I’ve been contacted by many people over the last week about the dreadful scenes we are seeing in America. We have all watched aghast from across the ocean as the United States government has turned military force against citizens who are simply demanding answers after yet another black man, George Floyd, was killed during an interaction with the police. My thoughts are with his family and his community who will be grieving this senseless loss.
We must all stand in solidarity with the protesters as they seek justice for George and the systemic changes needed to stop this happening again. I support calls from the Labour Party to immediately suspend the sale of riot control gear to the US – we should not sell to any other state using this equipment to repress protests and the USA should be no exception.
Whilst it is easy to look at events in America as spectators, we must not let that distract from the ongoing fight against racism in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Racism is a systemic problem and all of us must come together to eradicate it from our society globally.
It is clear that the current Covid-19 crisis is having a disproportionate impact on BAME communities in the UK. The government has carried out an investigation into this issue but reports in the Health Service Journal suggest that responses from individuals and organisations pointing to issues of structural racism were removed from the final report. Refusing to grapple with these issues does a grave disservice to those communities affected most by the virus – the government should be transparent about this report and the submissions it received. The government must take every action possible to protect all communities from this terrible virus.
The tragic case of Belly Mujinga underlines the impact this virus is having and how the fight for justice extends to the UK as well. I intended to raise her case in the House of Commons last week, unfortunately I was not called to ask a question during the relevant session. I do not understand why a decision was taken to not charge the man who assaulted Ms Mujinga. It is my understanding that there was a witness to the attack and corroborating CCTV – I have written to the British Transport Police to ask why this did not lead to a charge for the assault, if not for infecting Mrs Mujinga with Covid-19. We will not have true justice until it is extended to everyone on our society. I stand in solidarity with her family and her Union, the TSSA, who are seeking justice in this case.
In 1963, during the struggle for Civil Rights in America, Martin Luther King Jr. penned a letter whilst incarcerated in Alabama. In that letter he wrote that: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’.
Our society will never flourish whilst people remain oppressed, either in the UK or abroad. We must continue to fight against racism, wherever it occurs.
This crisis has been a dark time for all of us, but we have also seen the light of humanity in the help people are giving each other. I have seen the people of Eltham come together to help one another, no matter their identity.
That is the spirit that should guide us during this crisis, both now and in the future.
We all have a duty to bring about positive change from these tragedies.
I stand with those, in the UK and beyond, fighting racism in all its forms.
There should be no equivocating about this: Black Lives Matter.