Councillors in Hartlepool have unanimously condemned racism and prejudice after neo-fascist stickers appeared in parts of the town – and now the whole town is being urged to make a stand against hate and intolerance.
All councillors who attended a meeting of the full Hartlepool Council on Thursday voted to support a “Statement of Unity Against Racism and Religious Prejudice” moved by Coun Christopher Akers-Belcher, the leader of the council and chair of the Safer Hartlepool Partnership.
Coun Akers-Belcher said: “It is important that the council takes a lead on this issue and promotes the same collective view. I am delighted that councillors from all political parties agree on the need to tackle hate and intolerance to ensure that Hartlepool continues to be a diverse, tolerant and inclusive place to live, work and visit.
“I hope that the town as a whole will now come together to make a stand against all forms of racism and xenophobia and make it clear we are not prepared to tolerate the actions of a hate-fuelled minority.”
Around 30 neo-fascist stickers featuring a range of offensive right-wing political slogans and symbols have been removed from lampposts, road signs and pay and display parking machines in recent days by Hartlepool Council’s Enforcement Team.
They were concentrated in an area around the town centre, including Church Street, Tower Street, Stockton Street and York Road, and prompted a number of complaints from members of the public.
The council is currently checking CCTV images to try to identify who is distributing them, and it is also liaising closely with Cleveland Police.
Stickers can be reported by calling the Council’s Customer Services Team on 01429 523333 and they will be removed. Anyone with information can contact the Council’s Community Safety Team on email@example.com or Cleveland Police on 101.
Coun Akers-Belcher added: “Members of the public have rightly voiced their concerns and we must do everything possible to tackle this intolerance.
“Hartlepool is proud to be – and must continue to be - a diverse, tolerant and inclusive town - a place where people of different ethnic, religious and cultural backgrounds live and work together to build communities, deliver services and improve each other’s lives.
“Sadly, this is a matter that is not confined to Hartlepool and it reflects the extremely difficult and complex national situation that we face amid the EU referendum result, the horrific murder of MP Jo Cox and continued international terrorism.”
Cleveland Police Chief Constable Iain Spittal said: “I fully support the stance articulated by Coun Akers-Belcher. Cleveland Police does not tolerate hate crime. I would like to reassure the local community of Hartlepool that we would encourage anyone who experiences hate crime to report it. Anyone with information regarding the stickers should either contact us or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.”
The council is also supporting an on-going Safer Hartlepool Partnership campaign to raise awareness of hate crime and the help that is available to victims. People who feel threatened or upset by the stickers can contact the council’s Community Safety Team on 01429 523100 for help and support.
Cleveland Police and Crime Commissioner Barry Coppinger said: “Hate crime is completely unacceptable and across Cleveland we have carried out a lot of work to try to help raise awareness of the issue and thereby increase reporting. I would urge anyone with information about the stickers to contact the police.”