Thousands rally in Leeds against racism and police violence

There was a palpable sense of anger and optimism at the around seven thousand strong Black Voices Matter protest in Leeds on Sunday.

James Ellis, Leeds Socialist Party

The largely young, diverse and working-class protest went off peacefully, with social distancing being observed and a hunger for ideas on how to take this movement forward. The beer soaked far-right were contained down the road by the police and succeeded only in embarrassing themselves.

The main speakers were enthusiastic and passionate, but most didn’t go much further than attacking racist ideas.

Leeds Socialist Party members at the demonstration

The Socialist Party’s intervention was very well received – we boldly put forward the need to link up the Black Lives Matter movement with the trade union and labour movement and called for the replacement of the racist capitalist system with a socialist society. We sold 55 papers, took well over £100 in donations, and got 20 new contacts for the party and our ideas.

The first person I approached with a paper said “Oh, you’re the Socialist Party right? I want to join!”.

We were by far the most visible left group with a presence at the demonstration. The Labour Council and Extinction Rebellion had warned against going to the demo – not that this stopped the thousands of young working-class activists from attending.

Whilst it is important to recognise the need to socially distance, we should not criticise or discourage young black people from protesting for their rights. We wore masks, gloves, used hand sanitiser and our comrades in the Leeds TUC organised stewarding to encourage social distancing and protect against the far-right.

One of the Leeds TUC organised stewarding team at the event who worked with the Black Voices Matter demonstration organisers

The anger should never be aimed at protesters and instead at the fact that capitalism has forced thousands of people to protest against racism during a pandemic!

Working class people are discovering their voice and finding their power. The Socialist Party in Leeds will stand side-by-side with these young and inspiring activists. We will fight to rid this world of capitalism and create a socialist society where Black Lives Matter.

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