March to White House in Leighton Buzzard shows Black Lives Matter

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More than 80 local people of all ages and political backgrounds joined a Black Lives Matter protest in Leighton Buzzard on Saturday morning.

Avoiding the High Street because of social distancing, they marched from Bridge Street along West Street to the White House.

March organiser, Christine Sheppard, said: “We were pleased both with the turnout and the fact that so many drivers passing by hooted and called out in support of the marchers.”

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Party members at Labour’s online branch meeting the previous Thursday evening had expressed their surprise and disappointment that the town council was unwilling to display a Black Lives Matter banner outside the White House, or issue a statement in support of ending racism in society.

Photo by Sonny Nathan Life in Leighton BuzzardPhoto by Sonny Nathan Life in Leighton Buzzard
Photo by Sonny Nathan Life in Leighton Buzzard

Members said they did not think that Black Lives Matter represents a party political position and said such a statement would have shown all residents, in particular black and minority residents, that their local council is aware of the importance of addressing racism. Some placards carried signs saying “Silence is complicity”.

Pat Carberry, the local Labour candidate for the suspended by-election in St George’s ward, who was on the march, said: “This was a surprisingly large turnout for an event called at very short notice, and shows the strength of feeling in our community about the ongoing existence of racism in our communities as revealed by the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“For 400 years, the message of white racism has been that black lives do not matter, hence the need for the slogan. It is apparent that many good white people do not yet understand that, including some of our own councillors. Our town continues to grow and with that we have witnessed an enrichment in the diversity of our community and it is concerning that our town councillors seem reluctant to acknowledge the issues and struggles faced by some of the people who rely on them to be their representatives.

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“This is not just a matter for the United States. Black people here in the UK continue to experience racism in many ways, from both individuals and from our institutions.

Photo by Sonny Nathan Life in Leighton BuzzardPhoto by Sonny Nathan Life in Leighton Buzzard
Photo by Sonny Nathan Life in Leighton Buzzard

“Racism will not just go away without us working together to combat the ignorance that fuels it and to make the changes that Black Lives Matter is calling for.

“We call upon our local leaders on the council to understand the need for change at this important moment in history and act to be a driver for positive change locally.”

Leighton-Linslade Town Council was approached by the LBO about the demonstration, but has not provided a response to date.

More photos in today's Leighton Buzzard Observer