Black Lives Matter: Action needed from the government

The shocking murder of George Floyd by a US police officer has once again highlighted the deeply entrenched racial discrimination in the US and has led to Black Lives Matter demonstrations around the world.

Along with my Labour colleagues, I condemn the murder of George Floyd, the US government’s response to the protests and President Trump’s treatment of his own citizens.

On behalf of the Labour Party, our Leader Keir Starmer has expressed shock and anger at the death of George Floyd, which has shone a light on racism and hatred experienced by many in the US and beyond. He also asked the Prime Minster – when he next speaks to President Trump – to convey the UK’s abhorrence about the President’s response to the events.

Organisations such as Amnesty International have called for the US government to end its excessive militarised response to the protests. Many of us have been shocked by reports of tear gas and rubber bullets being used against protesters and at the presence of the US military. The UK government should use its position to call on President Trump to put an end to the use of force against protesters. I would also like to see a change in the law in the US which revokes the qualified immunity of police officers who have used excessive force.

The Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade has written to her counterpart to raise our serious questions over the export of riot control arms and equipment to the US. It has been the policy of successive UK governments to refuse licenses for export of arms and equipment that might be used for internal repression in the countries to which they are being sold.  According to Government records, the UK has recently issued licences for the export of a variety of riot control projectiles and equipment to the US. We believe that if this equipment is being used against peaceful unarmed civilians, the Government should take urgent action to stop their export.

We have asked the Government as a matter of urgency to a) publish a list of export licences to the US and the end user data to determine their declared purpose; and b) suspend all existing export licenses and halt the issue of any new export licenses of this equipment to the US until it has been determined whether it is being used in response to the ongoing protests, or there is a risk of it being used in the coming days by the US military. We believe it would be a disgrace for the UK to provide President Trump with arms and equipment to be used in this way. The American public deserve the right to protest peacefully without the threat of violent repression.

Labour will continue to push the UK government to hold President Trump to account for his actions, and to seek justice for George Floyd and other black Americans who have lost their lives as a result of police brutality.

George Floyd’s death must now act as a catalyst for change to build a better society free from racism and injustice. This change should not be limited to the US, as racial inequalities in the UK have been exacerbated by ten years of government austerity, as the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 crisis on BAME communities has demonstrated.

I was pleased that the government finally published its report on the impact of coronavirus on BAME communities on Tuesday following pressure from the public and opposition MPs. Unfortunately, the report supports the figures previously released by the Office for National Statistics that demonstrate that ethnic minorities are nearly twice as likely as white people to die from coronavirus.

Clearly, the report raises a number of serious concerns, but does not contain clear recommendations for action. It is crucial that the government now urgently works to discover why the virus disproportionately impacts BAME communities, and what impact the structural inequalities in our society have played in this.

Labour are committed to putting an end to racial inequalities and discrimination in all forms. We must seriously tackle the racial injustices that scar our own society. Black Lives Matter in the UK as well as the US.

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