Parties clash over Black Lives Matter motion

A MOTION backing Black Lives Matter was passed by Rotherham Council with no votes against - despite some opposition members criticising the movement.

It was tabled by Labour’s Cllr Kerry Albiston with the aim of “making Rotherham an anti-racist town” and standing in solidarity with black and minority ethnic communities.

Cllrs Allen Cowles and Alan Napper, both of Rotherham Democratic Party, spoke critically of the campaign during last Wednesday’s online full council meeting.

Cllr Napper said it was inappropriate for the local Labour group to put forward such a motion on the same day the party had agreed damages to ex-employees over the anti-Semitism row.

He added: “Everybody’s failed to note that black lives don’t matter to a lot of black people. In Rwanda it was black on black. Al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are killing black people every single day.

“It’s education that we need.

“I have three friends from being infants who are mixed race. I know when I’ve been out with them they have suffered racism and we’ve got into trouble having to fight and stick up for them.

“But all lives matter and just to say black lives matter I think is wrong.”

Labour’s Cllr Dominic Beck responded: “I was hoping no-one would mention ‘all lives matter’ because I was hoping that people involved in public life would know better.

“To say all lives matter just completely misses the point of the whole campaign.

“It’s a cop-out and just shows complete ignorance towards the issues we’re actually raising here.

“When you see people say all lives matter, it’s always from a white person. 

It’s usually from people who have been lucky enough never to have experienced racism themselves.”

Deputy leader Cllr Gordon Watson said: “In my life, I’ve experienced a really small amount of discrimination. 

“When I was a student missing the last bus and walking home, with hair down my back nearly touching my belt, I was regularly stopped by police. It really used to grind me down.

“Then I became a teacher, cut my hair, put a shirt and tie on and suddenly I’m a pillar of society and it’s never, ever happened to me again in the last 40-odd years.

“It must be really difficult if that’s what you experience all your life. 

“I can’t possibly think how that would make you feel, knowing that was going to be the experience of your children and grandchildren.”

Cllr Saghir Alam said: “In Britain, whatever indicator you look at, whether education qualifications, employment, housing, health outcomes, the black community score badly. There are huge gaps and this needs to be addressed.

“As elected members, we all have responsibility if we see any form of  discrimination to call it out.”

Cllr Albiston thanked Cllr Napper, saying his words had shown why the motion was needed. 

She added: “I didn’t expect to hear comments that I’ve heard today from the opposition.