As protests rock the globe, looking to the ethos of Bill Shankly offers guidance for all Liverpool supporters
Today I, along with thousands around the world, will be marching in protest of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of the American police.
The 46-year-old was killed in the city of Minneapolis in the course of arrest, with several bystanders providing video footage of an officer using his knee to apply pressure to Floyd’s neck until he fell unconscious. The arrest was over the use of a counterfeit $20 bill.
Though brutal, it is not the death of one man alone that has compelled people from Los Angeles to Paris to Sydney to take to the streets; rather it is an angry global village sick and tired of the universal scourge of police brutality, particularly against people of color.
In America, there is a lengthy history of violence, systemic racism and oppression between police and Black Americans. The advent of social media and the cellphone camera has forced this conflict back into the eyes of the public.
A lengthy and high profile list of black men and women killed at the hands of law enforcement have stoked the embers of discontent in recent years, with the May 25 killing of Floyd providing the spark for an explosion of protests and riots in 140 cities across the country, both stunning and rallying the public to a cause overdue for a reckoning.
However, as the spontaneous protests that have sprung up in support around the world show, this is not an exclusively American issue. To bring it home as Liverpool supporters, our own Rhian Brewster joined a number of black footballers in speaking out in solidarity. Squad leaders, Virgil Van Dijk and Gini Wijnaldum were the impetus behind a player-led show of support for the Black Lives Matter movement.
However, Liverpool’s connection to the recent episode in the struggle for equity is more than simply a few headlines of its players speaking out in solidarity; rather it is at the core of a club ethos forged by Bill Shankly.
A banner flies in the Kop that says, “Unity is Strength.” It is the legacy of the great Shankly, who brought to Liverpool a strident socialism down from Scotland that aligned perfectly with one of England’s working-class bastions.
Shankly himself defined this philosophy as such:
“I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day.”
Each of us who support Liverpool were drawn to this club for a number of reasons. Maybe it was the rabid passion of the Kop or the heroics of players who pushed themselves to the limit for the badge. Whatever way we came, we stayed in part because we identified with the Liverpool ethos that makes the club unique in a sport dominated by the purest form of capitalism. What this also means is that to support Liverpool is to stand for the downtrodden and the oppressed.
As a British-Nigerian black man living in America, my choice has been to protest for the right to live free of the fear of violence perpetrated by those sworn to protect me. Equity and the destruction of systemic racism is difficult; safety from violence is the minimum protesters ask. For each of us, standing in solidarity will look different. However doing whatever it is that we can individually and collectively for those standing up to police brutality is the most Liverpool thing one could imagine.
Such that when we sing out that You—the mistreated and the persecuted—Will Never Walk Alone, it will ring true in every Liverpool heart.