The response of Grace Williams, the Labour Leader of Waltham Forest Council, to the raising of the flag of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus outside the Town Hall on 15 November was as reactionary as it was inflammatory.
While Greek Cypriots would have been understandably upset at seeing the flag of this disputed territory raised, the Turkish Cypriot community had received prior approval from the Council, in accordance with Waltham Forest’s diversity and inclusivity policies.
Yet the Council Leader decided to intervene, singling out the Turkish Cypriot community for humiliating treatment by ordering the removal of their flag ahead of the agreed time, and issuing a racially charged statement announcing its permanent ban.
In its chaotic attempt to justify its knee-jerk response to this issue, the Council has gone on to ban flying the flags of Tibet, Kashmir, and the Pride flag. All of this has been done in an attempt to cover up the original decision that discriminated against Turkish Cypriots.
The response of these elected Labour councillors lacked the sensitivity and consideration required in a Borough as richly diverse as Waltham Forest. It has polarised the two Cypriot communities and damaged community cohesion.
Grace Williams must take immediate steps to rectify this, and the Council must hold a full and transparent investigation into the incident. Action must also be taken to repair the trust with the two Cypriot communities in the Borough. They deserve to be treated with respect and dignity, and remain equal before the law.