I AM angry. I am tired. I have had enough. I am also certain that I am not the only person of colour to feel these emotions when we have once again been confronted with the brutality of racism.

Much of the world is united in anxiety about the impact coronavirus is having on our loved ones and our communities. The evil scourge of racism that has once again reared its ugly head is another pandemic, another illness, another virus that we have to make it our collective duty to tackle.

This is not a time to mince our words, to be mealy-mouthed or sit on the fence, let me be unequivocal, I stand in full solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, and stand full square behind those who demand justice for George Floyd.

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As I said earlier this week, the understandable anger from George Floyd’s death has exposed again the sad truth that racism continues to blight every nation on Earth – that no society, including Scotland, can claim to be immune from it, and we must come together to eradicate it.

I want to express my enduring support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and for all the organisations and individuals who have made their voices heard and spoken out against injustice around the world.

I have been an anti-racist campaigner my whole life. I have been the victim of racism and I have stood with others who have been targeted by racists.

So I fully understand and feel the anger and the sadness that has led people to want to gather together and to show solidarity and community at this time.

But the threat from Covid-19 remains with us and I again would urge people not to attend mass gatherings, which pose a clear risk to public health, even with social distancing in place.

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The Scottish Government’s advice is still that no more than eight people should meet at any one time, and for those people to be from no more than two households. That is why I have not and will not lend my support to the in-person peaceful protests that were planned for this weekend.

INDEED we have seen evidence of the disproportionate impact that Covid–19 has on people from black and ethnic minority communities in the UK. So street protests could pose an additional risk to the very people whose lives we are saying matter and who must be equally protected from harm.

So I am urging people to explore alternative ways to make their voices heard on this vital issue – including for example through social media, and by engaging friends, families and others such as work colleagues.

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There is a range of social media campaigns such as #TakeTheKnee that people can engage with to show their support. I was heartened by images of Police Scotland officers embracing this global initiative to call out racism. And as ever, I would encourage anyone who is a victim of a racist hate incident, or a witness to one, to contact Police Scotland or one of the third-party reporting centres that continue to provide a service by telephone or online.

In Scotland, we value our diverse minority ethnic communities, the vital contribution they make and the important role they play in enriching our country socially, culturally and economically. However, the events in the US force us to hold a mirror up to ourselves and confront the overt as well as the structural racism that exists within our own society, here in Scotland.

We cannot, and will not, tolerate hate crime, prejudice or discrimination of any kind.

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As I have said in recent days, it is not enough to simply not be a racist – we must be loudly and unequivocally anti-racist, by supporting our minority ethnic communities, and condemning racism, hate and injustice wherever we find it.

I truly hope that we will soon be able to gather together and show our collective solidarity that Black Lives Matter in the US, in other countries, and here at home.

Until then, we must all do what is needed to protect the health of everyone in Scotland, and follow the guidelines. That is the best and quickest way to ensure that we can continue along the path of easing lockdown, and meet again sooner rather than later.