As we hope all realise, the Green Party is a party for social justice: especially relevant with the prospect of climate change having its largest impact on the poorest in society. As part of that search for justice, it stands with the Black Lives Matter movement.
In response to online racial harassment of a local Facebook group, Mike recent proposed a motion that 'Horsham District Council takes note of the Black Lives Matter protests within the district earlier this year. In response, council resolves to tackle bias, racism or discrimination wherever we find it, and to continue to work with the community and Sussex police to ensure that policing in the county is proportionate and fair to all residents.'
This was summarily amended by the relevant cabinet member to read: 'Horsham District Council notes the Black Lives Matter protests that have take place recently. We have long condemned racism, along with all other forms of discrimination on grounds of gender, religious belief, sexual orientation and other protected characteristics that are in Section 4 of the 2010 equality act. This council requires that all members adhere to that non-discrimination policy in Section 3.2 of the members' code of conduct and we will continue to work with partner agencies, including Sussex police, to meet these requirements.' and this motion was passed, but not without some dissent regarding dilution of the original message.
As an administrative / technical error* resulted in Mike not be able to speak in support of his motion before the amendment was proposed, his text follows:
Firstly, I must comment on the timing of this motion, which I had originally planned for the, subsequently cancelled, September council meeting. Fortuitously, we are now in Black History Month, so the proposed motion possibly has more relevance, given the historical repression and exploitation of black lives – something touched on in the recent museum press release regarding Horsham's Black History. In particular, the linked blog by Malcolm Linfield about the life of Jomo Kenyatta is particularly edifying. I also note that this is Hate Crime Awareness week!
Secondly, I must thank the cabinet member for Community Matters and Wellbeing for her reply to my constituent in Upper Beeding who initially contacted me on this subject. I look forward to receiving progress reports from the cabinet member regarding the various actions she outlined in her reply.
In proposing this motion, I am well aware of the duties of this council under the Equality Act 2010. However, the public discourse around the recent BLM protests earlier this year made it abundantly clear that racism, both blatant and more subtle, still persist throughout UK society. A recent local example, which led to me being contacted, was the posting of aggressive racist comments on the Steyning Stand Up To Racism group's Facebook page after they organised a very successful Black Lives Matter protest. The sheer volume of the hatred expressed resulted in the need for the group to remove any reference to what, I am informed, was a positive and well attended event.
Members may be wondering why I make specific mention of Sussex police. This is in response to the recent police data indicating that people of Black ethnicity were significantly more likely to be subject to a 'stop and search' than those regarded as White. Clearly it is important that Sussex police are challenged about these statistics, but I am encouraged by their awareness of, and engagement with, Hate Crime Awareness week.
So this motion is both a 'stake in the ground' and a reminder to all that Black Lives do Matter, and I earnestly hope that members will support it.
* meetings are held via Zoom: HDC is currently trying hybrid meetings, which have exposed communications difficulties between those at the physical meeting similar to those experienced virtually when all microphones are unmuted...