The UpRise petition, signed by more than 2,500 people including London Assembly Chair Darren Johnson, was submitted to the Mayor in May. In his brief four-paragraph response to campaigners, Boris Johnson links the successful level of attendance at Rise Festival in 2008 with his removal of its “overt anti-racist message”. In stark contrast, he goes on to state that he “deplores racism” and “urges Londoners to reject it at the ballot box and in their everyday lives.”
UpRise spokesperson Mike Bernard commented: “We are confused by the Mayor’s misguided rationale, as there is no evidence, except in his mind, to suggest that the removal of the anti-racism message contributed to attendance levels at Rise in 2008. It seems as though the Mayor is clutching at straws in order to justify his removal of the message.
“Furthermore, there is a classic case of the Mayor talking the talk in his assertion that he deplores racism and by urging Londoners to reject it. His cancellation of Rise Festival, Londoners united stand against racism and Europe’s largest anti-racism festival makes it clear that he is unable to walk the talk.”
In his letter, Boris outlines that his approach to tackling racism starts and ends in rhetoric as he writes that anti-racism is about “ensuring that every policy, statement and strategy reflects the appreciation of the rich diversity of London.”
Mike comments: “The Mayor fails to realise that his policies are only as good as their implementation. Rise Festival was about policy in action, an outward sign that our elected Mayor truly believes in the importance of tackling racism head on.”
There is no mention in the letter of the fact that Unison and Unite the Union have expressed a willingness to provide funds for the event if the anti-racism message was reinstated. Instead, Boris simply says, “it has not been possible to secure the funding needed.”
UpRise campaign organiser Freya Van Lessen said: “The Mayor’s overall response to the UpRise petition is poor and reeks of misguided rhetoric. We have written an open letter to him in order to address the many inconsistencies in his thought process, and we hope to receive a more substantive response.”