Last month an elderly disabled black woman was subjected to racist abuse by a passenger on a Ryanair flight. Bootcamp 10 grad Zita Holbourne explains how she got more than 350,000 people to respond.
You recently started a petition addressed to Ryanair. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
I saw the video of the incident circulating on social media on Saturday morning, not long after the event happened. Come Monday, I saw Ryanair had not contacted them at all. I wanted to do something about it, so I started a petition. I got in contact with David Lawrence, who filmed the incident, and he put me in touch with the family.
How have Delsie Gayle, the woman who was abused, and her family responded to the petition?
I’ve stayed in contact with the family, and they’re really grateful. It’s what we do when we see an injustice. It’s not just a racist hate crime, it’s a disability hate crime. We have to stand up for these things and support each other. I’ve put them in touch with lawyers and tried to give them practical support.
How has the petition been received by the general public, the media and people in positions of power?
Within two days a quarter of a million people signed it. It’s not just been signed by people who are traditionally activists or anti-racist campaigners; it’s been signed by ordinary people and people in positions of authority and power. The family are represented by renowned Human Rights lawyers Leigh Day, who are endorsing the petition, which calls for a proper apology and compensation. You’ve had the local MP’s who started an Early day motion. There have been messages of support from John McDonnell, Jeremy Corbyn and Rokhsana Fiaz. There has been a public outcry; people find it outrageous that the man did this and Ryanair dealt with it in such a woeful manner.
How did you get more than 350,000 people to sign your petition?
I think I got a quarter of a million in the first two days because people were quite rightly outraged. There was already national news coverage. People could see the video so there was no speculation regarding did it or did it not happen or a word against word account. Plus as a campaigner I used my networks to get it out quickly to the widest possible audience. Reaching people, you need to consider the title, the content, not make it too long, but include enough info. To keep it going you have to do updates, keep people engaged, reach out to them, keep sharing, put in actions they can take, etc.
What can readers do to support your campaign or Delsie?
We see in all of these films of people on buses and trams and trains being abused, and there have been other incidents where no one has stood up. Readers can stand up to racism when they witness it. It’s really important to do that because our silence empowers those who hold racist views.
If readers want to send messages of support to raise the morale of the family they can message me or they can tweet and include @baracuk so we can pick it up and share it with the family. They can sign and share the petition. At the moment it’s over one third of a million but we want to get it to half a million and keep the pressure on Ryanair. Readers can also ask their MP to sign the Early day motion.
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