Councillor Adam Hug, leader of Westminster City Council, writes for Westminster Extra
The unfolding tragedy in the Middle East is an incredibly challenging situation – both in the region and in the rest of the world as the repercussions of the conflict play out. As home to many diverse communities, Westminster is feeling the impact. We understand the depth of feeling and hurt that events have caused among some residents. People living here may have friends and relatives in the war zone; they may simply feel angered and traumatised by what they are seeing.
Our role at the Council is reassurance; to support residents through frightening and uncertain times. In recent days I have visited synagogues, mosques and community organisations along with fellow councillors and senior officers. Faith and local community leaders are uniquely positioned to help with our message – that nobody should be anxious about where they walk or where they worship. Antisemitism and Islamophobia have no place in Westminster, although reports of both have spiked in recent days. We talked to police commanders about providing additional support around buildings where there is particular concern.
The West End is the location for many demonstrations throughout the year, and our role as local authority is to support and assist the work of the police, who manage routes and operations, to see they go ahead peaceably. At Westminster City Council our focus is clear – to ensure the right to protest is safeguarded, but to support communities on their routes and to support the police in preventing disorder, intimidation or incitement.
The Council’s focus will continue to be supporting local people in any way we can, either through networks of community organisations or individually. The Westminster Faith Exchange – drawing together faith leaders – is proving an invaluable way of talking to and hearing the concerns of our communities.
It is horribly clear from the pictures and reports that a major humanitarian disaster is descending on Gaza and surrounding areas. The Council is promoting support for the Disasters Emergency Committee Charities, for example the British Red Cross’ Israel and Occupied Palestinian Territory Appeal, as the need for basic supplies becomes acute.
It is clear this conflict will continue for weeks or even months, evolving in ways we can’t predict. But however long it lasts, we will keep reaching out to those communities in Westminster impacted by the conflict.
- This article first appeared in the Westminster Extra
Published: 20 October 2023