June 9, 2020 at 7:41 am
It’s been difficult for all of us looking at on at the division that we’ve seen through protests in major cities this weekend.
Some of the scenes have been absolutely appalling and have lead to Police Officers being hospitalised. To be totally blunt, I do not care what the cause may be or how virtuous some may think it is, there is never an excuse for this kind of violence and criminal damage. There is never an excuse for attacking innocent Police Officers who have put themselves in harm’s way on our behalf.
It’s particularly concerning at this time because of course we all have our fears about the resurgence of Coronavirus, which can only be made worse by mass gatherings of thousands of people like the scenes we saw this weekend.
George’s Floyd’s death is a tragedy and nobody wants to see racism in our country. These things are clear. It is not in dispute. Fighting against racism is the basis for so many high profile campaigns in the UK, like ‘Give Racism the Red Card’ or ‘Stand Up To Racism’ who have managed to be effective and well known voices on this issue for a long time, and they’ve managed to do it without desecrating The Cenotaph or trying to set fire to British flags. All of us as elected representatives regularly throw our weight behind these kinds of campaigns that promote positive action and raise the issue of racism in a sensible and effective way.
I have a great deal of sympathy with the cause, but I have none whatsoever with a campaign that promotes violence and thuggery. I have none whatsoever for a campaign that falsely suggests that the terrible actions of some Police Officers in the USA are somehow related to the actions of our unarmed British Officers, when the statistics tell us that this is simply not true.
I have no sympathy for people who say they are fighting against fascism by attacking the statue of Winston Churchill, a man without whom the fascists would have won, and I have no sympathy for those who think that criminal damage is acceptable in any circumstances.
If people are allowed to tear down statues and attack monuments without repercussions, then how far will this be allowed to go? The law is the law, and it should not be applied selectively depending on how sympathetic we are to the underlying cause. The actions of these individuals only serves to exacerbate existing tensions. They are thugs using this cause as an excuse for violence. They are not legitimate protestors.
I expect the full force of the law to be used to bring the people who have done these things to justice, and I was pleased to hear the Prime Minister and Home Secretary say that they expect this too.
Equally unacceptable in my view, are the attempts by some in the high profile positions and in the media to seemingly brush over, or in some cases even glorify this violence. Labour MPs went out with protestors and boasted about breaking the lockdown, whilst others have tweeted their support for criminal actions.
Commentators have spoken about ‘largely peaceful’ protests, in some cases ignoring violent clashes in their reports and in one even cropping a photo to hide a weapon being wielded at police. Selective reporting is no more acceptable than selective justice, particularly from taxpayer-funded media outlets. The overwhelming response from my constituents has been one of outrage at these criminal acts, but that is not a view I’ve seen reflected in most news reports.
This has been an incredibly challenging time for so many people. Through the lockdown people will have lost loved ones, missed seeing them, or lost their jobs and livelihoods. Government and our local services have done a huge amount to protect people, but many have still suffered. We’re looking now at the light at the end of the tunnel, where we can ease restrictions and begin to release people from some of that suffering, but this is only made harder by gatherings like these protests. The risk of infection is only made higher. As a country we have always pulled together in times of crisis, and I am so deeply disappointed in those who have chosen to put their fellow citizens at risk in recent days.
I hope to see a robust response this week from Police and from the Government, and a plan to deal with this more effectively. My constituents supported a Conservative Party that took a strong stance on law and order in the election, and that’s what we must deliver.