A Jewish intensive care nurse who led a socially-distanced Black Lives Matter protest in Borehamwood has urged the public to take a stand against racial inequality.
Rachel Turek, 24, of Borehamwood and Elstree shul, spoke to Jewish News on Tuesday after holding a rally in her local area on Sunday which drew over 120 protesters, according to her own estimates.
Demonstrators gathered at Aberford Park, some holding up placards marked “Jews support Black Lives Matter”, “Black Lives Matter”, and “Borehamwood is not innocent.”
The rally was part of a flurry of protests nationwide, sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US, who died after a white police officer held him down by pressing a knee into his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis on 25 May.
Jeremy Newmark was among several local councillors in attendance and later took to social media, writing that he was “very proud” to have spoken at the event, which he described as showing “fully compliant social distancing”.
He praised Turek for “her courage and tenacity in making this important event happen despite a torrent of abuse and hatred directed at her on social media.”
The intensive care nurse, who has lived in Borehamwood her entire life, said she received a mixture of positive and “hateful” responses on social media.
But the protest was a “really powerful” day, she said. “We had seven people speak, and then we marched down the high street and we had cars coming past. We had people cheering. The police were clapping. It was honestly extremely powerful. We had families that had come out. We had a large amount of kids.”
“So many people came up to me afterwards and thanked me, saying that they didn’t feel like their voice was heard in Borehamwood and I had the platform to allow that voice to be heard as a white person,” she added.
She called on the community to support black communities and Jews of colour and praised Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for recently describing Floyd’s death as an “essential wake up call for each and every one of us.”
Turek acknowledged concerns over the possible risks associated with public gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. “I didn’t want to attend a big protest but I wanted to have a place to hear about people’s experiences and to learn about the movement. So that’s why I organised something where I felt at no more risk than when I go out shopping or when I go to work. It was like in an open park,” she said.
Those unable to leave their home, she added, can continue to support black communities remotely by tuning into virtual protests, contacting their local MP and signing petitions. “There’s so many things that people can do, and Covid can’t be our excuse to not be fighting racial inequality,” she said.