Published: 06:00, 12 August 2020
Racially aggravated crimes almost doubled in Kent the month after George Floyd was killed.
The rise in crime was concurrent with a rise in hostility as the Black Lives Matter movement stepped back into the global spotlight.
George Floyd died on May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck until he could not breathe while arresting him in Minneapolis. Black Lives Matter protests sprang up across the world soon after a video of the incident went viral.
In the month prior to his death, Kent Police recorded 88 racially-aggravated crimes and in the month following, this almost doubled to 170 records.
Provocation of fear or violence saw the largest rise over those two months, with May seeing 52 of offences and June seeing 103. There was also a small spike in assault with injury, as nine were recorded during the week of June 12.
Deputy Chief Constable Tony Blaker from Kent Police said: "Hate crime of any type will simply not be tolerated. These crimes are unacceptable and undermine the diversity and tolerance we should instead be celebrating.
"Whilst some increases in reporting can be attributed to a greater confidence in victims to come forward and continuing efforts by our officers, we are aware that national or worldwide events throughout May and June have an impact on people living locally by creating tensions or worries.
"Hate crime is an under reported crime and we would urge anyone who has been a victim or witnessed such an offence to report it over the phone, via the Kent Police website, to the True Vision website or via the third-party reporting centre which can be found on the Kent Police website."
Marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement happened all over the world including in Deal, Chatham, Canterbury, Thanet and Sevenoaks.
Cllr Siju Adeoye was a key speaker at Medway's socially distanced protest and has been passionately vocal about systemic racism, especially over the last few months.
She said: "I think there's a moral panic where people have misconstrued the whole Black Lives Matter movement to be anti-white racism.
"People are not understanding why people are protesting, the issues at stake here or what systemic injustice is, because they haven't experienced it, people are quick to dismiss it by saying, this is a bunch of troublemakers and lynch mobs."
The Chatham Central Ward councillor said she has noticed a rise in hostility since protests began, adding: "As soon as I spoke out my mailbox was full.
"There was positive as well as negative comments. I've had different kinds of vile and racial comments that are not worth repeating.
"It is bringing out what is deeply rooted in the hearts of people. That people really haven't moved away from racism, people haven't moved away from discrimination. The subconscious bias is coming out in the open.
"There's fear that 'these people have come and are taking something away from us.' It's not like that at all. It is about how everybody can co-exist and how everybody can have a fair system."
Echoing the Deputy Chief Constable's statement, she added: "I must credit Kent Police because I've had personal issues myself and each time I have reported it they have listened and they have acted, better compared to a decade or two ago.
"Even their presence at Black Lives Matter protests has been fantastic.
"When people are seeing the police are talking to us, engaging with us and police are not so hostile, it gives us confidence to actually report.
"But the issue is not whether they record the crime, it's whether or not that crime goes further in terms of prosecution.
"It's not good enough to listen and record. We are looking at cuts to services so the government really need to invest more in the police service."