The Black Lives Matter protests have become the story of the day. Hundreds of thousands of people in cities all over the world have been demonstrating for over a week. We joined the end of a march in Brixton first, hearing about it from a friend who saw it pass through Kennington and cycling out to join the fray. It was the first crowd I’d been in in months. It made the fact that people were shouting in one voice even more striking. A man stood over the crowd with a megaphone and thanked them for assembling, spoke about the need for justice for those killed by police in the UK, and asked us to go home peacefully. The core of the group marched up Brixton Road and demonstrated in Windrush Square. We went to another march this Sunday, beginning as a protest at the American Embassy in Vauxhall and eventually marching over Vauxhall Bridge and to Parliament Square. Unlikely figures hung out of the windows of expensive apartment buildings in Pimlico to show support for the passing demonstrators, banging pots and pans. Many more windows were notably absent of support, given then everybody is probably home. In Parliament Square, I looked at the protestors with a colossal statue of Winston Churchill rising above them and wondered how long its presence would be tolerated; later the news reported his plinth had been annotated to include his status as a murderer.
There has been a recognition in the public and in particular the health community that the right to protest institutional racism trumps the COVID-19 isolation orders. It doesn’t stop those who would rather protests like this didn’t happen any time from crying that now is not the time. We all wait with consigned dread for a peak in new cases of the virus, served up in the media alongside images of protestors and not beach-going white families in the sun.
In our bubble we think about the new house, our escape drawing nearer. Ten days from now, all being well (let all be well), we’ll be packing up a van and making the short drive. I know we are both living in the near future, our bodies inhabiting the same old spots of this house but our brains floating between vignettes of how independent life will be. Furniture has been ordered, the packing boxes are waiting in the dining room.