Medway Labour and Co-operative Group urged the Conservative-led Council to reconsider their position on Thursday, as debate over four motions in relation to the Black Lives Matter movement and the renaming of Sir John Hawkins’ carpark took a dark turn.
Last week’s full council meeting saw Conservative Council Leader Alan Jarrett defend his use of the term ‘Lynch Mob’ to refer to Black Lives Matter Protesters, as well as stating that the Medway community could not be involved in a working group on this matter as it needed to be done ‘dispassionately and calmly’.
A Labour motion proposed by Cllr Siju Adeoye called for the renaming of the carpark named after a prominent slave trader, the involvement of the local community in a cross-party working group on racism as well as commitments to black history in the curriculum. The motion was sadly voted against by the Conservative group, who branded debate over the appropriateness of language used, ‘virtue signalling nonsense’.
Cllr Siju Adeoye, Medway Labour Group’s Vice Chair and the member responsible for proposing the motion said that: “The tone of debate and inappropriate language following my motion simply highlighted the necessity of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It is 2020 and we are still having these conversations. I wanted to propose a motion to review all the statues in consultation in Medway via public consultation. We need to have a feedback loop as to how we want modern Medway to look like – unfortunately Council leader Alan Jarrett does not agree that the public should be involved in this.”
“Our communities are in dire need of us – elected representatives – to listen more and understand more about the plight of communities represented here in Medway. If there is one thing the Black Lives Matter Movement has shown it’s that history repeats itself, and that is evident by some of the comments in last weeks full council meeting.”
Cllr Naushabah Khan added, “Yet again the Conservative Councillors have shown little awareness of irony in telling Black and Asian communities how they should behave and feel despite being white men.
“The dangerous rhetoric used by some of the Conservative members at full council perpetuates one of the key structures that have caused this issue in the first place – an all-white Tory cabinet making decisions in the name of Black and Asian communities.
“I am of course disappointed by the Tory’s decision to vote against Cllr Adeoye’s motion, but more so deeply concerned by the attitude and language used during the meeting, which displayed a real lack of understanding of the issues and, at times, was deeply offensive.”
Medway Labour and Co-operative Group Leader Vince Maple added, “Whilst we will of course proceed with the cross-party working groups in good faith, we are deeply disappointed by the comments and actions of the Conservative Group.”