Greg Lance – Watkins
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Revealed: The British arm of Black Lives Matter’s full agenda – abolish the police, smash capitalism… and close all prisons
Who are Black Lives Matter? Where did they come from and what, exactly, do they believe in?
These may seem silly questions. But in a month when Premier League footballers have joined Sir Keir Starmer and other British celebrities in ‘taking the knee’ to express their ‘collective support for the Black Lives Matter movement’, it is important that we ask them.
Ask most people who have protested on Britain’s streets following the killing of George Floyd and you will probably get one of two answers.
First, they will tell you that Black Lives Matter is a group appalled by police brutality against people of colour. It wishes to reform America’s lopsided justice system, which allows the black community, who make up about 13 per cent of the U.S. population, to account for 37 per cent of its prisoners and a disproportionate number of the thousand-odd people killed each year by its police.
In just over a fortnight, some 33,000 people have used the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to donate to an organisation calling itself ‘Black Lives Matter UK’. The group has raised almost a million pounds in the process
Secondly, Black Lives Matter’s UK supporters will tell you it exists to campaign against the systemic racism that still exists in pockets of British society.
As they point out, economic and social inequality regrettably still affect swathes of our black and other minority communities, just as they do almost everywhere else in the Western world.
Both these motivations are entirely noble. So it is little wonder that — besides sparking lively debate about vandalised statues, the legacy of colonialism and our nation’s historic role in the slave trade — the recent protests have prompted many well-meaning people to make generous donations to this modish political cause.
In just over a fortnight, some 33,000 people have used the crowdfunding website GoFundMe to donate to an organisation calling itself ‘Black Lives Matter UK’. The group has raised almost a million pounds in the process.
On paper, Black Lives Matter UK — known on social media as @BLMUK — is the semi-official British offshoot of its American counterpart. It has been formally ‘verified’ as such by Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and other sites that carry its content — and is therefore highly influential as well as suddenly rich.
Yet while our country’s branch of the lobby group campaigns against police brutality and structural racism just as its transatlantic sibling does, those are not its only specific goals.
Ask most people who have protested on Britain’s streets following the killing of George Floyd and you will probably get one of two answers. Pictured: BLM protesters in London on June 13
Indeed, while most donors and supporters may assume Black Lives Matter UK exists to lobby against racism, the group’s leaders, who remain largely anonymous, can use its financial muscle to pursue a smorgasbord of far-Left aims.
Some are extreme and many appear to have nothing to do with advancing racial equality.
On the group’s GoFundMe page, a statement outlining the Black Lives Matter UK policy agenda was uploaded a few days ago. It explains that the organisation intends to be ‘guided by a commitment to dismantle imperialism, capitalism, white supremacy, patriarchy and the state structures that disproportionately harm black people in Britain and around the world’.
Which is highly contentious. For while few would disagree that ‘white supremacy’, such as it exists in Britain, is a bad thing, the idea that ‘capitalism’ is intrinsically racist is a minority view.
If those behind Black Lives Matter UK really do intend to ‘dismantle’ capitalism, what might they wish to replace it with? And how would that benefit people of colour?
The only alternative system practised elsewhere in the world is communism. But as China’s Uighur Muslims, or the 1.5 million people from ethnic minorities who were deported or sent to gulags by Josef Stalin, would attest, that system can be very racist indeed.
A source recently told The Guardian newspaper that Black Lives Matter UK is being run by ‘a core of around ten activists’ including a man called Joshua Virasami (pictured), ‘who has been with the movement since its incarnation’
The Black Lives Matter organisation in America does not cite ending capitalism as a policy goal. Perhaps it takes the view, held by plenty of lifelong opponents of racism, that capitalism has helped to lift billions of BAME people out of poverty around the world, including in America.
Elsewhere on its GoFundMe page, Black Lives Matter UK declares that it wishes to spend cash it has raised on ‘developing and delivering’ what it calls ‘strategies for the abolition of the police’.
Yet abolishing, rather than reforming, the police is an extreme policy with almost no public support outside a tiny circle of far-Left anarchists. While such a move would doubtless benefit career criminals, it is unclear how it would help law-abiding members of minority groups, who are just as likely to be victims of crime as anyone else.
What might people of colour do, in a country that had abolished its police, if their home were burgled in the middle of the night?
It seems unlikely that many of those 33,000 people who gave so generously to Black Lives Matter UK were aware that any of their cash would be spent in pursuit of those two bizarre policy goals. And surely few of the 150,000-odd Britons who took part in BLM protests in recent weeks wish to abolish capitalism and disband the police.
Had they spent time perusing the organisation’s social media pages, they might have been a little more wary. There, it is starkly apparent that the organisation has been controlled for years by a small, radical cabal.
Elsewhere on its GoFundMe page, Black Lives Matter UK declares that it wishes to spend cash it has raised on ‘developing and delivering’ what it calls ‘strategies for the abolition of the police’. Pictured: Protesters outside the US embassy in London on June 7
Where convicted terrorists, murderers and rapists should then be held was not discussed. Nor was any argument advanced to explain how this would benefit minorities.
The group has also expressed its opposition on Twitter to government initiatives including reform of the benefits system via the introduction of Universal Credit and the licensing of fracking.
Even when it has used Twitter to campaign against racism, @BLMUK has sometimes focused on curious targets. In recent years, it has attacked everyone from Oxfam (‘big charities are nothing more than colonisers for the 21st century’) to Sir David Attenborough.
The group accused an episode of his 2018 TV series Dynasties, on chimpanzees, of being racist because the BBC naturalist complained that habitat destruction due to overpopulation was threatening the species with extinction.
‘Human activities can obviously compete with wildlife,’ the anomymous BLM Tweeter opined. ‘But “too many people” always has a silent “black”.’
On Facebook, @BLMUK has posted support for everything from World Vegan Day to strikes over pay called by trade unions representing Ryanair cabin crew and Amazon warehouse workers.
On Facebook, @BLMUK has posted support for everything from World Vegan Day to strikes over pay called by trade unions representing Ryanair cabin crew and Amazon warehouse workers. Pictured: Protesters hold up signs in Trafalgar Square, London, on June 13
Black Lives Matter UK has also used the social network to express support for the so-called BDS movement,which calls for a boycott of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians. Last year, the group called for the Eurovision Song Contest to be moved from ‘Apartheid Israel’.
Many Jewish groups regard the BDS movement as anti-Semitic because they believe it unfairly singles out Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, for scrutiny that is not applied to other regimes.
Elsewhere on the BLMUK Facebook page, in an apparently genuine mission statement that reads like a parody in places, the group declares that it is opposed to ‘homophobia, lesbophobia, biphobia, queerphobia, transphobia, sexism, misogyny, misogynoir, enbyphobia, ableism, racism, anti-Blackness, Islamophobia, whorephobia, ageism, fatphobia, eugenics, discrimination, stereotypes, respectability politics, the stigmatisation of HIV and the stigmatisation of addiction’.
Maybe that explains why GoFundMe tells me it ‘remains in control of all funds’ that users have donated to Black Lives Matter UK ‘until we are absolutely confident they are going to the right place’.
There is no government regulation of crowd-funding platforms, so money ostensibly raised for individual ‘causes’ can be spent however a fundraiser wishes. For example, it emerged last year that an anti-Brexit campaigner had used thousands of pounds from donors seeking to fund a lawsuit against Boris Johnson to pay rent on his London home.
Asked how it would ensure that donations to Black Lives Matter UK were properly used, a GoFundMe spokesman said the website intended to ‘undertake vetting’ of the group before allowing it to receive cash. But they could not explain what form that vetting might take.
Ewa Jasiewicz, a former Guardian writer, (pictured), was one of nine co-defendents, all of whom denied wilful obscruction, who appeared in court alongside Joshua Virasami, after Black Lives Matter UK’s first protest, in August 2015
In fact, searching ‘Black Lives Matter UK’ on GoFundMe reveals more than 200 separate appeals in addition to the one that has raised £1 million, so vetting every one of them may take some time.
So who is behind the group? And how were those who dreamt up its policy goals appointed?
Bizarrely, Black Lives Matter UK is entirely anonymous, offering no transparency on who controls it or where its money will be spent.
Despite having existed since July 2016, when its Twitter and Facebook accounts were created, it has no physical address or website. It has no formal governing structure or constitution, no chief executive, chairman or board of trustees. It is not registered as a charity or as a non-profit organisation. It has never filed accounts and its spending has never been audited.
At Companies House, a firm called Black Lives Matter Limited was set up this month by one David Wilks-Carmichael, who calls himself a ‘venture capital consultant’ — on paper, a strangely capitalistic profession for anyone associated with anti-capitalists.
Mr Wilks-Carmichael has been a director of 17 companies, of which 15 have been dissolved and only one has ever filed accounts.
His only other active company, Universal Private Equity, is not registered with the Financial Conduct Authority and appears to be based in a service office in the City of London. According to its most recent financial statements, it has just £5,000 in the bank.
The leaders of Black Lives Matter UK appear to be facing a growing number of inquiries from supporters about the group’s lack of transparency
When I reached Mr Wilks-Carmichael by telephone this week, he insisted he had nothing to do with the actual Black Lives Matter campaign, still less its British offshoot. He said he had simply formed the company to ‘do some things to hopefully help the social advancement of black people’.
A second company, Black Lives Matter Worldwide Ltd, was also set up this month, by one Omomize Rock. Its registered office is a terrace house in Swindon. No one at the address was available for comment.
The leaders of Black Lives Matter UK appear to be facing a growing number of inquiries from supporters about the group’s lack of transparency.
This week they posted a statement on various social media feeds, promising soon to ‘create a website’ that would ‘ease any confusion around which of the many Black Lives Matter organisations and platforms that have emerged is actually us’.
The statement also promised its spending ‘will be made public in the spirit of transparency and accountability in due course’. As to who is behind the organisation, it claimed its leaders were busy dealing with ‘emergency legal matters’ and ‘the hostility of far-Right groups’ which represent ‘a genuine threat to our safety’.
It would therefore not be publishing their names but insisted they were all ‘Black (not politically black, Black and of the African and Caribbean diaspora)’.
However, a source recently told The Guardian newspaper that Black Lives Matter UK is being run by ‘a core of around ten activists’ including a man called Joshua Virasami, ‘who has been with the movement since its incarnation’.
A Black Lives Matter protester wearing a protective face covering during a demonstration in London on June 13
Mr Virasami, a musician, was involved in Black Lives Matter UK’s first protest, in August 2015, when he led a group who were arrested for blocking an access road to Heathrow airport holding a ‘Black Lives Matter’ banner.
According to police, the demo caused ‘utter chaos’. In response, the group said: ‘The everyday disruption that is suffered by those who experience racism in Britain is as much an inconvenience as not being able to get to your flight on time.’
When the case reached court, Virasami was ordered to pay a £441 fine. His nine co-defendents, all of whom denied wilful obscruction (but were found guilty) included one Ewa Jasiewicz, a former Guardian writer who achieved notoriety in 2010 when she spray-painted ‘Liberate all ghettos’ and ‘Free Gaza and Palestine’ on one of the few remaining walls of the Warsaw ghetto, where tens of thousands of Jews died in World War II.
Ms Jasiewicz, who once called for Israeli politicians to be ‘bumped off’, made further headlines in 2018 when it emerged that she was scheduled to speak at Jeremy Corbyn’s party conference in Brighton. Her appearance was eventually dropped, amid a noisy row over anti-Semitism, after Labour’s deputy leader Tom Watson claimed it would offend ‘taste and decency’. It is unclear whether she is still involved with Black Lives Matter UK.
Jasiewicz is white, as were all nine activists who took part in Black Lives Matter UK’s second major demonstration by chaining themselves together on the runway of London’s City Airport in September 2016.
As flights were disrupted, the group claimed it was targeting British airports because they contributed to global warming, which will cause disproportionate harm to people of colour.
‘By 2050 there will be 250 million climate refugees,’ said a spokesman. ‘Black people are the first to die, not the first to fly, in this racist climate crisis.’
Many long-standing race relations campaigners disagreed. Stafford Scott, co-founder of the Broadwater Farm Defence Campaign, said the only black thing in the entire protest was the Tarmac on the runway.
The Mail contacted both Mr Virasami and Black Lives Matter UK by email this week but did not receive a reply.
After the 2016 stunts, there followed a hiatus of more than three years, during which @BLMUK failed to stage any high-profile demonstration, leading some to wonder if the organisation was slipping into obscurity.
The death of George Floyd has changed that, of course.
But whether the cash it has gained will be spent on fighting racism, abolishing capitalism or pursuing some other policy goal remains to be seen.
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