Some 1,200 Icelanders have, at the time of this writing, pledged their attendance at a protest demonstration to be held at Austurvöllur, the square in front of Parliament, in Reykjavík tomorrow. One of the organisers the Grapevine spoke with, Asantewa Feaster (seen above), told us this event is intended to speak to Icelanders and the global community.
The demonstration is aimed at being a show of solidarity with Black people in the US, many of whom are demanding an end to police brutality and racial injustice in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minnesota on May 25th by kneeling on his neck for over eight minutes. Since then, protests have been ongoing in many US cities and in 200 cities around the world.
“In solidarity with our Black brothers and sisters in the United States of America, we will be gathering at Austurvöllur to stand in defiance against the system of White supremacy that continues to murder Black people,” the event description reads in part. “It is important that allies assume the role of allyship during this event to protect Black people, ensure a safe space for everyone, and prioritize Black voices above your own.”
“Nobody can be silent”
Asantewa, who is one of the organisers and speakers for the event, told Grapevine that this event is meant to speak to everyone, in Iceland and abroad.
“We want Icelandic people first of all to address that there is racism in Iceland,” she told The Grapevine. “The purpose of this protest tomorrow is not only to stand in solidarity with Black lives all over the world—especially in the US right now, where another innocent Black man was murdered—but to give Iceland the opportunity to learn from what is happening and address the issues within their own society. They may not stem from the same place, but in Icelandic culture, there is a presence of microaggressions against foreigners, especially foreigners who present of other colour.
“On a global scale, this is telling us where Iceland stands on the issue of Black lives. If we do not have a demonstration or protest, we are standing silent against the Black Lives Matter movement. Right now, nobody can be silent. If we are silent, we are against [Black Lives Matter].”
For non-Black people, especially white people, who want to offer their support for this struggle, there are also steps that they can take, Asantewa says.
What you can do
“Right now, we are suggesting that if you want to help out financially, you can donate to bail funds online,” she told the Grapevine. “You can donate to Black Lives Matter, for example, the movement themselves. From a non-financial perspective, if you as a white person want to help, first of all, reflect on how you treat the Black people in your life and how you think about Black people in general. Go to the Black people in your life and listen to them; do not speak over them, do not ask them questions that are basically gaslighting their experiences and invalidating their experiences. Listen to them. And when you have the platform as a white person to speak on issues of race, racism and prejudice, hand the mic to a Black person or person of colour. They have the experience with this, and those are the people we need to be hearing from. We do not need white people telling Black stories.”
Only the beginning
Asantewa also emphasises that this demonstration is not meant to be a one-off event.
“We’re just asking that people come with an open mind, that they listen and respect all the speakers that are coming on tomorrow,” she says. “I’ll be giving the opening and closing remarks, but we will have four other speakers. We just ask that people come, listen, and know that tomorrow is not the beginning and the end of this moment. Tomorrow is a wake up call, tomorrow is the beginning, and after that, we still need you to listen. We still need you to take the things that you learned tomorrow, and apply them to your life. Because if you care about Black people, in general, you will do that.”
Even with the importance of the event, the organisers still have coronavirus guidelines in mind.
“We ask you to wear face masks (as a form of protest, this is an individual choice) and practice social distancing where you can,” the description implores. “If the crowd capacity is past 200 we ask our allies to cross the street to lower the number of people in the area. You will be showing support while keeping the safety of yourself and others in mind.”
The event will begin at Austurvöllur at 16:30 tomorrow.
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