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Letter to constituents on George Floyd, Black Lives Matter, and racism

I have experienced an unprecedented level of enquiries regarding these issues which is fantastic to see, so thank you for many in engaging with such an important topic.

Let me start by saying clearly: black lives matter. The vile murder of George Floyd at the hands of a US police officer has shocked the whole world. I join in peoples’ call for justice for George Floyd. This is unfortunately the latest example in a long line of black men who have suffered from police brutality in the US and here too.  I am reminded by the brutal beating of Rodney King and subsequent acquittal of the police officer in 1992 which rightly led to outrage. But we know that this happens on a weekly basis, it’s just not always caught on camera.

I send my solidarity to all those who are making their voices heard to oppose this abhorrent racism. I condemn in the strongest possible terms the lack of leadership and the incitement of division shown by Donald Trump. From what I can see on social media, the treatment of the protesters at the hands of the police is abjectly wrong. Last week, I sent a message of solidarity to the protesters in Leamington (where I urged for social distancing), who were using their voice to demand justice. Whilst I can’t condone public gatherings at this time, such moments of collective anger and purpose are often fleeting and must not be allowed to pass.

I believe trade of riot control equipment to the US should stop immediately. I’m joining colleagues (and have co-signed a letter) in Parliament to demand the Government acts urgently. We can and should stop the trade of riot gear and rubber bullets with America to ensure our goods are not used to potentially brutalise protesters.

I’m also calling on the Foreign Secretary and the Prime Minister to use their influence and condemn Trump’s handling of this matter, publicly and directly.

The UK is no better with its record on racism. I hear certain people in Parliament and elsewhere counter that “all lives matter”. But look what happens on our streets, in our workplaces, on our sports pitches. Look at the Stephen Lawrence case, the stop and search figures, and the Windrush scandal. I’ve publicly called out incidents of racism and supported Windrush generation constituents who were denied their rights, but more must be done.

Look at the failure to take action and charge the person who spat at transport worker Belly Mujinga who later died of Covid-19 (and let’s not forget taxi driver Trevor Belle who similarly died of the virus after being spat at by a fare-dodger). And look too at our Government’s dishonesty in failing to release the full report into BAME deaths from the virus, and the disproportionate number of BAME people fined over lockdown breaches.

I’m calling for an action plan for the Government to implement following the Public Health England to protect those most at risk to the virus. I’m pleased that the Labour Party is acting on this already, with Doreen Lawrence, our race relations adviser, who is heading our inquiry into the impact on BAME communities.

I am also calling for justice for Belly and Trevor. I welcome that a review into Belly’s case has been called, and I will follow the it closely. For the sake of all other public-facing key workers, I have repeatedly called for sufficient PPE to be more widely available. We have the capacity to do it nationally because I talk to manufacturers all the time – the Government just needs to act.

We desperately need comprehensive education on matters of race and racism in our curriculum to be mandatory. Not enough students know our own history and how Britain was central to the slave trade, colonialisation, and how the reverberations are still being felt. I’ll support moves in Parliament to make this a reality.

From my work in supporting local constituents from the Windrush generation who were denied their rights, to publicly calling out incidents of racism where I see them, I will always do all I can to stamp out oppression from our society locally and across the world. There is so much that needs to be done, and hopefully I have made clear my intentions on how I will act accordingly.

Matt Western MP
Warwick and Leamington