CW: mentions of rape, sexual assault
“I’m ashamed to say this, but I used to go out with one of you lot.” The crowd of 200 – 300 or so protesters outside Cardiff central police station, buoyed up by a righteous, life-affirming rage, suddenly burst into howls of laughter.
“That’s right,” the young woman continued. “I should have expected a racist and a homophobe in a uniform. It’s the uniform that gives you license to be what you are.” The laughter turned to jeers, directed once again at the ten or so cops spread out along the entrance to the station. They echoed through the slight chill of the evening air. Another young woman got up onto the mic.
“I was fucking raped 18 months ago,” she shouted, again standing at the head of the crowd but facing the line of coppers. “And what did you lot do? Fucking nothing! What is the fucking point of you? None of us are safe!” The crowd broke into roars. She poured emotion into her words like dousing petrol on a fire. “You’re all locked up behind your barricades because you’re scared of us!” she continued. “But unlike you, we’re not violent. We’re just here to let you know how fucking pissed off we are!”
The crowd roared again. With the deaths of two young black men following police contact here in South Wales, Mahmoud Mohamed and Moyeid Bashir, together with the recent death of Sarah Everard in London, also at the hands of a policeman, there really was no arguing with any of this. Right now, cops are being schooled like this all over the country. There’s a further demo at the weekend. There had been another two days previously.
I could see another young woman nearby in the darkness staring at the megaphone. It was a hunger that I recognised from playing open mics back in the day when we could do such things. It was that hunger for the platform, for the crowd; to feed and feed off its energy. It’s a hunger that can get overwhelming, and sure enough, the woman found her way over to the megaphone and, like the other speakers, faced the cops. “I’m from just over the river in Grangetown. Black people are sick of getting stop-and-searched all the time. It happened to my brother twice last week. Why? Because he ‘fits the description’. What kind of racist shit is this?”
More roars. More anger. More fuel. More fire.
The torrent continued into the early evening. The subjects were old, but articulated in a new way by a new generation: police abolition, investment in communities and a revolutionary approach to how we look at these and wider issues. Simply put, the police can’t be reformed because they protect a patriarchal white power and money structure that needs go too. It protects and serves no-one but itself. The voices I could hear were black, white, gay straight, trans, cis, men, women, working class, posh. There was a unity of purpose that defied the shaming and narcissism of much of our social media discourse.
The next day, the government announced that its latest bill to seriously curtail the right to protest here in the UK, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, is no longer being rushed through Parliament. They may just be waiting for the heat to die down, but in all my years of activism, I’ve never known this kind of about turn on such a piece of legislation.
As I cycled home through the night, I felt lifted 50 feet into the air, as if by some kind of wild electricity.
#BlackLivesMatter #BlackLivesMatterCardiff #BLM #BLMCardiff #SarahEverard #Cardiff #PoliceAbolition #SheWasJustWalkingHome
You could have been talking about Swansea (though with smaller numbers), like you I felt buoyed up as I walked home. I loved the way, like in Cardiff, people who spoke not to the crowd but turned and faced the cops directly. Bravery stemming from great anger. Would like to hear your thoughts on Bristol Sunday night – an intensification of that anger?
That’s really interesting to know that it’s rolling that way in Swansea too. Bristtl certainly upped the ante, didn’t it? I wonder where that’ll take things now….?