ORGANISERS of a Black Lives Matter protest in Ledbury say they were pleased with the turnout as they look to highlight the issue of racism.

The demonstration, which started at 4pm on Tuesday at the town's recreation ground, followed similar protests in Hereford and Ross-on-Wye, with organisers keen to stress racism is still an issue in Herefordshire.

The protest has been one in a series to have been held around the world following George Floyd's death in America. He died after a white police officer held him down by pressing his knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25.

Anna McAteer, who had helped a group of teenagers to organise the peaceful protest, said: We reckon it was at least 150 people, much better than we expected. Everyone had masks and stayed apart. The organisers brought spare masks, which were all taken.

"We knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds (the length of time an officer knelt on Mr Floyd's neck) after telling George Floyd's story.

"We had several speakers, one read a list of names, and the others were on how relevant the issue is. There were lots of cheers, and no direct opposition. Everyone was really pleased."

Speaking ahead of the event, Miss McAteer said it was good that protest as part of the Black Lives Matter movement.

"I think it's very important that it does happen in an area that is predominately white," she said.

"The fact Ledbury is having a Black Lives Matter protest is brilliant.

She added: "We've had a lot of support, people have been very supportive. We've had some people given questionable responses, but we're not taking them to heart.

"We have the right the protest and want our voices to be heard. Young people have worked really hard for this, it's a group of 14 and 15-year-olds.

"People are young as that have taken it on themselves to create something that has caused some controversy in a small town is amazing.

"A lot of people going will recognise that and will be there to show there support."

Thousands of people attended largely peaceful demonstrations in cities across the UK. But unrest in London on Sunday led to eight officers being injured and 12 people being arrested.

In Bristol, police confirmed there would be an investigation into "criminal damage" of a statue of Edward Colston - a prominent 17th Century slave trader - which was toppled by protesters.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said yesterday he acknowledged that many of the anti-racism protesters’ concerns are “founded on a cold reality” but has threatened those who harm police or property with “the full force of the law”.

The Prime Minister said the outrage provoked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis had awakened an “incontrovertible, undeniable feeling of injustice” and called for people to “work peacefully, lawfully, to defeat racism”.

He said leaders “simply can’t ignore” concerns that black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) groups face discrimination in education, employment and criminal law.

But he warned in the wake of campaigners pulling down the statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol and attacks on police that legal repercussions must follow.
And he said he would not support those who break social distancing rules aimed at slowing the spread of coronavirus, which he acknowledged was disproportionately harming Bame communities.

“So no, I will not support those who flout the rules on social distancing, for the obvious reason that we risk a new infection at a critical time and just as we have made huge progress,” he said in a video statement.

“And so I must say clearly that those who attack public property or the police – who injure the police officers who are trying to keep us all safe – those people will face the full force of the law; not just because of the hurt and damage they are causing, but because of the damage they are doing to the cause they claim to represent.

“They are hijacking a peaceful protest and undermining it in the eyes of many who might otherwise be sympathetic.”