Fighting the Far Right
This is a Call to Action
You might be aware that there has been an issue with the new flagpoles on the prom and have seen suggestions for ‘resolutions’ from various sources, including Penzance Town Councillors and Cornwall Councillors.
I wanted to give you a clear idea of what is going on here.
On 31st Dec, overnight, Union flags were hoisted on all 18 poles.
We are pretty sure that this was very likely done by people with links to the British Supporters Group on Facebook.
On New Years Day I issued a statement saying that as the flags had been hoisted without permission form the owners of the poles – which is Cornwall Council – that they would probably have to be removed. I also said that Penzance Council had not had anything to do with the flags.
I was messaged many times by two Cornwall Councillors saying that the flags were causing offence- and PZC should remove them immediately.
Cornwall Live then posted a story on their website and that is when it started to get difficult.
The people who raised the flags turned what was a simple issue of the hoisting of flags without permission into an ‘assault on their flag and their identity’.
The comments on the Cornwall Live article were, and still are racist, misogynistic and offensive.
The raising of the flags by this group was, I feel, done to specifically provoke this response.
My Penzance Mayor website received over 4000 racist and abusive comments before I unpublished the page.
Mail Online then published the story and the abuse and ’shouting’ ramped up a considerable notch.
If you look at the Mail Online comments – which I don’t recommend you do – you will see that the vast majority of comments are not from Penzance residents. The issue was turned into a lightning rod for those with what I would term extreme nationalist views – and I am not talking about Cornish Nationalists, who have expressed their support for me and the council publicly.
I am talking about British Nationalists.
Devon and Cornwall Police are investigating what they consider to be hate crimes and malicious communication crimes.
On Sunday evening a van came to my home, sat outside for 10 minutes with the lights directly shining into my sitting room. They then drove up to the gate, flashing all their lights and the occupants began shouting abuse before they drove off.
I’m telling you this so you have the background and the history from me and not from any other source.
The prom is a space for joy and recreation – it is not a civic space to be politicized by a vocal but ultimately small minority.
If we decide to hang flags on the prom now then the agenda for our town will be being set by an organization that is possibly linked to the extreme right.
There is a petition to ‘reinstate our national flags’. When I last checked 92% of signatories were not from Penzance so the petition is not evidence of a ‘groundswell’ of opinion.
Councillors, elected by you, should be in control of the agenda and the timetable of any change to the flag policy. If we act with what I see as undue haste, driven by fear then we are signalling to this, and to other extreme groups, that the way to change policy is through bullying and intimidation, not through democratic processes.
We must deal with this calmly and with courage. Councillors are wrong in stating that this needs a swift resolution. It does not.
The world has more important things to be dealing with now. (Covid-19, anyone?)
A swift ‘knee jerk’ reaction will make this whole issue flare up again. Members of the British Support Group are already declaring that moves to get flags up over the winter – and those flags to include the Union and St Pirans flag as ‘a victory for common British sense’.
It is not, it is a victory for bullies and for those who shout the loudest.
If we act too quickly then we will make elected local councils pretty much obsolete.
It will demonstrate that your elected councillors are controlled by those who want to promote their own, very narrow, agenda.
The flags poles are not there for political statements.
If the poles on the Prom are used as some councillors have proposed then they are turned them into political objects.
This would be a sorry change of emphasis.
We have to stop this sort of politicization and this sort of nationalism.
All those people who have cited ‘the war’ in their hurtful and hateful comments must remember that the war was fought to stop this sort of nationalism in the first place.
I have read the comments on Mail Online. Only 2% of the comments were from Penzance – all of the rest were from somewhere else.
We must remember is that this is a small group of people dictating the direction of the council and the town, a small group of people trying to fundamentally change the nature of the Prom and the flags and the way our town is run.
There is a silent majority in Penzance who do not want the Prom to be turned into a political arena.
So, please, if you don’t want the prom to become a political space don’t be silent.
Don’t just click the react button.
Contact your councillors, both Penzance Council if you live in Penzance and Cornwall Council too, as soon as possible and tell them that the prom is not for politics, it’s for joy.
It is for all of us.