Apology demanded from Southport MP for what councillor says is “clear discrimination” against Black Lives Matter protest

A banner at Saturday’s human rights protest in Southport

Southport’s Conservative MP has been told he should apologise after denouncing the Black Lives Matter protest held in the town at the weekend.

Posting on his Facebook page, Damien Moore made a lengthy criticism of the event, which he’d previously asked residents not to attend.

The MP stated he supported the aims behind it but his opposition was on the basis of Covid concerns, saying:

“The demonstration that took part on Saturday was unhelpful and went someway to undoing our town’s efforts to tackle this pandemic, protect our NHS, and save lives.”

But critics have pointed out that in the very same post he also stated that veterans who had staged their own gathering at the same time just a hundred metres or so away had his “full support”, seemingly unaware it completely undercut his own professed public health stance.

Local councillor Greg Myers, who attended the Black Lives Matter event, says he believes the contradiction leaves the MP with an apology to make, explaining:

“He is actually discriminating against an anti-race discrimination protest while saying he supports racial equality, it’s very confusing.” 

“If public health is his concern then how can he damn the BLM event in the manner he has and then not only fail to address the veteran event in the same terms but actually state they had his “full support”? Either both gatherings were wrong or neither.” 

“How can he wildly speculate about the BLM event increasing Covid-19 here as he did but give the other gathering a free pass and praise? It’s simply antagonistic and clear discrimination in relation to the events, to my mind.” 

Two young local schoolgirls speaking of their experiences of racism here.

 “Mr Moore is keen to stress he supports the aims behind the BLM event and I commend him for that but this post is very mixed messaging that he must make amends for.” 

“No wonder black people are angry if that sort of nonsense is actually coming from their MP. Other residents should be too. There were hundreds of responses on his social media page, with many clearly unhappy over the unfair comments. Buried in there is a wishy-washy reply from him made later on saying all gatherings including those at beaches etc are wrong. That does not begin to address the problems with his post.”  

“He should either apologise immediately to the BLM protestors and organisers or clearly tell the veterans in the same damning terms he used against the BLM event that as far as he’s concerned, they too have endangered Southport and possibly contributed to a future Covid spike.” 

“Though, of course, that would be just as unfair on the vets as he’d have no proof of that claim either – especially given how the lockdown has eroded in recent weeks due to the actions of his own government.” 

“His credibility on the matter is further reduced by the fact that this is an MP who liked a tweet in support of Dominic Cummings as the scandal over his breaking the guidelines erupted. So he seems rather selective in his Covid position to me.”

The MP’s post also claimed that social distancing was observed by “very few people” at the BLM event. It prompted a barrage of angry response from many who had been there, strongly rejecting Damien Moore’s claims. One of the event organisers, local resident Grishma Bijukumar, telling him:

“If you made an effort to turn up instead of encouraging people to not come you’d have seen that everyone was socially distant and had face coverings!”

The vast majority of the crowd wore masks and made efforts to keep their distance.

Protestors pointed out that a raft of measures had been put in place to protect those attending. Stewards were in place to help reinforce the distancing and check that those not doing so were in household groups. They also handed out free facemasks to those who had failed to bring one, with hand sanitiser also on offer. 

Even one of the MP’s own supporters, Ann Pearmain, a former Tory council candidate, who replied to his post to commend him still acknowledged that, in fact, distancing had been observed well, stating:

“When I was at the in Town on Saturday it was very peaceful, with most observing the 2m social distancing and or wearing masks! There was a positive feel, maybe there was some minor altercations, but they did not distract from the message on both sides of the coin.”

Mr Moore, however, denied this and continued to repeat his claims.

Cllr Myers says that the MP is trying to hoodwink residents who weren’t present over the issue to suit his own narrative and is wrong to single out the BLM event, especially given the series of steps it took:

“He wasn’t there, he’s told repeatedly that distancing was well-observed and even by his own supporters but still he persists in trying to say very few did so. This is a man simply trying to justify his own poor decision-making. The vast majority of the crowd outside the town hall made a real effort.” 

Cllr Greg Myers who organised stewarding for the event.

“It was also very clear beforehand that the protest was going ahead despite his objections. At that point, it seems to me that if he was interested in public health and he was also supportive of the event’s aims, as he says, then he should have tried to do something positive to help improve the situation but he didn’t.”

“I’d also been concerned about the public health risk so I contacted the organisers, who I think did a great job of trying to make sure the event was both responsible and peaceful.”

“I asked what measures they were putting in place and discovered that while they intended to socially distance and for people to wear masks there weren’t any stewards to help with this.”

“In that situation, I decided it was far better to offer help to try to improve things and minimise risk. It’s never going to be perfect but by taking action you massively reduce potential harm. Thankfully several of my Southport Labour colleagues agreed.”

“So we volunteered to assist in a non-political capacity with our Labour hi-viz tabbards turned inside out given the human rights nature of the protest.” 

“The MP could easily have discovered this information and helped improve things if only he’d bothered to try.” 

“It was actually a privilege to be there and show support, especially after all the scaremongering that went on. The MP didn’t help with that either, subsequently stating there were violent incidents at the event.” 

Crowd and stewards taking a knee – Photo credit Samantha Fulstow.

“In fact, it centred around what I’d describe as a lone right-wing idiot who attempted to cause a confrontation. He then had to be protected from the results of his own stupidity and was quickly ejected, the police then just as promptly dealing with the matter.” 

Despite efforts by some to portray the event in a different light beforehand, local resident and organiser Ruby Jones made clear that it was always a local affair, commenting:

“We are separate from the official BLM organisation, we are just a group of local residents who wanted to stand up for equality and give a platform to other locals who wanted to share their thoughts and experiences.”  

Cllr Myers says that he believes the MP’s comments only feed into attempts to stoke division in the town:

“Damien Moore can try to condemn one event and not the other but I’m heartened that the vast majority on both “sides” actually respected the views of the other and ensured that the day passed peacefully.” 

“I think both the protestors and the veterans did Southport proud by doing so. As did the police who handled it really well. They also contacted me afterwards to say that having the stewards was certainly beneficial, so those volunteers did their bit too.”

“The testimony I heard at the event from black people of all ages who live in this town has given me a far better understanding of how many residents here have a totally different experience to myself based solely on the colour of their skin. That has to change.” 

“Judging from the local MP’s comments, I’d suggest an apology from him for his crass handling of this matter is a good place to start.” 

The MP’s full post can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/damienmooremp/posts/3358767400800536