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Black councillor turned away from Jesse Jackson speech

ADDRESS: Jesse Jackson visited Birmingham to give address (PA)

THE VISIT to Birmingham of Rev Jesse Jackson has sparked a row after one of the city’s leading black councillors was denied entry to hear him speak at the newly opened Library of Birmingham.

Councillor Paulette Hamilton, who has served as a Labour councillor for Birmingham’s Handsworth Wood ward for the past decade was left “shocked, hurt but also very angry” after council door staff refused to let her in when she arrived a few minutes late.

Hamilton, who was on the official guest list for the event run by Operation Black Vote, had been fulfilling a community commitment elsewhere in the city, which had started late. Despite wearing her official council badge door staff told her the event was full.

The case has now been taken up by Desmond Jaddoo, the founder of Birmingham Empowerment Forum (BEF) who has written a letter of complaint to the city’s deputy leader Councillor Ian Ward.

Jaddoo, who was at Jackson’s address marking the 50th anniversary of Dr Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” speech, said there were empty seats in front of him and claimed others arrived after Councillor Hamilton was turned away.

In his letter, he said: “I recall Rev Jackson talking about libraries and being denied access for education literature, therefore it is ironic that the same thing happened to Councillor Hamilton.

LATE: Councillor Paulette Hamilton was denied entry when turning up half an hour after doors closed

“I’m concerned that this should happen at a time when Birmingham’s commitment to reflective governance is being called into question and its super diverse status being embraced.

“Rev Jackson is an iconic 20th Century civil rights leader without question and this is not a very good advert for Birmingham when a black councillor is denied access.”

A Birmingham City Council spokesperson said: “Those invited were instructed to arrive no later than 10.50am for the 11am event and Councillor Hamilton arrived at 11.20am, half an hour after the cut-off point.

“People were already being turned away and were still milling around when Councillor Hamilton arrived and library staff were concerned there might be a surge at the door. If Councillor Hamilton had been able to let us know she was going to be late we could have done something about it.”

Hamilton, a trained nursing sister, added: “I felt very hurt and frustrated and also very angry. It was not as if I had just left my house all dressed up and got to the event late. I had been on council business at the African Caribbean Millennium Centre which had started late.

“If I had known who to contact about the fact I was running late I would have done so.”

She added: “I was simply turned away without anyone bothering to check if I was on the guest list or checking to see if there was still room. I was even wearing my council badge.

“I have fought long and hard to keep my council seat and after ten years this is what happens. This is not a good example for Birmingham.”

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