June 20, 2020 / 1:56 PM / 25 days ago

Leader of London BLM protests demands meeting with Johnson

LONDON (Reuters) - A leader of Black Lives Matter protests in London demanded a meeting with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday and called on him to replace a political adviser chosen to lead a new commission on racial inequality.

A demonstrator wearing a protective face mask holds a small flag as he attends a Black Lives Matter protest in Hyde Park, following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody, in London, Britain June 20, 2020. REUTERS/Henry Nicholls

“I have been here every day, I am the person that leads 20,000 people every protest,” Imarn Ayton, a 29-year-old actress, told Reuters as BLM demonstrators gathered in Hyde Park before their latest march.

“Everyone else seems to be in contact with me, except for Boris, so I would like a conversation.”

Tens of thousands of people have demonstrated in British cities, as they have in the United States and around the world, since the death of George Floyd, a Black man, in police custody in Minneapolis last month.

Around 2,000 people took part in Saturday’s protest in London, a Reuters reporter estimated. Marchers danced and chanted to the beat of drummers as they made their way to Trafalgar Square via parliament.

Demonstrators marched in other British cities including Glasgow where police contained and dispersed a crowd believed to include soccer supporters who posed a risk of causing trouble.

Ayton said BLM demonstrators would continue to protest until the government met their demands.

“It’s that simple. We protest or you listen,” she said. “We want equality - to be treated fairly - that is all that we ask for, and for justice for those who have been harmed.”

Ayton said Johnson’s choice as chair of the government’s new commission on inequality, Munira Mirza, a Downing Street adviser, did not represent the BLM movement and did not believe that Britain had a problem with institutional racism.

“Munira Mirza must go. She is someone who does not believe in institutional racism, which is exactly why we marched the last two weeks - to abolish institutional racism,” she said.

Johnson should act immediately on the recommendations of previous inquiries in Britain into racial inequality, Ayton said, adding that the prime minister had at least heard the voice of the protesters.

“I will never know what’s in his heart. What I do know is he has responded. So what I want to do is keep that conversation going,” she said.

Johnson’s Downing Street office did not comment on Ayton’s demands.

There were violent clashes in London last weekend after protests by anti-racism supporters and a group made up of military veterans, soccer fans and far-right supporters who said they wanted to protect statues of historical figures from vandalism.

Reporting by Guy Faulconbridge and Michael Holden; Writing by William Schomberg; Editing by Giles Elgood and Frances Kerry

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