Thousands of Sheffield residents flocked to the city centre this afternoon in a display of solidarity with anti-racism protests taking place throughout the UK. 

The peaceful protests come following the death of George Floyd, a black American man, in US Police Custody on Monday 25 May . 

Organised by the Sheffield Black Lives Matter Solidarity Group, the gathering on Devonshire Green saw masses brave showery weather in a stand against racism, police brutality and white supremacy in the UK and the US. 

They were joined in spirit by socially distanced events in Meersbrook and Abbeyfield Park.

Events included speeches from leading community figures, frequent chants of “no justice, no peace” and a minute’s silence in memory of all black lives lost to police brutality, before a poignant reading of deceased names. 

A smaller breakaway crowd later mobilised on Division Street, taking the action into the heart of the city. 

Reflecting on the afternoon, one attendee told Forge: “It didn’t really matter that we were too far back to hear any of what the speakers were saying. The organisers did a great job of creating a powerful atmosphere and safe environment given the circumstances.”

Coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, attempts to socially distance at the gathering proved tricky with Devonshire Green filling to capacity well in advance of the 1pm start. 

However, nearly all in attendance sported face masks with an army of volunteers on standby to distribute coverings to those still in need. 

Organisers also stressed that vulnerable people should support the action from home, advising those in attendance to self-isolate for two weeks afterwards. 

Earlier today, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick, called the protests “unlawful”. However, since revised lockdown rules give police no power to enforce social distancing, most officers on Devonshire Green this afternoon were left spectating.

Commissioner Dick’s advice echoed comments made by Health Secretary, Matt Hancock and Home Secretary, Priti Patel discouraging people from attending gatherings of more than six people this weekend. 

However, many of today’s protesters felt that the crowding wasn’t dissimilar to that expected in city centres and on public transport when non-essential shops are reopened on 15 June. 

Defending the action, one attendee said: “If middle class people are allowed to crowd beaches to sunbathe, I don’t see why we can’t come here and take a joint stand against clear injustices in our legal system.”

Image Credit: Courtney Wilson

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