Basildon’s mayor subjected to racist chants as he raises LGBT+ flag at Pride event

Andy Gregory

The newly elected mayor of Basildon was subjected to “outrageous” racist abuse while raising an LGBT+ flag to kick off Pride celebrations.

David Burton-Sampson, who identifies as “a gay, black man”, was targeted with racist chants of “Raise the f***ing flag n****r” by a group of six adults in the crowd at Basildon Council’s Essex office.

The council reported the incident to its hate crime unit and to Essex Police on Friday afternoon, shortly after the incident.

“It’s appalling, I’m lucky I’ve got tough skin,” Mr Burton-Sampson, 41, told The Southend Echo. “I’m hard to these things, but there are a number of those sorts of things that could really affect members of the community.”

The mayor, who was elected in May 2019, saw a group of five or six men and women who were being loud and had wandered over to the flag-raising ceremony.

He assumed they had been drinking, however did not hear what they were chanting until after the event.

He said: “I was focusing on the speech, I wasn’t trying to follow what they were saying. I then heard the video and they were just repeating ‘Raise the f*****g flag n*****’ over and over.”

Basildon Council uploaded the video to its Twitter page to celebrate Essex Pride weekend, but made the decision to mute the chants.

The Liverpudlian mayor continued: “It is very upsetting to hear. It doesn’t matter who you are, people think it’s acceptable to say those things in public in 2019 at an individual.”

“I represent the borough and the people within it. I was raising a flag that represents the fight against hate and raises the awareness of inclusion and equality – it’s outrageous.”

When the Labour Party councillor was elected Basildon’s mayor in May 2019, he told the Braintree and Witham Times: “I know and recognise the significance of a gay, black man being in this role.

“I hope I serve as an example to other members of the LGBT+ community, those of different colours, creeds and religions, whatever your intersections if you focus, work hard and put your mind to it, anything is possible.”

Gavin Callaghan, leader of Essex council, denounced those responsible for the earlier event on social media.

He said: “Let’s be clear, hurling racist abuse at our mayor is totally unacceptable and we have reported this to the police.

“But just a spoiler to the bigot who did it; you might not know Councillor Burton-Sampson, but I do, and it won’t work, he isn’t going to be deterred by a stone-cold loser like you.”

Basildon Council confirmed the incident had been reported on Friday afternoon.

A spokesperson said: “Basildon Council is a Hate Incident Reporting Centre, HIRCs, are community venues where individuals can report hate incidents and hate crimes, either as a victim or a witness.

HIRCs act as an alternative place to report hate crimes rather than directly to the police, in a non-emergency situation.

Essex Pride was established in 2003. This year saw Essex Police adorn their uniforms with rainbow epaulettes for the first time, in support of the event.

During the weekend, a “thoroughly vile” Colchester man was charged with at least three hate crime and public order offences.

This came after police officers received a torrent of homophobic abuse while attending an incident on Friday evening involving an alleged assault and racial abuse, Essex Live reports.

PC Mark Jones of Essex Police wrote on Twitter of the arrest: “These people still exist, but we deal with them.”

Additional reporting by SWNS