Text and Photography by Bradley Stearn
During the summer of 2020, I decided to commit to a photo project documenting the Black Lives Matter demonstrations around London.
The tragic death of George Floyd in Minnesota on the 25th May triggered the first demonstration in London on the 31st May 2020. I wanted to use this opportunity to hopefully capture a positive change in our country.
I believe that mainstream media are effective at dividing the nation, writing articles that are designed to cause anger, at times it is difficult to find honesty in the writing. I wanted to discover firsthand what the BLM movement was about.
Experiencing the protests, it is clear that there’s a lot of anger and frustration towards racism in the country, and it was insightful to be able to listen to so many passionate speakers sharing their experiences. As a white photographer covering these protests, I quite often had the feeling that maybe I didn’t belong, wondering who I really was to be covering the demonstrations. I now believe that attending the protests has opened my eyes to a lot of things, mainly the fact that just being not racist doesn’t help solve much at all.
A more proactive approach is needed to help create change in the country when it comes to racism.
Being more inclusive towards other cultures within a work place is one of the many things to think about. I work as camera crew in the film industry, an industry that is notorious for being dominated by white males. I have however seen a lot of positive change towards the diversion of cultures and gender when it comes to crewing up for productions. One organisation that has been set up is The Hue List, a film and TV crewing service for hiring BAME workers in the UK and EU. A wonderful initiative for helping to create a more diverse group of workers in the UK film and tv industries.
In the process of wanting to be as objective as possible with my project, I also photographed an opposing protest on the 13th June. Far Right and English Defense League supporters turned up in Westminster to counter protest the BLM demonstrations. It didn’t take long to realise that these protesters where basically using this opportunity to have a ‘piss up’ in the park, with little to no agenda to their protesting. Witnessing EDL supporters harassing members of the public, along with aggression towards police and the press, were all things that created a feeling of disgust within me. A placard from a BLM demonstration on Speakers Corner sticks in my mind, ”Racism is not Patriotism”.
I think one of the more eventful days was the 6th June. BLM protesters peacefully marched down Whitehall to the gates of Downing Street. In a dramatic turn of weather, a thunder storm opened up and torrential rain poured down on London in an almost disorientating fashion. This created chaos on the street, riling up protesters as a select group of people began throwing projectiles and smoke grenades towards Metropolitan police and Downing Street. In a turn of events this led to mounted police officers attempting to control the crowds of protesters.
A young protester then pushed his bike into one of the horses, causing the horse to spook and for a police officer to sustain serious injuries. These events all got majorly criticized, with opinions stating that the Met police acted too heavily in this scenario. It was a combination of people turning up to purposefully cause trouble and the police making some bad decisions controlling that. Leading to the BLM movement as a whole receiving backlash from the media for the events that happened that day.
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All photographs ©Bradley Stearn