Display highlights BLM protest, but most protesters have moved on

by Colin Campbell

THE Black Lives Matter display of placards and posters on the Ness Bridge four weeks ago made a considerable public impact.

The follow-up display of these placards and posters at Eden Court theatre – much less so.

It features a piece of artwork from local illustrator Jacqueline Briggs which is quite striking.

Which is just as well, because other than that it’s just a cluster of scrawled messages and some amateurish drawings spread around a section of floor, hung from the roof or stuck to a wall.

Amid the BLM frenzy which swept the nation a month ago Eden Court bosses stepped forward to declare how proud they would be to give prominence and even permanence to the array of cardboard and canvas placed on the Ness Bridge.mon black (2)

Initially it seemed they intended to construct a special outdoor display involving some weatherproof showcase for the BLM display.

If that was the intention, which might have made more impact, it didn’t happen. The building remains closed and the display is inside.

You have to look harder through the glass to see some of the more contentious messages that were on display on the bridge – White Supremacy is Rampant in the Highlands, the Whole System is Racist, Tear It All Down, that kind of thing. They have been more discreetly tucked away. And the depiction of a police officer as a pig is, I’m glad to say, absent.

It’s all very well-intentioned, and no-one should deny that.

But now the BLM frenzy has most definitely died down. As far as I’m aware no BLM meetings are planned, no further protests are being organised, and no campaigns are underway.

The Ness bridge display – the result of widespread video footage of black man George Floyd being slowly and horribly chocked to death by a police officer with his knee on his neck in Minneapolis – was in large part generated by the impact of social media.

It became an online sensation, and here and elsewhere as outrage and condemnation spread faster than the speed of light young people dropped their Ipads and Iphones and rushed through their homes seeking a marker pen and something to write on before a headlong rush to the Ness Bridge.

That does not apply to all of those involved in the protest. But it certainly applies to some.

In the same way, the hysteria over toppling statues seems to have faded away also.

Last week I watched a fascinating documentary about one of the most stunning photographs of all time – the picture of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl running screaming and naked from her jungle village with her back covered in napalm after bombs had been dropped, tearing the clothes from her body. 

I remember the day back in 1972 when that devastating powerful picture appeared. It was on the front page of every paper in Britain and probably the world. People cried over it. It had enormous and lasting impact and was credited with playing a major part in ending the Vietnam war. The child, Phan Thi Kim Phuc, survived and works as a doctor to this day.

Whether or not anti-war protests were mounted in Inverness at the time I don’t remember. But protesters were in it for the long haul then, and demonstrations continued month after month.

There was not the distracting allure of social media to return to in that era. Attention spans were different, and horrific images stayed in your mind an awful lot longer.

The outcry over the brutal killing of George Floyd was entirely justified. But in this area at least it seems many of the protesters made their point – in a manner now enshrined with such reverence by the bosses of Eden Court theatre – it’s over and done with, and they’ve simply moved on.

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