Bedford’s young people were out in force today, showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and actively taking a stand against racism.
The event, organised by 15-year-olds Elise Patterson and Genna Abbott, was in response to the recent killing of George Floyd, and many others over the years, who have died because of the colour of their skin.
“I’m not Black, but I can see how it’s affected my family,” said Elise whose father is Black, “what happened with George Floyd kind of lighted (sic) a fire.”
Various people took to the temporary podium, carefully standing on the edge of flowerbeds along Midland Road, describing their own experiences of racism.
While today’s gathering was a mostly younger crowd, whole families joined in too, mothers and fathers proudly supporting their children who wanted to share their passion.
One parent spoke about how they came to Bedford after her daughter was bullied for being Black, another spoke of how she feared for the safety of her three children.
Teenagers stood up and talked about how they wanted the same chances as everyone else, “I work just as hard as my White school mates,” said one, “why do I feel like I won’t get to the university I want?”
After an hour of emotional and passionate stories from people across Bedford, the gathered crowd of about 300 people took a knee and held a minute of silence before marching through Bedford.
Drivers were happy to stop and toot their horns in support of the protest as they waited along the High Street, Midland Road, and The Embankment.
The four police officers supporting the crowd remained calm and in control as the protesters put across their anger and frustration peacefully.
One protester shouted, “we must not hate the police”. The crowd applauded in support.
People tried to socially distance, but in the tight space of the town centre streets this didn’t always happen. Yet almost all were wearing masks.
When asked about the protest, at a time when the advice is to avoid large gatherings, Elise replied, “Racism has killed more people than coronavirus ever will and I think that’s more important right now.”
George Floyd who was killed in Minneapolis, USA by a former policeman on 25 May. Four former police officers have now been charged in connection with the death.
Derek Chauvin (44), who pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, faces a new charge of second-degree murder after previously being charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
Thomas Lane (37) and J. Alexander Kueng (26), who helped restrain Floyd, and Tou Thao (34), who stood near the others, have also now been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder and aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter.