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These intimidating protests will only inflame divisions across Britain, by INAYA FOLARIN IMAN 

There have been numerous demonstrations across Britain since the dramatic rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May.

But the one that took place in Brixton over the weekend, to mark the 186th anniversary of the Abolition of Slavery, was different. 

It marked the debut appearance of Forever Family, a black rights protest group, on London’s streets.

Their intent was undoubtedly peaceful, but many felt their appearance — makeshift black uniforms and stab vests bearing the logo FF Force, while some had face masks and one a balaclava — was reminiscent of a paramilitary organisation.

The imagery was sinister, hostile even, as young men and women stood with raised fists in a move synonymous with the black rights movement.

Their presence would not have been out of place in a dystopian land of revolutionary chaos and conflict, rather than the well-ordered streets of our capital.

Forever Family says its aim is to achieve unity ‘in the battle against racism, inequality and injustice’ — and who would argue with that.

Yet, to me, the atmosphere was one of intimidation that is out of place in our democratic society.

Indeed, there have been no scenes like this on British soil since the outlawed IRA was operating in Northern Ireland at the peak of the Troubles, when its masked parades contributed to its culture of terror.

But while the Brixton march was alarming, it is the inevitable consequence of the campaign by Black Lives Matter to promote an inflammatory brand of identity politics.

Imported from America, this toxic ideology sees everything through the prism of race, based on a narrative where black people are the permanent victims of oppression, while white people are collectively guilty of perpetuating discrimination.

Under this dogma, black people are encouraged to believe that Britain is so racist that their only hope is to organise their own resistance through groups like Forever Family.

As a woman of African origin myself, I believe this is a highly destructive outlook.

By fuelling discord, it undoes all the good work done over recent decades in building better race relations in Britain. 

It is a recipe for strife, rather than solidarity, putting the emphasis on what divides us instead of what unites us. 

More importantly, it is also the very antithesis of racial progress, which, in the famous words of Dr Martin Luther King, holds that people should be judged ‘by the content of their character’, not ‘by the colour of their skin’.

And so, for the sake of our future harmony, I believe that their alienating doctrine must not be allowed to prevail.

That is why I have established a new movement — The Equiano Project — in order to present an alternative vision; one that embodies the positive values of freedom, openness and dialogue rather than the relentlessly negative soundtrack of bullying, grievance and antagonism.

The Project is named after Olaudah Equiano, an 18th-century African writer who was sold into slavery but, partly through his enterprise and wide range of talents, was eventually able to buy his freedom from his British masters. 

Equiano went on to become a key figure in the campaign for the abolition of slavery, as well as a successful author.

In contrast to the politically fashionable concentration on the dark side of black history, Equiano’s uplifting life and impressive achievements should be a source of inspiration to current generations.

The Project holds its first meeting tonight — an online debate about the need for a different, less simplistic approach to race to the one put forward by Black Lives Matter.

Among the speakers are Trevor Phillips, the distinguished broadcaster, writer and former head of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, and Katharine Birbalsingh, the pioneering education reformer whose own superb leadership of a high-performing inner-city school refutes the politically correct notion that black pupils are doomed to fail because of institutional white racism.

It is telling that since the launch of the Project was announced, I have come under attack from opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Some far-Left authoritarians loathe any challenge to their binary conceit of black victimhood and white racism. 

Then there are the Neo-Nazis, who with equal ferocity want to protect their warped concept of white identity in Britain.

It is ironic how much the two ideological camps — with their closed minds and racial obsessions — have in common.

But that is precisely why I want to see change. 

The reality is that the hysteria fostered by Black Lives Matter has not only shattered the bonds of mutual trust in Britain, it has created a climate of fear, where traditional British liberties are now under unprecedented threat.

Tolerance — that most important of Enlightenment values — is disappearing. In its place, a mood of witch-hunting McCarthyism has taken hold in civic life, where people feel they cannot speak out against the current orthodoxy.

And so as history is rewritten, school curricula are ‘decolonised’, statues are pulled down and heretics sent off for ‘re-education’.

Such a poisonous attitude is the very opposite of what our country needs. We should be overcoming differences, not entrenching them. 

To do otherwise ignores what I believe: that Britain is anything but a hotbed of prejudice. 

Of course, this country has its problems, but Britain has probably done more to foster good race relations than any other place on Earth.

That record of integrating newcomers is exactly why so many newcomers, most of them from Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, want to settle here.

And, ultimately, the fabric and history of this nation actually ensured this process, establishing the very freedoms that are now under attack from the race obsessives.

After all, Britain is the land that pioneered the concept of equality before the law through Magna Carta, gave the world parliamentary democracy, developed a free Press and formulated the idea of policing by consent. We played a central role in the abolition of slavery and, unlike the U.S., never had any system of racial segregation — yet another reason why Black Lives Matter is so wrong-headed to argue that the black experience here is anything like that in America.

Such an exaggeration of disadvantage does young blacks no favours. If anything, it narrows their horizons, traps them in victimhood and treats them as second-class citizens.

My Nigerian mother used to tell me: ‘You can achieve whatever you want.’ Those words are far more likely to inspire a young black adult than a pithy placard railing against invented oppression.

Nor does the Black Lives Matter ideology provide any practical solutions to the real problems that exist in modern Britain.

All its howls about supposed ‘racial injustice’, ‘police brutality’ and ‘white supremacy’ will do nothing to lessen knife crime, promote stable family units or stop the formation of street gangs.

To the self-proclaimed ‘anti-racists’, it is easier to pass the blame than face up to social responsibility.

But the rest of us know that a different path must be forged.

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