Portsmouth council boss assures Polish Embassy acts of racism ‘will not be tolerated’

Racist graffiti spray-painted on the wall near the war memorial at Guildhall Square in Portsmouth
Racist graffiti spray-painted on the wall near the war memorial at Guildhall Square in Portsmouth

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THE head of Portsmouth City Council has sought to address concerns from Polish leaders after a racist message was spray-painted near the Guildhall war monument.

The Polish Embassy in London wrote to the city’s Lord Mayor David Fuller speaking up on behalf of Polish residents after white capital letters reading ‘Ukip’ and ‘Dirty Polish’ were plastered on a wall in Guildhall Square.

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth David Fuller

Lord Mayor of Portsmouth David Fuller

The act sparked outcry – and followed dozens of other racist incidents nationally since Britain voted to leave the European Union.

Now Portsmouth City Council’s chief executive, David Williams, has replied to the embassy to express his ‘shock and disappointment’ over what happened.

And he’s insisted the act of racism was an ‘isolated’ incident and similar behaviour would not be tolerated.

Mr Williams said: ‘On behalf of the city, I expressed our shock and disappointment and assured him that the graffiti had been removed within an hour of being reported.

There have been two incidents of apparent racist behaviour in Portsmouth since the EU referendum. I see the two things as being completely unconnected.

Councillor Donna Jones, leader of Portsmouth City Council

‘I explained that fortunately this was an isolated incident in a city where community relations are usually good, and as a naval and port city we appreciate the contribution from other nations, migrants and overseas visitors.

‘I also reassured him that racism of any kind will not be tolerated.’

Cllr Donna Jones, Tory council leader, also condemned the incident – but doesn’t believe it had any connection to Brexit.

Cllr Jones said: ‘There have been two incidents of apparent racist behaviour in Portsmouth since the EU referendum.

‘I see the two things as being completely unconnected.

‘They happened across the UK following the EU referendum.

‘It was opportunistic of racists to connect their behaviour with that outcome, which is a real shame.

‘In Portsmouth, we take a zero-tolerance approach to racist behaviour.

‘We have been in contact with the police and incidents such as this will not be tolerated.

‘The police are prepared to prosecute people in the appropriate way.’

Lib Dem councillors Hugh Mason and Ben Dowling are set to present a notice of motion at next Tuesday’s meeting of the full council, calling on members to ‘condemn racism, xenophobia and hate crimes unequivocally’.

The meeting takes place from 2pm in the council chamber in Portsmouth Guildhall.