Nearly 5,500 sign petition to protest Lutfur Rahman ouster

Ex mayor Luftur Rahman

Nearly 5,500 people have so far signed a petition to protest against the “anti-democratic coup” in Tower Hamlets.

The petition has been written by four Tower Hamlets residents – Charlotte Gerada, Gary Reddin, Jusna Begum and Sean Rillo Raczka – who are outraged that a court has unseated elected mayor Lutfur Rahman.

The petition reads:

“We, like those who brought the election court case against Lutfur Rahman, are four Tower Hamlets voters. We’re four ordinary residents – not a Ukip branch secretary, a multimillionaire tax evader, a would-be Labour councillor and a former adviser to a minister of state, like the petitioners. And we resent that these four people, aided by a self-evidently partisan commissioner (who wasn’t even a real judge) was able to bring down a mayor elected by 37,000 of us on a record turnout.

“We don’t think that those who break election rules should never be taken to court. But if democracy is going to be overturned, we want to see a much more robust process than the politically-charged stitch up that took place in the Royal Courts of Justice yesterday. The testimonies of neutral bystanders – the police, a forensicist and local government officers did not accuse Lutfur Rahman of breaking the law. Yet they were ignored.

“His bitter rivals (who have done everything they can to discredit him after they failed at the ballot box were listened to), while his supporters were ignored. The actual charges are a grotesque joke. They say Lutfur ‘sees race in everything’ and racism only exists in his own mind. Perhaps tell that to a borough that has had the EDL rampage through it twice in as many years. The judge refuses to accept that Lutfur was justified in calling opponents racially insensitive even after it was said that the problem with his team was their ethnicity. He rejected the idea of ‘dog whistle politics’ – that terms that sound innocuous may have a racialized meaning.

Right-wing journalists like John Ware are accused of hounding Rahman out of office
Right-wing journalists like John Ware are accused of hounding Rahman out of office

“But he was perfectly happy to accept dog whistles when it worked the other way around. Imams writing letters supporting the mayor were interpreted as imams instructing people it was their religious duty to vote for the mayor, when they said no such thing. A press release calling Labour’s John Biggs ‘insensitive’ was interpreted as calling him racist. That’s just one example of how double standards have run this case.

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“The only example they found of actual voting fraud were a couple of candidates registering at a false address (apparently, and based solely on the story told by Andrew Gilligan, a discredited Lutfur opponent.) This isn’t justice, it’s a stitch-up fuelled by prejudice. We didn’t have our ballots stolen and we weren’t bribed or bullied – we voted for Lutfur because in his first four years he blocked the bedroom tax, reinstated education maintenance allowance and provided university grants, ploughed £10m into youth services, built more affordable and social homes than any other local authority and gave us a borough we could be proud of.

“Just as the four original petitioners got together to overthrow Lutfur, we are standing together against this anti-democratic coup, and encourage all of you to join us.”

You can sign the petition here if you wish.

Meanwhile, there will be a public meeting in East London on Thursday to defend Lutfur Rahman. It will take place at 6pm at theWaterlily Conference Centre, 69-89 Mile End Road, London E1 4TT.

According to organisers the meeting will “set the record straight about the removal of Lutfur Rahman as Mayor of Tower Hamlets and set out what needs to be done to defend democracy in Tower Hamlets, to challenge racism in the borough and beyond, and to ensure that anti-racist, anti-war and anti-austerity politics find their rightful place in the council.”

Speakers include: Lutfur Rahman; Christine Shawcroft, Labour Party NEC; John Rees, People’s Assembly; Andrew Murray, Chief of Staff, Unite the Union; Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition; Salma Yaqoob; John McLoughlin, Branch Secretary, Tower Hamlets Unison; and Weyman Bennett, Unite Against Fascism.

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