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Anti-slavery protest causes mayhem in Parliament Square

The streets of central London were engulfed in anti-slavery protesters earlier this month. Here, IKB Insider’s Nicholas Frakes gives his first-hand account of the five-hour long demonstration.

Credit: Nicholas Frakes

For over an hour, hundreds of anti-slavery protesters stopped traffic in Parliament Square while chanting and being surrounded by police.

The protest started at around noon on Saturday December 9 at Belgrave Square with around 300 people marching on the Libyan Embassy in Knightsbridge. Many were holding signs that said: “Black Lives Matter,” “Slavery Must Go” and “Migrants and refugees welcome here”.

As they marched, the protesters blocked the streets with cars all around them with other protesters flooding onto the sidewalks. While parading through the streets, the demonstrators were chanting phrases, such as “We are not for sale” and “African lives matter”.

The protest was sparked after CNN uncovered that Nigerian migrants in Libya were being sold as slaves. This sparked international outrage as more than 260,000 UK citizens signed a petition for the UK government to put pressure on the Libyan government to uphold their promise to take action against the modern slave trade.

One protester affirmed this belief. Jay, 55, stated: “It’s a lot bigger than we thought. Something has to be done.”

Once at the Libyan Embassy, the number of people participating in the demonstration had grown to more than 500 with some climbing up and sitting on walls. Speakers took turns telling that crowd what was going on in Libya with one priest performing a libation, or the pouring of a drink in the honour of someone or something, in remembrance of past civil rights activists such as Malcom X.

Suzette Intsiful, 26, of Grove Street heard about the demonstration on Instagram and decided to join “because of the slavery happening in Libya.”

“They need to install a new government in Libya,” she said, “But definitely Africa needs to do something.”

Robert May, 66, of Shuttleworth Road explained that, in order to solve this issue, “There needs to be a systematic approach.”

Credit: Nicholas Frakes

Members of the Nation of Islam in the EU were also present. Abdul Kareen Muhammad, the EU Representative for Honourable Minister Louis Farrakhan, stated that Western governments were to blame for what is happening in Libya and that the continent of Africa should form a “United States of Africa”.

“It’s important for us to come together and for us to really let the UK Government know that they have a duty to intervene,” Mr Muhammad explained.

He later added, “This is really a wake-up call for African leaders that if they don’t unite, then the future of Africa is all but written and Africa will have no future unless African leaders unite behind the idea of Muammar Gaddafi, which was to form a United States of Africa.”

Once the protest outside of the Libyan Embassy ended at three, the demonstrators marched to Buckingham Palace and stood outside of its gates calling for something to be done.

Credit: Nicholas Frakes

Next, the protesters went to Parliament Square and stood in the middle of the road stopping traffic. More police continued to show up and spoke with organisers of the demonstration, asking them to move people onto the grass so that cars and buses could pass. However, despite the organisers’ pleas, the protesters refused to move.

While the majority of protesters were peaceful, one individual stood on a car, forcing the police to pull him down. But when they tried to arrest him, other protesters helped him escape. The police did not pursue him.

After over an hour of halting traffic, the protest concluded at five with plans to return on December 18 to discuss immigration.

The Libyan Embassy in London said in a written statement: “The Libyan Embassy confirms that any practice that perpetuates the deprivation of human will and freedom, if proven done, is an act of individual and is not a systematic practice.”

The statement also stated that competent authorities are looking into the allegations in order to reveal the truth “and expose it to the national and international community and punish those responsible”.

It also explains that the Libyan government sees these alleged acts as contrary to “all the values, traditions and customs of the Libyan people …”

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