The organiser of a Black Lives Matter rally in Londonderry said if police fail to take action after hundreds people attended the funeral of veteran republican Bobby Storey they will be guilty of “normalising institutional racism”.
Lillian Seenoi Barr of the North West Migrants Forum received a police caution and faces prosecution for her role in the rally held in Derry’s Guildhall Square on June 6, when another 57 people were also issued with fines. A further 15 people attending a similar rally held in Custom House Square in Belfast were also fined.
No fines were issued at a ‘protect our statues’ protest which took place outside Belfast City Hall a week later.
Mrs Barr said the actions of the police at the Black Lives Matter demonstration stood in stark contrast to the way they dealt with other mass gatherings which have taken place since, including the funeral of IRA veteran Mr Storey. She said: “I do not want to play politics but what happened in Derry on June 6 caused deep offence to my community and serious questions need to be asked of the police about the inconsistencies in applying the legislation around coronavirus control measures.
“There was another rally by people who wanted to protect statues one week later, where no action was taken by the police and again no action was taken at the funeral on Tuesday.
“The police have to drop the fines, they have to drop the charges against people at the Black Lives Matter rally and issue an apology to our community because otherwise it is blatant discrimination. If they fail to do that, then they are normalising institutional racism.”
Mrs Barr said the police need to treat everyone equally.
“They treated black people in this country differently from anybody else,” she said.
“How can you justify that action right now?”
A spokesman for the PSNI said: “The Police Ombudsman’s Office is carrying out an investigation into how the police have enforced the Coronavirus Public Health Regulations at large public gatherings and the Northern Ireland Policing Board have also commenced a review of the police response to Covid-19.
“We are also aware of anticipated legal proceedings in relation to protests on June 6, as well as a forthcoming judicial review.
“We welcome the independent oversight of police actions and as these matters are ongoing, it would be inappropriate for the PSNI to comment further at this time.”