Peaceful protests fill Times Square

Muslim Taseer reports from today's BLM protests which were marked by peacefulness and solidarity.

Muslim Taseer
20th June 2020
Fears over neglection of social distancing guidelines, violence and agitation from BLM protestors and counter-protestors were quashed after today's demonstration was marked by its peacefulness.

The third weekly Newcastle BLM protest filled Times Square this afternoon, with hundreds in attendance all afternoon for a peaceful show of solidarity. Protests remained peaceful and calm, with no arrests being made. This was in sharp contrast with the demonstration at Monument last week, where a group proclaiming themselves The Defenders of Newcastle began throwing smoke canisters and bottles of alcohol at BLM protesters, causing fighting to break out and 14 arrests to be made, and five further arrests being made on Thursday linked with the agitation. Northumbria Police announced they were looking through bodycam and security footage of last Saturday's protests to identify troublemakers as part of "Operation Travis".

Police issued a Section 14 order Friday night, banning any protests at or around Monument as a result of last week's chaos, with North East Against Racism (NEAR) consequently moving the protest to Times Square to better facilitate social distancing and to avoid counter-protesters.

Around 400 gathered at Times Square, hearing speeches interspersed with music and live drums. Crowds began arriving as early as 11am and presence was still sizable by 3pm. Volunteers with NEAR handed out water, hand sanitiser and masks to anyone who required it. Social distancing was upheld, made easier by the greater space in Times Square, and the slightly lower turnout compared to previous protests. Almost everyone wore masks, and the mood was jovial and celebratory, with the event taking a much more lighthearted tone than last week. Students and activists from across the North East, including Durham and Sunderland, were in attendance.

Police presence was increased at Times Square as a precautionary measure, with police horses stationed at the entrance. Assistant Cheif Constable Helen McMillan of the Northumbria Police issued a statement at 4pm confirming no arrests were made today and thanking the demonstrators for acting "peacefully and responsibly".

There were reports of the Defenders of Newcastle, who had initially planned to show up at Monument, being seen near St Thomas' Church, with a small contingent of about 20 people contained by police officers. Some strays wandered into Times Square to observe the protest but were unable to disrupt it in any meaningful way.

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AUTHOR: Muslim Taseer
Comment Sub-Editor and Co-Founder of The Toon Lampoon. Regular Contributor to multiple sections. Shameless Plug; I also make music under the moniker "sickhoop"

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