A number of Black Lives Matter demonstrations are due to take place across the Avon and Somerset force area this weekend.
An estimated 4,000 people are expected to attend a demonstration in Bristol on Sunday and we’ve been liaising with partners, including Bristol City Council to ensure appropriate plans are in place.
The event is due to start on College Green at 1pm before participants will march through the city to Castle Park. The demonstration is due to finish around 5pm.
Chief Constable Andy Marsh said: “The death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer in Minneapolis is an absolute travesty and anyone who watched that video are right to be shocked, angry, frustrated and concerned. It must lead to justice and accountability and we understand why people want change and to make sure their voices are heard in support of this.
“Silence in the face of injustice incriminates us all. It’s important we stand up for fairness, equality and inclusion and as your police force, we want to be leading the way on this. We understand why people want to express their anger and demand change but this needs to be done in a way that protects public health.
“The coronavirus pandemic is the biggest health crisis this country has faced for generations and it poses a danger to each and every one of us. Sadly, we know there are inequalities and disparity in so many aspects of life and the impact of COVID-19 on BAME people is also disproportionate. We’d ask everyone to consider their own health, the health of their friends and family and those around them.
“The right to hold a peaceful protest and the freedom of expression are fundamental human rights and an important cornerstone of our society. We want to work with the organisers to make sure everyone taking part in this event are safe and encourage them to follow Government guidance to stop the spread of coronavirus, particularly observing social distancing measures wherever possible.
“We have a long and proud tradition of policing by consent and we’re working 24/7 in our communities to prevent crime and solve problems. We’re continually learning and seeking ways to improve and we’re 100 per cent committed to tackling all forms of bias, racism and discrimination.
“We’re very proud of the strong relationships we have with our communities, which are built on a foundation of trust and transparency, but we know there’s more work to do to make them even stronger.”
Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “The appalling death of George Floyd in Minnesota at the hands of serving police officers, and the subsequent unrest across the United States of America, has brought issues of injustice and racial inequality into sharp focus all over the world. These events, and the wider context, have deeply affected many of us in a professional and also personal capacity.
“The words of Martin Luther King, who said that an injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, have never been more poignant and true. We must all work together for human rights to effect change in society.
“There have already been local events and demonstrations in Avon and Somerset in support of the anger, frustration and sadness felt by people in America, and all over the world, at the senselessness of these travesties. It important to ensure that the voices of our communities are heard and I want you know that I stand in solidarity with those voices to say that Black Lives Matter.
“I understand the need for people to express themselves in response to this issue. In normal circumstances I would be out there joining demonstrations to show my solidarity. However, we are in the midst of a global health crisis and we know that the impact of Covid19 has been felt more adversely by our black and minority ethnic communities in the U.K.
“I therefore feel it is my duty as a responsible leader to urge people not to increase the public health risk posed by Covid19 by taking part in demonstrations that involve mass gatherings in close proximity.
“My team and I will continue to work with the Chief Constable and our partners in the criminal justice system to ensure we are always working towards delivering excellent victim support, better policing and fairer criminal justice services for all.
“We must stand together to create a stronger, fairer society built on a foundation of unity and equity.”