The organisers of a planned debate about race, gender and identity due to take place at the Civic Suite in Catford claim the event has been blocked by Lewisham Council because of fears of protests by trans activists.
The event, a panel discussion organised by the We Need To Talk group was called We Need To Talk About Race and Gender and would have featured three black woman activists, Linda Bellos, the former leader of Lambeth Council, Sara Myers, a writer and Danille McDonald, a local anti-racism campaigner. The group have attracted protests from trans activists at previous meetings.
Although the group have launched a petition for the Council to reconsider, they are also planning on seeking an alternative location for the event.
Negotiations between WTNN and Lewisham Council have been going on since original attempts to book the Civic Suite in December and January, but the group claim they were stalled by the council from fixing a date; no actual date for the event has ever been scheduled.
Now the Council has told the group they will not accept the booking because of concerns about safety. The Mayor of Lewisham, Damien Egan, confirmed the decision in an email to the group.
All three women have raised concerns about gender and identity and attracted protests from trans activists. Bellos is particularly well known for her work on equality in local government, her campaigning for black representation and the establishment of Black History Month in the UK.
WNTT told ELL: “The council tell us that the main reason is because of safety concerns, which is ironic because the only risk comes from trans activists who protest our meetings.”
A spokesperson for Lewisham Council told ELL: “Council officers took the decision to decline the booking on the basis of risk to the security of staff safety and premises being damaged. The Council has a statutory responsibility to protect its employees and also to similarly protect people who attend our premises. This statutory duty is not something we can overlook, nor take lightly.”
“The likelihood of harm to people attending the proposed event appears to be very real. We are aware of earlier violent incidents during previous events hosted elsewhere. Because of this, the Council cannot support the request to hire Council premises for this proposed event.”
At one WNTT organised event at Speakers Corner in Hyde Park in September 2017, called over planned changes to the Gender Recognition Act, a 60-year-old woman was assaulted by three trans activists. One of those three was arrested and charged in April last year, he was convicted of Battery at Hendon Magistrates Court.
One of the panellists, Sara Myers, told ELL: “I think the issue for the uproar is this is a conversation that isn’t centred around trans women and because it’s not centred around trans women, we are labelled as ‘terfs’.”
“The panel discussion isn’t anti-trans, the panel discussion is centred around black women and to use the issues that trans women face to silence another marginalised group is disgusting. Its an attack on free speech and expression which for far too long has been the way that some hide their prejudice and racism, behind a worthy cause.”
She added: “I’ve personally been warned that by associating with WNTT who are only facilitating the event, that I’ll be ‘marked’. We are black women being silenced from a conversation around race & gender.”
“The response by those trans activists who protest is taking our platforming as black women to speak which is both misogynistic, sexist and racist.”
WNTT said Lewisham ” have simply dismissed their constituents concerns about the conflict between trans rights and women’s rights as undefined transphobia.”
They added: “Accusations of transphobia are currently being used to smear people, especially women, who do not completely accept gender identity ideology.
“Several campaigners have been interviewed under caution by the police at the behest of trans campaign groups. Panellist Linda Bellos and We Need To Talk organiser, Venice Allan, were both privately taken to court by a trans activist last year and it was thrown out by the CPS with no case to answer.”