Speaking as the Police Ombudsman’s report is released into the policing of Black Lives Matter protests in Belfast and Derry on 6 June, People Before Profit MLA Gerry Carroll has repeated calls for leading politicians to apologise to Black Lives Matter protesters, and for fines and threats of prosecution to be dropped immediately.
Mr Carroll stated: “There is much in this report that adds weight to our continued contention that the policing of the 6 June Black Lives Matter protests was indefensible and discriminatory. Elements of the report represent an indictment of the PSNI’s treatment of the BAME community, though it falls short by dismissing the structural racism that was at the centre of events on the day.
“Institutional racism is unfortunately all too real in society and in policing structures. We are concerned that the Ombudsman has attempted to gloss over this, by downplaying justified concerns about racial discrimination and drawing a line under what happened.
“The report shows how there was a disproportionate approach applied to other gatherings, particularly the loyalist protest to “protect monuments” only a week later at Belfast City Hall. While this gathering was effectively facilitated by the PSNI in order to help it comply with the Covid Regulations, Black Lives Matter protesters were harassed, fined, and threatened with prosecution for taking part in safe socially distant protests.
“Moreover, the report acknowledges that PSNI actions actually worked against the organisers’ efforts to ensure safety on 6 June, by creating a bottleneck and preventing social distancing among protesters. The PSNI use of the Serious Crime Act (2007) to caution organisers of the event is also correctly highlighted as inappropriate in the report, and this was a particularly disgraceful development which must be redressed.
“The report goes on to challenge the PSNI’s claim of having applied a balanced approach to human rights. It illustrates how the police failed to demonstrate regard to rights of freedom of expression and to the right to protest and peaceful assembly, in relation to Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
“These findings indicate what Black Lives Matter activists have been saying all along; that the PSNI crackdown on 6 June represented a damaging and indefensible breach of human rights. It remains a source of shame that politicians from the Executive parties, including the Justice Minister Naomi Long and the Deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill defended these actions as “proportionate”. We call on these parties to immediately apologise to Black Lives Matter protesters, and for all fines and threats of prosecution to be dropped immediately.”