Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Black Lives Matter one year on

'ACAB' 'Floyd' - Albert Embankment SE1, April 2021

A year ago today the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis sparked off the latest round of the global Black Lives Matter movement. The UK movement really started off with a march in Peckham on the 30th May and today Black Lives Matter activist Sasha Johnson is in our thoughts, seriously ill in Kings Hospital after being shot in Peckham last weekend. We have covered some of the many protests and posters in South London here before, but a year on here's a few more examples of the visual impact of the movement locally.


'FTP/BLM', Cold Blow Lane SE14


'Black Lives Matter', Hilly Fields


'Abolish the police' - Queens Road, Peckham



Lewisham Way, outside Goldsmiths



'George Floyd' with fist, Barry's Food Store, Barry Road, East Dulwich



'Black Lives Matter - we understand that we will never understand. However, we stand'
(London Theatre, 443 New Cross Road)

'More blacks, more dogs, more Irish' - sticker on Lewisham Way

A number of professionally designed posters appeared, including on paid for advertising billboards. The messages and images were sometimes strong, but I did feel uneasy at a kind of marketing style 'aestheticisation of rage.'  

'I can't breathe' - Brockley Cross



'Black British History is British History', Amersham Road SE14

'Bun the Police' - Queens Road station
   
Arguments about appropriate (or even appropriating) imagery came to a head in relation to the use of the instantly iconic photograph of Patrick Hutchinson carrying an injured white man following clashes in London on June 13th. On that day a large number of right wing eejits demonstrated in central London, supposedly to defend statues from Black Lives Matter protestors. They had a punch up with the police and as some warriors of the master race were heading home via Waterloo station they were humiliatingly decked by anti-racists. Dylan Martinez got a great photo of Hutchinson, and this was reproduced all over the place - including on this 'bank note' billboard by Peckham Rye. 


Soon though people began to question why this image had become so acceptable in mainstream media. It seemed to being used to suggest some cosy reconciliation between racists and their opponents, mediated by the figure of a 'respectable black man'. This was certainly not Hutchinson's intention. In interviews since he has been very clear that racists can't complain if they face the consequences of their words and actions, and his motivation on the day was partly to prevent young black people ending up on serious criminal charges if the guy had ended up  badly injured or worse. 

Local mural artist Lionel Stanhope painted a mural based on Martinez' picture on hoardings in Lewisham in September 2020. Lionel is a good guy and meant well but the critical discussion about the overuse of this image was reaching its zenith. Somebody painted over it 'We don't rescue racists in Lewisham, we run them out'. Soon it was painted out altogether (see discussion at Huffington Post).



Builder Balfour Beatty had allowed the original mural to be painted, along with other street art, on the boards around its property development near Lewisham station. The limits of its tolerance were exposed shortly after when Balfour Beatty painted over a mural opposite the police station in memory of Kevin Clarke who died while being restrained by police in Catford in 2018. A reminder that we have our own George Floyds closer to home who also must not be forgotten.



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