While attendees did not seem to be adhering to social distancing guidelines, with the crowd overfilling the entire Life Science Centre plaza at its peak, the vast majority of people wore masks or face coverings. The protest remained peaceful and calm despite overwhelming attendance and greatly increased police presence.
The event was scheduled for 1pm, but people began to show up around 12, and stayed long into the afternoon, with crowds still thick around 4pm. Estimates range from 1000-3000 attendees at the peak, far surpassing any expectations about attendance. The procession started at Monument, with speeches by organizers and people from the crowd, before marching to Times Square by 2pm, where further talks took place and a kneeling moment of silence was observed. The crowd then marched back by 3pm, where it stayed until late.
Spirits were high and a great sense of unity was over the crowd, with attendees from all ends of the left-wing political spectrum present. Chants ranging from "fuck the police" to "all lives matter" were heard, although nowhere near as loud as more unifying statements like "black lives matter", and "fuck Boris" .
Speakers were also various, with an open-mic system leading to a wide and diverse range of voices being heard, ranging from students simply speaking their mind to dedicated pan-African separatists, but the overarching statement was clear: "Black Lives Matter, and there will no peace until they do."
Originally organised by local activist Simon Evans, the protest's event page on Facebook had garnered immediate and overwhelming interest across Newcastle and the wider region. This initially led to the event's cancellation over social distancing concerns and replacement with an "online protest" at the same time. Despite the cancellation, the event was however co-opted by another event calling for a physical protest at the original location. The original event page garnered over 5000 responses, and hundreds of people showed up despite government warnings in a case of non-violent civil disobedience. The since deleted second Facebook event gained 3000 responses.
An alternate online protest event set up by the original event organisers took place at the same time, reaching up to 2800 viewers.
All images: Muslim Taseer