Press release: Tuesday 6 June 2020
The North West Migrants Forum (NWMF), the organisers of Saturday’s social distance rally for solidarity of the Black Lives Matter movement, is angered by the PSNI’s treatment of protestors in Guildhall Square.
The Derry/Londonderry based charity, that aim to create equality for people of different ethnic backgrounds in Northern Ireland, joined together at the weekend with various other groups to call for an end of institutional racism, police brutality and historic complacency over the loss of black lives.
The NWMF put measures in place at the rally to ensure any attendees could take a stance for justice in a safe way with participants encouraged to keep two metres of distance between each other. They were also all provided with facemasks, gloves and hand sanitiser.
In response the PSNI harassed and intimidated participants and issued fines to selective attendees for what they believed to be a breaching of public health regulations.
The NWMF board and members met together to discuss the police conduct at the rally and decided collectively to respond to the incident. Lilian Seenoi- Barr, Director of Programmes at the NWMF said, “As a community we feel deeply hurt and angered by the policing tactics that were employed by the PSNI at our rally in Derry/ Londonderry on Saturday in Guildhall
We believe that the treatment our protestors endured, who were adhering to social distancing laws and were also within their rights to a peaceful protest, to be highly disrespectful and disproportionate to the circumstances. This has now sadly caused us to have a high level of distrust in the police, a relationship that we believe up until Saturday to be a good one.
We feel that the PSNI disrupted our efforts to protect public health with our social distancing tactics, they issued 57 fines to attendees and also left our protestors, who conducted themselves in a safe and peaceful manner, feeling intimidated from their anti-riot vehicles and visible weaponry.
In the wake of Saturday, we met with the PSNI Chief Constable to relay our hurt and anger and we also intend to write to the Justice minister who had additional enforcement powers added to the coronavirus public health legislation by the NI Assembly on Friday 5 June.
The reality of the situation is that the behaviour of the police was uncalled for on every level and we as a community demand answers and an apology as to why they chose to conduct themselves in this manner.
We also call upon all political leaders in our city and ask them they respect our freedom of expression and to condemn the PSNI. We want to see the citations issued and prosecutions withdrawn, only then can we begin to rebuild trust and engage meaningfully with the PSNI.”
The North West Migrants Forum was founded in February 2012 and is committed to promoting equality of opportunities and protection for people of different ethnic backgrounds in Northern Ireland.
For more information on the North West Migrant Forum and the Black Lives Matter movement, visit http://nwmf.org.uk/.