Friday, 5 June 2020

Campaign response – Stand against police brutality in the UK and USA

Young people in the constituency have been writing to me to expressing their concerns over police brutality.

I want to first thank them for taking the time and the initiative to contact me about this important subject that has been receiving much media attention of late.

Clearly the situation in the US and allegations of US police officers applying excessive force in response to protests are concerning. Where there is an opportunity for Parliamentarians to debate the matter or have their say over any government response to the situation that is rapidly unfolding across the US, I will be of course be happy to do my best to speak up.

Let me be very clear: Black Lives Matter. There is no if’s or but’s to this statement. I am assured that the Prime Minister has made this very clear at the Despatch Box during Prime Ministers Questions on Wednesday.

Whenever black people in our constituency have stepped forward to raise their concerns about how they are being mistreated as a result of their race or ethnicity, I have always gone out of my way to listen to them and take action on their behalf where possible, and I intend to continue to do this as long as I have the privilege of serving as your MP. If any constituent has any specific concerns regarding cases of racial injustice or inequality of any form, I would ask them to not hesitate in getting in touch with me to bring them to my attention.

I would go even further in saying that all lives matter. Racism anywhere of any form must be condemned. I will always seek to help and support all constituents whatever their race, colour, gender, religion or sexuality.

The right to peaceful protest is a key tenet of any democracy and I have spoken in favour of this essential right to be respected in places where there is clear state suppression of protest and dissent, such as Hong Kong. I do not condone the use of force against unarmed, peaceful protestors.
Some of these demonstrations in the US are by and large peaceful. But where protests turn violent and out of hand as a direct result of the actions of protestors, there are reasonable steps that I believe any democratic and law-abiding society need to take in order to prevent damage to property or people.

I fully respect the right of black people or people of any colour to protest here in the UK.

I also care about their health and wellbeing just as much, and so I was alarmed to learn from the PHE report published this week that confirmed BAME people are indeed statistically at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Therefore, while I fully appreciate the strength of feeling on this matter and the desire that many have to show solidarity with African Americans in the US, for the sake of their health and wellbeing, I would strongly urge anyone thinking of breaking lockdown and taking to the streets here in the UK to consider the current dangers brought on by Covid-19 and the potential public risks involved in mass rallies. We do not want to see anyone, particularly members of the BAME community, falling ill or dying from Covid-19 as a result of being exposed to the virus during these protests.

The situation in the US is radically different to that of the UK and I am pleased that we have not seen anywhere near the same degree of accusations of brutality and excess force being lodged against our police officers. British police officers are not themselves complicit in the murder of George Floyd and I am concerned to read recent reports that a number of them were attacked near Downing Street. They are our valued key workers, who are doing their very best to keep us all safe under the present circumstances.