Statement on the Murder of George Floyd

The murder of George Floyd was heart-breaking, and although almost impossible to watch the video of his brutal murder, he deserved the respect of our not averting our eyes. Watching the situation unfold since his death I have felt much anger, pain and hurt for all those who knew and loved George Floyd, but also the heartache of communities across the USA from yet another cruel and completely unnecessary loss of life.

His death at the hands of those who were meant to keep him safe is unforgivable and I truly understand the anger and disappointment that has consumed the USA.

I am thankful that the Police Officer responsible has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter – I hope that justice will be done. The other three officers involved, previously wrongly uncharged, face counts of aiding and abetting murder. Good policing matters and anyone who fails to live up to those responsibilities must face justice.

Racism has no place in our society. I fully support the right to peacefully protest so that communities can make themselves heard and mourn together. Peaceful protest must be protected to take place safely. I have been horrified by some of the heavy-handed and frankly disgusting videos I have seen of Police Officers in the US behaving abominably.

In the immediate, it is vital that the Leaders of each State and President Trump do all they can to make sure that Police, State Authorities and the Military use appropriate and measured force only and facilitate protesters being able to continue peacefully and to allow their voices to be heard. We cannot see a continuation of the scenes of the last week.

It is also disturbing to see legitimate peaceful protest hijacked and infiltrated by those with malign or hostile interests, and I condemn the looting, rioting, and acts of violence we have seen primarily in the US, but also the unprovoked violence and abuse faced by our Police during protests in London over the last few days. Inciting hatred against our Police Officers in the UK is unacceptable, and the scenes of violence against them in London horrified me, which included attacks on black Police Officers. There is no place for this violence against the same keyworkers we clapped for only a short time ago and continue to put themselves at risk to keep us safe during the pandemic.

We must all work harder to create communities in which we don’t need to protest to make clear that racism is unacceptable, or any form of hatred and division. In this Country, we have policing by consent and I want to pay tribute to our Police for all they do to protect us. Community tolerance and understanding matters, and in my previous career I saw how hatred is manipulated to become violence and terrorism. We all have a role to play to defeat hatred, and it starts at home and with those around us. We can all refuse to accept division and hatred.