Sunderland residents take the knee during a peaceful Black Lives Matter vigil in Keel Square

The planned Black Lives Matter vigil in Keel Square, Sunderland passed off peacefully on Thursday evening.

Thursday, 25th June 2020, 9:05 pm
Updated Thursday, 25th June 2020, 9:06 pm

The event, which was organised by Sunderland Unites, saw around 60 supporters of the movement take the knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds – the amount of time that a police officers knee was on George Floyd’s neck.

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There was also a minutes silence for James Furlong, David Wails and Joe Ritchie-Bennett, who died in a knife attack in a Reading park on Saturday – which is being classed as an act of terrorism.

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Taking the knee during the Black Lives Matter vigil held in Keel Square.

Many who attended had made signs, showing their support to the fast growing BLM movement.

It followed violent scenes in Newcastle earlier in the month when Black Lives Matter protesters clashed with counter-protesters at the Monument in the city.

Officers did remove some counter protesters from Keel Square before the vigil got underway and one woman was handcuffed and led away by offiers.

Rachael Nyacuwa (left) and Amanda Ugunwole (right) show their support for the BLM matter in Keel Square.

A small group of people who were there protesting against the vigil were kept back by police on High Street West.

Representatives from Sunderland’s Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community took turns to speak of their own experiences with racism during the 45-minute vigil.

One person in attendance was Nicolas Soucie from Wisconsin, in the USA – the country in which the movement started.

Police held back a small group of counter protesters on High Street West.

Nicolas said: “It was very powerful to see, I’m originally for the US so it is great to see it happening in the UK.

“It makes me feel solidarity with everyone back home who is out protesting. I feel like I’m standing right alongside my own citizens.”

Rachael Nyazuwa, a mum from Sunderland shared her experiences of racism in the city.

She said: “As a black person living in Sunderland, sometimes people make monkey chants as I walk along the street.

Some who attended the vigil had created signs to show their support.

“It makes you worry about your safety. I have a little girl and I hope she can grow up in an area where everyone is treated equally.”

Amanda Ugunwole, 34, said she too had experienced racism in the city.

She said: “I’m here wanting to show support because I think Sunderland is underrepresented, in particular for black people. I have experienced racism and I’m hoping to educate people.”

An estimated 60 people attended the event, Matthew Robson was one of them. He said: “It was quite powerful to see the amount of people who are here tonight, I didn’t expect this big of a turnout.”

Sunderland Unites supporter Sophie Anderson added: “I thought it was really powerful to hear about people’s experiences with racism. It is important to listen to their stories and educate ourselves.”

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Nicolas Soucie, from Wisconsin in the US showing his support for the BLM movement.

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Both Matthew Robson and Sophie Anderson described the vigil as "powerful".