Black Lives Matter: Bognor Regis crowds moved by impassioned speech

A peaceful Black Lives Matter protest held at the weekend brought more than 220 people to Hotham Park to stand up to racism.

Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 1:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 9th June 2020, 2:45 pm
Rebekkah Birkenshaw making her speech

Protests have been taking place across the world following the death of African Amerian George Floyd, who died in Minneapolis last month when white police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nine minutes, despite George Floyd’s repeated cries, ‘I can’t breathe’.

See pictures from the day here: Black Lives Matter rally in Bognor Regis: in picturesThe event was organised by 16-year-old Amy Bruce, who attends The Regis School, and said she feels it is important to address to issue of racism.

Amy said: “We felt that [the death of] George Floyd was the last straw and now we have to stand up against racism.

Two women holding Black Lives Matter signs

“It’s important that we witness and talk about George Floyd. There was no violence or anything which is what I wanted.”

At 1pm, a silence was held to remember the people who have died at the hands of police brutality and speakers shared their stories of how they have been affected.

Rebekkah Birkenshaw, a mixed-raced bar maid from Marshall Avenue, said the day went ‘really well’ and one of the people to stand up and speak to the crowds.

She said: “As far as I am aware the crowd were quite shocked and educated by it.

Protesters taking a knee

“I told them, when I was in infant school people didn’t want to touch me in case they ‘caught my blackness’.

“Originally I didn’t realise why people were protesting but it’s not just about one guy, it’s about systemic racism across the board. After the speech people were saying ‘I never realised what white privilege was’.”

Her impassioned speech began: “At secondary school I was called a cotton-picker, I’m still to this day asked loaded questions like ‘where are you from?’ The truth is I don’t where I’m from or where my ancestors are from.

“We can say that these are isolated incidents of prejudice and uneducated people but lets call it what it really is - it’s my life.”

Rebekkah then listed incidents of racism and asked people to raise their hands if it had happened to them.

The hands resoundingly came from people of colour who were sitting in the crowd.

She added: “White privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t overcome something. It means that the obstacle you had to overcome wasn’t purposely put there because of your skin colour.

“We need to talk about race with each other. We need to educate each other. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. It’s okay. We are all human.”