PROTESTERS in Scotland will join people around the world this weekend in supporting the Black Lives Matter campaign, however, a strong appeal is being made to protect public health and safeguards against the coronavirus.

Leading justice campaigners are right to call for people to join digital protests and make their voices heard safely, rather than endanger social distancing measures, which has become widespread at demonstrations in recent days.

The death of George Floyd because of police brutality in Minneapolis has unleashed a wave of global protests, with thousands of people taking to the streets of cities across the United States and the wider world, including Scotland.

As many people as possible should demonstrate the strength of their feelings and affect justice and lasting change, but do so in ways which don’t endanger other people’s lives during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

With black, Asian and minority ethnic people suffering disproportionately from coronavirus, it could not be more important to stress that Black Lives Matter, and to do so in ways that do not endanger further lives.

This week, Kadi Johnson, the sister of Sheku Bayoh– the black Kirkcaldy man who died in police custody – joined human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar and leading politicians in calling for people to join safe digital protests.

“We are united in our abhorrence at the scenes of racial injustice in the US and stand in complete solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and those demanding justice for George Floyd,” they said.

The statement, which was also signed by Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf of the SNP and Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, went on to highlight: “Like so many, we want to stand in unity with millions across our planet to show solidarity with those protesting against racial injustice in the USA but also to support those challenging racial injustice and discrimination in Scotland.

“The rules in place are there to protect people’s health and ultimately people’s lives. Therefore, as long-term anti-racist campaigners, we are still urging people to protest but to use the many other methods available at this time, including digital protests. We hope people will understand our position and explore other methods of demonstrating practical solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter.”

The deaths of black people in police custody is not just an issue in the United States with, sadly, prominent recent cases in Scotland involving Bayoh and others. More than 150,000 people have signed a petition about his case and a public inquiry has been launched by the Scottish Government, including ascertaining whether race played a part in Mr Bayoh’s death. Kadi Johnson believes her brother would not have died as he did if he had been white. She is appealing strongly for understanding about the current health risks to the public, however, saying: “In as much as my family would like to be part of the demonstrations taking place on Sunday for Black Lives Matter, I believe that danger of the spread of coronavirus is still too great.

“As a staff nurse, I know the deadly impact of the virus and I would worry about social distancing on the day and the lives of my family and other lives being put at risk.

“Sadly, we cannot attend, nor will we encourage others to go because we believe a virtual protest would be far more effective and involve those unable to attend because of the risk. I hope that you will join our campaign. We have fought for five years for justice for my dead brother Sheku and believe Black Lives Matter is as relevant in Scotland.”

Emerging videos of repeated police brutality in the United States show the scale of the problem there.

It is genuinely shocking to see the calculated violence against members of the public and journalists by officers supposedly upholding the law. In contrast community policing in Scotland is generally acknowledged to be extremely good. Unfortunately this will remain partially obscured while deaths in custody cases are unresolved.

We owe it to victims here and internationally to ensure everyone is treated fairly, proportionately and lawfully by the authorities. We must learn about their cases, and support justice – ensuring there are no further examples of brutality, injuries or deaths – and also support the overwhelming majority of police officers, who are extremely professional.

This weekend we should all support the Black Lives Matters campaign here and around the world by joining digital protests. Campaigners who have been highlighting death in custody cases are appealing for us all to remain safe and abide by the Covid-19 lockdown rules. Change won’t come immediately, but come it must.

Let’s join Scotland’s leading human rights campaigners, families of people who have died in custody and parliamentarians from across the parties in supporting #BlackLivesMatter and #SayTheirNames