A Vigil for Black Lives was held on College Green on Tuesday, May 25, marking one year since the murder of George Floyd by police in the US.
The murder, for which officer Derek Chauvin was ultimately charged, ignited protests across the world, and led to the toppling of the Edward Colston statue on June 7 last year.
The Vigil was organized by Glad Colston’s Gone, a coalition of activist groups including Countering Colston and Bristol Radical History Group, the People’s Republic of Stokes Croft, councillors and artists.
Compere Ros Martin described the evening as a ‘vigil of remembrance’ for all those who have died as a result of injustice and inequality, and led a programme of speeches, poetry and music.
Martin was one of four people wrongly arrested outside Bristol Magistrates Court in April at a hearing for the Colston Four – an arrest later determined to be wrongful, resulting in an apology and payout from Avon and Somerset Police.
The first speaker to address the crowd of around 120 people was former Lord Mayor and ex-councillor Cleo Lake.
Lake spoke of her recent unsuccessful bid to become Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner, reflecting that ‘I’m tired of thinking that I need to be endorsed by a system that will never see us as good enough.’
Instead, Lake took the opportunity to throw her support behind the idea of a community advisory panel for the PCC.
‘Let’s get our own set of things that we want to see in the police and crime plan… if we don’t stand up and say what we want we won’t get anything.’
Lake was followed by Irvin Campbell, chairman of Stand Against Racism and Inequality, who spoke of the need to remain active in the fight against racism.
‘We cannot be complacent and think that because the protest has gone worldwide, and everyone is protesting and remembering George Floyd, and he’s made history, that we can take our feet off the pedal.’
‘There’s an improvement in awareness…Not just Black people but white people also, and there’s a lot of white people who are supporting and trying to understand what racism is all about.‘
‘Yet the hate crime still goes up and up and up, and especially since Brexit it has shot through the roof.’
‘We need to continue to protest, we need to continue to remember, and we need to continue to stand up.’
Shortly before 20:00, Vanessa Melody took the microphone to lead the crowd in song. The Vigil was marked by its creativity and use of art, especially poetry, to convey its message.
At 20:00, a silence of eight minutes and 45 seconds was observed to mark the time George Floyd was held to the ground by police before he died.
Tuesday’s vigil marks the beginning of a programme of events organized by Glad Colston’s Gone, including online talks, history walks with Bristol Radical History Group, and culminating in an anniversary celebration of the toppling of the Colston statue on June 7.
Details of the events can be found here.