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Black Lives Matter activists block road to Heathrow amid protests across country

Published 05/08/2016

Black Lives Matter protesters lying on road heading to Heathrow Airport (@WailQ/PA Wire)
Black Lives Matter protesters lying on road heading to Heathrow Airport (@WailQ/PA Wire)

Anti-racism activists brought traffic to a standstill on the road to Heathrow airport on a day of action which featured protests around the country.

Campaign group Black Lives Matter - or BLMUK - said it wanted to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of Mark Duggan, who was shot by police attempting to arrest him in Tottenham, north London, in August 2011, sparking nationwide riots.

The group called for "nationwide #shutdown" in a post on social media, and their Friday morning protests resulted in more than a dozen arrests.

The activists said they had shut roads in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham to "mourn those who have died in custody and to protest the ongoing racist violence of the police, border enforcement, structural inequalities and the everyday indignity of street racism".

Pictures posted on Twitter showed protesters lying in a row across the M4 slip road to Heathrow beneath a banner which said: "This is a crisis."

Video footage showed police officers hunkering down next to the protesters, while chants of "black lives matter" could be heard as some people got out of their vehicles, which were bumper-to-bumper on the road into one of the world's busiest airports.

Nottinghamshire Police said officers were negotiating with a small number of protesters, and photographs posted on Twitter showed four activists lying across tram tracks in the city of Nottingham.

Footage of the protest near Birmingham airport showed police officers pulling demonstrators away from the middle of the road.

Scotland Yard said four people were arrested in the Heathrow incident and taken to west London police stations where they remain in custody.

A further six people were arrested at the scene, and police are in the process of releasing these protesters, who have "locked on" to each other.

West Midlands Police said four women and one man were arrested on suspicion of obstructing the highway and failing to comply with section 14 of the Public Order Act on the A45 in Solihull.

A spokesman for Nottinghamshire Police said screens erected at the scene of the protest were to prevent distraction for motorists.

Screens were also at the scene of the Heathrow incident, where video footage appeared to show a number of police officers moving the protesters while they continued to lie on the road.

The day of action comes just a day after the anniversary of Mr Duggan's death. An inquest jury decided that Mr Duggan was lawfully killed by a police marksman.

A video on the BLMUK Facebook page features a man saying there have been "1,562 deaths in police custody in my lifetime", adding that there have been no convictions.

Another man says black people are "up to 37 times more likely" to be stopped and searched, while another says black people face "far more severe" sentencing than white people for the same offence.

Meanwhile, the number of fatal police shootings in the US has led to widespread condemnation.

In recent weeks, two white officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, killed a black man during a scuffle and an officer in Minnesota shot and killed a black motorist during a traffic stop, sparking protests.

BLMUK describes itself as a network of anti-racist activists from across the UK.

The group said: "We stand in solidarity with the families and friends of all who have died at the hands of the British state. We take action because justice has not been delivered through conventional means: the police, the IPCC, the courts or the legislature."

Black Lives Matter activist Adam Elliott Cooper, 29, from London, said the Heathrow location was appropriate as "many people are either being killed at our borders or being sent back to certain death".

He mentioned Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga, who died in October 2010.

Three G4S guards were cleared of fatally restraining him on a plane as he shouted "I can't breathe".

Mr Elliott Cooper said the protests have "brought attention to a crisis that has been taking place in this country".

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From Belfast Telegraph