Greenwich councillors united last night to condemn an outbreak of racist and antisemitic graffti targeting businesses in Blackheath and Charlton last weekend.
Attackers scrawled fascist insignia and antisemitic messages on the Barclays Bank branch at the Royal Standard in Blackheath, while graffti was also daubed on a takeaway in nearby Bramshot Avenue, Charlton. Trees in East Greenwich Pleasaunce were also painted with graffiti. The attacks came a day before Holocaust Memorial Day.
Before last night’s full council meeting, the first of the year, councillors and members of the public paused to reflect on the millions murdered through genocide in a service led by Gerald Rose, the warden of the Catford and Bromley Synagogue.
Rose lit a candle in memory of those Jewish people murdered by Nazi Germany, before inviting council leader Danny Thorpe and opposition leader Matt Hartley to light a second candle to remember all victims of genocide.
He spoke of how the people of Greenwich borough stood together with the Muslim community after the murder of Lee Rigby, the soldier murdered in Woolwich by Islamist extremists in 2013, stopping racist groups from capitalising on his death.
“When we stand together for good, we are strong,” he told councillors. (watch in full)
Later, councillors unanimously passed an urgent motion condemning the attacks and plegding to “challenge racism in all its forms and making sure that Greenwich has no place for hate or the perpetrators of hate crime of any kind”. (watch in full)
Thorpe said: “The amazing thing for me is how one message of hate has generated so many more of kindness. When something horrible happens in your place, you feel it.”
Referring to his predecessor Denise Hyland facing down far-right protesters in the town hall three years ago, he said: “That’s what gives us our collective resolve to say ‘never again’.”
Opposition leader Matt Hartley said: “There is no place for antisemitism, no place for racism, no place for hatred of any kind in the Royal Borough of Greenwich.
“Everyone is welcome here, regardless of race, religion, background or circumstances. The only people not welcome are the vile racists behind the antisemitic graffiti we saw at the weekend… The perpetrators of these awful acts must and will be brought to justice. I really hope that they see and read what we are doing tonight.
“They should feel not only our condemnation, but our pity, because they deserve both in equal measure. The thought of anyone going about their day being made to feel unwelcome or threatened by communities because of who they are is one that disturbs us all.”
He praised council officers who acted to remove the graffiti and Thorpe in organising the council’s response.
Hartley continued: “Whether after terror attacks on our streets, hate crimes in our communities or far right agitators in the public gallery in this council chamber, we have seen time and time again, that all attempts to divide this borough are doomed to fail.
“As the 51 people elected by our fellow residents to represent them here, we and they will not tolerate antisemitism or racism in any of its forms. We will do all in our power to pull this up by its roots so incidents like this never happen again.”
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