Lydney Black Lives Matter protest off after letter row

Khady Gueye and Eleni Eldrige-Tull

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Khady Gueye and Eleni Eldrige-Tull say they felt “pressured” to cancel the event

A Black Lives Matter protest was cancelled by organisers who “felt pressured and bullied” by a council letter telling them “all lives matter”.

The protest was to be held at Bathurst Park in Lydney, Gloucestershire.

But in an open letter the mayor claimed the size of the event was causing anxiety and said organisers should respect the lives of residents.

Organisers, who had received permission for the protest, described the mayor’s language as “disrespectful”.

In the letter withdrawing council support, councillor Walter Leach wrote “we all support the underlying aims of the Black Lives Matter campaign and indeed the wider sense that all lives matter”.

He said the council was originally asked to approve “a small event of 50 people” but that it had grown “way beyond the scope of what we were asked to approve”.

He added that a significant number of vulnerable and shielding people lived in the Bathurst Park area and there were fears surrounding the spread of “Covid-related illness”.

He called on organisers to “respect the lives” of residents and repeated the phrase “all lives matter” three times in the text.

Organisers Khady Gueye and Eleni Eldrige-Tull said they had received all the correct permissions and that the demonstration was expected to be both peaceful and socially distanced.

‘Bullied’ into decision

In an official response to the council, they said: “We are both deeply saddened and totally disheartened by the decisions that have been made.

“We felt pressured and somewhat bullied into the decision to cancel this, although, as you are aware it is our legal right to protest.”

The organisers went on to address “the offensive nature” of the letter, which they added “whether intentional or not… serves to undermine the movement with the use of ‘all lives matter’.”

Mr Leach said he had since apologised for the language used but added the council had a responsibility to all of its residents in the midst of a pandemic.

“It was written purely in the context of the lives of our residents that matter as well and we have a duty of health and safety to them,” he said.

“I have apologised. I simply meant it as it says, ‘all lives matter’. We absolutely 100% support eradicating racial prejudice.”

The phrase “all lives matter” is seen by many as offensive and undermining of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) message. BLM supporters say the need to highlight racial injustice does not mean other lives do not matter.

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