Islington Council says ‘no to hate crime’ in emergency motion

Cllrs Richard Watts and Kaya Comer-Schwartz

Cllrs Richard Watts and Kaya Comer-Schwartz - Credit: Archant

Earlier this week, a father and son walk through an Islington park. They see a man with a loaf of bread, feeding ducks in a pond. The boy is curious. The father asks the man if his son can take a slice. They get chatting. The bread man asks the father where he is from. Syria, he replies. He is one of a handful of refugees to have recently fled the turmoil of his home country to make a new home in Islington. The bread man, with tears in his eyes, says: “I want you to know how welcome you are here.”

It was an anecdote from Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz at last night’s meeting of Islington Council. But that was where the happy stories ended.

Councillors were compelled to raise an emergency motion, setting out the authority’s stance against xenophobia, after a string of hate crimes in the borough since last week’s EU referendum Leave vote.

Last night, for instance, graffiti reading “pack your bags scum” and “f*** the EU” emerged in Newington Green. Earlier this week, an unnamed Islington councillor was said to have been racially abused in a supermarket.

Tomorrow morning, between 10am and midday, there will be an anti-hate crime rally led by Islington North MP and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

And speaking in the town hall last night, council leader Richard Watts, who raised the emergency motion, said: “I was personally immensely disappointed by the referendum result economically, but I had underestimated the social risks.

“The referendum has unleashed a wave of hate crime across the country, and unfortunately we have heard anecdotal evidence of hate crime in Islington, too. It’s time that everyone comes together. This borough is for everyone who wants to contribute, work hard and give back. We say no to hate crime.”

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Cllr Watts added: “We know there are real problems in the economy, and socially, that drive people to frustration. Jobs, housing, pay: many people are worried about the future. People are concerned about the direction of the country. I believe this is driven by the government in Westminster.

“But we want to say EU residents are welcome in this borough. And we have always been proud to look after people fleeing for their lives, such as from Syria. We are determined to build a cohesive society to answer those questions properly. We will use Brexit as a spur to deliver for ordinary working people.”