'Frustrated' organisers of Lydney Black Lives Matter protest cancel event following council letter

The council letter advised the organisers to cancel the event amid coronavirus concerns. Credit: Lydney Town Council / Khady Gueye

A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Gloucestershire has been cancelled after the council said "it was more damaging to the cause than helpful".

The demonstration was scheduled to take place in Lydney, in the Forest of Dean, on 20 June.

In a letter to organisers the Mayor of Lydney Town Council said while he supports "the underlying aims" of the event, cancelling it would demonstrate "respect for all lives".

Organisers Khady Gueye and Eleni Eldrige-Tull, who called it off, said they are "frustrated" with the "lack of communication and respect" received.

According to Cllr Walter Leach, fears surrounding the spread of coronavirus have been causing growing concern amongst the local community.

The number of people that were expected to attend the demonstration at Bathurst Park had also grown to more than 1,000.

In the letter, Cllr Leach said the council was originally asked to allow a "small event of 50 people" but due to the growth in scale he added "in my opinion, this is more damaging to the cause than helpful".

During a protest in Bristol, a statue of slave trader Edward Colston was thrown into the harbour. Credit: PA images

Organisers Khady and Eleni said they "felt very strongly" about hosting the event in Lydney to show solidarity with the worldwide movement for racial equality following the death of George Floyd.

They said: "We sought to organise a celebration of BAME culture whilst also educating and highlighting recent events and the struggles for POC locally, nationally and internationally.

"We were conscious of ensuring that we received all the correct permissions before organising this event. This included receiving Town Council, District Council and Police approval."

In Falmouth protesters knelt for a silence in Kimberley Park. Credit: Greg Martin/Cornwall Live

On the Facebook event page, social distancing guidelines and instructions for those planning to attend were listed.

These included bringing gloves, face coverings and hand sanitiser. The organisers said they would provide PPE and asked that everyone adheres to the two metre distancing rule.

They also asked that anyone who has been shielding or living with vulnerable people to consider not attending.

A petition has now been signed by more than 1,000 people, asking the Town Council for their support.

The open letter in full:

Dear Khady and colleagues,

I feel that I can speak for the council and the overwhelming majority of Lydney residents to say that we all support the underlying aims of the Black Lives Matter campaign and indeed the wider sense that All Lives Matter.

The council/trust were asked to allow a small event of 50 people to make a peaceful protest following social distancing guidelines in Bathurst Park on the above date this was given our support along with the police and other authorities.

It is now very obvious that this event has grown way beyond the scope of what we were asked to approve and is causing significant anxiety within our community and, in my opinion, this is more damaging to the cause than helpful.

Recognising that Bathurst Park is set in the middle of a residential community where a significant number of shielding people live, people who have for the past 10 weeks made every effort to remain safe and are still confined to their own homes, we cannot support an event that is now looking to attract over a 1,000 people.

I am calling on the organisers to show due respect for Lydney and that indeed 'All Lives Matter' to cancel or at least postpone this event and actively discourage people from attending so as to respect the lives of those in and around the park and not put the population of Lydney at greater risk of an increase in COVID related illness.

I believe this would be the most supportive act you can do both for Lydney and indeed the BLM cause as demonstrates respect for all lives.

As supporters of the underlying aims the Council would be happy to promote the use of the railings around the Park for supporters of BLM to hang suitable messages of support for the cause and create a temporary memorial that can be visited at any time, and in suitable numbers, and demonstrate Lydney's support of eradicating any racial prejudice.

Sincerely, Councillor Leach, Mayor Lydney Town Council

Supported by Councillor R Kemsley (Chairman, Bathurst Park Trust)