Worker suspended after gesture at campaigner caught on camera
- Credit: Harry Raithatha
A council contract worker has been suspended following an exchange with a Black Lives Matter campaigner in Woodbridge.
The street cleaning operative was being filmed by Harry Raithatha after his handmade signs were removed from the Shire Hall last Thursday.
Mr Raithatha, 22, said he began filming to record the two-man East Suffolk Norse team when he encountered their van on his way home along the Thoroughfare.
An investigation has been launched after one of the workers responded to being filmed with a middle-fingered hand gesture.
It is understood the district council’s operational partner had been fulfilling a request from a third party to remove fly-posting.
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Mr Raithatha said he had challenged the workers about the reason for the removal and was told it was classed as ‘littering’.
“The signs were fixed to railings with cable ties, with no glue and no damage,” he added.
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“I’d put one up which was taken down the day before, so I made another one. When that was taken down, I wanted to know why.
“I thought it was as important for people to see these signs of support in a largely white area like Woodbridge as anywhere else.
“We live in a country where we’re supposedly free to say what we want unless it promotes hate.”
In light of the incident, East Suffolk Council said: “We can confirm that Norse have suspended the operative with immediate effect, pending a full investigation. There is no excuse or justification for this conduct and, regardless of the context, it is behaviour which falls well below the standards we would expect of any individual carrying out duties on our behalf.”
Mr Raithatha welcomed the response, adding: “I wouldn’t wish any personal attack on the worker as a result of what happened, but I think something should have been done – and I’m glad it has.”
Woodbridge Town Council stressed it had not sanctioned the removal of signs from its building and that it was in discussion with campaigners to consider how it might support them in the future.
A number of people who contacted the council in response to signs being removed have been invited to the next full meeting.
Mayor Sue Bale said the town had a long history of supporting campaigns, including the climate change movement, and was proudly associated with leading abolitionists Thomas and John Clarkson.