Department for Regional Development – Equality Forum

Today I attended the Department of Regional Development’s Equality Forum, which is a  meeting held annually, and which reviews  all items which affect any group who fall under its umbrella of action.

Whilst today’s meeting was predominantly to do with the impact of road changes on the disabled, and in particular the visually impaired, one area which did get brought to my attention was that of a yearly survey on ‘How Safe Do You Feel on Public Transport.

This survey had had little response from the LGBT community, and in the near future the Department will be forwarding me details of their questions which I will reissued on their behalf.

I would ask that everyone complete this survey, even those who generally use their own transport, as your views count.

[highlight color=”pink”]PLEASE WATCH THIS SPACE FOR FUTURE UPDATES[/highlight]

 

 

Sean Morrin: human rights activist – RIP

Our thoughts are with the friends, family, and work colleagues of Sean Morrin who died at the weekend in Derry.

I heard the news about Sean’s passing late on Sunday night, and immediately I thought of our friends in The Rainbow Project where Sean worked. But Sean’s life touched many more people than them.

Two members of UNISON who knes Sean much, much better than I did, wrote the following tributes, which I received in an email as a UNISON member.

“Sean Morrin who was a lifelong gay rights activist and our first ever UNISON ‘out’ gay member in the early 90s died suddenly over the weekend at his home in Derry. He was a founder member of Foyle Pride, both a volunteer and staff member with the Rainbow Project, set up AA/NA for LGB&T people in Derry, was involved in history projects and arts projects to raise the profile of LGB&T people, was a volunteer with Foyle hospice and more recently had been supporting the Trans Derry group. In between that he just helped and supported people in his own quiet way, offering his sofa, a listening ear and hope to many. When he wasn’t adopting people he was fostering cats and dogs, trying to get new homes for them. I will always remember him for his positivity of spirit and his optimism, he really did see the good in people even when it could be hard to find. I will be among many who will miss him. A rainbow flag is currently flying at half mast over the Free Derry wall. For those who would like to attend his funeral, it will be at 10am mass on Thursday in St Mary’s church in Creggan.” said Fidelma Carolan, of UNISON.

unisonlogoAnother member of UNISON, Ronan Doherty, who is currently in Cuba as part of his medical training at Kings College (he started with the Union as a nurse) wrote a lovely tribute which gives a real sense of Sean even to those who didn’t know him.

“I was sitting in Cuba when I received the horrifying news of Sean leaving us! There happened to be some Irish people there so before I realised I had a whiskey in one hand and a cigarette in the other! I was surrounded by people who I made friends with on my travels! I was physically unable to speak and shaking so hard I couldn’t smoke the cigarette I’d been given!

“When I finally managed to utter some words I realised that there was a grief in all their hearts just from seeing the effect of this news on me! There were 2 irish, 2 cubans, one indian girl and me! Eventually one of them asked me to please tell them about Sean! It seemed a fair point as they sat with me and grieved for a man they’d never met!

“I sat trying to find the words to describe the man I loved and who now I’d lost! However I struggled and I realised at that point that there were no words! No words seemed to do him justice! Kind, generous, radiant, forgiving, protecting, loving…. No words are enough! However I tried to tell them about Sean and how I’d come to love him!

“I’d spent my short time with these people discussing and debating life! (Usually over a bottle of rum). We had discussed everything from right and wrong to life in Cuba and uk and Ireland, poverty, wealth, health, homelessness and human rights! It was in those moments of trying to describe Sean that i realised how many of my values I had inherited from him! Basically all of them. And in everything I discussed about my opinions, values and principles over the past few weeks and probably past years- there he was!

“I met Sean Morrin when I was 15! Life was out of control and I was struggling with many things! It’s not a unique story for a young gay man but at that time I didn’t know this! All I knew was life sucked! I loved Sean the minute I met him and his radiance, smile and ability to make you feel whole and worth something emanated out of his every fibre!

“Soon after I first met him I came to meet him for dinner one evening in derry! I was in my school uniform and he would often remind me of that and laugh! I didn’t know what I needed but knew I needed something! I’d decided to move out of home and asked Sean if I could rent once of his many rooms at the time that he seemed to have for wayward gays!

“I had it planned that I would get a part time job to pay my rent and remain at school! In hindsight it was a ridiculous plan that never would of worked! However I was determined and Sean never disagreed or disrespected my ideas! I imagine he knew it was not a feasible idea and something would give but he never dismissed me! He said as long as I can pay my way I’m welcome in his home!

“Thankfully I never did follow through with that plan and on reflection I didn’t really need to after that! Just hearing that it was fine and that I had the option was support enough! As sure as I know Sean knew it was a ridiculous idea I think he knew I just needed the reassurance that I had options and his respect and support were more than enough to help me more than anything!

“He helped me in so many ways that they would be impossible to list! I have no doubt that I probably wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for him! How do you repay someone the debt of saving your life! A good friend of mine now, who i later learned Sean also lifted from despair, and I often talk and laugh about Sean’s influence on our lives! And we wonder about how many other people have the exact same story! How many people would not be here today if it were not for him! I’m sure it must run to hundreds if not thousands!

“You see, I know my relationship with Sean was special and unique to me however i also know that Sean’s relationship with me, although just as special to him was not unique! He helped and befriended everyone and had such an impact on lives it’s hard to even begin to count!

Sean Morrin pictured at Foyle Pride (Photo: Anne Ramsey)

Sean Morrin pictured at Foyle Pride (Photo: Anne Ramsey)

“Sean loved people! Many people describe Sean as an LGBT campaigner or a gay rights activist! Personally I find this a little upsetting! It is true that Sean had an immeasurable impact on the LGBT community and that’s where he is most known! However for me Sean was not an LGBT activist, Sean was a human rights activist! His campaigning and work and life not only influenced the gay community but dozens of other causes! Sean loved the Martin Luther king phrase “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and Sean would combat injustice anywhere he could see it and especially for anyone who couldn’t combat it themselves!

“And his love didn’t even stop there! He loved animals to such an extent I sometimes feared his house would turn into a sanctuary! His love seemed to have no limit and know no bounds! It was like a bottomless well that never ran dry! Sean always forgave people no matter how many times they made mistakes- myself include! Most people have a limit to their forgiveness but his was immeasurable and was never exhausted! He believed in the good in people despite any odds and gave people chance after chance! One of his favourite things to tell me when people did something wrong was that “only hurt people hurt people”.

“Many times I watched him give someone his last £5 because he knew they needed it more than he! I would get angry and ask how was he going to manage now and his response was always “the universe will provide”. His generosity knew no bounds and he never kept count! Sean is the reason I always give homeless people money even when friends argue that they just want it to buy alcohol! He taught me that giving to those with less is everything we can do and respecting that person as a human means giving without conditions and without keeping score!

“I read the hundreds of facebook comments people where posting and it proves what I already knew in that his effect on me was not unique and hundreds of other people have felt the love, respect and warmth of knowing Sean Morrin! The last picture I saw on Sean’s Facebook was of him at foyle pride holding a banner saying “marching for those who can’t”! I found this so appropriate as the friend I’ve now lost devoted his life “marching” for those who couldn’t!

“There is a huge dark hole in the earth today where his presence once stood and an even larger hole in my heart! The world feels like it had stopped spinning! However there is also a new star in the sky which shines just as bright as he did on earth! In true Sean style I choose to focus on the light and not the dark! I’ll carry everything he taught me in my heart and continue to live by the principles he taught me- respecting every other person, fighting for those who can’t, and giving to those who need! Although I have no doubt I will never be the man that he is I don’t fret! For even if i live twice as long and yet I only manage to do a thousandth of the good he did in his lifetime I will die a happy man!

“RIP Sean Morrin!”

Has everyone registered to vote who has signed the Poots resignation petition?

Since Monday, over 7,500 people have signed an online petition calling for Northern Ireland’s health minister, Edwin Poots MLA to resign or be removed from his post as a result of his funding of appeals against decisions of the High Court. The petition can be found on Avaaz.org’s site here.

The petition reads:

“We call on the Northern Ireland Assembly to seek the resignation of Edwin Poots, or for his removal from his post as Health Minister and thus bring to an end his disgraceful waste of public money in pursuit of a personal ”

Why is this important?

Edwin Poots is squandering public money in the pursuit of a personal agenda against unmarried and same sex couples, diverting essential funding from vital and vastly over-stretched NHS services which benefit the entire population. Mr Poots should resign or be removed from his post as Health Minister to end this wanton action.

While public health and social care services struggle to make ends meet, Mr Poots has spent, to date, £17,000 in an effort to ensure unmarried and same sex couples are denied the opportunity to adopt children in turn, denying children the best opportunity to a loving and stable family environment.

Justifying his action with 7 year old data which, by his own department’s admission, is flawed in the very way in which it was obtained, he intends to continue this campaign at the High Court, with the approximate final cost being £40,000.

Mr Poots has also wasted £37,000 in ensuring gay men who wish to donate blood are denied from doing so. This is at complete odds with blood donation advice in every other part of the UK and demonstrates utter incompetence and complete disregard for the public purse and more importantly, the NHS he has stewardship over.

Already signed? Want to make your voice heard?

RegistertoVoteWhen you have signed the petition there is another way to make sure your voice is heard in the democratic process – make sure that you are registered to vote.

The Electoral Office of Northern Ireland is conducting its General Canvass at the moment with registration day being 27 September 2013. By now, all residents of Northern Ireland should have received a registration form. If you have not, please go to the Electoral Office’s website to register there.

Speaking at the launch of the canvass Graham Shields, the Chief Electoral Officer, said;

‘Being on the Electoral Register safeguards your democratic right to vote and ensures that you have your say in elections. Even if you don’t intend to exercise your right to vote, it still remains a legal obligation to register. Registering to vote is easy and I would ask everyone to take just a few minutes to complete the registration form and return it to us by the 27 September deadline.’

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Do LGBT people use NI Libraries? If so, what are your views?

NIGRA Secretary, Dave McFarlane has been corresponding with Sean Beattie from Libraries NI about the the LGBT community’s use of the Library service. Sean is keen to meet with members of Northern Ireland’s LGBT community to discuss:

  • How often people who identify as LGBT use the library service?
  • What you use the library service for?
  • What you would look for when using the library (internet access, LGBT section etc)?

Sean is keen to carry out a survey across the LGBT community in Northern Ireland along the same theme.

LibrariesNIAnyone interested in meeting Sean and working to improve the LGBT provision in NI libraries, please contact Dave McFarlane directly using the form below:


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Health Minister spends nearly £100k with no benefit for public health – and still he wants to spend more

During Assembly Question Time on Tuesday 17 September, Northern Ireland’s health minister, Edwin Poots MLA defended his use of public funds for the appeal to the Supreme Court over gay adoption and the gay blood ban when asked a question put to him by Chris Lyttle MLA, one of the Alliance Party’s representatives for East Belfast asked the minister:

why he is using scarce public funds for legal cases against blood donation and adoption when his responsibility is to deliver a system that assesses the health and safety of blood donation and decides whether parental placements are in the best interests of a child. (AQT 75/11-15)

Minister defends use of funds

The DUP Minister responded:

Stormont Northern IrelandI was not aware that I went to court with anyone.  However, when someone takes you to court, you have to respond; it would be quite foolish not to do so.  It is very interesting that public money is being used by the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which is a publicly funded body, in taking the Government to court, and legal aid is being used.  We await the outcome of one of those cases in the not-too-distant future.  Let us just see what happens.

On the issue of gay adoption, let us be absolutely unequivocal:  I am just after saying that we need to pay attention to the public when they speak.  When the direct rule Minister held a consultation, it revealed that over 95% of the community was opposed to gay adoption.  It strikes me that some Assembly Members would prefer the courts, as opposed to this House, to make decisions.  With respect to the courts, the Assembly is elected to represent the people of Northern Ireland, and it is a crucial part of the democratic process.  We would do well to pay attention to the democratic will, and that is exactly what I am doing.  I have to say that my stance was further strengthened last week when a piece of Queen’s University Belfast research on looked-after children was published by the British Association for Adoption and Fostering.  The longitudinal report, started in 2003 and published only last week, found that 99% of children who had been adopted here had stability — 99% of children in adoptive circumstances in Northern Ireland find stability.

That was because — the report included this — of the rigorous assessment process that takes place.  So I make no apologies for not repairing something that is not broken in the first place.

Responding to the supplementary question from Chris Lyttle, Edwin Poots continued:

[It] is a matter for the courts in the decisions that they make and the arguments that are put.  Let me be absolutely clear:  the European Court of Human Rights has found that there is no human right to adopt.  Let us just nail that at the outset.  This is not about adopters; it is about the children.

In Northern Ireland, we are in a different circumstance from the rest of the United Kingdom, in that we do not have as many children on the waiting list for adoption as is the case in England, Scotland and Wales.  Northern Ireland has a very robust adoption system, and I would have brought and am prepared to bring adoption legislation to the House to upgrade and improve it.  However, because others decided to rush to court, that has been delayed.  That is damaging to democracy, and I would have thought that Mr Lyttle should be a defender of democracy instead of trying to do down democracy.  He may wish to do things through the courts; I would rather do things through the ballot box.

I don’t believe for one second that Chris Lyttle is not a defender of democracy, but the Minister seems to fail to understand that Northern Ireland is subject to laws that do not originate here. Although we have devolution from the Westminster Parliament, this does not give Northern Ireland ministers the right to ignore what the courts say.

Nearly £100k spent already

money20sAs for the costs, Green Party MLA, Steven Agnew has been told by the Minister that he has spent around £40k on defence of the ban on gay men donating blood and around £40k defending the case on adoption by civil partners, with £17k in addition appealing the decision by the High Court. Steven Agnew said,

The Minister’s stance, despite the weight of evidence against him, has generated considerable expense to the public purse with zero benefit to public health in Northern Ireland.

Thanks to Steven and Chris for their work on this

I must thank both Chris Lyttle and Steven Agnew for their work raising this issue in the Assembly. Exposing what the Executive is doing with public money especially when financial budgets are tighter than many would like is one role that our MLAs are very good at doing. Many thanks to both of you, keep up the good work!

First Minister wants to ‘move Northern Ireland forward’ – pity his colleague in Health department is set to take us backwards

In October 2012 the High Court in Northern Ireland ruled that the ban on same-sex couples here adopting children is unlawful. The Court of Appeal upheld this decision in June of this year when the Minister of Health, Social Services and Public Safety’s appeal was dismissed. Today we hear that the DUP Minister of Health, Edwin Poots MLA is appealing this decision to the Supreme Court.

Earlier this week the Rt Hon Peter Robinson MP MLA, First Minister of Northern Ireland wrote an opinion piece for the Belfast Telegraph, it is reproduced helpfully on the DUP website. At the top of that page on their site the DUP say that the First Minister

argues that a peaceful future can only be built on mutual respect, tolerance and an unwavering commitment to the rule of law and the democratic process.”

Well I have news for him, the actions of his Executive colleague suggest that the DUP does not like it when the law says one thing and they want to do the opposite. As John O’Doherty from The Rainbow Project says,

It is not the place of the courts to implement the personal prejudices of Ministers.”

Like the President of NUS–USI, Rebecca Hall, I think that this is disgraceful that the Minister is using public money to fund this action.

Does the Minister not accept the ruling of the High Court as well as that of the Court of Appeal? Does he believe that the Northern Ireland government is above the law? Read more of this post

 

Originally posted at HIV Blogger: living positively

Charles Kenny – "Eulogy at Mervyn Kingston’s funeral"

rev-kingston

 

“Eulogy at Mervyn Kingston’s funeral”

It is a privilege to have been asked to speak publicly as we meet here today formally to express our sorrow at the death of our brother, friend, fellow-churchman, Mervyn, to thank God for his life and work, and to show our sympathy to those nearest and dearest to him, especially to Richard his partner.

George Mervyn Kingston was born in Florida Drive, East Belfast. In those difficult post-war yrs his twin sister Jill and he attended Nettlefield School and Willowfield Parish Ch. Both of these institutions were from the beginning important to Mervyn and I think he knew they were to influence, even determine, the course of his life. The PE school prepared him for Grosvenor High School on the other side of the city; and the parish church and its parochial halls were a wonderful outlet for this young boy. He thrived in the life of this big and busy Parish Church on My Lady’s Road; for the C of I of the time, it gave unusual prominence and opportunity to lay people in worship and parochial organisations. Many good parishioners participated hands-on in the day-to-day and Sunday by Sunday running of the parish. (The General Vestries were sometimes eye-opening.) These experiences gave Mervyn a vocation to the sacred ministry.   I knew Mervyn in the first decade and a half of his life, but not well; a 12 yr old boy doesn’t have much in common with a 4 yr old who isn’t his brother and I left these shores in 1962 but I remember the pleasure of my parents in a blue aerogramme to me telling me the news: did I remember young Mervyn Kingston? well, he had been accepted for ordination. He would be going down to  Dublin in September. My parents and everyone else around the church were delighted. There was a detail in this development which was indicative of something that would be seen again in the future. As a child and teenager Mervyn had quite a bad stammer which he had overcome; he didn’t give up easily. Also by then he was finding fulfilment in his work in Social Services; but he felt the call to the Ministry and the Church recognised and welcomed that in 1969.

The Revd Mr Kingston was ordained for the curacy of Comber Parish to learn the trade and the practice from Hammy Leckie (this was a good choice, he reckoned at the time and subsequently), then back in E Belfast he served in St Donard’s where he appreciated Pat Synnott as mentor, followed by Down Cathedral with particular concern for Ardglass. Later in the mid 80s he crossed the river to Connor and the housing estate at the top of the Shankill Road; then down to a spur of Armagh Diocese that curiously reaches the sea near Dundalk, a care of souls which includes Carlingford and Crossmaglen.

Obviously these locations are very diverse and varied in every way but in all these milieux Mervyn was a consistent cleric and pastor. He began during the most destructive and murderous years of the Troubles and that affected his perception of what he believed God was asking of his people. Mervyn never lost the mind-set, the aspirations and the vocabulary of evangelical churchmanship. He was an evangelical true to the Gospel. In later years he often gently queried his more radical friends and colleagues who tend to dismiss the evangelical tradition as a discredited and spent force, always in hock to biblical idolatry which precludes any sort of prophetic Xnity, and which had played its part in creating debased Irish Xnity. Mervyn rejected this emphatically remembering the good people of his youth. But he knew what the epistoler James had in mind when James derides faith that is not evidenced in practice or in life. Mervyn was by nature conciliatory, seeing the best in everyone, aware of reasons, explanations of bad attitudes and deeds; he understood the power of history and environment; he tried to explain, to educate, willing people to see something differently, to read the words of Our Lord with openness and insight (as if for the first time), to try to separate the gospel imperatives from local cultural assumptions, to be sure they were questioning the latter in the light of the former, as Jesus did continually. He respected others’ opinions even when he felt in conscience that there was a better way and that it was his parsonical duty at least to present an alternative Xn position. But he always laid it on the line when he was seeking a new post. The elephant in the room was identified starkly; if you choose me you are getting an ecumenical C of I rector. “Ourselves alone” is heretical; I will want to work with those of other traditions; I will work for rapport between them and us. Furthermore I will work with and for those on the edge, those at the margins, (as the Lord did); indeed the faithfulness of our Gospel will be determined by how successful we are in these two regards. These are not negotiable, they are sine qua nons of Xnity.

About 35 yrs ago quite a few young people were frequenting St Donard’s Church and its youth club and recently Mervyn mentioned with pleasure to me that altho’ sometimes they vigorously challenged or rejected some advice of their curate, the verdict of one of them was: “You made us think!” How many of us pastors have had that accolade?

In the mid 80s Mervyn’s institution in St Andrew’s at the top of the Shankill Road was attended by one of his friends Fr Joseph Campbell in his robes, (he had also attended his ordination 10 yrs earlier). Some months later his parishioners were enchanted by a sermon from a nun in their pulpit. This was the pattern throughout his incumbencies, contact with the other, encouraging the C of I faithful to be open to others, “the other side”. Mervyn believed in that and practiced it, no more fervently than in his last incumbency at Creggan and Ballymascanlon. Here was a conspicuous opportunity of living out that old Anglican adage about rectors being there for the benefit of all of the people physically in their cure. The rector of Creggan ministered to the small protestant minority who felt under pressure and also to all who lived there; he met, liaised with, negotiated, socialised with the local people, and their political representatives. This caused surprise at first but went down well when it became apparent that things got done, attitudes mellowed, to the benefit of the whole community.

Back in 1969 it had been a revelatory experience for a young school leaver from Florida Drive to work for 4 yrs out of a Supplementary Benefits office in west Belfast. He and his office became known for his understanding, non-judgmental approach, general humanity and sympathy. This was instinctive to Mervyn as the mindset natural to any follower of Jesus. I’m told that in the office the nickname for this junior civil servant was Santa Claus.

The other elephant in the room was caused by the increasing awareness during our lifetimes that not everyone is heterosexual. For many yrs Mervyn had been drawn to quiet involvement in mixed marriages, to help with, encourage and sometimes to offer private blessings for mixed couples, or for divorced couples not welcome in their own church who still wanted a Godly benediction on their union.  Mervyn is among those who came, after much thought, study, prayerful consideration, to a similar openness towards same gender couples, those whose natural and only search for love, for mutual comfort help and society that the one should have of the other that the BCP so correctly stresses as the foundation of life among almost all of us. Xns who were gay were beginning to emerge from the shadows in the 1980s and Mervyn was among them. But there was a change of gear, a new burst of energy, with the setting up of Changing Attitude Ireland in 2007. Here for the first time was concerted public involvement by church men and women, gay and straight, within the C of I, and all other Irish Churches, pointing out simply the unjust and socially damaging and downright cruel nature of conventional Xn dismissal of the unhappiness and anxiety of gay Xns. You are welcome in the church only if you pretend you are not what you are. The founders and inspiration behind CAI were Mervyn and Richard O’Leary. I dare to say that future generations of our church, if not the present one, will recognise this enterprise and thank God for it.

In 2002 the rector of Creggan and Ballymascanlon was diagnosed with prostate cancer and the following year was incapable of full-time ministry. The Diocese recognised this, made him a minor canon of Armagh Cathedral with the title of Vicar Choral. (Music, ecclesiastical and other, singing was always a joy to Mervyn.) This obtained until 2007 when he retired.

Since then, Mervyn has been increasingly looked after and sustained by Richard. The professionals from the Hospice helped, the input of two individual carers went far beyond duty. This meant Mervyn has continued faithfully to fight the good fight to the very end, to fulfil his godly calling to leave this world, this country and his beloved church in a state more pleasing to the Almighty for his having been with us. The struggle goes on: from his labours may Mervyn rest in peace.

Civil Liberties – is the legacy living on?

Martin Luther King jnr

 

Over the last few weeks papers, television and radio have been referring to Martin Luther King jnr’s speech ‘I have a dream’ which was delivered in Washington on August 28, 1963.

The speech was the high point of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom; which in itself became the focal point of a campaign against discrimination, voting restrictions, unfair treatment by the police and statutory barriers against social mobility and economic opportunity.

The impact of this speech was felt across America, and then across the world, and whilst MLK was not initially billed as the main speaker, his speech has now become synonymous with Civil Rights, and led within two years to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 1965 Voting Rights Act being passed in the USA.

Rustin Bayard and Martin Luther King jnrMLK developed his commitment to a principle of non-violent action through the tutelage of Bayard Rustin, a man March on Washington Aug 28who was black, gay, and a Quaker.  Bayard’s own life had been through many phases. Bayard was brought up by his grandparents acting as his parents, who were methodists ( he later found out that his ‘sister’ was his mother).  He was a member of the Young Communist League until 1941 after the Nazi invasion of Russia led the U.S. party to switch gears into building American opposition to fascism, and racial justice issues fell by the wayside.

Rustin was a deeply committed pacifist, owing largely to his Quaker background, and got thrown in jail for conscientiously objecting to service in World War II. It was his introduction of Gandhi’s tactics of nonviolent resistance (which he learned when visiting independence activists in India) to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr which served as a platform for MLK’s enduring success in civil liberties along with his oratory.

Bayard being gay, and also that he had been arrested for 1953 and sentenced under the lesser charge of ‘sex perversion’, was often used by his enemies both in the establishment and in the civil liberties camp as an indication of his unsuitability.  However, it is interesting to read the FBI synopsis on him:

Federal Bureau of Investigation internal memorandum (25th January, 1966)
Rustin is a very competent individual who is widely known in the civil rights field. He is personally familiar with numerous individuals with communist backgrounds. As one of Martin Luther King’s closest advisers, he is in a position to wield considerable influence on King’s activities. Technical coverage of Rustin is an important part of the overall coverage of King, who is the most prominent civil rights in the country today. Because of the influence being exerted on King by persons with subversive backgrounds, it is necessary for us to maintain coverage of individuals such as Rustin. In order to fulfill the Bureau’s responsibilities to uncover communist influence in racial matters, it is recommended that technical coverage of Rustin be continued.

Bayard SingsBayard Rustin, has been a man written out of history due to his abilities and to him being black and gay; fortunately society has moved on today, and more importantly the USA has a black president who this year has recognised the importance of Bayard by awarding him Presidential Medal of Freedom earlier this month.

Unfortunately some 50 years after MLK’s speech, and it’s impact worldwide, I must report that civil liberties in the United Kingdom are under threat.  Our freedoms, whether we are of the LGBT community, black, white, religious or non-religious are important to us.  History has shown that we must fight and succor our civil liberties; that we must not allow governments to sequester them int he pursuit of security.  So having said this how do we in one of the first democracies of the world now have one and a half times as many surveillance cameras as communist China (Tom Kelly, Mail Online,  Aug 2009).  According to the Association of Chief Police Officers,  as at Aug 2011, there are in actuality 1.85 million CCTV cameras in the united kingdom.

To this we can also see the implementation of ‘Stop and Search’.  In June of this year, it was stated that there were a million stops each year, with only 9% leading to court cases (BBC, July 2, 2013).  However an article in the Sunday Post dated August 25, 2013, said that in the last year the Scottish Police have actioned six hundred and twelve thousand (612,000) stop and searches in the last year – approximately a 50% increase, with only thirteen percent (13%) possibly finding anything!

I do not believe that England and Wales only did 400,000 stop and searches over this period, and looking back a few years ago I wrote about the police tactics of stopping people and confiscating cameras and videos during various times of unrest ‘in the interest of the public’. A tactic which has since been clarified as being unjustified.

Our civil liberties belong to us:

Civil liberties in the United Kingdom have a long and formative history. This is usually considered to have begun with the English legal charter the Magna Carta of 1215, following its predecessor the English Charter of Liberties, a landmark document in English legal history.  However it could be argued that the Declaration of Arbroath of 1320 in Scotland was the first attempted implementation of civil liberties in part of the United Kingdom.  Today the United Kingdom’s relationship to civil liberties has been mediated through its membership of the European Convention on Human Rights.

In other words, civil liberties are the “rights” or “freedoms” which underpin democracy. This usually means the right to vote, the right to life, the prohibition on torture, security of the person, the right to personal liberty and due process of law, freedom of expression and freedom of association.[3]

(Wikipedia, 2013)

I call upon everyone to monitor their police and security forces, their local and national government – don’t allow the United Kingdom to become a ‘police’ state.

banksy-search S&S KNow Your Rights

 

Further Reading:

Wikipedia –Civil Liberties in the United Kingdom
Wikipedia – Bayard Rustin
The Atlantic – Article by Kerry Eleveld ‘Obama, Bayard Rustin, and the New LGBT Civil Rights Movement
Spartacus Educational – Bayard Rustin
Washington Post – Wonkblog – Meet Bayard Rustin, the gay socialist pacifist who planned the 1963 march on Washington