Parish councillor gathers Essex-wide signatures for petition to MP
- Credit: supplied by Samantha Naik
A parish councillor’s petition to Saffron Walden’s MP has been signed by 147 Essex residents – who are calling for public support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the UK and the USA.
Samantha Naik, a Newport Parish Councillor, said she sent a petition to Saffron Walden MP Kemi Badenoch, who is also Minister for Equalities since February.
The petition asks Mrs Badenoch to “publicly condemn the brutal murder of George Floyd”, a black man killed in the United States during an arrest. It also asks the MP to “provide, consistent with the principles of honesty, openness and transparency”, reports on the “reasons for disproportionate deaths of BAME people from Covid-19”.
Signees of the petition dropped at Conservatives’ office in Saffron Walden on June 10 include Newport, Wicken Bonhunt and Stansted residents, as well as people from Broomfield and Writtle.
Ms Naik said she started the petition because of the events in the US, but that “some of the things in the UK are quite shocking too” - such as the death of rail worker Belly Mujinga, after a man who said he had Covid-19 spat and coughed at her at London’s Victoria station.
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“Our community feels a strong sense of injustice about BAME discrimination and deaths,” said Ms Naik.
She added: “Personally, I feel this way too, because my family came from South Africa; relatives of mine fought in World War Two alongside the British; my family endured apartheid which enshrined racism in law and hurt countless people;
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Ms Naik says the people who signed the petition “care about the community”: “It affects everybody. It divides people in the community. I don’t think we can be happy if we have racism.”
She said she views racism as a non-political issue, because a BAME person experiences it as part of their daily life, “whether covert or not”.
“Poorer people have worse health outcomes. BAME people tend to be poorer because of the equality and race issues they are facing.
“It does suggest we have to know not only why, but we need actions. There are BAME people living in our village.”
Ms Naik also thinks we need to ask BAME people what they experience, and talk and share our feelings.
“You don’t know what it’s like to be treated differently because of who you are,” she said.
She hopes that, as an Equalities Minister, MP Kemi Badenoch will help stop racism.
Ms Naik said: “In February 2020, health inequalities had worsened, and this means society has worsened, with life expectancy falling for poorer people. BAME people are acutely affected by such disadvantages.
“As stated by Marmot in 2010, good intentions are not enough - it is time for action by our Government to remedy these injustices. I urge Mrs Badenoch to read the Marmot Review.”
A spokesperson for Kemi Badenoch said the MP will reply to the petition.
Meanwhile, Mrs Badenoch expressed her thoughts regarding recent events in the UK and in the US: “Like all right-minded people, regardless of their race, I was profoundly disturbed by the death of George Floyd at the hands of the police and I am equally extremely saddened by Belly Mujinga’s experience, shortly before she died. I have addressed both incidents in my statement in the House of Commons on June 4.
“I appreciate why people are choosing to protest at this time, with the anger and feelings of injustice that have been awakened following the recent events in the US. Here in the UK, we have made great strides, but there is much more to do to eradicate prejudice and create opportunity.
“As we are still in the midst of a coronavirus pandemic, at the moment, it is illegal to gather in large groups because of the public health risk. If people are gathering, it is extremely important to ensure social distancing rules are observed. At the current time, because of the threat we face from coronavirus, and the difficulty of social distancing in crowds, I would advise people against attending protests.
“I share concerns about Public Health England’s report on the impact of Covid-19 on ethnic minorities and acknowledge there are still many gaps in our knowledge. The Government is commissioning further data research and analytical work through the Equalities Hub to clarify the reasons for the gaps evident as highlighted by the report, and as Equalities Minister I will be taking this work forward with the Race Disparity Unit in the Cabinet Office, and the Department of Health and Social Care.”