BRIGHTON and Hove City Council has pledged to become an anti-racist council ahead of Black Lives Matter protests in the city tomorrow.

Councillor Carmen Appich acknowledged the authority's position as a "predominantly white council" but said it must "recognise what we don’t know, what we don’t experience and see".

So it has promised a series of actions including the development of an anti-racism strategy to tackle discrimination in Brighton and Hove.

The announcement comes in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, which has opened up discussions on the subject of race across the world.

The Argus:

This includes suggestions that monuments dedicated to those with links to the slave trade should be removed - with protesters toppling a statue of slave-trader Edward Colston in Bristol last weekend.

Cllr Appich, who is the lead councillor for equalities, said the removal of this statue by protesters was "understandable" and was a "result of the abject failure of the systems in place and the lack of discussion about statues associated with any form of oppression and bigotry".

After the Edward Colston monument was torn down, anti-racist group Topple The Racists posted a list of more than 75 further monuments earlier this week which it said should be removed.

This included two plaques in Brighton, with one already having been taken down this morning.

The Argus:

Cllr Appich acknowledged the city's history.

She said: "We must recognise that, as a Georgian town, our wealth and comfort is built on the sugar trade and enslavement.

"We pride ourselves on being a leading city on diversity and a place of sanctuary where people from all backgrounds can call home. 

"We can’t be blinkered to the fact that moving around the city our BME residents see memorials to historic racism and oppression. We will not sweep this under the carpet. 

"We need to recognise and educate ourselves and our visitors. As a major UK tourist destination, we can influence and educate many."

This follows the council's promise to review all plaques, monuments, statues and street names on public land to ensure they celebrate legacies which reflect the city's values.

The Argus:

So, the authority has pledged to "amplify its actions and commit itself to action for the long-term".

Cllr Appich said: "This is about recognising who does and doesn’t have privilege and how those with privilege can use their power and influence to enable silenced or ignored voices to be heard, remove barriers, and ensure opportunities are open to all, so that everyone gets to live a full life free from discrimination and harm."

Action will include:

  • Reaching out to and working with BME communities to create and deliver an anti-racism strategy
  • Focusing on supporting BME businesses through council procurement and encouraging local support
  • Working collectively with other public bodies, especially the police, on challenging each other to improve diversity and eradicate racism in our organisations
  • Ensuring a BME representative sits on the council’s policy and resources committee
  • Creating and delivering a civic leadership programme aimed at increasing participation in local decision making within under-represented communities
  • Improving our collaboration with BME communities
  • Resourcing BME groups to have stronger voices and influence
  • Educating councillors and officers on white privilege, on language and structural racism
  • Working with BME communities and groups to agree our approach to different statues, plaques and street names; removing some, retaining some and erecting educational information boards and walks
  • Celebrating the legacies which fully reflect the city’s values and population

Cllr Appich also spoke of the Black Lives Matter protests planned in Brighton tomorrow, saying the council supported the demonstration and called for it to be "peaceful and safe".

The Argus:

The event, organised by Brighton Black Lives Matter, will see protesters meet at Brighton Palace Pier before marching through the city to "present the horrible truth of racism still lurking explicitly and subtly in the UK today".

Cllr Appich said: "We’re calling for peaceful protests this weekend – similar to those we saw last year on climate change.

"If you’re protesting – and we fully support the right to protest – please maintain safe physical distancing and take the right precautions to keep your family and community safe from Covid-19. 

"We advise avoiding public transport if possible, washing your hands before leaving home and when you return, keeping a physical distance of two metres from people outside of your household, and staying home if you or someone in your household has symptoms of Covid-19.

"Wearing a face covering could also help protect others.

"As a white woman, I can empathise, discuss and inform myself, but I have no lived experience, so can never fully understand what impact statues of people like Edward Colston have on people whose ancestors were enslaved.

The Argus:

"Some may be against the action taken in Bristol by people last weekend to forcibly remove Colston’s statue, but I think it’s understandable and is a result of the abject failure of the systems in place and the lack of discussion about statues associated with any form of oppression and bigotry.

"I ask people not to target monuments or memorials in Brighton and Hove this weekend and to trust us to take any appropriate action following discussions to review all plaques, monuments, statues and street names on public land, with our communities.

"These discussions aren’t about re-writing or changing history, this is about ensuring that values associated with freedom are reflected in our city not oppression and bigotry.

“It is important to remember our history. We are not erasing history. We must acknowledge the contribution the sugar trade played in the growth of the city.

“But this is a history to be studied and learnt from, not to celebrate."