Many constituents have contacted me over the past week regarding the shocking death of George Floyd, the violent reaction of the police in the United States against peaceful protesters, and the experiences of black and minority ethnic communities more widely. I share much of the anger, sadness, and conviction that you have shared with me. Below is my response to those that have been in touch:
I am absolutely outraged by the killing of George Floyd. I am pleased that all four officers responsible for George Floyd’s abhorrent murder have been charged; we must now ensure they are brought to justice with the full force of the law. However, the response of President Trump and the US authorities to the peaceful protests – to people rightly demanding justice – has been an affront to humanity. I am deeply concerned by the growing militarisation of the police in the US.
The Black Lives Matter movement and fighting racism as a whole is a global issue that the UK cannot look away from, and we must reflect on the injustices within our own country too. George Floyd must not become just another victim in the long line of black people who have died at the hands of the police in the US – their lives mattered.
His shocking death shone a spotlight on the racism, discrimination and injustice experienced by those from black and minority ethnic communities in the US, in the UK and across the world. Now, more than ever, it is incumbent upon us all to ensure this is a turning point. We must turn this moment into action to ensure this atrocity is never repeated.
In the first instance, I believe that the UK Government should speak out now and put pressure on President Trump to end the unnecessary police violence against peaceful protesters. Keir Starmer MP, the Leader of the Labour Party has written to the Prime Minister calling on the Government to urge the United States to respect human rights and the fundamental democratic right to peaceful protest.
Going further, I was horrified to find that the UK Government has been supplying the US with anti-riot shields, rubber bullets and tear gas, the very items that are being used against peaceful, unarmed civilians. For the last two decades, it has been the policy of Governments to refuse licenses for the export of arms and equipment that might be used for internal repression in the countries that they are being sent to. Therefore, Shadow International Trade Secretary Emily Thornberry MP, has written to the International Trade Minister Liz Truss to demand the suspension of exports of riot control equipment to the US, pending an investigation as to whether they are being used in the protests. Our country cannot be a party to the violence of the President against his own people and the flagrant suppression of democratic rights.
I was extremely disappointed that the Government made the decision to suspend the publication of the Public Health England report into the effects of Covid-19 on black and ethnic minority communities. However I was glad to see that after pressure from the Labour Party, the Government decided to publish this important report. The report, however, falls far short of offering tangible solutions to address its findings. As rightly pointed out by Labour’s Shadow Secretary for Women and Equalities, Marsha De Cordova, the review confirms what we already know: Black and minority ethnic communities and disadvantaged people are hit hardest by Covid-19. The Government must act now to address these inequalities so that no more lives are lost.
Labour MPs are also raising the appalling case of a much-loved wife, mother and key worker, Belly Mujinga, who died of Covid-19 after she was spat at when on duty at Victoria Station in a racially charged incident. The Labour Party are demanding that the Government extends the same compensation fund for frontline NHS staff who die fighting Covid-19 to transport workers too in light of this crime.
Recent events have starkly highlighted the institutional and structural racism at large within the US, the UK and around the world; the treatment of people of colour is a shocking indictment of a modern society. This is an issue for all communities across the world – it is our fight together.
I support the right to peaceful protest as a fundamental democratic right, but we are in the middle of a global pandemic – I would strongly urge anyone protesting, in Hull or elsewhere, to take steps to protect themselves and others, especially by maintaining a strict 2 metre social distance.
We must never be silent in the face of discrimination and injustice. The UK must be clear in showing that we understand the frustration of protesters and that we are ready to stand together with those who seek to tackle the gross injustice and inequality that remains within all our societies.