The organiser of the city’s Black Lives Matter protest has told how he was “overwhelmed” by the support of north-east residents turning up for the event.
Around 1,000 anti-racism campaigners took part in the protest in Aberdeen city centre on Saturday afternoon.
Event organiser Olaoluwa Akisanya, who is president of the African and Caribbean Society at Aberdeen University, said: “The protest went extremely well and the turnout was a lot bigger than I had anticipated.
“I didn’t expect so many people to come out and show their support. I was overwhelmed by the different variety of backgrounds there.
“There were people of all different ages, races, and sexual orientations.
“It seemed like there was somebody there to represent every section of society fighting for the same cause.”
The 23-year-old added: “The main goal that we had was to empower the people here to kick start a more active fight against racial injustice.
“It’s also good for the wider population to see that the event was peaceful. We got our message across without destroying or damaging any of the landmarks around us.”
The demonstration, which took place between 1pm and 3pm on Union Street, was the largest of its kind in the city since the death of George Floyd in the US last month.
The 46-year-old African American died amid claims a police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck in Minneapolis on May 25.
Demonstrators, chanting, cheering and singing, walked from the Trinity Centre to St Nicholas Street before dispersing in all directions.
Unlike some protests in other parts of the country, statues were not defaced. Organisers of the march had arranged for war veterans to stand guard at the Cowdray Hall war memorial.
Attendees heard from a range of speakers including Gideon Gamba, Marzan Ahmed, Aberdonian rapper Ransom FA, The Voice Kids contestant Aiysha Russell, and African and Caribbean Society representatives Benaiah Okara and Olaoluwa Akisanya.
Addressing the crowd, Gideon Gamba said: “It means a lot to the organisers and I to know that the people of Aberdeen stand with us during this time.
“Injustice and inequality is something that doesn’t change overnight, but it is the actions of people like you in coming together as one community to show that we want to make this change.
“Change comes through acknowledgement, understanding and conversation.
“I was born in Nigeria but I’ve lived in Aberdeen since I was two years old, I’m 26 now and I consider myself an Aberdonian.
“This is the city that made me and it made me because of people like you. People who understand that we can come together and call out what we see as injustice in our communities, workplaces and families.”
Olaoluwa said the speakers all “spoke from the heart”.
He added: “I was born and raised in Aberdeen and the majority of the other speakers are Aberdonians, so we were speaking from experience of the things that we have had to go through.
“The speakers all spoke from the heart and all had something different to offer. It was refreshing to see a different side of racism rather than the traditional narrative that we’ve been seeing.”
Although the worldwide Black Lives Matter protests marked a turning point in the fight against racism, Olaoluwa said that further action is “essential”.
He added: “These protests are a statement to the city and a statement to ourselves that we are here and we are prepared to fight for equality.
“It sets an example for the next generation that you can and you should stand up for what you believe in.
“But the protests themselves are not a cure. They are important for awakening people to the issues that we have faced but in order to tackle those issues, we need to educate ourselves by signing petitions and donating to reputable funds.
“We need to stand together and call out all the racial injustices that we see, whether that be within our workplaces, our families, or our friendship groups.
“That is why further action is essential.”
Lord Provost Barney Crockett added: “It’s a great credit to the people of Aberdeen that the event was largely peaceful.
“Obviously we had concerns around social distancing but we do advise people to stick to the rules wherever they are going.
“Aberdeen is generally a city where everybody gets on very well which is a key offering to both the people living here and also those who are considering moving.”