Hundreds join 'Black Lives Matter' peace protest in Hemel Hempstead
Around 200 people took part in a demonstration in Hemel Hempstead yesterday (Tuesday) over the death of George Floyd, who died in police custody in America.
They gathered in The Marlowes Shopping Centre, many had signs saying and 'Your Silence Is Deafening', 'All Lives Can't Matter Until Black Lives Matter' and 'Justice for George Floyd'.
The demonstration, a Black Lives Matter Peace Protest, followed larger protests across the UK, and coincided with 'Blackout Tuesday', an initiative to demand racial justice.
Originally organised by the music industry, the movement has now spread across social media, with many users posting a simple black square, alongside messages of solidarity and links to anti-racism resources.
Video footage showed Mr Floyd being arrested in Minneapolis and a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, continuing to kneel on his neck even after he pleaded he could not breathe and fell unconscious.
One of the demonstration organisers said: "I found the idea of not doing anything, and not being active something that would not sit right with me.
"One of the other organisers messaged me to say she was going into town with the posters and I asked if I could join her and I mentioned making it bigger and asking more people, which is why we made posters and got more people down.
"I think it's important that we done it in Hemel, and not just the big cities, because it shows that everyone is making a stand.
"We had a lot of support on the day and a lot of the comments on Facebook have been positive.
"I grew up in Hemel and the majority of the students were white and sometimes it was difficult to talk about racism.
"I'm glad that we did the demonstration, it was something that we all felt strongly about."
One person who was part of the demonstration said: "I think it went well, there were a few negative comments on Facebook but on the day there were no problems.
"The police were there but it was a peaceful demonstration and I just saw the police presence, I didn't see them having to speak to anyone.
"I would say it was more of a demonstration than a protest.
"What happened to George Floyd is terrible and it should not have happened, that's why I wanted to go down and make a stand.
"Silence is compliance and we need to stand up and raise awareness.
"We walked in circles around the town and there was chanting, we were saying 'Hands up' and then the response was 'Don't Shoot' and 'No Justice, No Peace.
"We also had a demonstration where we all laid on the floor with our hands behind our backs or posters over our faces, like they did in America.
"We had people speaking on a microphone, that was very emotional, they were talking about why we are demonstrating and about what happened.
"We had music playing, a song that has been played a lot is the Black Eyes Peas song, 'Where Is The Love' and there was also a two minutes silence.
"I was there for a couple of hours from 2pm, it was a very emotional, powerful and peaceful demonstration."
Hertfordshire Police has confirmed that no arrests were made in relation to the peaceful protest in Hemel Hempstead on Tuesday.
Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson said: “We were made aware of a peaceful protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that took place in Hemel Hempstead town centre yesterday (Tuesday 2 June).
"Police Constables and PCSOs attended to monitor the event and ensure the safety of those protesting, and the wider public.
“We understand that people across Hertfordshire and beyond will rightly feel horrified about the death of George Floyd in America and we stand shoulder to shoulder with those across the country, and indeed the world, who are both saddened and angered by the way Mr Floyd lost his life on the 25th of May.
“The right to protest is well established in this country and policing respects the right to free speech and indeed, has a role to facilitate peaceful protest.
“However, I would not want to see anyone become ill with COVID-19 as a result of mass gatherings. I would urge everyone to consider their health, and the health of others at this time.
“We want everyone in the county to feel safe, and to have trust and confidence in their local police.
“There are always ways to improve but recent events has made the constabulary more determined than ever to continue working closely with all of our communities, while learning and striving to deliver fair and proportionate policing for everyone.”
Sir Mike Penning MP for Hemel Hempstead said: "There was a small demonstration in town and I have spoken to the police and they said they were all well behaved and kept their 2 metre distance and were respectful to others.
"I understand that people want to express there disgust at what happened."