A protest march scheduled for the city centre this weekend in solidarity with victims of racism has been called off due to concerns about the health risks posed by such a large gathering.
In a statement last evening, the Galway Anti Racism Network said that they had decided to postpone the #BlackLivesMatter protest and have asked people to register their concern in an online protest.
The decision came as Mayor of Galway Mike Cubbard appealed to organisers to postpone the staging of the event until it was safe to do so.
He said yesterday that he was very concerned about the planned large gathering of people in Eyre Square this coming weekend.
“I have stood shoulder to shoulder on anti-racism demonstrations in the past in this city and have spoken at them on occasion. The shocking death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd in the United States last week has captured the world’s attention and rightly so.
“I cannot imagine how a person being racially abused might feel but what I can do is stand in support and solidarity with them. Racial discrimination and prejudice is not welcome in any form, anywhere. I have no doubt that people from all backgrounds and societies praying for the Floyd family at this time, it can be some solace for them.
“However while the people of Galway deserve huge plaudits as we have been disciplined in the majority around social distancing throughout COVID-19, I have an unnerving feeling that a large gathering such as that planned would seriously hamper the great progress made here in fighting this virus,” he said.
While he felt the best intentions of organisers would be to socially distance throughout, he added that there is no way to tell what numbers of people will show and no guarantee that face masks would be worn for example.
“On a daily basis my role introduces me to frontline workers, recovered COVID-19 patients and family members of patients and those sadly deceased. I ask that those considering this rally reflect and seriously think of these people and then seek alternative methods to show solidarity with the wider black community.
“Therefore I reiterate my plea to please postpone Saturday’s gathering and let’s together light a candle in our homes at 9.25pm Saturday night, 9.25pm being the time George Floyd was pronounced dead at the Hennepin County Medical Centre Emergency Room.
“Let’s then share those images of a shining light far and wide to show our support and solidarity with the black community whilst ensuring we are not endangering further lives in Galway with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic,” he said.
In announcing the postponement, GARN asked people to join in an online protest on Saturday as well as signing an online book of condolences to victims of systemic racism and police brutality.
“Institutional racism and discrimination against Black and ethnic minority communities is as much a danger to lives as COVID-19, as they have seen a disproportionate number of cases and deaths worldwide, with many of these people being front line carers, medical staff and essential workers.
“We call on Ireland to acknowledge the injustices and structural racism that create rampant inequality in Ireland and beyond, and to instead embrace our changing intercultural society to create an equitable, fair Ireland for all our children,” they concluded.