Yesterday saw the Afrikan Emancipation Day Reparations March held in Brixton, London. The annual event commemorates the passing of the Abolition of Slavery Act 1833 and calls for reparations for African nations and descendants of slaves. By the Slave Compensation Act 1837, slave owners were paid large sums of money, however, nothing was offered to the newly liberated people.
Brixton’s Windrush Square was full of energy, in spite of warnings for people not to attend, and the police imposing restrictions in the area. Nearly every time I go out to photograph events these strange days, there seems to be a sense of change in the air.
During this year’s Reparations March, a newly formed group called Forever Family Force (FF Force) made a spectacular entrance onto Brixton Road. They arrived in military-style uniforms with insignia, stab vests and performed a well-rehearsed drill. The group had clearly been in training, they were accompanied by an escort of motorbikes who revved their engines, and hundreds of supporters.
In my time of covering protests and demonstrations, this is the first time I have come across this kind of organised community defence force. Contrary to what many right-wingers, including Nigel Farage, have claimed, I didn’t feel any intimidation from them at all.
I believe the group have formed as part of growing frustration at the lack of action taken by the police as knife crime continues to rise, racism is endemic, and communities in general are not being looked after, so this group intend to change the balance. They want to create an environment where people can be helped and supported overall.
It was quite something to photograph and as an experience. It brought Brixton to a halt for a while.
As usual, the mainstream media passed over my photographs, and the ones they did use by other photographers were accompanied by badly written sensationalised word salad, totally missing the point of the group and why the group felt they needed to step up. I thought the FF Force were great and just what is needed, but of course the media will use the images to portray a darker, more malevolent picture.
Photos & text: Fields of Light Photography