- Premier calls for vigilance against intimidation of immigrants
- Khan says capital’s ‘Leave’ voters shouldn’t be demonized
Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Sadiq Khan pledged a “zero tolerance” response to hate crimes after scores of racist incidents were reported following last week’s vote to leave the European Union.
“Racially motivated” graffiti was painted on the side of a Polish social and cultural center in Hammersmith, west London, at the weekend and immigrants and visitors have reported being abused in the street by people telling them they will have to leave the country.
“In the past few days we’ve seen despicable graffiti daubed on a Polish community center, we’ve seen verbal abuse hurled against individuals because they are members of ethnic minorities,” Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons in London on Monday. “Let’s remember these people have come here and made a wonderful contribution to our country and we will not stand for hate crime or these kinds of attacks. They must be stamped out.”
Khan, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the EU, issued a statement immediately after the result was announced on Friday to reassure almost 1 million EU citizens living in London that they are welcome in the city and recognizing the “enormous contribution” they make to its economy and civic and cultural life. Opposition to immigration was a major plank of the “Leave” campaign, and its victory has been linked to the rise in racist incidents.
“It’s really important we stand guard against any rise in hate crimes or abuse by those who might use last week’s referendum as cover to seek to divide us,” Khan said in an e-mailed statement on Monday. “I’ve asked our police to be extra vigilant for any rise in cases of hate crime, and I’m calling on all Londoners to pull together and rally behind this great city.”
Extra patrols have been put in place around venues and areas of the capital where people feel vulnerable, the Metropolitan Police said.
“London is a diverse, global city where people from many different backgrounds live and work side-by-side in safety,” Met Commissioner Bernard Hogan-Howe said. “That hasn’t changed in the past few days but if people do have any concerns they should let the police know. We will investigate vigorously any reports of crime motivated by hatred.”
The mayor said that the minority of Londoners who backed leaving the EU should not be vilified for their choice. The capital voted to stay in by a margin of 60 percent to 40 percent.
“It’s also crucial that we don’t demonize the 1.5 million people in London who voted for Brexit,” Khan said. “While I and millions of others disagreed with their decision, they took it for a variety of reasons and this shouldn’t be used to accuse them of being xenophobic or racist. We must respect their decision and work together now to get the best deal for London.”