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Grenfell Tower Inquiry urged to consider impact of race and poverty on fire | UK News

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The board leading the inquiry into the Grenfell Tower fire has been told not to “ignore” the impact of poverty and race on the tragedy.

Leslie Thomas QC, who is representing several survivors and bereaved families, said the issue of race was the “elephant in the room” when he opened proceedings on Tuesday.

He also referenced the coronavirus pandemic and the killing of George Floyd in the US, adding they had “parallel themes” with Grenfell, saying: “Race and state obligation are at the heart of all three cases.”

The Grenfell Tower in west London on the day the first report from the public inquiry into the fire which claimed 72 lives is published.
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The inquiry has been told to consider race and poverty in its findings

Mr Thomas also said that the pandemic and the killing of George Floyd led to “the recognition for the need of a cultural shift around race and discrimination”.

“Firstly COVID-19… it certainly would not be lost on the panel that a disproportionate number of those who died in the UK have been people of colour,” he said.

“George Floyd’s last words were: ‘I can’t breathe.’

“These were a chilling reminder of the experiences of survivors and sadly were some of the last words of those who died in this tragedy.

“Some of the survivors and the bereaved have highlighted the similarities of the last words of a black man who died at the hands of the state to the last words of their friends and loved ones. Most of them were from ethnic minority backgrounds.”

He added: “The Grenfell fire did not happen in a vacuum… A majority of the Grenfell residents who died were people of colour.







June: Church bells chime for victims of Grenfell

“Grenfell is inextricably linked with race. It is the elephant in the room.

“This disaster happened in a pocket of one of the smallest yet richest boroughs in London.

“Yet the community affected was predominantly working class. That is the stark reality that cannot be ignored. The impact of race and poverty on this disaster this inquiry must not ignore.”

The Grenfell Next Of Kin group has already called for the inquiry to “investigate the extent of institutional racism as a factor” in the fire in June 2017, which killed 72 people.

According to legal submissions to the inquiry, of the 67 Grenfell residents who died in the fire (with the other five being visitors and a stillborn child), 57 were from a BAME background.

The submissions also add: “In the English Housing Survey 2017-2018, it was found that 40% of those living in high rise buildings in the social rented sector are black, Asian or other. This, compared to the percent of the population (14%), is high.”

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Mr Thomas told the inquiry chairman Sir Martin Moore-Bick: “I place this charge to this inquiry. You, sir, and your panel, this is your time of action to break the cycle of disengagement with the issue of race and inequality.

“What will this inquiry be remembered for? You will undoubtedly want it to be on the right side of history.

“Our clients’ perception is that the inquiry is deaf to their concerns.”

Tottenham MP David Lammy had earlier said that he thinks “structural discrimination and disadvantage play a role”, adding: “I would have thought that they should be central to the framework in which (Mr) Moore-Bick is looking at the issues.”

The inquiry continues.

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