11:39 GMT29 November 2020
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    One hundred academics have signed a letter addressed to the Society of Legal Scholars (SLS) urging it to press for a full apology from former Justice Secretary Michael Gove, for his "repugnant" remarks made during an SLS after-dinner speech, in which he likened himself to the head of the racist Klu Klux Klan group.

    'Divisive'

    The letter states: "We understand that Mr. Gove commented 'I feel rather like the grand wizard of the KKK giving an address to the AGM of Black Lives Matter.' "

    And signed by 100 academics, it is calling for the SLS to release a more "forthright and unambiguous statement" that addresses issues including equality, inclusiveness and diversity "raised by this incident."
    An initial statement released by the SLS does not, according to the signatories, go far enough. 

    ​"The comments made by your guest in relation to Black Lives Matter and the KKK are deeply offensive and divisive," the letter addressed to Professor Andrew Burrows and Professor Imelda Maher said.

    'Staggering'

    The letter continues:

    "That the very real struggles of Black and Minority Ethnic communities in this country and around the world against racism, discrimination and violence should be made light of at a gathering of eminent lawyers is staggering."

    'Repugnant'

    "We believe that the comments will be viewed as repugnant by the majority of the UK legal academic community. For BME colleagues throughout the legal academy, they are extremely concerning."

    The academics are calling for the society to press Mr. Gove for a "full personal apology" to anyone that would have been offended by his comments likening his presence at the dinner to that of the head of racist group the KKK at a Black Lives Matter AGM. 

    The SLS did issue a statement following the remarks after concerns were raised and voiced on social media.

    ​However, according to the 100 academics, the statement simply does not go far enough.

    'Hostile'

    The initial statement said: "The invitation on behalf of the SLS was made and accepted when he [Gove] was Minister of Justice and Lord Chancellor (and months before the EU referendum campaigns had begun).

    "In the course of his speech, aware that his academic audience might be largely hostile given his position on Brexit, Mr. Gove drew an analogy, the gist of which has since been tweeted."

    'Regret'

    "The Society wishes to distance itself clearly and unequivocally from this comment and sincerely regrets that it was made and caused offense."

    Michael Gove, a Conservative politician was Secretary of State for Education from 2010 to 2014 and Secretary of State for Justice from 2015 to 2016 until he was sacked by Prime Minister Theresa May.

    Mr. Gove also led the Vote Leave campaign ahead of the UK's referendum on its membership of the European Union and even threw his hat in the ring for the job as PM after David Cameron resigned.

    Since the UK vote to leave the EU, hate crime has increased on average 57 per cent nationwide according to the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC). Mark Hamilton, head of the organization said that he believed the referendum debate was responsible for the increased figures.

    Black Lives Matter (BLM) was formed following the murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman, who was acquitted for the crime. BLM is an international activist movement that campaigns against racism towards black people, police brutality and racial inequality.

    Related:

    Police Confront Black Lives Matter Protesters Blocking London Airport Runway
    Several Activists Arrested in NYC at Peaceful Black Lives Matter Protest
    UK Must Tackle Race Inequality, Rise in Hate Crime After Brexit - Watchdog
    Tags:
    dinner, racist, lawyers, apology, statement, speech, xenophobia, Black Lives Matter, Michael Gove, George Zimmerman, Trayvon Martin, Europe, United Kingdom
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