Hate crime campaign: Stamp it out or risk problems snowballing, says Deputy
JERSEY must take heed of the terror tragedy in New Zealand and the murder of MP Jo Cox and endeavour to stamp out all instances of hate – whether criminal or not, a Jersey politician has said.
Deputy Inna Gardiner, who was allegedly the victim of abuse because of her cultural background during her by-election campaign earlier this year, has called on Islanders to stand up against hate and challenge it – whether they see it in the street or online.
An investigation into alleged hate abuse directed at the Kazakhstan-born politician is still open with the States police.
She was speaking ahead of the launch of the States police's first hate crime campaign on Monday. The campaign is due to last three weeks.
The St Helier No 3/4 Deputy said that since then, and through her role as a non-executive director of Caritas Jersey, she has been made aware of numerous examples of hate in Jersey.
She spoke of an African finance worker who changed her job because of racial abuse, a Polish couple and their children who were threatened after moving into a block of flats and numerous children in schools who have been mocked or bullied because of their accents.
The Islander, who has been in Jersey for over ten years, added that most recently she had been subjected to abuse online for a tweet she made about Liberation Day in which she said it was a ‘beautiful day to remember our past’. A reply, which has since been deleted, read: ‘It’s not your past, it’s ours’.
Deputy Gardiner said: ‘This is not hate. This, I don’t think, should be subject to criminal process. It’s not about prosecutions it’s about having a conversation and once you start that maybe people will think twice.
‘If you look at New Zealand [the terror attack in Christchurch earlier this year] it probably started with some words and then built from there. Jersey is very safe, we are not seeing anything at all like this, but we need to be sure and do anything in our power to stop hate reaching this level.
‘We don’t have a major problem here but we don’t want issues to get worse and then you have another Jo Cox.’
The MP was murdered in 2016 by Thomas Mair – an extreme-right supporter.
Deputy Gardiner said she was humbled by the support she received from Islanders after the offensive tweet and called on others who witness hate incidents, against any minority group, to call out hate in the community.
‘I had lots of people, even those who are not my supporters, who said this is not acceptable and I am welcome here,’ she said.
She added: ‘Sometimes people are not standing up and saying, “We do not want this here”, and then the person does not go to the police and the racist gets away with it or thinks it’s acceptable. It’s a vicious circle. We are sending a message [by not acting or reporting incidents to the police] that this is okay. It makes us powerless. I reported it and that is what people should do. It’s not about prosecutions but if you report at least the police can speak to the person.’
She added: ‘Around the time of the campaign I had maybe dozens of messages online about me and my Israeli citizenship. Some of us who were campaigning were due to meet at the apple crusher [outside Marks & Spencer on King Street] to go out leafleting. For seconds, because of the comments about me being Israeli, I was worried about going out and being approached aggressively.
‘I decided that they were just keyboard warriors but for a few seconds I thought about not going out.
‘I grew up as a Jew in a predominately Muslim country – it makes you a bit tougher to things like this. The point I want to make is that I was able to go out but for other people it might force them to stay at home and that is not okay.’
‘Individually we fail. Individually it’s the path to the gas chambers, but together we can combat hate.’