There are calls for the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent Jackie Barnes to stand down immediately.
She has apologised for ‘any offence caused’ after sharing what have been condemned as ‘racist’ and ‘divisive’ posts on her personal Facebook page.
The Trent Vale ward councillor has now referred herself to the city council's standards committee so a full investigation can be carried out.
The City Independent still holds the ceremonial role after the 2020/21 mayor-making ceremony was delayed until September due to the Coronavirus pandemic. The 2020/21 Lord Mayor will be former British National Party parliamentary candidate Melanie Baddeley.
But there are now calls for Mrs Barnes to stand down as Lord Mayor immediately.
The recent shared posts include:
- Highlighting the case of a white girl murdered by an Albanian immigrant which included the phrase ‘no-one protested or rioted for me’;
- A post headed: ‘On May 22, 2013, no-one rioted in the UK when two black men hacked Lee Rigby to death. Where were you all then’;
- A post about a ‘group of black men’ attacking two police officers in London.
In contrast, there are also posts denouncing racism – including an image of a white baby and a black baby playing together with the caption, ‘God created life, not races’.
In a statement, Mrs Barnes said: “I have taken the decision to self-refer through the council’s standards process because I hold the office of Lord Mayor, and my role as a councillor, in the highest regard.
“I am truly sorry that any of my actions may have caused distress or offence to anyone. That was not and would never be my intention. I hope that in my duties as Lord Mayor and as a councillor, residents will have seen that I treat everyone with respect.
“I am proud to be a part of such a diverse city.
“Over the past 48 hours, I have looked long and hard through my social media feed. I have shared content on a whole range of subjects from different perspectives. I can see that a few of these may have caused offence.
“I deeply regret this. I will take these posts down. Again I apologise for any offence caused and will follow the due standards process.”
North Staffordshire Campaign Against Racism and Facism (NorSCARF) has said the posts threaten to create divisions within the city’s multi-cultural society.
It comes as the Black Lives Matter movement is sweeping the globe following the murder of American George Floyd.
NorSCARF spokesman Jason Hill said: “NorSCARF is concerned that the Lord Mayor of Stoke-on-Trent, Jackie Barnes, has been posting divisive material on social media – during a time when the city’s representatives ought to be working their hardest to achieve unity.
“Hanley Town Hall has been lit up in memory of George Floyd, which was a fantastic gesture. So it is incredibly disappointing that our Lord Mayor seems to want to share things which make a mockery of the issues that Floyd’s death have brought to the fore.
“Although these posts have appeared on her own personal social media platform, she is not a private citizen: she is a public figure and should act in a responsible way to reflect the public she represents.
“Stoke-on-Trent is a diverse and multi-cultural city, and the kind of racist material circulated by Jackie Barnes should have no place in public discourse.”
The Labour Party’s Stoke-on-Trent South group has called for Mrs Barnes to resign from her position as Lord Mayor.
Spokesman Mark McDonald said: “The history of Stoke-on-Trent is one of tolerance and a strong community spirit.
“Great people like Wedgwood fought against slavery and oppression, and he along with the many local people who died during the Second World War fighting against bigotry and racism would be disgusted to have a mayor representing our city holding such appalling views. Jackie Barnes should resign immediately.”
The council says the investigation into Mrs Barnes’ conduct will be ‘independently reviewed’.
A council spokesman said: “The city council takes very seriously the conduct of councillors and officers. Stoke-on-Trent prides itself on being a diverse and multi-cultural city and it goes without saying that we should always ensure the city council is an authority based on equality and fairness.
“Councillor Barnes has taken the decision to refer herself through the council’s standards process, which is responsible for ensuring that councillors operate in a way that adheres to the members code of conduct.
“The referral will be independently reviewed as part of the standards process, and it is inappropriate to comment further until this work has been done.”
City Independents group leader Ann James said: “Jackie is not racist. I don’t understand why anybody would be making out that she is. Is this just because of this Mr Floyd in America that all this is going on?
“I’m not on Facebook and I don’t have anything to do with this. I’m amazed, to be honest, because Jackie has only tried to do good for this city and when it comes down to her work as Lord Mayor, she only does good and tries to bring people together.”