Felt treated like a criminal, says BLM lawyer Lilian Seenoi-Barr in tears
Organizer of last year’s Black Lives Matter protests in Northern Ireland said she felt ‘under attack’ by PSNI after officers warned her at her home the day before a planned protest .
ilian Seenoi-Barr, SDLP adviser and one of the founders of the North West Migrants Forum, broke down in tears as he recalled the build-up of protests against UTV’s “Up Close” series.
The current affairs show – titled ‘Minority Report’ – takes an in-depth look at the experiences of ethnic minority communities in Northern Ireland and the increase in hate crime.
UTV’s Alison Fleming also spoke with PSNI, Junior Ministers Gary Middleton and Declan Kearney and other organizations to find out what they are doing to tackle racism in Northern Ireland.
In June 2020, 70 Covid-19 penalty notices were handed out during Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in Belfast and Londonderry, but no fines were imposed at a “Protect Our Monuments” loyalist rally less than ‘a week later.
The PSNI has come under heavy criticism for its handling of the BLM protests, which unfolded as part of a global movement following the murder of George Floyd by police officer Derek Chauvin in America.
Police chief Simon Byrne then apologized after the police ombudsman found the treatment of the protests unfair and discriminatory.
However, the watchdog added that this was “unintentional and not based on race or ethnicity.”
All fines were overturned and the prosecution decided not to prosecute anyone for alleged violation of Covid-19 rules.
After being alerted by police the day before the protest in Londonderry, Ms Seenoi-Barr said she felt those who were “supposed to protect me saw me as a criminal”.
She fled her native Kenya in 2011 after her job to save girls as young as nine years of marriage and female genital mutilation threatened her with death.
“I worked with the police in Kenya, so I saw the police as a protector, someone who will always be there to give you the support you need if you are ever attacked,” said an emotional Ms Seenoi. Barr.
“But I felt attacked by the police when they arrived at my home on June 5 before the demonstration to warn me.
“I actually hate to think of it because I have so much confidence and have never doubted in my life that I would be treated differently by a force that is supposed to protect me.”
Ms Seenoi-Barr added that she “did not believe for a second” that the PSNI’s decision to impose fines on BLM protests was not motivated by racism.
“The way they handled Black Lives Matter, they can use the coronavirus law as an excuse as much as they want, but it wasn’t an excuse to treat us any differently,” she said.
“If it was Covid-19, every public gathering would have been treated the same way we were treated.
“It was the only demonstration that was criminalized. “
Superintendent Gerry McGrath said it was “very difficult to hear” the experiences of members of migrant communities regarding BLM gatherings.
“Particularly when they call me an institutional racist officer who has criminalized individuals for coming out to protest the horrific incident that took place in America in connection with the death of George Floyd and that he It involved a police officer involved and then sentenced for this incident. he stated.
Superintendent McGrath felt the PSNI had come a long way since the BLM rallies.
Up close: Minority Report, which airs tomorrow at 8 p.m. on UTV, also addresses former Miss Northern Ireland Susan Tan, Muhammad Atif of the Belfast Multicultural Association, Syrian refugee Khawla Alfajer and Adekanmi Abayomi, who has left Nigeria eight years ago after receiving death threats for taking the government to court.