Approximately 600 demonstrators yesterday took over Westfield shopping centre in White City, west London, to stage a ‘die-in’ protest over the death of Eric Garner and the many other black lives taken by the police both in the US and right here in the UK.
Last week the court reached the decision that no police officer would be indicted for the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed African American man who was killed after being held in a fatal chokehold by New York police officer Daniel Pantaleo.
The US grand jury’s decision sparked international outrage. The entire incident was filmed on camera, with Garner’s haunting last words: “I can’t breathe.”
Following the court’s recent decision not to charge Darren Wilson, the police officer responsible for killing unarmed African American teenager Michael Brown, protests in the US grew more intense and impassioned following the Eric Garner ruling.
Yesterday’s protest, organised by the London Black Revolutionaries, was not only a response to the deaths and injustice surrounding Eric Garner, Michael Brown and countless other African Americans, but also black lives lost here in the UK due to police actions.
Protesters, many holding placards, chanted: “No justice, no peace”, “Black lives matter”, “Being black is not a crime”, “Hands up, don’t shoot”, and “We can’t breathe” (echoing Garner’s chilling last words.)
The protestors then proceeded to lie down on the floor of the shopping centre playing dead.
At this point security guards and police closed of all entrances to the shopping centre, claiming it was not safe for members of the public to go inside.
Wail Qasim, a 21-year-old student participating in the protest, described the protest: “It was a young crowd – and people were very angry. There was also visible support from people working in the shops who were cheering along as well.”
Elaborating on why he and so many others were protesting Mr Qasim said, “People were obviously very angry about the situation in the US, because it’s reached a critical point. But it’s also a problem here in the UK – it’s an international problem which needs to be addressed.”
After occupying Westfield shopping centre, where shops closed their shutters and the majority of shoppers were ushered out, the protesters poured out on to nearby Uxbridge Road, where they proceeded to block off the road to traffic by laying in the road in yet another ‘die-in.’
Speeches were given by prominent activists including Marcia Rigg, the sister of Sean Rigg, who died at Brixton Police station in 2008 after being arrested and restrained by police in a torturous position. In October it was declared that the two police officers who gave evidence on oath about Mr Rigg’s death would not be charged, even though their stories were proven to be false by CCTV footage of the incident.
Marcia Rigg, sister of Sean Rigg, spoke to the crowd
The protestors managed to regain entry into Westfield later in the evening, where they again occupied the floor space and chanted.
There were some altercations between police and protestors and some police were seen raising their batons as the crowd stormed through the shopping centre.
Voluntary legal observers were present to protect protestors and ensure that their legal right to protest non-violently was respected by police officers and security guards.
Later in the night, after several more police vans arrived outside Westfield, 76 arrests were made, with many protestors being taken to police stations as far away as Sutton.