At the end of last week shocking footage emerged of a torrent of vile racist abuse being directed at a man travelling home from work on a Salford bus. The footage was widely shared on social media, thankfully leading to the perpetrator’s arrest and, in the process exposing much of what he said to attempt to justify his behaviour as utter nonsense (he had claimed that his 77 year old Grandfather had fought in World War II though, at 77, he would have been only 5 or 6 years old when the war ended in 1945). It’s disgusting crimes like this that demonstrate the importance of our support for Hate Crime Awareness Week.
Hate Crime Awareness Week is a national initiative that has been promoted locally in Greater Manchester by the office of the Police and Crime Commissioner, Tony Llloyd. It has been an annual event for the last five years and began on Monday this week. It has involved a range of events being held across the region including many, right here in Tameside.
Whilst the example I gave above was that of racist abuse, hate crimes are no less serious when committed against people on the basis of religion, gender, sexuality or disability. It’s for this reason that a range of different organisations were involved in the events that marked the week in Tameside. In addition to the Council roadshow which visited busy shopping and leisure locations around the Borough, LGBT group Out Loud created a piece of artwork to mark the week, disability advocacy group People First Tameside used digital storytelling to discuss their experiences and the Friends of Duke Street Music Project are composing a piece of music to communicate the issue of hate crime.
Appropriately, the week also coincided with Tameside Council’s launching of the ‘Safe Spaces’ initiative. Safe spaces are designated places around the Borough where people who feel threatened can express their identity without fear of discrimination or attack. They are also locations where hate crimes and incidents can be reported. Operated by local organisations and agencies, they are independent of the police so as to recognise that some victims may have concerns about going to the police, or lack the confidence to make a report themselves. Many of them are organisations that can offer support to hate crime victims in addition to approaching the police on their behalf. The full list of safe spaces is available online here www.tameside.gov.uk/hatecrime/reporting/locations.
Tameside is a diverse community, and it is from this diversity that we draw strength and are a more vibrant and successful place. Schemes that root out, expose and deal with, discrimination of any kind will always enjoy my full support. In the words of the late Jo Cox MP, we are far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.