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Racist abuse claim during protest outside Walsall Council meeting - police investigating

A councillor has claimed she was racially abused by protesters as she went to attend a crucial meeting in Walsall.

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Councillor Simran Cheema

Councillor Simran Cheema said the slur was shouted at her as she walked into Walsall Council House, past the 'pro-Palestine protesters' who were outside.

She was attending a resumed full council meeting, where the authority's latest budget was set, on Wednesday, shortly before 6pm when the alleged incident took place.

West Midlands Police confirmed it is investigating.

But people who attended the protest said they were "staggered" at the accusation and said any racist abuse would not have been tolerated had it been heard.

The meeting was rescheduled for Wednesday after the original meeting was postponed the week before following an interruption in the public gallery from people who wanted members to discuss the situation in Gaza.

Labour's Councillor Cheema, who represents Willenhall South, said: "The protesters were outside and I was walking into full council and they were waving pieces of paper in my face, trying to get me to take one but I just brushed it aside.

"But then they shouted 'shame on you, ****' and when I first heard it, I was thinking 'did they really just say that?'

"But it was repeated several times as I walked into the building. I was a bit shocked at first and thought I'd misheard.

"I didn't turn around to look at them. I'm assuming they said it to provoke a reaction from me but I wasn't going to give them the satisfaction.

"I just don't understand why that word was used. I was there to serve my residents, it was a really important meeting where the Conservative administration pushed through £17.3 million worth of cuts and I wanted to voice my opposition to that.

"I was taken aback. Everyone has the right to protest but I don't agree with that level of aggression.

"We can't influence foreign policy and I don't know why we, as Walsall Council, are being held to account."

Labour group leader Matt Ward: "I'm appalled that Councillor Cheema was racially abused outside Walsall Town Hall before the budget council on Wednesday evening.

"There is no place in our society for any form of racism or discrimination. I hope the police are able to identify those involved and bring them to justice."

A West Midlands Police Spokesperson said: "We are investigating after a woman was racially abused on Leicester Street during a protest in Walsall.

"There is no place for hate of any kind and we take incidents such as this very seriously.

"As part of our enquiries we will be studying CCTV footage to find the person responsible.

"Anyone with any information is being urged to contact us via Live Chat on our website or by calling 101 quoting crime reference number 20/255634/24. Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111."

Ursula Walker, secretary of the Walsall Kobar Friendship Association and who was part of the protest, said: "I find that staggering and if anyone had said that it would not have been tolerated.

"We would absolutely never ever use the P-word and the majority of people in the protest were Muslim.

"If anything was said which was anti-Semitic or racially abusive we would have jumped on it as that is not acceptable.

"All the councillors who went in were offered an open letter and all of them apart from one took them and said 'thank you'.

"There certainly was frustration when she refused to take the letter but certainly nothing like that was heard being shouted out."

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