New report questions proportionality of policing of Black Lives Matter protests in Britain

Six months on from the killing of George Floyd by police in the US, a new report by the network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) examines the policing of the subsequent large-scale protests across Britain this summer, and uncovers details of excessive use of force, failures in the duty of care, and racial discrimination.

Despite the pandemic, a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement around the world saw some of the largest anti-racist protests in Britain for many years, in over 260 towns and cities. A rallying cry of demonstrators was “the UK is not innocent”.

The publication and promotion of the report has been financially supported by the Barry Amiel and Norman Melburn Trust, in partnership with Article 11. We have worked with Netpol as part of our programme of research and popular education on this issue, which aims to keep the policing of the protests in the public eye and help support Black Lives Matter activists to defend their right to protest over the coming year.

The report is informed by evidence from over 100 witnesses, including protesters, legal observers, and arrestee support volunteers. It looks at demonstrations from late May to August and in particular on events in London and Newcastle.

Experiences and policing at the hundreds of protests across Britain varied significantly, with some examples of light-touch policing at safe and successful gatherings. However black-led protests disproportionately faced excessive interventions by police, particularly those in large cities such as London and Newcastle.

The research identifies significant areas of concern including:

  • Excessive use of force and disproportionate targeting of black protesters, with baton charges, horse charges, pepper spray and violent arrests.
  • Kettling, enclosing large numbers of protestors – including children and potentially vulnerable people– in confined spaces for up to eight hours, making socially distancing impossible and with no access to toilets, food or water.
  • Neglect of black lives matter protesters experiencing violence from far-right organised counter-demonstrators, with examples of a seriously injured protester being searched rather than supported and others being ignored.

The Article 11 Trust intends to work closely with the report’s authors over the coming months to encourage wider debate about the important concerns they have raised.

‘Britain is not innocent’ is available to download at https://netpol.org/black-lives-matter/