George Floyd killing: Greenwich councillors pledge solidarity

Washington DC protester
A protester in Washington DC last Friday (photo: Geoff Livingston via Creative Commons)

Three of Greenwich’s most senior councillors will meet organisations representing black and minority ethnic groups tomorrow to discuss what can be done to stamp out inequality in the borough in the light of the protests following the killing of a black man by a white police officer in the United States.

A council statement said leader Danny Thorpe, deputy leader Denise Scott-McDonald and communities cabinet member Adel Khaireh were “appalled and outraged by the murder of George Floyd and stand in solidarity with our residents and those across the world who are understandably angry, distressed and grieving for his loss”.

Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin at a petrol station in Minneapolis on 25 May. While arresting Floyd, Chauvin continued to kneel on the man’s neck for nearly nine minutes, even after he pleaded that he could not breathe. The officer has been charged with murder.

The killing has led to protests across the United States. In London, peaceful demonstrations were held in Peckham and Trafalgar Square at the weekend.

US police have targeted journalists covering the demonstrations, while President Trump has threatened to send in the army on his own citizens.

In south-east London, tensions have also been heightened after a number of incidents involving police officers, including the stop-and-search of an off-duty ambulance driver waiting for a friend in Deptford and the emergence of a video of a woman from Bellingham being punched by an officer while being restrained in Lewisham town centre three weeks ago.

Thorpe, Scott-McDonald and Khaireh said in the statement: “The murder of George Floyd is a stark and shocking reminder to all of us that racism remains alive and well in the world.

“As a borough, we have seen first hand the truly devastating impact racism can have on our communities and we reaffirm our commitment to eradicating racism in our society.

“It is clear that the fight for equality is far from won, and we need to be honest about the inequalities that exist across the world, and indeed within our communities.

They added: “Last year, the council worked with the Runnymede Trust so we could get an independent assessment of how we were doing as a borough. The hard truth is that the outcomes for our BAME residents in some areas, such as education, housing and involvement with the police still raise serious concerns. Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, we had been working with schools, the police and a wide range of partners to tackle these injustices.

“We are absolutely determined to do all that we can to eradicate racism in our society. We have worked for many decades with local people and our police to build strong ties to strengthen our community – we renew our commitment to that work today.”

The three councillors said they would be “listening to the concerns” of the community groups and explaining the work we are doing in Greenwich, particularly on the Covid-19 response which we know has had a disproportionate impact on our BAME residents.

“From tragedy must come change and we are committed to leading that change,” they said.

Erith and Thamesmead MP Abena Oppong-Asare said on social media yesterday that “this situation is not new and is not exclusive to the US”.

“Black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales. Black people experienced 12 per cent of use-by-force incidents in 2017-18, despite accounting for just 3.3 per cent of the population,” she said.

“Black people have always faced discrimination within the UK justice system and I stand alongside those demanding justice and change.”
Oppong-Asare pledged to take action where there was evidence of “disproportionate use of force by police officers against black people during Covid-19”.

Last night it was revealed that a review of the impact of Covid-19 on BAME people was being delayed by the Government “because of the situation in America”.

However, the report was released suddenly today. It showed that black and Asian ethnic groups are up to twice as likely to die with Covid-19 than those from a white British background.

  • Our friends at Bureau Local are holding an open newsroom on race, inequality and coronavirus on Thursday at 1pm. To find out more and join in, visit Crowdcast.
  • To donate to the George Floyd Memorial Fund, visit GoFundMe.

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