Pressure is mounting on Conservative Councillor Linda Symes, Portsmouth’s former culture boss, after she was blasted for sharing a slew of controversial posts on Facebook earlier this week.
Two of the posts referenced the murder of soldier Lee Rigby as well as seven-year-old Emily Jones, asking why there were no riots over their deaths. Another stated: 'Because of his ethnicity (Sadiq) Khan will remain Mayor.'
The inflammatory remarks came as thousands of campaigners across the UK took to the streets this week to protest the death of American man George Floyd, who was killed by a white police officer.
Cllr Symes, who represents Eastney and Craneswater, has insisted she was ‘not being a racist’ and that ‘every life matters’ but has not apologised for sharing the statuses, which were later deleted.
But almost 2,500 people have now signed a petition demanding the senior Tory is sacked from the party, which has remained quiet about the issue.
The calls have been backed by Simon Magorian, one of the co-ordinators of Portsmouth Stand Up to Racism.
He said: ‘The fact is the Tory party has said nothing. They’re just waiting for this to blow over.
‘She has not apologised – she has tried to rationalise her unacceptable behaviour. It’s absolutely ridiculous the way she has behaved.
‘The Tory group on the council should be taking action, the Tory central office should suspend her pending proper inquiry. But none of this has happened. She is just going blindly on.
‘It’s not acceptable. I think she has to go. It’s the lack of repentance which is really the stickler.’
Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth’s Labour leader, was also critical and insisted the city’s senior Tories had to speak out.
The Portsmouth South MP added: ‘I’m not surprised how quickly this petition has gained thousands of signatures, from huge numbers of Portsmouth people.
‘In a week people in our city, and across the world, have been shaken by the tragic murder of George Floyd, his shocking death must become the catalyst for change and the end to injustice.
‘We must start that change here in Portsmouth and that means calling out racism and prejudice wherever it is seen.
‘No acknowledgement. No apology. The silence from local Conservatives speaks volumes.’
Cllr Claire Udy, the leader of the Progressive Portsmouth People group, agreed and added: ‘For no Tories to come out and say “this is awful” or “I’m sorry” to me is just being complicit in racism.’
Mr Rigby’s mum, Lyn was forced to speak out after becoming aware of a ‘number of posts using images of Lee’ were being used in ‘a divisive way’ to oppose the Black Lives Matters movement.
In a post on the Lee Rigby Foundation Facebook page, Mrs Rigby said: ‘Lee proudly served his country to protect the rights and freedoms of all members of this great melting pot of a nation.
‘Seeing his image used to cause hate of any kind, especially for those exercising their freedoms in protest against this issue, hurts.
‘We find these posts extremely heartbreaking and distressing, and in complete opposition to what Lee stood for.’
The News has approached Portsmouth Tory leader Donna Jones and Cllr Symes for comment.