The protestor, Toyin Agbetu (39), shouted demands for an apology at the Queen and Tony Blair during the Westminster Abbey commemoration in March 2007.
The report says that:"The African and Caribbean Evangelical Alliance's Rev Katei Kirby said many in the congregation sympathised with him."
I can see why after watching some of the BBC footage.
You can see video footage of the incident here.
Also watch Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams' address at the same event. I just did and was simply astounded by his duplicity (on behalf of the church), if not complicity, in hiding the brutality of Britain's role in slavery.
Williams' reduced the Atlantic slave trade to a universal problem of humanity and one that does not weigh unequally on Britain.
He further erased the need for any serious attempt by Britain (or the the Anglican church) to recognize and apologize (formally) for slavery by pointing to the caste system in India and modern trafficking in humans, among other unrelated human rights issues.
See a video clip of Williams' address here. (I found it quite amusing to watch the camera pick out the Black folk in the audience.)
Agbetu rose toward the end of the ceremony and started shouting:"This is an insult to us." He called on African Christians to stand up and walk out of the service but it is not clear from the report whether any of them followed him.
The Queen and then Prime Minister Tony Blair were seated next to Williams while security guards led Agbetu out and the service continued.
I would have to agree with Agbetu's protest. Britain and the Anglican church have hardly made amends for the slave trade. Instead of offering a formal apology for slavery, Britain used Williams' to make the issue one of personal and humanitarian redemption.
The role of the state and the church was simply made to disappear.
You can see final video clip on the role of the church in slavery in Barbados here.
I think it important to note that Britain will not seek to offer a formal apology because this will mean that the state is admitting culpability. This would open the way for civil suits aimed reparations/restitution. A formal apology would thus make the claims for reparation more 'credible' in their courts. The same is true for the US at the federal level.
Where the Anglican church is concerned, I am not aware of lawsuits that seek reparation for slavery. I would appreciate if anyone is aware of such suits, or any other related issues of importance to this discussion.
On the topic of the Anglican church, Eugene raises an important case in Canada. He wrote in a comment to the post below:
"there was a massive lawsuit by native survivors of sexual abuse by the anglican church in Canada. Raping was systematic within the church, and ... thousands of native children were raped by these folks with "moral high ground." So, the anglican church's way of dealing with the lawsuit, instead of using the truth, delayed for years. The reason being is they were hoping to outlast the lives of those bringing the lawsuit against them, thus, saving them some of that "moral high ground" money they'd lose in the lawsuit. Many did die, one I even read about committed suicide."
I was not aware of this case and I hope it will stimulate further discussion. Thanks Eugene for raising this important case.
And thank you sista Ana for your valued input that has provided further insight into the politics of Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.
By the way, if you have not looked at Ana's excellent struggle blog (Whenua, Fenua, Enua, Vanua) please do so. It is a very important resource and forum that documents the Indigenous struggle for justice in the Pacific.
A slightly moified version of this post appears at Indiginest Intelligence Review.