Hundreds of people kneel beside the recently repaired Rashford mural
Hundreds of people knelt next to England’s footballer Marcus Rashford’s repaired mural in an ‘incredibly moving and powerful’ show of support for the forward.
Around 200 people, some with signs reading ‘Black Lives Matter’, made the symbolic gesture next to the recently vandalized artwork in south Manchester.
The mural was disfigured hours after England lost to Italy in the Euro 2020 final on Sunday, in what police consider a racist incident.
Artist Akse P19 has since repainted his monochrome portrayal of the English player.
Addressing the crowd after kneeling next to the mural on Tuesday night, protester Lamin Touray said the racist online abuse targeting Rashford, and his teammates Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho, who also missed the penalties on Sunday “sparked an anti-racist movement” in Manchester.
Players were the target of racist abuse on social media after the match, which escalated a political row over racism in football and in society.
Mr Touray said: “These players have shown us all that there is good in this country, black and white united against racism, by taking a firm stand.
“We know the powers that be want this to go away, and the attack on Sancho, Rashford and Saka has ignited the anti-racism movement in this country and in this beautifully diverse city.”
Ritu Kumar, who lives in London but was at home in Withington for football this week, attended the vigil with her two-year-old son and knelt alongside his mother and father.
“It was incredibly moving and powerful,” the 34-year-old told PA.
“Marcus Rashford made sure children across the country did not go hungry, and for him to endure the kind of abuse he suffered was simply unacceptable.
“There is no place for racism in this world, be it Rashford, Saka, Sancho, my neighbor or your friend.”
Protester Nahella Ashraf has targeted the Prime Minister and Home Secretary for remaining silent when fans booed the England team by taking the knee at Wembley Stadium.
She told the crowd: “Three black footballers have been racially brutally assaulted on social media, but let’s be very honest – are we surprised?
“When the football team started to kneel in solidarity and against racism, they were booed, and what did Boris Johnson say? Not a lot. What did Priti Patel say?
“It’s an absolute shame.”
Jaylen Waite, 10, said: “Marcus Rashford doesn’t deserve these racist chants on social media, and Whites need to respect players who missed penalties.”
Ed Wellard, the founder of Withington Walls, the community street art project behind the mural, covered the graffiti with trash bags on Monday, and hours later fans flocked to cover him with flags, flowers and anti-racist messages telling the attacker he was a “hero” and “adored”.
Akse P19 repaired the damage on Tuesday morning under the gaze of dozens of supportive residents.
As the artist added the finishing touches to the repairs, Mr. Wellard said, “There was a kind of love and solidarity, and it’s really encouraging.
“It’s a beautiful thing, isn’t it?” I looked at the footage with my friends and saw those missed penalties and all I felt was empathy and compassion for these young men, they made themselves proud, on and off the pitch.
“I hugged my 11 year old boy because he was crying and I wanted to hug the players.”
The word “f ***” was scrawled across the huge piece of art and the words “shit” and “bastard” were also written next to the word “Sancho”.
A spontaneous online crowdfunding for the mural has now raised more than £ 30,000, which Mr Wellard says will be used for other works of art.
He said he was upset by the discovery of vandalism and, like the protesters, believes politicians need to “raise their game” against racism.
He added: “It was horrible, I was a little tearful. I was still upset with the result and the scenes we had seen at Wembley and all that was like a dark day for English football.
“And then go out and see what was written, it was disgusting, it was horrible.
“I wanted him to be covered before the kids went to school. No one should see this.
“We have politicians who are trying to divide us, we have to come together.
“This team has been criticized by our government for taking the knee. So it is clear that at the highest level we have to tackle this kind of attitude.
“We had Dover MP Elphicke criticizing Rashford. It’s not acceptable.
Rashford thanked fans for their support on Monday night, tweeting: “The messages I received today have been positively upsetting and seeing the response to Withington brought me to tears.
“The communities that always surrounded me with their arms continue to support me. I am Marcus Rashford, 23, black male from Withington and Wythenshawe in South Manchester.
The mural, based on a photograph by Daniel Cheetham, was created last November in recognition of Rashford’s work to tackle child food poverty.
His mother provided the quote on the mural, which reads: “Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest part in your goal.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and England manager Gareth Southgate led the condemnation of racist abuse of black England players.