Published: 15:47, 29 June 2020
| Updated: 15:55, 29 June 2020
A former councillor has taken responsibility for "anti-racist" graffiti sprayed on a museum and a road sign bearing Charles Dickens' name.
The street sign on Dickens Road in Broadstairs was spray painted over on Saturday night, amid controversy over the author's views on slavery.
Meanwhile, the Dickens House Museum in Victoria Parade was also defaced with graffiti.
The building - which served as inspiration for the home of Betsey Trotwood in David Copperfield - was emblazoned with the words "Dickens Racist, Dickens Racist", sparking outrage from local enthusiasts of the famous author.
Now, former Thanet district councillor Ian Driver has claimed responsibility for the spate of vandalism.
Mr Driver is already under police investigation for spray painting the protective box covering the controversial Uncle Mack memorial following a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Broadstairs on June 13.
In a post on his blog, he wrote: "I selected the targets as they represent the deep-rooted institutional racism of Broadstairs Town and Thanet District councils and the Broadstairs Dickens Week and Folk Week charities who openly support, celebrate, and fund with public money, offensive blacked up Morris dancers, Uncle Mack’s blacked up Minstrel show memorial, and genocidal racists such as Charles Dickens and King Leopold of Belgium."
Mr Driver added: "I have no regrets and will be making no apology. I did the right thing and would do it again if needs be.
"I have been campaigning against what I believe to be the institutional racism of the Broadstairs Folk Week and Broadstairs and Thanet councils for several years but to no avail.
"I have now been forced by the inaction of these organisations to take direct measures to expose the appalling racism of our local government and some of our major charities who are being funded by the councils.
"Although I live here and love the place, in my opinion Broadstairs richly deserves the epithet Racism-on-Sea."
Mr Driver says that while he supports Black Lives Matter, his actions are nothing to do with the movement, and are instead his own individual responsibility.
He says his actions were provoked in part by recent toppling of slave owner Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol.
"Peaceful direct action, such as graffiti and the destruction of offensive statues and memorials has always been part of protest and social change," he said. "And I encourage and fully support this form of political expression wherever necessary."
The Broadstairs Dickens Fellowship has slammed Mr Driver's vandalism of the museum.
Spokesman Eddy Coulson said: "Sadly it has been vandalised by a mindless individual with no regard for a cultural asset nor someone possessing any grip on reality.
"The charge that Dickens was a racist is not one I fully support.
"The debate about whether Charles Dickens was a racist has persisted for as long as his books have been read.
"You cannot expunge from history some of the offensive things he has said and written.
"What must happen is an assessment of the good things he did versus the bad. For my part, as the chairman of the Broadstairs Dickens Fellowship, I believe that he did more by way of improving the society in the time in which he lived than harm it otherwise.
"There exists a host of writing on the subject of whether he was a racist or otherwise. However, 150 years after the death of Dickens what is he best remembered for?
"Any chance of a serious debate is not enhanced by mindless graffiti being daubed on perhaps the town’s best cultural asset."
Thanet District Council has also criticised the vandalism.
A spokesman said: "As a council, we comply with our Public Sector Equality Duty and are committed to tackling racial inequality but there is still more to be done.
"The Black Lives Matter protests are an important reminder that we must never become complacent about any form of inequality so, as part of this, we are reviewing all the statues and commemorations within the district. We do not, however, condone damage to public property and have had the graffiti removed this morning."
Thanet District Council, Broadstairs Folk Week, Broadstairs Town Council and Broadstairs Dickens Festival have been approached for comment.
More by this authorLydia Chantler-Hicks
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