ON THE CONTROVERSY OVER BURNING EFFIGY OF GRENFELL TOWER

At least  72 people were reported to have been killed in the unfortunate fire incident at Grenfell Tower in west London on 14 June last year. It was the worst residential fire in the UK since the Second World War. In a heartbreaking unraveling of events, we witnessed the courage and grit of the public, residents and emergency rescuers and share in the profound loss of that event. Controversies surrounding the British government’s incompetence and weak response still trail the event, making it a central political issue. Every month on the 14th, protests are staged in a bid to piece together the happenings of that tragic day and advocate justice for the victims and change for the community. Conversations are still ongoing, wounds are still mending.

 

In recent related events, a group of party attendees burned an effigy of the Grenfell Tower and laughed as they pretended to be trapped residents who died in the disaster. In what appeared to be a bonfire gathering. An anonymous video footage, which has been widely circulated online, shows these party people placing a cardboard model of the Tower in the center of a bonfire as onlookers mimic the screams of those who lost their lives in the fire. Mocking cries of “help me”, “stay in your flat” are heard as the video ensues. Other voices say: “Jump out the window”, “All the little ninjas getting it” and “That’s what happens when they don’t pay their rent.” The burning effigy had cardboard cutouts of burning people at the windows of the apartment block. Several of the cutouts appeared to have been colored brown with the flag of England, a St. George’s Cross flag waving in the background. Many of the victims were people of color and immigrants. It is unclear when or where the video was recorded. The voices heard have southern English accents suggesting that they are from suggested Essex or London and one of their faces can be seen reasonably clearly.

There’s been a serious outrage on Twitter condemning the act as a “hate crime” and a dissident cry has gone up to find and convict the participants in this appalling video. London Fire Commissioner Dany Cotton said: “This is an appalling and disturbing video. To intentionally use and mock the Grenfell Tower fire in this way will cause deep pain and offence to the bereaved, survivors, the local community and all of the emergency services who will never forget that night. It cannot be justified on any level.” His words mirror the general consensus on the actions of the yet unidentified group, with many more shocked than angry at the blatantly unfeeling actions of the group.

Political revolutionism has been taking hold in the British community in recent times with more people speaking boldly about the scourge of deeply rooted racism and social injustices. More than the usual outcry, this growing awareness seeks to unravel the fundamental core of color differences and entrenched perceptions in a bid to first understand, identify and change. In light, of this unfathomable act, can we say this is a defiance of the changing social pattern, a sign that we are taking the wrong approach or merely the irrelevant noise of a few despicable sadists? There’s also the impression that it could have been a mindless, insensitive joke by some unthinking youngsters. While it is clearly inappropriate and totally unacceptable, only the right actions can nip it in the bud. As much as we should stand up for change and social justice, hate does not expunge hate. Let the conversations continue. Let there be awareness, understanding and acceptance…Five men have been arrested on suspicion of a public order offence in connection with the incident. Meanwhile, events still unfold from this disappointing incident.

Photos courtesy US News, Reuters.

Abiodun Odusola
abiodunodusola@ymail.com
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