A PROTEST in Carlisle city centre showing support of the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement has triggered a lively – and at times heated - online debate.

More than 200 people gathered in the city yesterday to voice their support for the now international racial equality campaign - and to remember George Floyd, the 46-year-old African American man killed by a white police officer in the US city of Minneapolis.

The officer who killed Mr Floyd – by kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – has now been charged with second degree murder.

The three fellow officers who were at the scene – some of them pinning down Mr Floyd as he pleaded to be released and said repeatedly: ‘I can’t breathe’ – have been charged with aiding and abetting murder.

Yesterday’s protest in Carlisle was one of dozens around the country.

The crowd heard several accounts from speakers who said they had experienced racism in different ways in Cumbria. On the News & Star’s Facebook page, the story triggered a huge response, with more than 1,000 people posting comments.

Some people criticised the organisers, saying that such an event should never have been allowed in the midst of a pandemic, when large gatherings are supposed to be banned to limit the spread of coronavirus.

But many people defended the event, saying it is right to speak out against racism. They also pointed out how the organisers encouraged strict social distancing and mask wearing to minimise the risk.

The comments included the following:

• Leslie Little: “I passed by this afternoon and social distancing was adhered to. I for one do not think it's safe enough yet to be having large gatherings but as an anti-nazi they have my support."

• Catti Park: “I cried listening to one of the ladies speak today as she spoke of her experiences in our city and I imagined the future of my kids growing up in Carlisle with the prejudice, racism and insults they’ve already been subjected to at the ages of 11 and 4."

• Martin Ewin: “The North West of England is still a hotspot for covid and is still having a lot of potential for the rates to rise. So gatherings like this could help to see a rise in covid cases. Think of Cheltenham Races and the Liverpool match back in march and Cumbria has had over 400 deaths from covid. We don't want to have another spike.”

• Jessie Cassidy: “It was a moving, peaceful protest. Social distancing was well organised and followed by vast majority."

• James Tucker: “Absolutely BRILLIANT...solidarity with them all. Folk using their right to protest. A great gathering for a great cause!”

• Jacquina Barnes: “There was strict social distancing with markings on the floor and masks were mandatory. Those berating it or saying all lives matter need to take a long look at themselves and some easily available resources for education.”

• Chris Kelly: “So now that social distancing isnt a thing, can I get my son christened next weekend? Ridiculous doing this when we're just coming out of a pandemic. Of course, black lives matter, but could this not have waited a few more weeks like when 300 plus people still aren’t dying every day."

• Gillian Moore: “As much as I think it’s disgusting what's happened and things do need to change, what's happened to the pandemic and limited gatherings? If I had been one of the families that couldn't go to a funeral or go see a loved one before they died I'd feel totally let down by this."

What do you think about yesterday's protest in Carlisle? Post your comments on this website.