Thursday, November 07, 2013

Chair of meeting at Sutton council uses derogatory term at me

At precisely 7:28pm my heart was pumping. The Development Control Committee meeting was scheduled to start at 7:30pm. We hadn’t seen the councillors on the committee since that fateful day (1) they approved application to build an incinerator in Beddington.

Initially I had planned to blue tac the paper banner (above) (2) against the tables in Meeting Room 1 but with two minutes to go Dave Pettener and I conferred and thought the wall behind the councillors would be more visually fitting. Just as the Chair of the committee Councillor John Leach started the meeting, I got out of my seat in the public gallery and stepped over the waist high rope barrier and made my way to the wall behind the councillors. There were tables in front of the wall with pots of tea and coffee and refreshments.  Without hesitation I jumped up on the table and started to unfold the banner. As I started to blue tac it to the wall, with my back to the meeting, I noticed the first corner I had stuck down had come loose. As I reached to stick it back down I was suddenly confronted by Councillor John Leach. He was visibly snarling. He grabbed the fallen end of the banner before I could pick it up and attempted to pull the banner out of my hand. Given it was made of paper; this impromptu banner tug resulted in it ripping. During this moment words were exchanged. I honestly can’t remember what was said but I do remember his snarling mouth calling me ‘sunshine’. It immediately didn’t feel right that he used the word ‘sunshine’. It was said in a condescending derogatory way (3).

By now security guards were ushering me to come down from the table as I held what was left of the banner aloft. I could hear Dave giving his speech from the public gallery. He started with, “This is a peaceful protest.(4)” It must have been quite a scene. I headed to the corner of the table setting and it was about then I considered for a brief second what I must have looked like: - a bearded Asian man standing on a table in a room of aging white middle class people staring at him.

The elephant in the proverbial room regarding the incinerator is: white middle class men and women have taken a decision that will predominately affect a working class black and minority ethnic community living downwind from this incinerator.

Through my eyes I regard Councillor John Leach as an equal. However, through his eyes  - and I looked straight into his eyes as he called me ‘sunshine’ – I am not his equal. More importantly, if this is the social perception and the mindset of the Chair- and the lead councillor on the committee - then taking decisions which affect the health of a community which he may view as inferior is not uncomfortable for him.

It is important to remember that one may only develop a modern British outlook if you live or have lived in modern multicultural Britain .i.e. your local parade of shops might be a Jerk chicken shop, Halal butchers and Polish Sklep. I regularly speak to a shopkeeper who keeps reminding me, "look around you [referring to the multi-ethnic area we live in], is the incinerator going to affect the white people south of the [Croydon] borough?" I try to impress upon him that it is rich folk preserving their area at the expense of poorer people. Maybe I've been wrong.

Dave had now started to read a list of pollutants that will go into the air we will breathe. Throughout the protest the security guards were incredibly professional and it was only a few minutes later that I peacefully stepped down from the table to be escorted along with Dave out of the building.

- A video shot live during the protest by Dave can be viewed here:


1) The Development Control Commitee approved the application at this meeting
2)  New Spanish study shows leukaemia rates  increase in areas downwind from incinerarors -
3) – Benjamin Zephaniah objects to someone calling him ‘sunshine’@12 mins
4)     This is a peaceful protest. We declare this planning committee no longer fit for purpose.  By agreeing to the immoral and illegal incinerator on Beddington Lane you are putting the lives of local people at risk.  The needs of the people have been ignored in preference to the needs of big business.  You are putting profit before people, wealth before health. Children will die. We will see you in court.  

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