by Colin Campbell
INVERNESS was a world away from rampaging, rioting mobs yesterday as a group of people mounted an anti-racism protest. The demo was confined to adorning both sides of the Ness Bridge with placards and posters, but it still made a significant impact.
Some car drivers hooted their support as they crossed the bridge.
Pedestrians lingered to read what the range of printed messages said.
The protest was as peaceful as a Sunday afternoon picnic, but no such public display of forceful feelings is devoid of controversy.
And while many people would agree wholeheartedly with the broad anti-racism intent, not everyone would agree with some of the messages on display.
Some were mild, some were provocative, some were virulent.
However, part of their purpose was, no doubt, to provoke a reaction.
“Silence” after all, is condoning and endorsing racism, or so some of the posters declared.
How many people would agree with that in relation to Inverness and the Highlands is unclear.
The problem on this most polarising of issues is that to disagree to the slightest extent with the claim that racism is everywhere defines you, in the eyes, of the claimants, as being racist.
And that leads to an argument spiralling downward and getting nowhere.
The most blatant act of racism I can remember in Inverness happened all of 30 or more years ago, when the home of an Asian man – a well-known local store owner and restaurant owner at the time – in Culduthel Road was spray painted overnight in a four-foot high scrawl of vile racist abuse. I covered the story for the Highland News.
It provoked disgust and absolute outrage, just about the most angry response I can remember from members of the public to anything we reported over the years.
There was genuine fury and revulsion over what had happened – and that was long before awareness of racist actions or behaviour reached the pitch it has today.
I’ve no doubt if the same happened in Inverness tomorrow the reaction would be the same.
If a flagrant act of racism occured in the Highland capital, the reality is that the vast majority of people mindlessly accused of being “silent” on the issue would be anything but silent.
Those involved in yesterday’s protest have their own views on the mysterious cloud of racism which has somehow drifted out in every direction, worldwide, since the unlawful killing by a police officer of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
And which now, apparently, taints us all.
It might be unfair to say they’re jumping on a bandwagon which has careered out of control.
But then again – it might very well not be.
That’s a matter for debate.
But there was no debating or arguing on the Ness Bridge yesterday. There were just people putting up their posters and placards and others looking on thoughtfully.
Across America and yesterday in London, the death of George Floyd was used as an excuse by rioters to indulge in an orgy of violence.
The Inverness poster and placard demo was controversial, contentious, well-intentioned, but most importantly of all – peaceful.