Earlier today I was one of several hundred people who attended the Black Lives Matter protest/gathering at Mountfield. Given the level of anti-social behaviour and violence that had sadly accompanied similar gatherings in other parts of the country it was with a slight degree of trepidation I walked along Rax Lane to attend the gathering. Any fears I may have had immediately disappeared when I turned the corner and walked onto the green space outside Mountfield. There before me was a crowd of people of all ages wearing masks and sitting or standing at appropriate social distances from one another. There was an air of calm expectation as people chatted quietly and compared the home made banners they had brought along.
I had arranged to meet with fellow Town Councillors Dave and Anne Rickard to both listen to the speakers and remind those there that in 2018, Bridport launched its Citizens’ Charter on the journey to becoming the UK’s first “Rights Respecting Town”. To that end we unfurled our new banner and waved the Rights Respecting flag. To find out more about Rights Respecting Bridport simply click the following link: https://bridportrightstown.org/
The gathering was led by the three young women who had organised it with the support of two additional speakers. Unfortunately I was unable to make a note of the names of those involved. The hour that followed was for me an eye opener on a number of levels. Each of the speakers spoke with dignity and eloquence about the issues that had brought us all together outside Mountfield. But it was the examples they provided of local historic injustice and contemporary racism that made me stop and rethink. A poem written by the first speaker, the last one she read, was particularly powerful and deserves to be much more widely read and heard.
The crowd that had gathered voiced their endorsement of the views and calls for positive change with loud applause and whoops.
As a final gesture the gathered throng was asked to kneel for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same time George Floyd had a policeman’s knee on his neck leading to his death. This was another eye-opening experience. Having seen people kneeling on television news reports I had not appreciated the significance of this action. Having now knelt for eight minutes and forty-six seconds in silence I fully appreciate how long that time is, and the agonising death George Floyd suffered.
Bridport can be proud of the work that is already ongoing on through the Rights Respecting Citizens Charter, and of the people who gathered today outside Mountfield, but I now know more than ever we still have some way to go. To that end the Town Council has invited the organisers of today’s rally to speak to them about the issues we need to address and how we can best move forward at the full Town Council meeting on Tuesday 16th June at 5.30.
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