Oban stands up for Black Lives Matter

Equality For All: Tomas Crossley, 4, and cuddly buddy Blue at Tobermory's BLM show of support.

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Large numbers of people are expected to line Oban’s esplanade tomorrow, making a stand for Black Lives Matter.

The silent show of support along the sea front starts at 12.30pm on Friday June 19 and is being organised by Black Lives Matter Oban, a new community group with more than 200 Facebook members.

Lights at McCaig’s Tower will also be switched off over the weekend in solidarity with the worldwide anti-racism movement sparked by the killing of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis last month.

Campaigners are asking people taking part in Friday’s action to bring placards but adhere to COVID-19 restrictions – maintaining a safe social distance and wearing face masks. Washable chalk will be used to mark 2m spaces.

‘We want to be clear it is not a protest. It’s a show of solidarity for the cause,’ said Georgina Stones who is one of its organisers.

Argyll and Bute councillor Kieron Green, who says he has overheard racist remarks in the town, said Oban’s BLM campaign has his full support.

‘I think we live in a very rural part of Scotland where there are not high levels of ethnic minorities and therefore some seeing people who are not white on the street will make casual racist remarks. Are they meaning to be offensive? Possibly not, but I can see how it could still make people feel marginalised and not part of the community. There are other remarks made that go beyond casual, they all need to be addressed. Everyone should feel welcome here,’ he said.

BLM Oban is busy contacting  businesses and organisations to secure window space for posters backing the movement and anti-racism. Oban Youth Cafe on George Street is one of the first premises to agree and has offered to display placards from Friday’s silent action.

The BLM group also wants to hear from people who have experienced racism in Oban so their stories can be shared anonymously.

Caitlin Campbell Smith, one of BLM Oban founders, said: ‘There will be those who think that racism is not a problem in our little part of the world and it’s more of a city thing, but it is happening in Oban and people do feel it.

‘By sharing people’s personal stories, we can raise awareness and make positive change.’

Anyone wanting to get in touch with BLM Oban can email obanblm@gmail.com

The go-ahead to switch off McCaig’s lights tomorrow and Saturday night came after campaigners contacted Oban councillor Roddy McCuish. June 19, also known as Juneteenth,  is celebrated in the US and many other countries to mark the end of slavery. On that day in 1865  slaves in Texas were told by Union soldiers that they were free and that the Civil War had ended.

Over on Mull at the weekend, more than 60 placards and messages of BLM support were left on the Clock Tower in Tobermory’s Main Street, some written in Gaelic.

Some of the 60 plus placards left on Tobermory’s Clock Tower at the weekend as part of the BLM Mull event.

BLM Mull Organiser Alexandra Stevens said the response from the island was ‘overwhelming’ and that campaigners would keep the movement ‘moving forward’ long after lockdown.

Ideas include displaying the Clock Tower banners as some kind of long term art installation or an exhibition on the island and there are plans to create an on-line anti-racism community resource or  archive for people to educate themselves more.

Alexandra, who runs The Gallery Cafe in Tobermory and recently returned from volunteering at a refugee camp in Bosnia, said: ‘For Mull it’s been an overwhelming  response already. People took the opportunity to make their voices heard, a lot of the messages were saying Black lives matter more than white feelings, there was a strong show of solidarity and also recognition that Scotland and Mull are not innocent.

‘BLM on Mull will keep growing, people want to keep it going long after lockdown,’ said Alexandra.