Welsh Labour Group Statement on BLM protests

Like millions of people around the world, the tragic death of George Floyd, at the hands of police officers in Minneapolis, has left us shocked, angry and upset.  His death follows that of Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor and too many other Black people whose lives have been cut short by police brutality in the United States in recent years.

Welsh Labour Leader and First Minister, Mark Drakeford has said that the footage which emerged was “among the most shocking and upsetting” that he had ever seen. We absolutely feel for George Floyd’s family and the plight of Black people in America – and the history of Wales’ relationship with Black Americans should be remembered at this time.

We believe that George Floyd must not become just another name added to the roll call of lives lost to racism and injustice. As UK Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer has said, his death must be the catalyst for change.  

The events in the United States are being felt globally, but we must not for a second think that Wales is immune from racism towards all people of colour. Intolerance and prejudice still resides in our communities. As Welsh Labour Members of the Senedd, we stand in solidarity against racism and injustice wherever it takes place. We condemn discrimination in all its guises. We say loudly and clearly that Black Lives Matter.

We are proud of the record of Welsh Labour’s record in government in standing up to racism and prejudice. Our vision is that of an inclusive Wales in which people from all backgrounds can thrive, and where there is no room for xenophobia, racism or bigotry. The Welsh Labour Government is determined to drive out hate crime and ensure victims do not suffer in silence. The Welsh Government works closely with ethnic minority communities and support organisations, such as BAWSO, EYST Wales, Race Council Cymru, Race Equality First and Show Racism the Red Card to challenge discriminatory attitudes and improve outcomes. This engagement is ensuring that the Welsh Government is able to understand the needs and concerns of minority communities across Wales and helps inform decisions going forward. 

We note that the UK Government has now published the report by Public Health England into COVID-19 deaths in the BAME community. The report confirms what we already know – that the socio-economic and health inequalities faced by people of colour exacerbate the risks of dying from COVID-19.  The report failed to come forward with any recommendations on how to reduce the risks for Black people and other at-risk BAME people.

The Welsh Government has convened a BAME COVID-19 Health Advisory Group, chaired by Judge Ray Singh, to advise the Chief Medical Officer, Welsh Ministers and partner organisations on the impact of COVID-19 on BAME communities.  Professor Emmanuel Ogbonna is leading a sub-committee of the Advisory Group to investigate the socio-economic issues that may influence poorer COVID-19 outcomes in BAME groups and any actions that may help. The advisory group will report its initial findings shortly.

The Welsh Government is holding its own urgent investigation to help explain why those from ethnic minority backgrounds are dying at much higher rates from COVID-19 than others and has not waited for the UK Government’s investigation before taking action to help protect ethnic minority community members from the virus. Indeed, a new risk assessment tool was launched last month by the Welsh Government to help people from Black, Asian or other minority ethnic backgrounds working in our NHS and in social care to see if they are at a higher risk of developing more serious symptoms if they come into contact with coronavirus. The risk assessment will allow those identified as having an increased to discuss adjustments to their working arrangements with their employer, including work from home where that is possible. You can find out more about the risk assessment tool by going to: https://gov.wales/written-statement-all-wales-covid-19-workforce-risk-assessment-tool

We welcome the launch of a new investigation by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) into the impact of coronavirus on ethnic minorities. This statutory inquiry will help develop clear, evidence-based recommendations for urgent action to tackle entrenched racial inequalities in Wales and the rest of the UK. It is good to see the that Trade Unions have said that they will fully engage with the inquiry to ensure that the voices of Black workers are heard. We look forward to examining the inquiry’s findings when these are published.

We wholeheartedly support calls to suspend all UK exports of riot control equipment. We welcome the intervention of the Shadow International Trade Secretary, Emily Thornberry who has written to the UK Government to call for an urgent investigation into whether British-made equipment has been used in response to ongoing protests in the United States, and to immediately stop further exports if this is the case. The UK Government cannot hide behind the Special Relationship between the US and the UK as the reason to do nothing if the values that bind our two countries are being so flagrantly abused by Donald Trump. You can read Emily’s letter to the UK Government here: https://labour.org.uk/press/emily-thornberry-demands-action-on-us-riot-control-exports/.

Successive Welsh Labour governments have invested a significant amount of funding to tackle hate crime in Wales. Our Welsh Labour Government works closely with the four Welsh police forces, Police and Crime Commissioners and the Hate Crime Criminal Justice Board to ensure hate crimes are investigated properly, victims are supported and perpetrators – whoever they are – are punished. But, the number of hate crimes reported has increased year on year and we know there is more that needs to be done. That is why the Welsh Government has increased funding to the National Hate Crime Report and Support Centre to provide support and advocacy to victims of hate crime, as well as funding third sector organisations to support those affected by hate crime directed towards ethnic and religious minority communities.

Welsh Government has said that it will launch a new national campaign to reduce hate crime incidents in Wales and promote positive messages about our long history of welcoming diverse and vibrant communities. The four police forces in Wales will be key delivery partners in rolling out this new campaign.  

We stand with and thank all those who have also shown their solidarity with the family of George Floyd and with Black Americans who face the prospect of being attacked by their own President. It is our strong belief that our collective efforts will, in the end, turn the tide and end injustice.

We also echo the words of our Welsh Labour Health Minister Vaughan Gething, who said we all need to stay strong and healthy at this time. Black Lives will still matter once the coronavirus pandemic is over. Killer Mike urged us to “plot, plan, strategise and organise” during this enormously difficult time – and we strongly endorse his advice.