Black Lives Matter protests resonate in Cumbria and southern Scotland

Two protests are set to take place in Cumbria and the south of Scotland in support of the Black Lives Matter movement over the weekend.

The death of George Floyd - a black American man who died while a white police officer knelt on his neck - has sparked outrage around the world.

Peaceful demonstrations are planned for Carlisle and Dumfries. Those in support say they want to promote equality in the region but police are advising people not to attend due to social distancing.

Credit: PA

Superintendent Mark Pannone of Cumbria Police said: “We know people want to make their voices heard. The right to peaceful protest is a key part of any democracy, which the UK police support, uphold and facilitate.

“But coronavirus remains a deadly disease and there are still restrictions in place to prevent its spread, which include not gathering outside in groups of more than six people.

“If people wish to attend any gathering, in order to protect everyone, please follow social distancing guidelines and stay at least two metres apart.”

Cumbria's former High Sheriff Marcia Reid Fotheringham - one of the region's most prominent black women - has condemned the looting and violence that some demonstrations have descended into - but supports peaceful protests like the one seen recently in Cambridge.

Speaking to ITV Border she said she understands what has lead to them: "The catalyst is what's happened to George Floyd, but fuelling it is the long-standing, well-established foundation of racism and inequality."

Some have taken issue with the Black Lives Matter slogan - saying that 'all lives matter' is more appropriate. But Marcia says that recognising the issue of race is necessary.

She said: "In this instance we are talking about black people who have experienced ongoing injustice for many many years. I know that people want to say 'all lives matter', and when you say 'black lives matter it does not exclude all the lives that do matter.

"But it specifically talks about the fact that the injustice is towards people who have a different skin tone and just because I'm black, I should not be treated differently. It affects everybody.

"The reality is, if black people were given equality then all races would have equality."

Marcia and her husband Jim say they have been heartened by the number of white people supporting the movement and say it gives them hope that society is moving in the right direction.

She said: "You're seeing people of a variety of colour, mainly white, just asking their voice heard. That is different for me, as a black person, to see.

"I think they're saying we are united and we want to make sure our voices are heard. But I think at the same time they're also thinking about the injustice, that even if they don't experience, they are well aware of."

Marcia believes conversation is key: "The reality of it is that everyday you can talk about the differences that people experience. Certainly, as a black person, my experiences are very different to Jim's [Marcia's husband].

"And keeping that going where not only do you ask about what that's like, but you bother to listen to the answer - even if you don't like the answer."