The Labour Black Socialists group has issued a statement of solidarity with the GRT (Gypsy, Roma and Traveller) community, after both the Tories and Labour targeted GRT people: the Tories via their policing bill, which Labour was going to abstain on until the Clapham Common scandal; and Labour through vile leaflets about ‘Traveller incursions‘ and the actions of some of its MPs.
The statement, which also demands the resignation and/or suspension of some Labour figures, reads:
Labour Black Socialists resolutely stand in solidarity with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities in the UK. We condemn the recent Labour campaign leaflet distributed in Warrington by MP Charlotte Nichols, the Shadow Minister for Women & Equalities, which pledged to deal with “traveller incursions.” This statement dangerously reinforces local hate towards GRT people with inflammatory language denoting an ‘attack’ or an ‘invasion.’
As Black socialists we have first hand experience of the implications of politicians and the media callously provoking panic and racism about marginalised people: Whether referring to “swarms” and “floods” of refugees or a supposed “incursion” of nomadic GRT people. We cannot forget that such stigmatising rhetoric has historically enabled the far right, including the Nazi genocide of Roma and Jewish people in the Porajmos, also known as the Holocaust.
The campaign leaflet that Nichols was happy to go out and promote demonstrates that racism and demonisation of GRT communities goes unchecked by Labour and that it actively uses such rhetoric for votes. This continues from decades of widespread prejudice in Labour councils that evicted and criminalised Travellers for essentially existing according to their ways of life, whilst depriving them of support, welfare and facilities. It is no wonder that the GRT Socialists, formerly the GRT Labour activist group, have now withdrawn from the party.
Currently GRT and Black people face the very real and immediate threat of the Police, Sentencing and Courts (PSC) Bill – a highly authoritarian measure that substantially reinforces state violence and institutional racism. In recent weeks we have witnessed the government endorse police brutality on peaceful protestors, and the whitewashed Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities report denying the existence of institutional racism. It is shameful that Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have offered little opposition or comment, which many can only read as tacit complicity with the Tories.
Charlotte Nichols has apologised on social media for “hurt” and “offense” caused. However, we note that the Labour Party has not accepted apologies from a number of other members who are known to champion equalities when they have misstepped or misspoken, but instead suspended them. In light of this incident it is now clear that Charlotte Nichols is not qualified to serve as Shadow Minister for Women & Equalities and she must resign or be removed from her post immediately. The Labour Party must also investigate the matter. Suspensions pending investigation must be considered, which should include the MP for Warrington North, the Labour Councillor candidates (Claire Lloyd-Fitzgerald, Helen Milner and Morgan Tarr) whose names are on the offending campaign leaflet, and any other Labour members who were involved with producing the document.
Labour Black Socialists stand unified with Gypsy, Roma and Traveller comrades. We are in the process of learning about the struggles that they face, many of which we share. We encourage our supporters to do the same, be united together and follow @GRTSocialists.
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