Last weekend, I went back to Sheffield for the first time since moving out in a rush in March due to the pandemic.
I live in the Peak District and Sheffield was the nearest place to my home that was holding a demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
This was my first big day out since lockdown began having only ventured as far as the nearest supermarket over the last 12 weeks. It was strange to see the familiar places I used to walk past everyday stand empty and the university campus completely closed. I felt like I was in some kind of dystopian reality.
My sister came with me and we had made our placards the night before. We masked up and gloved up and went to Devonshire Green where we picked a strategic spot to stand so we were able to socially distance ourselves.
The first thing we heard whilst we approached the green was the clapping, thousands of people applauding and cheering those who were speaking. I was struck by just how many people had turned out in support of this issue – it was amazing.
There were some incredible placards. One that sticks in my mind was a beautiful painting of George Floyd, done by University of Sheffield students.
This demonstration was peaceful. We listened to young people from the BAME community speak. They shared their own experiences and expressed their frustrations at the injustices that are still suffered by many.
We knelt in remembrance of George Floyd and we sang ‘Stand by Me’. To sing along with thousands of people was an experience I’ll never forget.
Being white and British, I will never fully understand the suffering and the injustices that the BAME community face on a daily basis but I like to think that I am doing my part by spreading awareness, signing petitions and turning up in support at demonstrations.
I’ve learnt so much in the last two weeks. I’ve read articles, watched documentaries and listened to people speak to try and understand just how far we still have to go as a society to defeat racism.
There was no big police presence on the day. I only saw two police officers when I arrived and there were stewards walking the perimeter to keep everyone safe.
There was a real sense of community at the event. One girl was giving out her own alcohol gel to protesters as they left.
The South Yorkshire Police themselves said that there was “no disorder” and that “the event passed without issue”. (Claire Lewis for the Sheffield Star, Sunday 7th June 2020)
Overall, the Black Lives Matter protest in Sheffield was a very positive experience and it gave me hope for future generations.
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