Ex-councillor who sprayed ‘Dickens racist’ on museum celebrating author says he will not apologise

Ian Driver says he is campaigning against institutional racism in Thanet, Kent

Matt Mathers
Tuesday 30 June 2020 14:11
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Charles Dickens House, Thanet, Kent
Charles Dickens House, Thanet, Kent

A former councillor who sprayed “Dickens racist” on a building celebrating the famous author in Kent says he will be “making no apology”.

Ian Driver, 53, admitted responsibility for graffiti that appeared on a number of sites in Broadstairs overnight on 27 June.

Campaigning against what he says is “institutionalised racism” amid the Black Lives Matter protests, Driver sprayed “Dickens racist” on the wall outside The Dickens House Museum.

He also targetted the Broadstairs and St Peter’s Town Council offices, the office of Broadstairs Folk Week, a box protecting a plaque to Uncle Mack and two street signs with “anti-racist” graffiti.

Mr Driver, who works as a carer, says he is now being investigated by the police but has “no regrets”.

“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 [sic],” Driver wrote on his blog.

“I have been campaigning against what I believe to be the institutional racism of the Broadstairs and Dickens and Folk week events and the Broadstairs and Thanet councils for several years but to no avail.”

Mr Driver added: “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.

“Charles Dickens is celebrated in Broadstairs like a local hero and money maker just because he wrote a few books here. In reality, he was a notorious genocidal racist and should be depicted as such. That’s the real Dickens.”

A spokesperson for Thanet District Council said: ”As a council, we ... 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.

“The leader of the council made a decision last week to remove the Uncle Mack plaque in Broadstairs and 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.”

The Dickens Museum is located in the building that inspired the author’s portrayal of Betsey Trotwood’s home in the David Copperfield novel. Dickens also visited the town frequently.

Some of Dickens’s work has attracted controversy over claims that it is racist.

“In modern terminology, Dickens was a ‘racist’ of the most egregious kind, a fact that ought to give pause to those who persist in believing that he was necessarily the epitome of all that was decent and benign in the previous century,” wrote Peter Ackroyd in his 1990 biography of the Victorian author.

Dickens’s novel Oliver Twist has also been accused of using anti-semitic tropes for its portrayal of Fagin who is repeatedly referred to as “the Jew” while there is no mention of other characters’ race or religion.

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