A group of community-minded teenagers in Hawkesbury Upton organised a peaceful protest in support of Black Lives Matter on Sunday.
The socially-distanced protest, which was held outside the village hall, was organised as a way for local residents who were unable to attend the larger demonstrations in cities such as Bristol to show their support.
Organisers Annice Andersen (R, top picture), 17, and Alisha White, 16, said “For various reasons, lots of people were unable to attend the larger protests in big cities.
“We wanted to make it possible, in a safely managed and socially-distanced way, for local people to show solidarity with those who have lost their lives or a loved one due to systematic racism, police violence or riots, in the US or elsewhere in the world.”
The 50 people who attended were encouraged to wear face masks and to maintain a two-metre distance; organisers marked the ground at two-metre increments so those assembled could see where to sit.
The event began with a speech, which was followed by a one-minute silence remembering George Floyd and other victims of police brutality.
Alisha explained that she and Annice were motivated to organise the protests by a desire to show solidarity with the movement in America.
“We wanted to show we will fight with the black community in our own county against systemic racism.
“We were both outraged by the endless amount of videos of police violence and wanted to do something about it.
“We both believe protests are an effective way to show people in power how serious we are as well as being a good way to educate people and help them understand that a lot needs to be done before we can say that there is equality.”
She said that everyone who came was incredibly supportive, including two police officers who were very respectful.
“It wouldn’t have been anything without the people that came and we are incredibly grateful towards them all.
“Annice delivered a short speech about the injustice in our society and how we, as a mainly white community, need to understand this is our fight too.
“Hawkesbury is a predominantly white community, meaning it’s very easy to think that racism has nothing to do with us – which is very far from the truth.
“Our main hope is that we encourage people to have more discussions about racism and what they can to educate themselves and others.”
Heidi Perry, a resident of Hawkesbury Upton, said: “What was so amazing was that they’re 16 and 17-year-olds and they organised a local protest for people who couldn’t go to the march in Bristol.
“Hawkesbury Upton is a great village, and there was a real drive to put it on.
“They managed to create a facility where people can protest without going to Bristol; it was really cool. They took it all really seriously.”
Local resident Elsa Littlewood said: “I feel a renewed hope for the future.
“It was so reassuring and inspiring to witness the overwhelming support from neighbours, young and old.”
Alisha added: “Since Sunday, videos and photos from the protest have been shared on almost every social media platform to show that no matter who you are and where you live you can – and should – be fighting for the Black Lives Matter movement.”