Town hall lit for George Floyd

Lambeth town hall in Brixton lit in purple to mark the death of George Floyd
Lambeth town hall in Brixton lit in purple to mark the death of George Floyd
PICTURE: Luke Forsythe

Lambeth town hall in Brixton was lit up in purple tonight (2 June) to mark the death of George Floyd in Minnesota.

Lambeth council is also organising a “community listening event” to discuss issues including increased use of police stop and search powers, anti-social behaviour and tensions between gangs.

Council leader Jack Hopkins, Lambeth, said: “We are a council, a borough and a community that believes in justice. The death of Mr Floyd highlights the huge injustices faced by Black communities in the US, and we want to demonstrate our rejection of all such discrimination here in our part of London.

“We will light our iconic town hall purple, so that people can see our abhorrence of racism, in any form, at any time. We stand with the Mayor of Minneapolis Jacob Frey and the people of the city during these difficult days.”

Lambeth council said it was also working to address structural inequalities in the borough by continuing wider engagement with communities in Lambeth to assess the impact of the pandemic on the most vulnerable.

Black Lives Matter protest Brixton 1 June 2020
Black Lives Matter protest in Brixton yesterday

The council has commissioned research to survey the impact of coronavirus on the borough. It says it will discuss and debate the results with Lambeth community leaders at a listening event later this month.

Cllr Sonia Winifred, cabinet member for equalities and culture, said: “COVID-19 has shown in the starkest and most tragic terms that BAME and vulnerable communities have been hit hardest.

“The data shows that more Black and ethnic minority people are dying of the virus. BAME people are also being directly impacted by the economic impact of the lockdown – jobs have been furloughed or lost altogether and many people are struggling to make ends meet.

“The virus does not discriminate – but our public service and key workers are taking the brunt of this awful pandemic. We must find out why this is and discuss the next steps with our community, together.”

The council said lockdown restrictions have also impacted community policing, with concerns raised recently by residents and community leaders about rising levels of anti- social behaviour and increased police use of stop and search.

It said there was also a potential for rising tensions among gangs which had reduced markedly during the lockdown.

Black Lives Matter protest Brixton 1 June 2020
Black Lives Matter protest in Brixton yesterday

Cllr Jacqui Dyer, cabinet member for jobs, skills and community safety, has been in regular discussion with local police during the outbreak.

She said: “The council is aware of the worries amongst our communities about how policing operates, especially at this difficult time.

“The lockdown restrictions have now been partially eased – and this presents a real challenge to ensure fairness in policing.

“As part of our community listening event later this month we want to hear from our residents anything that will support our ongoing work to improve the policing and safety of our borough.

“The borough’s statutory leadership, businesses, organisations, community leaders, council officers and many residents are committed to working together to ensure Lambeth is made safer.

“At the same time, I am confident that councillors are engaging proactively with their local police to respond to concerns which have rightly been raised.

“With these strong networks working closely together, at borough-wide and real local levels, I believe we can make Lambeth safer.”

Cllr Hopkins said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on many difficult issues. Lambeth council is determined to make sure that we listen to our communities and respond to their concerns, whether that be about the impact of the coronavirus, issues relating to policing and community safety as well as taking a clear stand against racism and discrimination, in all its forms.

“As we light up the town hall purple, we must re-double our commitment to make sure Lambeth remains united.”

The council itself responded to accusations of institutional racism in a series of exchanges with staff and their trade union in 2018.