“Vidas Negras Importam” aka Black Lives Matter marched through central Lisbon on as part of the demonstrations that have taken place around the world in the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of a police officer in the United States.
Gathering outside Alameda metro station, the diverse crowd of demonstrators milled about on the grass before marching down Avenida Almirante Reis — a common route for protests in Lisbon. There was a hopeful, even jovial, atmosphere despite the obvious anger that underpinned the demonstration and brought many people to the street.
In spite of current COVID-19 restrictions, and the clashes that have broken out with police at BLM demos around other countries, the police presence was particularly low. This was possibly a political move considering how much of the anger was directed at police, with Portugal having one of the worst records of police violence in Europe and a police killing sparking this latest unrest. In fact, numerous “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bastards) signs cropped up at this weekend’s demo — an unusual sight for Lisbon.
In light of this, the demonstration saw typical self-policing, with groups and individuals directing the main bulk of the demonstration along a predefined route. The fact that this organization was able to so quickly come together was largely thanks to the fact that the BLM demonstration was part of a larger protest set to take place that day: “Resgatar o Futuro, Não o Lucro” (Rescuing the Future, Not Profit), a far broader demo aimed at social, economic, and environmental reform in the face of the COVID crisis.
This led to an interesting mix, with Extinction Rebellion’s Red Brigade wandering silently through the throng of BLM supporters who stood shoulder to shoulder with the Sindicato dos Trabalhadores de Call Center, Mulheres na Arquitectura, Frente Democrática Brasileira de Lisboa, and many others.