Anti-racism protesters in London have said the head of the Government’s new Race Inequality Commission Munira Mirza must quit her post.
Today thousands of activists marched from Hyde Park, to Parliament Square and then down Whitehall to Trafalgar Square calling. Up to 14 police vans were on hand as Scotland Yard warned previous tallies had been marred by a ‘small minority intent on violence’.
But the protests appeared good-natured, with no signs of opposing far-right counter-demonstrators like the previous weekend. One of the chants at today’s rally was ‘Munira Mirza must go’.
Boris Johnson’s decision to appoint Ms Mirza to lead his new commission on race disparity has been met with dismay by many equality campaigners and think tanks.
She has been criticised heavily for describing structural racism as ‘more of a perception than reality’ and for saying the anti-racism movement has fostered a ‘culture of grievance’.
In a rousing speech at today’s protest in the capital, organiser Imarn Ayton said: ‘We are all here today because we know that black lives matter, we are all here today because we know that black is beautiful.
‘And we are all here today because we know that it is time to burn down institutional racism. Boris Johnson has responded to our cry, Boris Johnson has heard our cry and he has responded with a new race inequality commission.
‘We appreciate a response, we like a response but we know that a grave mistake has been made, a catastrophic mistake has been made.
‘Boris Johnson has appointed a lady called Munira Mirza to head up our race inequality commission. This is a woman who does not believe in institutional racism – she has argued it is more of a perception than a reality.”
‘(Munira Mirza) does not believe in what we believe in, she’s not in line with what we believe in. So let me tell you right now, so here to make sure that everyone knows this today.’
She led the crowd in chanting ‘Munira Mirza must go’ and ‘institutional racism is a reality not a perception’.
Ms Ayton also called for the implementation of the recommendations made by David Lammy’s review into outcomes for black and minority ethnic people in the criminal justice system.
It is thought Mirza wants to appoint former Equalities and Human Rights Commission head Trevor Phillips, who was previously criticised for saying UK Muslims were a ‘nation within a nation’.
Responding to the PM’s appointment the Institute of Race Relations think tank said: ‘Any enquiry into inequality has to acknowledge structural and systemic factors. Munira Mirza’s previous comments describe a “grievance culture” within the anti-racist field and she has previously argued that institutional racism is ‘a perception more than a reality.
‘It is difficult to have any confidence in policy recommendations from someone who denies the existence of the very structures that produce the social inequalities experienced by black communities.’
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