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PSNI Chief Constable tells Derry's Black Lives Matter protestors 'fines will not be revoked'

African Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI) to lead Black Lives Matters in North

Organisers of today's 'Black Lives Matter' rally in Derry to be reported by police to the Public Prosecution Service

Some of the crowd who gathered at Guildhall Square on June 6

The PSNI's Chief Constable has told Black Lives Matter protestors that fines will not be revoked ahead of a meeting with organisers today.

Four times as many fines and notices were handed out at the Black Lives Matter protest in Derry compared to the one held in Belfast.

On Saturday June 6 police officers in Derry issued 57 fines for breaches of the current Coronavirus Health Protection Regulations.

In Belfast 11 fines and three Community Resolution NoticeS (CRN) were issued for breaches of regulations.

An investigation has since been launched into policing on the day by the Police Ombudsman.

The Derry News questioned Derry's District Commander Chief Superintendent Emma Bond about the police operation on the day - https://www.derrynow.com/news/derry-news/554188/derry-s-first-female-police-boss-on-challenges-of-the-position.html

In a letter sent to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community, Simon Byrne said: “At our previous meeting, many of you asked me to consider revoking the fixed penalty notices that were issued to a number of protestors on Saturday the 6th June 2020.

“Guidance provided by the department of justice Northern Ireland states that ‘a penalty notice may be cancelled after issue only where it has not been issued in accordance with the law’.

"I do not have any information to give me that belief and thus the fixed penalty notices will not be revoked by the police service NI."

The letter did not address the issue of prosecution of the organisers or an apology to the community.

In response to the Chief Constable’s letter, an African and Caribbean Support Organisation Northern Ireland (ACSONI) spokesperson said: “Our community is hurt. The inconsistent  policing of the Black Lives matter rallies  by the PSNI on the 6th of June goes against the PSNI’s mission statement, ‘We care, we listen we act’.

"The Black community do not think the PSNI is responsive to the Black community, and based on the Chief Constable’s letter dated the 29th of June 2020, we do not see any evidence that they grasp the gravity of the hurt and anger they have caused.

"The PSNI has a duty to treat everyone in Northern Ireland fairly; this is neccessary for racial equality to be achieved. The organisations voted unanimously to continue their demand that the fines and criminal charges are dropped and an apology is issued.

"Many community leaders expressed that members of the Black community do not think the PSNI is ready to engage  meaningfully in discussions and solutions.

"We are very keen to work in partnership with the PSNI, but not until the PSNI takes seriously issues of systemic racism in its operations and demonstrates, meaningful engagement to build trust and accountability within our community rather than tokenistic gestures. We want to see evidence that they are ready to commit to the equal treatment of all communities, consistent policing, and meaningful change within Northern Ireland.”

'HARASSED'

Following a meeting of organisations representing the Black community in Northern Ireland, ACSONI has now been appointed as the representative organisation working strategically on ‘Black Lives Matter’ issues in Northern Ireland.

Groups from across the Black community in Northern Ireland met yesterday, June 29, to discuss matters affecting the community such as systemic racism, lack of equality and the recent policing of the ‘Black Lives Matter' rallies in Derry and Belfast on June 6, as well as leadership within the community.

North West Migrants Forum says the 'inconsistent, disproportionate and discriminatory policing' of the events of June 6 has highlighted the need for a coordinated response from the Black community to systemic racism.

During the meeting, the community unanimously agreed ACSONI was best placed to lead on ‘Black Lives matters’ to strengthen the network of black community groups in Northern Ireland.

A spokesperson for ACSONI said it is delighted to be the representative organisation for the Black community in Northern Ireland and look forward to working with all the groups to achieve true racial equality.

The meeting highlighted that the PSNI must work towards repairing relationships with the Black community.

ACSONI claims there have been a 'series of failures' by the PSNI to fulfil its obligations under UK and EU equality legislation that has damaged community relations.

"We reiterate the call for the fines and charges to be dropped, and for the PSNI to issue an apology for their tactics," a spokesperson said.

Speaking on behalf of the group, a spokesperson added: “The response of the police to the ‘Black Lives Matter’ rallies was biased and clearly disproportionate in comparison to the way other public gatherings have been handled.

“The PSNI harassed and intimidated participants and issued fines to selective attendees for what they believed to be a breach of public health regulations. The PSNI’s actions undermined our trust and confidence in the police and revealed the degree of institutional racism present within our justice system.”

The Chief Constable is set to meet with leaders of the Black community today, June 30, at 4.30pm as a follow up to a previous meeting held on June 9, 2020.

Organisations represented at the meeting included: ACSONI; Diverse Youth Network; North West Migrants Forum (NWMF); Ethnic Minority Sports Organisation Northern Ireland (EMSONI), Horn of Africa Peoples’ Aid (HAPANI); Place of Victory for All Nations; Counselling for All Nations; JoinHer Network; Northern Ireland Somali Association (NISA); Caribbean Touch NI; Connect Africa Women Network; Ghana Association NI; Nigerian Community Association (NICONI); TUNMICRO SF, Awareness of Institutional Racism ( AIR) and PIVOT.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email editor@derrynews.net or editor@derrypost.com at any time.


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