JANE NICHOLL reports on how Black Lives Matter activists responded to councillors’ ‘meaningless words’ at a community-led event at Park Hill
Croydon Council’s failing housing policies cannot escape criticism, even at a Black Lives Matter protest which some leading Labour councillors sought to hijack and turn into a campaign event for their own political ambitions.
Saturday’s Black Lives Matter protest in Park Hill was attended by a crowd of around 300, and unlike the demonstrations in central London, there were no pissed-up members of the far-right making an embarrassing ugly spectacle of themselves, urinating everywhere and disrupting the afternoon.
There were two full hours of speeches in the sunshine, mostly met with rapturous applause and shouts of “black lives matter” and “no justice, no peace, no racist police”.
There was a rousing speech about the much-loathed Lunar House, which houses the Home Office’s distrusted immigration department, and some of the crowd later moved on to protest outside the building.
But not before a scathing critique of the council’s gentrification of Croydon and its effects on immigrants and the black community, which was greeted with cheering and applause.
The Mayor of Croydon, Humayun Kabir, and Labour councillor Patsy Cummings spoke to the crowd, which included a cluster of other councillors who were huddled safely together, sitting by the front of the stage.
They included Paul Scott and his delightful wife Alison Butler, the Richard and Judy of the Town Hall. They looked like they were at Woodstock rather than a BLM protest.
They were in for a shock when BLM activist Sam Roberts got up to make his speech about gentrification, which was directed specifically at Scott and Butler, delivering a blistering attack on their housing policies in Croydon.
“I made the speech just because it wasn’t right,” he said.
“Someone brought up the point of gentrification earlier on and explained how that was an issue in London and with immigrant and black communities. Then I heard the Mayor and councillors from Croydon Council come up and give their talks – their meaningless words.
“I saw Paul Scott and Alison Butler and I thought it isn’t right to just sit there and not be called out for what they are doing to Croydon. The protest was community-led and they’re sitting there all smug as if they’re not selling off the community.
“It just had to be said.”
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