As I know you will be aware, George Floyd, a black American, was killed while being restrained by police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was handcuffed face down on the ground and restrained with a police officer’s knee on his neck for almost nine minutes. In video footage of the incident, George Floyd can be heard saying he can’t breathe. He was tragically pronounced dead at a nearby hospital shortly afterwards. He was originally arrested after being accused of using a counterfeit $20 note and was unarmed.
Following this incident, daily protests against police brutality and structural racism have taken place across the United States and around the world, including in the UK. These have been led by campaigning groups such as Black Lives Matter. I am aware of video footage showing further excessive force being used by law enforcement while trying to manage the protests in the US. Some of these videos have shown officers using batons, tear gas, pepper spray and rubber bullets on protesters and bystanders.
I share the strong concerns of those who have been protesting and stand in solidarity with black communities in the UK, the US and around the world. Throughout my life I have consistently held the view that every human life is of equal value. The basic human rights of black people need to be respected and asserted. It is on us all to take action to dismantle the structural and institutional practices that entrench racism in our societies.
I am deeply concerned that British-sold equipment may be being used inappropriately by law enforcement authorities in the US. I have therefore joined calls on the government to immediately suspend any exports of riot control equipment to the US, pending a review of whether they are being used in response to the protests. Emily Thornberry MP, Labour’s International Trade Spokeswoman has written to the Government as part of the Labour Party’s Frontbench response on this matter.
I also think that Boris Johnson should continue to raise the US Government’s response to the protests with President Trump. He must urge the President to de-escalate tensions and leave him in no doubt about the level of feeling in our country. The Leader of the Labour Party has written to the Prime Minister calling on him to urge the President to respect human rights and the fundamental democratic right to peaceful protest.