Play your part in Bedford’s stand against racism

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Cllr Abu Sultan was photographed 'taking the knee' in solidarity

As the US emerges from its eighth night of protests against the police killing of George Floyd, Stand Up To Racism Bedford (SUTRB) is urging individuals, families and communities to join together at 6pm today (Wednesday) as part of a national peaceful protest against racism.

Rosie Newbigging, of Stand Up To Racism Bedford, said, “We all have a duty to fight racism wherever it is perpetrated.

“George Floyd was tortured to death in broad daylight. It was an extra judicial lynching and the world is rising up to demand an end to injustice.

“Stand Up To Racism Bedford calls on everyone to show solidarity today (Wednesday) at 6pm as part of a national day of action.

“Take the knee*, raise your fist in solidarity, put a poster in your window. Show your support. Demand an end to centuries of oppression.”

To show solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, members of the SUTRB group met at a safe distance at the statue of Trevor Huddleston, displaying placards and ‘taking the knee’.

Cllr Abu Sultan was photographed taking the knee outside his home, while he shields from coronavirus.

The statue of Reverend Trevor Huddleston has particular significance to the cause, as it was dedicated by Nelson Mandela in tribute to the contribution Trevor Huddleston made to the fight against apartheid in South Africa.

Read: 20 years ago today: remembering Nelson Mandela’s visit to Bedford

“If our past generations hadn’t stood up and fought for what is right we would have been still under occupation, colonial rules or owned by some as slaves and if we don’t stand up to fight for our rights today, if we don’t stand up in solidarity for those victim of injustice and discrimination our next generation will not have the rights that they must have,” said Mamunul Islam of Stand Up To Racism Bedford.

“The discrimination, the injustice that has happened, is happening today and will continue to happen tomorrow in one form or another unless we stand up to end it, unless we unite to end all forms of discrimination and guarantee equality and justice for all.

“It’s not them vs us, it’s not black vs white. It is good and fairness and justice vs evil and discrimination and injustice.”

George Floyd
George Floyd was killed in Minneapolis by a policeman on 25 May.

Catherine Ward, the mother of black children, said, “I have a son who is 21 years old and every time he is out of the house I worry not about what he would do but what the authorities might do to him.  This makes me very anxious and instead of enjoying the fact that he his 21 and has his freedom, I have this fear.”

Commenting on the situation in America, Mayor Dave Hodgson said, “In the week since the death of George Floyd in the United States, the grief and anger of black communities in the US and closer to home is clear.

“The world knows George Floyd’s name, and his death has fuelled a movement to end police violence against black people. I hope President Trump will not ignore this, although I fear he will.

“We cannot be complacent here in the UK, only this week we have seen the Government try to delay the publication of the review into the impact Coronavirus is having in BAME communities.

“We have also seen that BAME people are 54% more likely than white people to be fined under the new coronavirus lockdown laws and we should also not forget despite black people making up only 3.3% of the UK’s population, 51% of young people in custody are black – there are injustices in our own legal system which we need to address.”

Mohammad Yasin MP, “I’m appalled by the death of George Floyd and distressed to see the violence escalating across the US, which has caused shockwaves across the world and here in the UK.

“Sadly, it is a reality that racism is still endemic across the globe, and whilst I’m proud to be the town’s first BAME Member of Parliament, representing residents long since proud of our multiculturalism and diversity, there is still racism in all our towns and cities.

Mohammad Yasin MP
Mohammad Yasin is Bedford’s first elected BAME MP
Pic credit: Chris McAndrew

“Whilst the most obvious acts of overt racism may be less common in UK society today, more subtle forms of racial bias are still prevalent.

“What is clear from the strength of feeling across UK communities distraught by George Floyd’s death, is that if a person can lose their life because of their race, then we are still very far from achieving equality.

“Until we can be sure no more BAME individuals will face discrimination, when there is no chance of being murdered because of the colour of your skin by somebody in a position of power, we must keep pushing for the complete elimination of racial bias across all institutions, workplaces and the community, and combat this ignorance through discussion, education and legislation.

“Violence won’t solve racism, nor will ignoring the fury of those who won’t accept that their children should grow up in a world still plagued by racism.

“I urge those who are feeling the desire to act, to channel this determination into a force for good. And I urge anyone who struggles to see evidence that there is still racism in today’s society to research why #BlackLivesMatter.”

Richard Fuller, MP for NE Beds, has written to constituents outlining his position.

In his email, he says, “For years, living in the United States, I was aware of the systemic discrimination against African Americans in the criminal justice system.  I was also aware from my discussions with friends, of the long lived legacy of slavery and segregation and the direct experience of prejudice that informed their understanding of risks in their daily lives that existed purely because of the colour of their skin.

“Years prior to this, one of my first actions when getting involved in politics was to be part of a major inquiry into racism in my own party.

“I was 20 years of age then but now many years later, this issue remains a visceral one for me.  When elected to Parliament in 2010 for the Bedford constituency, one of the first debates I called was for a change in the stop and search powers which I felt, and the statistics demonstrated, were being applied disproportionately on people of colour.

“I was pleased when Mrs May acted to reduce the use of these powers and disappointed when the controls on such powers were relaxed.

“I may be criticised for believing, as I do, that the UK has made much greater progress in openness and inclusion than many other countries, but it is this belief that makes me want our country to go further and faster in tackling those sources of discrimination that remain.”

You can find out more about Stand Up To Racism Bedford at their Facebook page.

* Taking the knee: Since 2016, a number of American athletes have protested against police brutality and racism by kneeling during the playing of the US national anthem.

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