Just like George Floyd, Belly Mujinga’s name could be observed on signs and banners throughout the anti-racist rallies at the weekend.
Belly was working at Victoria Station when a man claiming to have COVID-19 assaulted her and a colleague. Within days, Mujinga was diagnosed with coronavirus. And, just two weeks later, she died in a hospital in Barnet on April 5.
Following her death, the British Transport Police (BTP), carried out an investigation leading to a man being interviewed. Ultimately, the BTP determined that they would take no further action. However, in a surprising U-turn, the force has asked the CPS to review the evidence. A Change.org petition managed by her family, with the support of the TSSA union, has amassed more than 1 million signatures. The petition aims to “secure protection and support for those working at Govia Thameslink Railway” and was initially created to “find and prosecute the individual who assaulted” her. Govia Thameslink, has long maintained that it has been following government advice on PPE.
The move comes as civil rights protests have erupted in the UK over the murder of George Floyd intensifying anger over structural racism in British society.
Luke Pollard MP for Plymouth Sutton and Devonport said:
My heart breaks for Belly’s family. My thoughts and condolences are with her husband and 11-year old daughter. I am seriously concerned about the reports that charges will not be put against the person who assaulted her. I stand in solidarity with the petition supported by Belly’s family demanding that Govia Thameslink Railway provide proper protection for their employees.
We must ensure that all our workers have suitable PPE, so they are not putting their lives at risk while carrying out their jobs. The reports of the lack of PPE for our key workers is alarming. The picture is different in different parts of the country. In Plymouth, I am liaising with Derriford, Livewell and the City Council over PPE availability. Exposing key workers to infection compounds the risk we all face, and needs to be addressed. I am sure everyone agrees with me that those key workers are the heroes of the current pandemic. I spoke about them in the House of Commons recently in the Agriculture Bill debate and thanked them.
The Black Lives Matter protests have amplified the need to address structural inequalities in British society. We need to have a look at what we are doing. I have never had to worry about my race. I have never had to think about the impact of what my race would have to get a job – that’s because I am white. Recognising the privilege that affords us is part of being part of the solution. Black people are 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police in England and Wales. Black people experienced 12% of the use-of-force incidents, despite being 3.3% of the population. Black people have long faced discrimination within the UK justice system.
Since being elected, I’ve been vocal about my views on equality. I refuse to be silent. I believe I have a responsibility to speak out. We all benefit when everyone in our society is treated fairly, equally and valued and respected for who we are. That means dismantling the systems, walls, obstacles and inequalities that discriminate against being poor, being from a minority, being gay and being a woman – to name but a few. It means recognising the privilege we have and addressing it in all aspects of our lives – in recruitment, in employment, in language, in kindness and in the structures we build and participate in as a society.
I have been communicating with the black leaders in our community and have issued a call for them to share their experiences in Plymouth and say why Black Lives Matters here. I am using the platform and privilege that I have to amplify black, and BAME voices in Plymouth and I hope that this helps raise awareness and confronts the obstacles that deny our fellow citizens opportunities simply because of the colour of their skin or their background.
A fundraising page organised to aide Belly’s family can be seen here.