UK has regressed on racial equality, activists say ahead of renewed protests

Racial equality in the UK has worsened since George Floyd’s death in the US sparked protests last year, activists have said.

Campaign group leaders have pointed to the controversial Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities Report and the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as examples of where the Government has “undermined” progress over the past year.

It comes as the Stand Up To Racism campaign group and the Trades Union Congress (TUC) prepare for a fresh crop of peaceful protests at locations including the US Embassy in London, Sheffield Town Hall and Brighton Police Station on Saturday to mark the upcoming one-year anniversary.

Last summer’s protests saw thousands of people in cities across the UK march for greater equality following the murder of Mr Floyd in the US on May 25.

Black Lives Matter protests
Imarn Ayton has said racial equality in the UK has taken a step backwards since last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests (Aaron Chown/PA)

Imarn Ayton, who founded the Black Reformist Movement (BRM) – a group which marched alongside Black Lives Matter and others last summer, said the UK has taken “one step forward and five steps back” in terms of progress for race relations since then.

Speaking in Trafalgar Square, the site of several protests last summer, Ms Ayton, 30, said: “The recent report on race and ethnic disparities which is commissioned by Boris Johnson ultimately said that institutionalised racism does not exist in the UK.

“So what that report has done is it has undermined those pivotal conversations that have taken place over the past year.

“We were just about making progress, and now we’re actually going backwards, we’re in a regressive state.

“We’ve taken one step forwards and five steps back due to that recent report, so yeah, we’re currently in a position of limbo… this report will increase polarisation between those that are woke in England and those that are not.”

Black Lives Matter protests
Imarn Ayton (right) addresses people during Black Lives Matter rally in Hyde Park, London last summer (Aaron Chown/PA)

She added: “The only progress I would say categorically is the fact that we now have a greater level of societal consciousness, that I think is the biggest thing that I can take away from the BLM movement, that we are so much more open to having these awkward conversations around institutionalised racism.”

Kwadwo Kyerewaa, a Black Lives Matter UK activist in London, agreed the report and Bill had set Britain back.

When asked whether anything has changed in the UK since last summer, Mr Kyerewaa said: “In the UK, I wouldn’t say nothing has changed – I would say things have got even worse.”

Mr Kyerewaa criticised the Commission’s report for its “statement of intent to deny that there is such a thing as structural racism in the police, in the criminal justice system, in employment, those aspects” and for stating that “we need to talk about the positive aspects of the experience in the African slave movement”.

He said: “It tries to wilfully misunderstand the problems so that we don’t tackle the root of racism.

“We’re instead distracted by other things like people saying the wrong phrases, as opposed to systems of power that discriminate, cause premature deaths that we can see in statistics in lots of ways.

“By denying that structural racism exists, the Government is saying the reason why there are disproportionalities, is due to the deficiencies of particular communities – it’s a form of victim blaming.”

Saturday’s protests – due to take place in cities including Manchester, London, Glasgow and Swansea – will be followed by an online rally which will include speeches from university professors, solicitors, race equality campaign groups and former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott MP.