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Community reclaims St George's cross at Barking and Dagenham town hall

PUBLISHED: 17:53 23 April 2019 | UPDATED: 17:53 23 April 2019

St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Aaron Morris flies the flag.

St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Aaron Morris flies the flag.

Archant

The council raised St George's cross at the town hall today to celebrate England's patron saint and reclaim it from people that use it to breed prejudice.

St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Council Leader Darren Rodwell welcoming the crowd.St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Council Leader Darren Rodwell welcoming the crowd.

Along with the flag raising, everyone in the borough was invited to the event to have food and play games.

Councillor and council leader Darren Rodwell emphasised that St George himself was an immigrant.

He was a Greek soldier in the Roman army who was eventually executed for his Christian beliefs.

“St George's day isn't about heritage. It's about today and who we are as part of England,” said Mr Rodwell.

St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Council Leader Darren Rodwell raises the flag at the Town Hall.St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Council Leader Darren Rodwell raises the flag at the Town Hall.

“We've got over 130 cultures in the borough, but by living here, they're part of our national day.

Karon Webb is 55 and from Becontree. She was at the event with her 18-months-old granddaughter Emily Morris.

She was glad to see the council celebrating the patron saint of England and to see children from different backgrounds in the borough playing together.

“I think if all the cultures come together and let us have an insight into each other's cultures, there would be less racial disharmony,” she said.

St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Sanjana Arun aged 4 having some fun.St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square. Sanjana Arun aged 4 having some fun.

“It's a fear of the unknown. People don't know each other's cultures so everybody's a bit suspicious and it only takes a few to drum-up hatred.”

A retired reverend who worked in Barking called Carlton Smith agreed that the flag was a way to bring people together.

He said: “Its and a diverse community and this is a way of bridging the gap between the racial divide. It's a way of saying that we are one people.

“This used to be a borough that excluded people, but now I can see changes. I can see a lot of changes and it's for the better. We should celebrate that.”

St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square with St Geoge and the Dragon battling it out.St George's Day celebrations in Barking Town Square with St Geoge and the Dragon battling it out.

Sade Bright moved from Nigeria to Britain in 1990 when she was 23. She now represents Chadwell Heath in the council.

She thinks it is important for the community to celebrate its Englishness.

Both she and Mr Rodwell talked about the defeat of the British National Party in 2010 in an election that saw it lose all of its twelve seats.

The BNP wants to stop all immigration and cease funding for all programmes that promote multiculturalism.

It was recently banned from Facebook along with other far-right groups thought to be 'dangerous'.

“When we fought the BNP it was about saying, 'These are our flags. We all represent this. We're all part of this',” said Mr Rodwell.

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