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Tue, 7 July 2020

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Keir Starmer tells Labour staff George Floyd death should ‘shine a light’ on UK’s own problems with racism

Keir Starmer tells Labour staff George Floyd death should ‘shine a light’ on UK’s own problems with racism

People take a knee during a Black Lives Matter protest rally at Windrush Square, Brixton, south, London.

3 min read

The racism experienced by black people in the United States is not “a unique phenomenon”, Keir Starmer has told Labour staff as Black Lives Matters protests took place around the UK.

In a joint message with his deputy leader Angela Rayner, seen by PoliticsHome, Sir Keir said Labour’s leadership is “shocked and angered” by the death of George Floyd, a US citizen who died after being restrained by a police officer.

And he argued that the wave of protests across America and beyond in the wake of Mr Floyd’s death had “shone a light on the racism and hatred experienced by many across the world, including in our own country”.

The comments are the furthest the Labour leader has gone in saying the UK now has its own battle to fight against anti-black racism.

Boris Johnson on Wednesday night said he was “appalled and sickened to see what happened” to Mr Floyd, who died after a police officer was filmed kneeling on his neck for eight minutes while arresting him for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 banknote.

And, in his first direct message to US President Donald Trump, who deployed the National Guard to meet protesters as cities imposed curfews, the Prime Minister said “racism and racist violence has no place in our society”. 

The comments came as hundreds of protesters gathered outside Downing Street, where there were clashes with police.

In a joint message sent to all Labour staff on Wednesday night, Sir Keir and Ms Rayner said they were "shocked and angered by George Floyd’s death in police custody" and had "watched in horror as protestors peacefully exercising their right to protest have been met with force by police".

"As socialists and anti-racists we stand in complete solidarity with those standing up against police brutality towards Black people" - Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner

“We are appalled by the response of President Trump and the failure of our own government to condemn his actions in the wake of George Floyd’s killing," they add.

And, making clear that they believe the UK has its own lessons to learn on the treatment of black people, the leadership team add: “The death of George Floyd has yet again shone a light on the racism and hatred experienced by many across the world, including in our own country - but particularly the racism experienced by Black people across the world. 

“Now is not the time to treat racism and its consequences in the United States as a unique phenomenon.

"Now more than ever, it is incumbent on all of us to face up to, understand and address the systemic racial discrimination that exists in our own communities, and especially to address the reality and impact of anti-Black racism raised by the Black Lives Matter movement across the world.”

The pair meanwhile acknowledge that events in the US will be “particularly difficult and distressing for our Black colleagues”, who will be “sadly acutely aware of some of the issues raised by the George Floyd killing through their own lived experience here in the UK”.

And they say “our doors are always open to staff who may need support or simply want to share their own experiences and views”, adding: “We are your allies in this fight.”

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