People Before Profit Cllr Matt Collins, who was cautioned during the Black Lives Matter protest in Belfast on 6 June, says the Police Ombudsman’s report “vindicates” the protests, and calls for all fines and threats of prosecutions to be dropped immediately.
Mr Collins stated: “The Ombudsman report confirms what we have been saying all along; the PSNI actions on 6 June were discriminatory and indefensible. I didn’t need the Ombudsman report to tell me this because it was glaringly obvious to anyone who took part in the protest. Though I find it disappointing that it stopped short of recognising the structural racism at play.
“On the day of the protest, I was asked by United Against Racism to help ensure safety measures were upheld. I felt it my duty as an elected representative to stand in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and I was one of a small team who arrived early to ensure social distancing. By comparison, it is shameful that leading politicians like Naomi Long and Michelle O’Neill swiftly justified the PSNI response as ‘proportionate’.
“The PSNI were immediately obstructive and I was cautioned simply for putting down social distancing markers on the ground, hours before the protest had even started. When people started to arrive the PSNI obstructed them from entering the square safely, hemming them in, and creating a bottleneck that actively worked against the efforts of organisers to ensure safety. The Ombudsman report confirms this and much more. It also shows that the PSNI exercised disproportionate policing which took little regard for people’s human rights.
“The BLM protest was a master class in social distancing and the PSNI actions were utterly shameful. I am considering taking legal action in order to challenge my own caution, but the real victims here are the BAME community and especially those Black activists who were harassed for standing up to racism. All fines and threats of prosecution must be dropped immediately.”