My Speech at the Vigil for Unity


On Friday I was proud to speak at the Vigil for Unity in Tudor Square, celebrating the things we hold in common and speaking about the importance of uniting to fight hatred wherever we find it. You can watch my speech here or read my full remarks below.

This isn't the first time i've spoken in the heart of our city about the importance of unity. 

When the EDL came to Sheffield, we showed support for those they were targeting.

When we called for donations to take to Calais, my office was overwhelmed by the response from people all over Sheffield.

We were one of the first cities in the UK to take in refugees fleeing from scenes we cannot even imagine.

That is why I love this city. That’s why all of us here love this city and why it is so important we gather tonight.

And when I think about the aftermath of the referendum. No doubt we had our problems, but it is surely a source of pride for all of us that Sheffield that compared to elsewhere Sheffield stayed calm and open and friendly. Because that’s who we are.

We should be proud of that.

The first City of Sanctuary which ever existed is proving itself not just in good times, but in times like these when there are dark clouds all around us.

It's been less than 2 years since I was elected and it is almost with grief as I watch events tear people apart once again.  But I would say it is not an accident that we feel more divided than ever before - in the face of deliberate attempts to pit the old against the young, the deserving against the undeserving poor, Britons against immigrants.  In seeking to blame others we allow ourselves to be distracted and we misdirect our anger and our energy.

So, our response must be what you have all demonstrated with your very presence today.  It must be to call out prejudice wherever we see it, to refuse to concede to the hatred and lies that are spread about our fellow citizens, citizens of the world.

Today we say goodbye to the USA's first black president.  An achievement that those who fought in the civil rights movement did not think they would see in their lifetime.  He gives us hope that a better future is possible, just as all of you here today give me hope that together we can build a better world for our children, that we are stronger when we stand together.

The theme of today's event is that we have more in common with each other than that which divides us.  In memory of my Jo Cox, who we lost last year in a brutal assault on the very fabric of our democracy.  Her legacy is one of love, of hope and not of tolerance but of a celebration of our differences and common humanity.

If we commit to living up to her example then she will not have died in vain.  So today i call on each of you to conduct your lives and your politics in love, in solidarity, not division, with respect and tolerance not hate. 

But it was the greatest President the US never had who said it better than I ever could. He said, in a climate of race riots and tension which eclipses even today:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

That is the role of our city in the years ahead, as it always has been in the past. Let us show leadership to the regressive forces that seek to tear us apart and in doing so we will ensure that love trumps hate.