CAROLINE ANSELL MP: Peaceful protest in Eastbourne and pandemic safety

While public health is clearly the world’s major front line and meaningful action on climate crisis is still every bit as pressing as it was before the pandemic, what has also been brought into searing focus this last ten days, is the prejudice and discrimination that persists in our societies.

One in three women experience physical or sexual violence. Muslims, Christians, and Jews are persecuted to destitution and death for their faith. And in the shocking and distressing images of George Floyd, killed by a police officer, racism and abuse of power by some were laid bare. The officer and those on scene have been arrested; he has been charged with second degree murder and his colleagues with aiding and abetting.

That people state-side were inspired to protest such outrage is right but true change will not be brokered by those who under cover of protest, ran riot, leaving a trail of destruction behind them.

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George Floyd’s family appealed for peaceful protest and my heart goes out to them.

Here at home, there is genuine concern that those who took to the streets to protest in London last week put their health and the health of others at risk when we are still under a two metre social distance rule.

It was confined to a small minority, but to see incidences of incitement and physical attacks against our own officers, was deeply troubling and wholly unacceptable.

Looking ahead to a protest being organised for this Saturday in Eastbourne, I have the same concerns for public safety.

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I have spoken with our Police and Crime Commissioner to ensure every measure is in place to protect the public and I thank the officers of Sussex Police who have served and protected us through this pandemic and will be a presence on Saturday.

I support peaceful protest – it’s at the heart of our democratic freedoms - and I support the concept of Black Lives Matter because I believe each and every life matters, but these are not usual times.

We have just been through a difficult period of surrendering many of our freedoms to protect the NHS and save lives.

Many constituents have written to me to express their dismay and fear.

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We must all stand up against prejudice, but I hope we don’t all feel the need to join the protest on the day.

Any gathering will necessarily come at some potential risk.

There are other ways to mark the moment and I commend the Herald for providing one in sharing photos of solidarity taken from home.

Another could be making a donation to The Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust, an amazing charity which challenges disadvantage and discrimination. It works for fairness and justice. It is a positive driver for change.

I will donate to it on the day and, I believe, it very much fits in with the wishes of George Floyd’s family.