Mayor stands behind 'stupid people' jibe

A RESORT'S mayor says she and other community leaders will not bow to mob rule and will stand up and be counted over tough decisions.Joan Sennington was speaking after councillors said they were manhandled and frightened by protesters as they turned up for a meeting to discuss where to build 1,620 new homes at Felixstowe.

Richard Cornwell

A RESORT'S mayor says she and other community leaders will not bow to mob rule and will stand up and be counted over tough decisions.

Joan Sennington was speaking after councillors said they were manhandled and frightened by protesters as they turned up for a meeting to discuss where to build 1,620 new homes at Felixstowe.

One of those who was jostled was former mayor Ann Rodwell, who is terminally ill with cancer but felt it her duty to attend.

Mrs Sennington has been attacked by campaigners for saying “go away you stupid people” to those outside the hall - but has stressed she was referring to the group's behaviour and not abusing individuals.

“I will not deny I said those words and it is easy to regret them now, but I found the mood and actions outside the meeting were physically and verbally threatening. I was more terrified than I have ever been in my life,” she said.

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“I would make it clear that I do not have any criticisms of the right of people to peacefully and properly protest, or to campaign for what they think is right.

“However, if those campaigners cross the line, and become verbally and physically threatening, and if they have mistakenly or deliberately whipped up emotions and expectations, then I think it is completely right to describe their actions as stupid.

“The scenes we saw on Tuesday night were unprecedented in Felixstowe and indeed the wider district, and if the police had not been there on the night I do still worry about what might have happened.

“Mob rule cannot be allowed to take over, and despite still being in shock I and the town council will stand up and be counted.”

Mrs Sennington said the council meeting was just another step in the long consultation process over the housing proposals but people attending appeared to believe it was far more significant.

“As a result, hundreds of people attended, most apparently expecting my fellow town councillors to have far more power on this subject than we actually have,” she said.

“Once we got wind of the campaign we did try to get the meeting switched to a bigger venue but unfortunately we were unsuccessful, and only 100 or so could get inside.

“People outside were frustrated and, probably more so because they had got a false impression of the meeting's importance, some of them were behaving in an unruly and aggressive manner.”

About 200 people were locked out of the meeting because the venue was too small and protesters have called on the mayor to apologise for her remarks.

How was the meeting handled? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk