A SWANSEA councillor said she felt like punching a man who claimed that politicians were reacting to Black Lives Matter “hysteria” by examining street names and monuments with links to slavery.
Cllr Lesley Walton also described a Swansea group which alleged the council had already made decisions on street names as “racist bigots” which had got it wrong.
No decisions, said Cllr Walton, had been made.
Speaking at a meeting of the council’s equalities and future generations policy development committee, Cllr Walton said: “A guy wrote to the paper, and he talked about the hysteria following the Black Lives Matter (movement).
“If he had been in front of me I think I would have punched him.
“I was that angry about the way these people are suddenly reacting to what we are trying to do.”
Citing emails on the subject by a group called Leavers of Swansea and a relative of Sir Thomas Picton – a former soldier, war hero, plantation owner and colonial governor – Cllr Walton said: “We are allowing them to dictate what’s happening. That is outrageous.”
Referring to Leavers of Swansea, she said: “They have made out to everybody in Swansea who is stupid enough to watch their flipping video that we have made a decision already.
“We have not made a decision. So, do you know what the first thing is – make that clear, and counter these vile, racist bigots.”
Full council approved a Black Lives Matter motion to examine Swansea’s geography and institutions to see whether any names or images should be removed, amended or displayed differently earlier this month.
Educational resources about Swansea’s past, said the motion, should be developed to better inform people of the city’s history.
Committee chairwoman, Cllr Louise Gibbard, said the committee’s scope was quite limited.
She said: “Primarily what we are going to be looking at is a review of what we have got at the moment in Swansea, and then looking at what we need to add to that – more blue plaques, more diverse representation across the city.”
Cllr Walton rejected any idea that the council would try to rewrite history.
She added: “I think we’ve all got to start being a bit more angry about this, otherwise we are just going to fall into the trap of the garbage these people come out with.”
The committee will report to cabinet around October with a recommended policy and action plan.
The public will be able to have their say on the ongoing work via a consultation.
Cllr Joe Hale said he was fully supportive of Black Lives Matter but didn’t think taking down statues was “very helpful” – preferring instead education and engagement.
He said he was brought up in an immigrant family in South London and had experienced racism.
“The only people who can tell you how it feels are those that have been affected by it,” he said.
Cllr Gibbard agreed about the role of education, and added: “We’re not making any decisions about tearing down statues. I don’t think we’ve got any statues to tear down.”
Cllr Yvonne Jardine said she wanted her grandchildren and great-grandchildren to benefit from the Black Lives Matter motion.
“How are they being treated? Is it any better than I have been?” she said.
Cllr Peter Jones said humans had enslaved one another since historical records began, and that he would like to see the name of his own street, De-La-Beche Road, changed because of what he said was the De-La-Beche family’s plantation-owning background.
But he also urged caution. “Let’s be careful about going too far,” he said.
Cllr Mary Sherwood said attitudes changed over time, and that things which were legal and even acceptable in the past might not be now.
“Society has moved on and we no longer wish to edify and celebrate these individuals,” she said.
“The point of tension is that these individuals were considered philanthropists and benefactors because they used their great wealth to benefit the local area.
“Yes, we are grateful, but also we are unhappy.”
Cllr Sherwood said specific criteria would be needed to inform future decisions.
“There has to be a clear rationale otherwise our critics will come at us for being inconsistent or incoherent,” she said.
Public questions were noted at the meeting around the cost of the work being carried out, whether it was needed, concerns about elements of the Black Lives Matter movement, and whether the public in Swansea would get a say.
On this last point, Cllr Gibbard said: “Absolutely. I’m sure we will plan an engagement programme and that will be open for people to make contributions.”
Speaking after the meeting, Leavers of Swansea spokesman Dan Morgan said he believed Cllr Walton should stand down.
“It is simply outrageous that an elected councillor should bandy threats and make lives very uncomfortable because we hold a different view from Labour and she has to go,” he said.
On the claim about Leavers of Swansea being “vile, racist bigots”, Mr Morgan said: “I would like to know where the proof is. We’ve got 400 members in the group – all of them are furious.”
He also said police had visited him and a Leavers of Swansea colleague on the evening of July 21.
Mr Morgan said a fake social media account had publicised his address, landlord’s name and previous address.
“I stayed at a friend’s house that night, and my partner stayed at her mother’s,” he said.