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Organisers surprised by huge turnout

Bermuda's biggest gathering in recent memory, which echoed Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the world, took both its organisers by surprise.

Dynera Bean, 24, and Jasmine Brangman, 29, brought out more than 7,000 protesters through social media, 13 days after the death of George Floyd, 46.

Mr Floyd's death was caught on video in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25, as a white police officer arresting him on suspicion of passing a fake $20 bill knelt on his neck.

It sparked a global wave of protests over racism and police brutality directed at black people, under the Black Lives Matter movement founded in 2013.

Ms Bean said last night: “We didn't expect this outcome.”

The Bermudian women said they had each spent time in the United States, and had experienced racism at home and abroad. Ms Brangman said: “I literally just got back to the island. I was in quarantine for two weeks at a government facility and I watched everything unfold online, all day. That triggered me.

“I messaged my friends and said we needed to stand up and do something.”

After the two created Black Lives Bermuda on Facebook, others shared the post and it spread rapidly by “word of mouth”, Ms Brangman said.

The two were unsure if bad weather yesterday would dampen the display of solidarity, but said they were prepared to be the only ones who showed up.

A group of about 25 people at 11.30am became hundreds by noon, and then thousands.

The weather also cleared in time, which Ms Bean said “felt like that was in ancestors working in our favour”.

The two said the procession through Hamilton headed through Court Street and the mainly black neighbourhood of North East Hamilton to honour past demonstrations held there, including the civil unrest of December 1977.

Ms Brangman said: “That's where freedom fighters have marched.”

They paused outside the Hamilton Police Station and called for silence for Chavelle Dillon-Burgess, a young mother whose disppearance since April is now a murder investigation by police.

Ms Brangman said Ms Dillon-Burgess had been a familiar sight around her Warwick neighbourhood and was “one of our young black sisters”.

She said: “We felt we may have brought peace to people she knew, her family and her son. We wanted to acknowledge her. She is a black life.”

Both said they had been gratified by the turnout of white protesters.

Ms Brangman said “I loved it” while Ms Bean said the two were “amazed”, adding: “I still have not processed it.”

Ms Brangman said their message to white allies was: “If you support the movement and see there are black people making headway to make change, then support that.”

Both called for one-week “Sunday to Sunday” boycotts of individual stores at a time to change business practices, and said they would share information about the proposal this week through social media.

They said anyone who believed racism in Bermuda was unlike racism in the US should reflect on black friends and family who travelled there.

Black Bermudians would not be exempt from police violence in the US because of their nationality, Ms Brangman warned.

She added: “They will shoot you first, and then look at your passport.”

The group can be found on Twitter at @blacklivesBDA, on Instagram at blacklivesbermuda20, and can be e-mailed at blacklivesbermuda@gmail.com

Taking a stand: Black Lives Bermuda organisers Dynera Bean, left, and Jasmine Brangman (Photograph by Jonathan Bell)

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Published June 08, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated June 08, 2020 at 4:18 pm)

Organisers surprised by huge turnout

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