Priest lies prone in Newark Market Place during anti-racism demonstration and in support of Black Lives Matter
He lay prone in Newark Market Place, hands clasped behind his back as if handcuffed as more than 100 others took a knee or stood heads bowed in memory of George Floyd and countless others.
"Which lives matter?" went the shouted question. "Black Lives Matter," came the equally loud answer.
An anti-racism rally that was spectacular, peaceful and respectful happened in the market place on Sunday afternoon.
A march began at Gladstone House, off Lord Hawke Way, and arced through Newark. Gladstone House is named after the former Prime Minister and MP for Newark, William Gladstone, whose identity was to become a theme of speeches later on.
To the sound of music, protestors held posters and banners aloft proclaiming that Black Lives Matter and raised clenched fists in solidarity with the movement, the first such event since Mr Floyd's death under the knee of a police officer in May in Minneapolis.
The purpose of the demonstration was to proclaim that racism has no place in Newark and to ask people to challenge it wherever they encounter it — within themselves, their friends, the workplace or the organisations to which they belong.
The Rev David Pickersgill addressed the socially-distanced crowd: "This is a journey that I myself have been on. Two months ago, three months ago, I wouldn't have used the term anti-racist about myself.
"I would have said 'well I think that's going a bit far and I feel a bit iffy about using it.
"And then in conversation with some of the young people at our church I started to hear stories about how racism affected their lives and it became personal."
People were invited to take two minutes and turn to the person next to them, someone they may never have met, to find out what had brought them there.
Lisa Geary, a town councillor spoke of Gladstone - a Victorian prime minister and a famous one in his lifetime who won the Newark seat age 22 before moving on.
Lisa Geary said his maiden speech in the Commons was in defence of the right of West Indian sugar plantation magnates — slave owners — because his father was a slave owner, drawing criticism from the ant-slave movement as abolition drew near.
She said: "He was a white privileged son of a slave owner and he voted for compensation for his slave owners and the compensation was was massive.
"The more slaves you owned, the more compensation you were given.
"If you were a slave you didn't get anything apart from your freedom.
"So at the end of his life Gladstone said the abolition of slavery was one of the great political issues in which the masses had been right and the upper classes had been wrong. So again he did begin to acknowledge that. He did change his views but I don't think he gave back any of the money that he inherited from his dad.
"I began to wonder why Gladstone House was named after him in 2018 and that was one of the reasons why we decided to start the march there.
"Why was William Gladstone School re-named for him eight years ago?
"Why choose a man that acted like that?
"Why didn't the committees or councils that chose him take a look and decide that it was no longer appropriate to name places after him?"
She said the Newark School, a Church of England school, was, having reviewed the evidence, going to drop that name, just as Liverpool University had chosen to do for one of its buildings, which drew applause from the crowd.
She said that when it was safe to do so, she and Mr Pickersgill hoped to have a meeting with the 60 residents of the Gladstone House assisted living complex, who had no say in the choice of name.
"I don't know if Newark should be proud or ashamed that Gladstone was once MP for Newark but that's history and we can't change history but we can learn more, understand more and work together for the future. We can work together against racism because black lives matter."
The Rev Pickersgill said: "I don't know whether you have seen anything on social media about William Gladstone School changing its name. There's been some people quite concerned about it — quite negative about it — and one of the things when we re-name schools or when we remove statues one of the things that people say is that you're changing history.
"Well of course it's not changing history to make sure people know all of the history of a person.
"We know that William Gladstone did an awful lot of good for this town and for this country and yet there is also this evil thing that led to him being a very rich and wealthy person so we're not changing history.
"What I think people mean they say you're changing history is that you're changing my view of my country or your changing your view of myself because in England we like to look back on our past and think of our glorious past and think 'wow are the Great Britain, we are the United Kingdom and we have all of this wonderful great history, this wonderful powerful history' and it makes us feel uncomfortable to think actually there was a dark side to colonialism and that actually we were one part of the triangle in the Atlantic slave trade.
"People made an awful lot of money from the buying and selling of human lives.
"We need to have true impressions of our history and our country and we need to have true impressions of ourself.
"When you do something meaningful you come alive in a new way."
More by this authorDan Churcher
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