It is nearly four years since Black Lives Matter had their first major protest in London. Emulating their US counterparts, the protestors held up their hands and chanted ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’, a chant popularised after the 2014 killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. By then it had been known for a year that before his death Brown almost certainly said no such thing and had lunged for the arresting officer’s gun before being shot.
Still the London protestors chanted what they believed Michael Brown had said, as they processed along Oxford Street, accompanied by unarmed British policemen who couldn’t have shot them if they’d wanted to.
Two weeks later a crowd gathered in Hyde Park chanting ‘Hands up, don’t shoot’ and other BLM slogans. By the end of the evening a police officer had been stabbed, four other PCs had been injured and a young man chased into the middle of one of London’s busiest streets and set upon by three men wielding a machete. It isn’t so very far away, this cocktail that is roiling America. But it is one import that we could most definitely do without.
Scenes in London last weekend were less dramatic than in America, but after the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minnesota police officer (now under arrest) they simmered in the same atmosphere: that here is a cause so undeniably clear and just that anything — even the law — must bend before it. In the US, protests were swiftly followed by rioting, looting and burning across the nation. The admirably diverse minority of protestors who have already ruined this cause are ransacking and burning an equally diverse range of targets, black homes and shops among them.