Since the murder of George Floyd on May 25th by a Minneapolis police officer, I have not surprisingly received a very high number of emails from constituents to express their grief, anger and desire for real and sustained change. The widespread circulation of the video depicting George’s murder has rightly caused outrage across the world and has shone a light on the systemic racism evident throughout the US. It is starkly apparent, as shown by the protests across the world, that his murder was not an isolated incident. Instead, it is indicative of appalling racism and brutality against the black community.
I am shocked that in the US, the largely peaceful protests have been met with resistance and brutality, including the widespread tear-gassing of protestors, reporters and children who were posing no threat and exercising their right to peaceful protest. Tragically, I understand that David McAtee was shot dead by police while protesting in Louisville. I condemn this action and the excessive force used across the US. President Trump’s threat to use military force to suppress the protests is unacceptable and goes against fundamental rights.
It is unacceptable too that the US appears to be misusing exported goods from the UK in order to suppress the protests. Following reports that the UK recently issued licences for the export of riot-control equipment to the US, the Labour Party has urged the Government to immediately suspend all licences of riot-related items. I welcome this and am a signatory to a cross-party letter calling on the Government to take immediate action. You can see the Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade’s letter calling on the Government to immediately address this here.
However, it is clear that the ongoing injustice is not solely an ‘American problem’. There are very real issues of systemic racism and race inequality which must be addressed across the UK. At a national level, the recent Public Health England review into Covid-19 mortality rates confirms that BAME communities are disproportionately affected by coronavirus, with black men almost four times more likely to die from Covid-19 than white men. We know too that racial inequalities are prevalent across the criminal justice system, with black people in 2019 more than three times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police than white people. These are gross injustices and must be addressed urgently by the Government at a national level.
Locally, I am aware that several worrying videos have been circulated on social media showing apparent excessive force being used by police against Lewisham residents. Many constituents have rightly raised concerns about these videos with me, and I have met with the Mayor of Lewisham and with Lewisham Police to discuss this urgently. Myself and other elected representatives in Lewisham have made clear that we take this extremely seriously and you can read the detail on this in our joint statement here.
As my constituency covers two London Boroughs, I regularly meet with the Borough Commander in Bromley and I will also be raising these issues directly with him.
I encourage anyone who may have concerns over the way they have been treated by the Police to raise it directly with me and make a complaint to the IOPC, which can be done here.
Yesterday, in memory of George Floyd and in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Lewisham Council joined with Councils across the country to light the town hall purple in support for the ongoing protests. I fully supported this expression of solidarity and have written to Bromley Council to request that they do the same.
The outpouring of support and solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement is evident across the constituency, and I thank all those who have taken the time to write to me to express their views. We must work together to ensure that the tragic injustices of the past few weeks, and the widespread public outrage they have caused, catalyses into the real and sustained change which we so urgently need. I stand shoulder to shoulder with the BAME community and will call out racism and inequality wherever I see it – internationally, nationally and locally.