Eight minute silence at Black Lives Matter vigil in Burnley

An eight minute silence marked a powerful emotional vigil in Burnley's Peace Garden as around 50 people from the town showed their support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
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Organised by a local teenager, the vigil outside Burnley Central Library saw members of the public express their solidarity with the movement set up in the wake of the recent killing by a police officer in America of black man George Floyd.

The siginificance of the timed silence was related to the eight minutes, 46 seconds length of time prosecutors say Floyd was pinned to the ground under a white Minneapolis police officer's knee before he died last week.

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Burnley man Leon Akbar, who is of mixed race, attended the event and said he was proud of all those who supported it.

The vigil outside Burnley Central LibraryThe vigil outside Burnley Central Library
The vigil outside Burnley Central Library

Leon (28) who in the past has spoken to the Burnley Express on encountering racism growing up in Burnley, said he felt the vigil could be a "big moment" for his home town.

"I heard about the vigil on social media and felt it was very important to attend," Leon said.

"There was an eight minute silence on bended knee which was very emotional. The most pleasing aspect for me was the amount of young people who attended. The youth are our future leaders and it's heartening to see they had made a conscious decision to support this movement.

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"I would say around 70% of those who attended were aged under 20. There have been racial tensions in Burnley in the past and I experienced it myself growing up, but I think this is a step in the right direction. I could never have imagined a vigil such as this 20 years ago.

Some of the protestors at the vigial in Burnley's Peace GardenSome of the protestors at the vigial in Burnley's Peace Garden
Some of the protestors at the vigial in Burnley's Peace Garden

"Sadly, there were a few hecklers but every moment has an anti-movement. There's always hate and I think this is the start of a long road but we have to be the change we want to see."

Everyone attending observed social distancing rules and wore PPE.

After the silence, Leon spoke to those assembled to thank them for attending.

He added: "Burnley is a proper working class town and I think moment such as this show the true heart of its people."