The Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry must investigate institutional discrimination/racism

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On the 14th of June 2017 a fire broke out in Grenfell Tower, a 24 storey residential building in West London. 72 people lost their lives in the fire. The homes of 350 people were destroyed. Grenfell Tower is in North Kensington, an area that is part of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC). The differences in income, health and life expectancy between the north and south of the borough is higher than in any other borough in London.  RBKC is the richest Borough in the whole of England. Grenfell Tower was a council housing estate in which most residents were working class, with a majority from BAME backgrounds. 

The residents of Grenfell Tower alerted the Council countless times over several years before the fire that the tower is not safe but were repeatedly ignored. Information known so far point to the fact that failures of unimaginable magnitude caused the fire, including, for example, that it was known to many involved that the materials used for the refurbishment were not safe for living. We demand to know whether this level of conduct characterises the actions and practices of the RBKC and associated bodies across the Borough or whether practices differ depending on people's social class, religion or race. 

Three days after the fire, the then Prime Minister Theresa May announced a Public Inquiry (PI) to investigate the causes of the fire. The Inquiry has been underway since September 2017 and is now on its second and last phase. The Inquiry's Chair, backed by both Theresa May and Boris Johnson, dismissed the bereaved families', survivors' and residents' requests to include institutional discrimination in the issues for investigation by the Inquiry claiming that it is not an issue for the Inquiry to investigate.

Petition: On the third anniversary of the Grenfell Tower Fire

The bereaved families, survivors, and community demand that the Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry investigate institutional discrimination by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (RBKC) and its associated bodies and the role that institutional discrimination has had in the causes of the fire. We demand that institutional discrimination is included in the Terms of reference of the PI, before it resumes on 6th July 2020 as racism and class discrimination are legal issues that the Inquiry should and is able to investigate.

We adopt and adapt the definition of ‘institutional discrimination’ from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry's definition of institutional racism which is as follows:

“The collective failure of an organisation to provide an appropriate and professional service to people because of their social class, race or religion. It can be seen or detected in processes, attitudes and behavior which amount to discrimination through unwitting prejudice, ignorance, thoughtlessness and stereotyping which disadvantages people based on their social class, race or religion.”

In order to investigate institutional discrimination the Inquiry is requested to conduct a comparison between the practices of the RBKC and associated bodies towards Grenfell Tower and towards non council-house buildings across the Borough. If the comparison shows differences within practices, it will be able to shine a light on the role that race, religion and class played in determining responses to the residents and the subsequent refurbishment which resulted in it being a death trap.

The bereaved families', survivors' and community's demand to include institutional discrimination, and the mountains of evidence on discrimination they provided so far, were repeatedly dismissed by the Inquiry, demonstrating a classic example of institutional discrimination that manifests in the systematic indifference and exclusion of people’s most important understandings.

Including institutional discrimination in the Inquiry requires the following four steps:

1.     Changing the Inquiry’s terms of reference to include institutional discrimination under the scope of investigation for Phase 2 of the Inquiry.

2.     Appointing decision-making panel members who will ensure that the Inquiry is informed by people experienced in investigating institutional discrimination/racism

3.     Accepting as evidence for the Inquiry the community’s testimonies on their experiences of institutional discrimination.

4.     Appointing racial and class discrimination experts to assist the Inquiry in its investigation.

See the attached video - The Grenfell Tower Public Inquiry must investigate institutional discrimination- with subtitles in English, Arabic, and Farsi. 

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