A petition has been launched to stop people from dressing up in blackface as part of a hugely popular bonfire ceremony in Sussex.
Every year, thousands of people descend on Sussex for the Lewes Bonfire, which sees volunteers dragging flaming barrels of tar through the streets of the small town.
But the ceremony has also attracted controversy with a costumed parade that sees some volunteers dressing up as traditional Zulu warriors, complete with black face paint.
Now, a new petition established by local residents has garnered almost 300 signatures, amid claims that the parade “serves only to increase tension and division within our diverse community”.
A description on the petition states: ‘The decision of a small fraction of the membership of Borough Bonfire Society to engage in the offensive practice of blacking up runs counter to the overall spirit of the event.
‘This public display of caricatured, negative stereotypes of black Africans within our community is racist and serves only to increase tension and division within our diverse community.
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‘We ask Borough Bonfire Society to consider the adverse effect this action has on members of the Lewes community, however unintended they might be, and call on them to cease this practice with immediate effect.’
One supporter of the petition wrote: ‘Traditions need to be re-evaluated in changing contexts. Regardless of why you think you’re wearing blackface, to many people watching, you are offering support to a racist and divisive ideology that has no place in modern society.’
Lewes Bonfire Society are yet to respond to the petition.