The right to peaceful, legitimate protest without the threat of violent repression is fundamental, and I have watched in horror the situation developing in the United States.
The Black Lives Matter campaign for justice for the death of George Floyd and all other Black Americans who have suffered from police brutality has highlighted attitudes that need to be erased, not just in the US, but all around the world. We must not stop in our efforts to defeat racism, wherever it raises its ugly head, whether it be in the US, UK or elsewhere.
We need real action, not just words. This week has to be the turning point on racism, discrimination and injustice, including here in the UK.
Donald Trump’s divisive reaction has only served to inflame tensions leaving serious questions unanswered about his Presidency and the future direction of the United States. That is why, together with other Labour MPs, I am pressing the UK Government to suspend all sales of anti-riot guns, tear gas, riot shields and rubber bullets to the US pending a full review of whether they are being used in response to the ongoing protests. However, the lack of a decisive and clear response from the Tory UK Government on all of this so far is nothing short of disgraceful.
I also share frustrations with the report published earlier this week by Public Health England on the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on people from BAME backgrounds. The UK Government has been repeatedly slow to act on this. It was a huge missed opportunity.
This lack of action contrasts strongly with Wales where the Welsh Labour Government is taking genuine action. In April the First Minister Mark Drakeford set up an urgent investigation to understand the reasons for the higher risk to BAME communities. Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething has already launched the COVID-19 Workforce Risk Assessment Tool. Employers have a duty of care to protect people’s health and safety at work and this includes understanding the extra risk from COVID-19. The rollout of this tool will help allay anxieties particularly amongst BAME staff, empower them and keep them safe from Covid-19.
We cannot be complacent about the stain that racism inflicts on our society. This week has shown that there is still a long way to go. We must all stand together and fight this once and for all.