‘The change starts with us’: We spoke to the BLM Lincoln protest organisers

“We won’t be going away until things change, because now is the time to push it.”

Lincoln held their first Black Lives Matter protest over the weekend and have now confirmed another to take place on the 20th of June.

The protest is set to start at 5 pm, beginning at the Great Central Library to the Cathedral. Protestors are encouraged to wear masks and gloves.

This protest is like many others that are taking place across the country and the globe in the wake of the death of George Floyd, whose death caused by a police officer, has sparked outrage across the world. Mr Floyd wasn’t the first black person to die at the hands of the police due to the racial injustice that is seen throughout different countries. This protest has asked people: “Don’t just speak about change! Don’t just hope for the change! Be the change!”

The Lincoln Tab spoke to Leonard Chatonzwa, one of the figures of the movement about the protest in Lincoln.

He told the Tab, “This is needed in more than just Lincoln, this is needed everywhere and people across the world are realising it, the common misconception is that this is solely about George Floyd, this is about all the little acts of racism people experience. Why did it take the life of someone for us to come to our senses? We won’t waste the momentum that’s around this right now, I genuinely believe this is the time to push through and pressure the issue, the real genuine change will come, something has to give. These protests are worldwide, this means that the whole world recognises these injustices and doesn’t think it’s right. Lincoln is no different, we are just standing with the rest of the world in order to make racism an issue our children, our friend’s children won’t have to experience.”

The Lincoln Tab also spoke to one of the organisers of the protest. She told us, “Our involvement in this movement began as a discussion between me and my housemates at university and we agreed that we needed to go beyond writing inspirational messages on our social platforms in order to raise awareness. We suggested that we reach out to members within the Lincoln community and this is the outcome. To be honest we felt very helpless and just wanted to create something that could make a difference, however small.”

We also spoke to Ceri Leech, who made the event for the first protest on Facebook. She told us, “The feedback we have had since then has been completely overwhelming! And so we have organised another march.”

Leonard shared with us some of his experiences whilst being at Lincoln: “I, as a black student, have felt threatened on nights out during summer or on Saturdays when less students are out and it’s just the locals. The looks you get sometimes makes you feel like you’ve personally offended people you’ve never been had contact with before, I also feel that black people are extremely stereotyped in Lincoln, the number of times I get asked if I’m a drug dealer or if I know any, or people are purposely aggressive for some reason and stare you down for some reason, I don’t know why my colour is a threat.”

The Black Lives Matter Lincoln movement plan “to accommodate for social distancing by placing tape markings down so people know where to stand and are distanced! We are purposefully waiting two weeks since our last one so we can see if there are any COVID-19 issues caused by our last one, we will be giving out masks and gloves, at the last one people bought masks to share with others which was wonderful to see.”

After a successful turnout of the first protest, they were all overwhelmed with the support Lincoln had shown them, “I was trying my best to not have an expectation, in my head I wanted a big turnout but at the same time, I wouldn’t have been surprised by how many people stood with us. The aura of the whole thing of the crowd was so understanding and caring that I got emotional multiple times which is so out of character for me, as did many others who shared their stories! So it was really moving the support Lincoln showed, I’d also anticipated due to uni students being few at the moment that the turnout would take a hit but it was honestly overwhelming.”

Leonard made clear that there is no ‘spearhead’ in this movement, “This movement has no spearhead and it is our responsibility to be leading others and educating and advocating change. Because the change starts with us! If you change your friends, they will then change their friends and it’s one mega domino effect of change, so implore everyone to please educate those around you and don’t condemn!”

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Pictured: What happened at the BLM protests across the UK this weekend