Berkshire

Wokingham Council lowers flag after Black Lives Matter criticism

WBC civic office Image copyright Wokingham Borough Council
Image caption Some residents accuse Wokingham council of 'gesture politics' for its decision to fly its flag at half-mast in memory of George Floyd

A council criticised for refusing to endorse Black Lives Matter (BLM) has flown its civic office flag at half-mast in memory of George Floyd.

Wokingham Borough Council's leader had said last week he would not endorse the movement as it spread an "anti-police message" and had become "political".

But after anger at the decision the authority lowered its flag a month on from Mr Floyd's death.

It has also launched a survey to share "experiences of racism in the borough".

The council said it decide to fly its flag at half-mast to illustrate its "clear support for...the ending of racism and discrimination".

'People cross the road'

Image caption Stacy Thomas said she felt upset after her local council had refused to support the Black Lives Matter movement

The council's Conservative leader, John Halsall, made his remarks about BLM at a council meeting last week, adding that the movement had "become a political organisation" and the council would not be used as a "political football".

Wokingham resident Stacy Thomas said she was upset by the council's stance.

She said: "To me it comes across as old-fashioned values, it comes across as very racist because all I'm hearing is either silence or the fact that we're not supporting BLM."

She said she has experienced racism in Wokingham - where just 1.35 % of the population is black - all her life.

Ms Thomas said she no longer shops in the town centre because she gets "dirty looks" and "people crossing the road away from me".

Wokingham mayor councillor Malcolm Richards said: "There is no place for racism in our community and we are committed to tackling it.

"We still want to hear from residents across the borough about their experiences of race and racism and would encourage them to take part in our survey."

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