THE LEADER of the borough council has denied linking Black Lives Matter and the killings in Forbury Gardens.
Speaking at this evening’s borough council executive meeting, Cllr John Halsall, said: “None of my social media posts have linked Black Lives Matter with the killings in
Forbury Gardens. In case there was any possibility of a mistaken conflation, I posted a clarification, this stated: ‘I would like to make it clear that there is no suggestion that the Black Lives Matter march that afternoon had anything to do with what has now been described as a terrorist incident’.”
Cllr Halsall was being questioned by resident Elizabeth Mayers, who asked him to reconsider his position as council leader.
In response, he said: “Wokingham Borough Council is antiracist, promotes equality and celebrates diversity. We are determined to do better to ensure that every resident in the borough feels truly valued. It will continue to be so whilst I am leader.”
He added: “This is an important community issue and I will continue to lead the Council on behalf of communities, working with the independent BME forum, and listening to staff and residents on their views on this vitally important issue.
“Working with Council officers I will address the inequalities that are identified and I determinedly take forward our ongoing quest for community cohesion.
“If any comments I have made have been offensive to anyone I apologise unreservedly; that was never my intention. Rather by reaching out, I hope to bring residents together.”
He added: “It is my sincere hope that the world can change for the better as a result of the outcry it has produced.”
Cllr Halsall ended by quoting Nelson Mandela. He said: “I detest racialism, because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.”
But Ms Mayers said Cllr Halsall’s answer felt “insincere and scripted” and that his “apology in Wokingham.Today” was a more sincere statement.
She added that Cllr Halsall showed a “lack of understanding or knowledge about Black Lives Matter, as a human rights movement which was founded in 2013.
Instead, she asked “what steps and commitment are you prepared to make to ensure your behaviour does not contravene the councillors code of conduct again?”
Cllr Halsall denied the claim, stating: “I don’t believe my conduct has contravened the code nor the Nolan principles. I reiterate where we are — as a council we are anti-racist, promote equality and do our very best to tackle racism.”
Ms Mayers called for commitments to be made, but Cllr Halsall moved on. Instead, Ms Mayers shook her head in silence.