Thousands of protesters gathered in London on Wednesday to show solidarity with the US following the death of George Floyd, who was killed in police custody in Minneapolis. They were also protesting the lack of an arrest after the investigation into the death of Belly Mujinga, a rail worker from London who died of COVID-19 after being spat at.
The demonstrators marched around the capital city starting at Hyde Park, with a stop outside Downing Street, before coming to an end near Parliament. They chanted “the UK is not innocent,” “justice for Floyd,” “justice for Belly,” and more.
Among the protesters was actor John Boyega, who addressed the crowd.
“Black lives have always mattered,” Boyega said. “We have always been important. We have always meant something. We have always succeeded regardless. And now is the time. I ain’t waiting. I ain’t waiting.”
Boyega stopped to talk to BuzzFeed News and said coming to the protest was about more than showing his face. He said he has experienced racism in many different ways, be it outward or passive, and that this demonstration was a way to show solidarity.
“We know what kind of tragedy that is. This was a moment for us to be a physical representation of our shared mentality that black lives do matter,” Boyega said.
The Star Wars actor said the protest is about black people wanting equality all around the world.
“What we want is equal opportunities. We kill it anyway, naturally, so that’s what we’re here to physically represent,” he said.
Boyega said that when he got the role of Finn in Star Wars, he expected the world to be happy for him. Then he saw the response from people when the trailer came out.
“I soon realized, being a black person, I was definitely the only cast member in that movie in which his race was a big deal,” he said. “So that normal fact, I realized, Okay, this is the reality of the world, and this is the reality of this mentality.“
He said protests are a great way of seeing people with the same mentality, which makes these demonstrations so powerful, but he wants to focus his time on being part of something with longevity.
“For me, I’m just dedicating my life and creative time and everything into making sure that we are a part of something that’s going to exist past protests,” he said. “Exists past us having moments of being excited and on fire to make change.”
In the UK, protesters and activists have also been highlighting that the UK isn’t innocent when it comes to police brutality for a while. According to campaigners, there have been 1,500 deaths in police custody in England and Wales since 1990.
George the Poet’s interview on BBC’s Newsnight went viral after he explained that the protests in the UK were solidarity with the US, but also in response to police brutality in the UK.
When asked about the viral clip Boyega said: “For me, you know broadcasters and all that kind of stuff, especially if you’re white, just shush your mouth.
“We don’t want to hear from you. Okay, you can’t educate me about my experiences. You are white — meaning that when you leave your house, you don’t get judged about the color of your skin. “
“It ain’t as intense for you. Why are you lying? You’re lying because you’re scared. Someone with that mentality, I believe 100% you’re a racist.
“And racism to me, it shows in various different ways, and the more and more I read deeper into man, the fear that they’re showing because they want their normal world.
“They want things to go back to normal. That ain’t happening.”
He said people are protesting for the generations to come.
“I’ve got two little nephews. They don’t know what’s going on now, do you know what I mean? I don’t want them to have the awareness of this tragedy and these barbaric acts that are going on in the states,” he said. “So now’s the time. I mean, they like to do this passive-aggressive nonsense. They like to make it subtle, then it’ll show itself at work. It’s about dismantling white supremacy from the ground all the way up. We need to dismantle it.”
Boyega said it’s important for black people especially right now to have therapy, and he has been sharing posts on his Instagram stories about black therapists who could help.
“With something that is such a trauma for us, consistently seeing black bodies,” he said. “You know, you see your uncle there. You see your family member, and for us, it’s enough, is enough with that one.”