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Social distancing for seated Cambridge #blacklivesmatter protest



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The poster for the George Floyd protest in Cambridge on June 6
The poster for the George Floyd protest in Cambridge on June 6

Marchers at the #blacklivesmatter march in Cambridge today will be asked to abide by social distancing rules during the protest which starts at 2pm in the centre of Cambridge.

The march is the second protest in Cambridge since the death of George Floyd on May 25. Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed face down in the street. Chauvin and three other US police officers at the scene - called a “modern-day lynching” by National Geographic - were sacked following the incident which has resulted in protests around the world and a renewed awareness of the dangers the black community faces on a daily basis.

Chauvin has since been charged with second degree murder, and the three other officers at the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.

While the first protest event was virtual, the second one starts at Parker’s Piece. The event will be the first mass protest in the centre of Cambridge since lockdown began. Safety measures include:

- All protesters will be seated using 2m social distancing arrangements.

- PPE equipment will be available at the site to anyone attending the protest who requests it.

- Masks should be worn by both protesters and stewards.

- Anyone with symptoms of Covid-19 is requested not to attend.

- People are requested to observe social distancing as they arrive and leave the event.

- Stewards wearing gloves and face masks will be positioned to direct protestors to their predetermined locations, retaining a 2m distance at all times.

The protest risk assessment document for stewards at the protest
The protest risk assessment document for stewards at the protest

Policing arrangements have also been discussed before the event.

“Any attempt by the police to disperse the protest must be brought to the attention of the lead steward before any action is taken by the stewards,” the guidelines state.

The last ten days have seen huge marches across the US and in London, as well as in Denmark, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Germany, France, Italy, Syria, Mexico, Ireland, Canada and Poland among others. Floyd’s last words - “I can’t breathe” - are now seared into memories, masks, placards, banners and hashtags as global outrage continues.

“It’s good to have a peaceful protest and I hope it comes across in a positive way because this is a cry and a plea for justice,” said Tanisha Broady, who runs the Rock of Virtue diner in the city. “These things happen so often and result in minor punishment or no punishment at all, and that’s one of the reasons it keeps recurring.

“I really love the way people have come together and shown love to each other. I feel very positive about this protest. I don’t condone the looting [in the US] but apart from that this process will make a difference, this is everyone going out to protest, not just the #blacklivesmatter community, it’s everyone saying ‘I have to say something’. Black people have had enough - all the good people have had enough, because it’s not just black people being oppressed, we now have a system that is oppressing everyone except for a very few, and people are starting to understand that.

“Everyone is so frustrated and you have to ask why this is happening to black people, so in that sense everyone is looking at it and saying this is damaging to everyone.”

Cambridgeshire Police told the Cambridge Independent: “We are aware of a number of planned protests across Cambridgeshire this weekend in relation to the death of George Floyd in the United States. The events have been arranged as peaceful protests with organisers urging anyone thinking of attending to follow social distancing measures.

“The planned protests follow three others which have already taken place earlier this week in St Neots, Cambridge and Ely and passed without issue.”

Assistant chief constable Vicki Evans said: “Our policing approach will always be tailored to the circumstances, and underpinned by the four E’s which are explain, engage, encourage and only where necessary enforce.

“We are in the position where the current Covid-19 regulations restrict gatherings of more than six people. We understand the strong public feeling and the desire to express views on the tragic death of George Floyd.

“We are in the process of identifying and engaging with the organisers of the planned protests in relation to their intended actions in order to inform our approach.

“I would ask the public to work with us during these challenging times and to take responsibility for preventing the spread of the virus by following the government restrictions and guidelines.”

Protesters are also reminded not to leave their litter.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked worldwide #blacklivesmatter protests. Picture: Tony Webster
The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis has sparked worldwide #blacklivesmatter protests. Picture: Tony Webster


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