The staff and Board of Trustees of the Women’s Resource and Development Agency stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. From Minneapolis to Northern Ireland, the message is the same, we cannot tolerate racism in our society and we all have a duty to work to remove the barriers that uphold systemic racism. It is absolutely essential that we all take action to urgently address the harm systemic racism has caused in our society.
We are deeply concerned how the PSNI treated the Black Lives Matter protesters in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry on Saturday 6th June 2020. We note that it has been confirmed that a last-minute amendment was made to the Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020. This amendment attached enforcement powers to the regulations just hours before the anti-racism protests started and enabled the PSNI to fine those in attendance; despite evidence of safety and social distancing being in place.
We call on all parties to support the urgent cancellation of all fines issued to protesters; particularly as there have been several allegations of Black protesters being specifically targeted and fined. We also believe that the last-minute introduction of this legal basis to create penalties is completely unacceptable and largely disproportionate. There is a balance to be drawn between the right to protest and a public health emergency and, given the social distancing measures implemented by protest organisers, the measures taken by the PSNI are deeply concerning.
We need to stress that racism is not a problem confined to the USA or Great Britain but is an issue that is highly prevalent in Northern Ireland as well, and we need our representatives to take steps to address this. In 2016-17, statistics show that racially motivated hate crime overtook sectarian hate crimes for the first time in the history of Northern Ireland. More recently, the PSNI recorded 936 racist incidences including 626 racist crimes between April 2019 and March 2020. Many people may not have felt able to report to the police and so the real figure is likely much higher. We are also calling for the urgent creation and implementation of a Racial Equality Strategy to tackle the systemic racism that exists and measures to be taken in the Programme for Government to address it.
In Northern Ireland, racism is so deeply embedded in our society that it is even in our built environment. In Newry, there is a statue and a street dedicated to John Mitchel, a supporter of the trade in enslaved people who called for the reopening of the African slave trade in 1957 and described Black people as “innately inferior”. We have a duty to recognise our own privilege and begin to dismantle the pillars that uphold systemic racism; including aspects of our built environment that glorify prominent racists. This is evidence of the endemic nature of racism in NI.
We also support calls for the closure of the Larne House Immigration Detention Centre in the Larne PSNI Station. This centre houses women and men together with no women-only recreation space and so many women are forced to self-confine to their rooms due to safety concerns. The poor conditions and inadequate facilities for traumatised people needlessly incarcerated here has been highlighted by HM Inspectorate of Prisons multiple times. It is entirely inappropriate to house an immigration detention centre in a PSNI station as this prevents people with irregular immigration status from coming to the PSNI for help. This is a situation that disproportionately impacts people of colour.
In addition to our urgent calls to political representatives, we call on our members to offer their support and get involved with organisations tackling racism and supporting the black community in NI.
ACSONI (African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland)
Nigerian Association NI
Horn of Africa People’s Aid NI (HAPANI)
NI Somali Association (NISA)
NI Centre for Refugees and Asylum Seekers (NICRAS)
MASI (Movement of Asylum Seekers in Ireland)
Black Lives Matter UK
Migrant’s Rights Network
MERJ (Migrants and Ethnic Minorities for Reproductive Justice)
End Deportations Belfast
For protesters that were fined and in need of legal advice, we recommend that you contact Phoenix Law Belfast: 02890328383 / https://www.phoenix-law.org/
 The Health Protection (Coronavirus, Restrictions) (Amendment No. 5) Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2020 https://www.health-ni.gov.uk/publications/health-protection-coronavirus-restrictions-northern-ireland-regulations-2020
 Police Service of Northern Ireland Trends in Hate Motivated Incidents and Crimes Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland 2004/05 to 2017/18 Annual Bulletin published 31 October 2018, p.6: https://www.psni.police.uk/globalassets/inside-the-psni/our-statistics/hate-motivation-statistics/documents/hate-motivated-incidents-and-crimes-in-northern-ireland-2004-05-to-2017-18.pdf
 Incidents and Crimes with a Hate Motivation Recorded by the Police in Northern Ireland Update to 31 March 2020 published 15 May 2020, p.4: https://www.psni.police.uk/globalassets/inside-the-psni/our-statistics/hate-motivation-statistics/2019-20/q4/hate-motivation-bulletin-mar-_20.pdf