By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter
Pro-Palestine protesters were asked to leave a West London council meeting after chanting and waving flags throughout the session.
Kensington and Chelsea council (RBKC) mayor Preety Hudd deemed it necessary to ask security to intervene, having earlier in the meeting told those demonstrating: “I wouldn’t come into your house and behave like this.”
The protesters left as council leader councillor Elizabeth Campbell rose to answer a question from cllr Mona Ahmed on the Israel-Hamas conflict, having been warned on several occasions by Mayor Hudd for disrupting the meeting.
Tensions rose early on as two residents separately demanded RBKC call for an immediate ceasefire, and ensure arms companies are excluded from any investments made via its pension fund.
Activist Moyra Samuels said following the Grenfell Tower tragedy RBKC had committed to being “more human, more compassionate.”
Now, she said, it had a “moral obligation to this community, to the North Kensington community, who’s gone through the trauma and the pain and loss of homes in a violent way, and are now witnessing the loss of homes for communities they have connections with yet again.”
cllr Campbell, who had to pause several times during the meeting due to repeated chanting, said the attack launched by Hamas should be condemned “in the strongest possible terms”, and that any response from Israel must be “proportionate.”
cllr Campbell continued to say that while the council has no influence over actions in the Middle East, “what we do have is we have influence over what happens here in our communities. And so my focus is very much making sure that as a council we’re fostering an environment where all our residents feel safe, and secure, and supported.”
A petition calling for a ceasefire and ensuring no investments go towards arms companies was presented during the meeting by cllr Emma Dent Coad, which she said had garnered 388 signatures.
Later in the session, cllr Ahmed, who quit the Labour Party in October, also called on the council leadership “to condemn these atrocities”, and vote for a ceasefire.
Cllr Ahmed continued to ask cllr Campbell to explain what the local authority was doing both to support those “of all backgrounds and faiths”, and how it is tackling rising instances of antisemitism and Islamophobia. “A genocide is unfolding, and whether we like it or not, this council does need to take a clear position,” she told the chamber.
Following further chanting as cllr Campbell began to speak, Mayor Hudd asked security to remove those protesting.
As they left the meeting of their own accord, cllr Campbell told cllr Ahmed she has undertaken actions including visiting a local Synagogue and Mosque, and that she is “really, deeply sympathetic to the distress caused at a local level by the conflict on all sides, and I’ve said I would write and I did to local faith leaders accordingly”.
Cllr Ahmed responded by reiterating the conflict is not simply “a Muslim question”, noting Christians are also among those also impacted. “We should be able to just call it what it is,” she added, “and the fact you have not been willing to do that answers the question.”
Pictured top: RBKC leader cllr Elizabeth Campbell with a Palestine flag draped behind her during the meeting (Picture: RBKC)
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