulations.”
They said roughly 350 people attended Eaton Park on Sunday, with social distancing aimed for, and another 1,000 at the peak of the Forum demonstration, where social distancing was adhered to. Both, they said, passed peacefully.