The leader of Wokingham Borough Council was accused of posting a statement on social media that “could appear racist” and attempting to “commandeer” a Black Lives Matter banner for a photo opportunity.

Councillor John Halsall has come under fire after he said the council could not support the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, during a meeting in July, because it had “become a political organisation” that was promoting “an anti-police message”.

He also included criticism of the anti-racism movement in a Facebook tribute to the victims of the Forbury Gardens terror attack.

And after changing his position and publicly supporting the movement, he attended a BLM event in Wokingham in August, where he was invited to hold a banner.

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A member of the public accused the Conservative councillor of posting a statement that “could appear racist”, during a council meeting on September 24.

Cllr Halsall said: ” My postings on Facebook were not racist and indeed I have gone to great lengths to clarify any possibility of misunderstanding or misinterpretation.

“I have also apologised if I have inadvertently caused offence amongst any community.”

He added: “I completely support the message, principles and the aims of Black Lives Matter in the UK.

“I have always been opposed to discrimination in all its forms. I understand the need today to have a clear focus on tackling racism where it is found.

“If any comments that I have made have been offensive to anybody then, once again, I apologise unreservedly.”

At the meeting, another member of the public accused him of attempting to “commandeer a Black Lives Matter banner for a photo opportunity” during an event in Wokingham.

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Cllr Halsall said it was a public meeting that was “advertised as a peaceful and welcoming meeting”.

He said: “The organisers knew that the deputy chief executive and I had accepted their invitation and would be there.

“Indeed, they had welcomed us and came to greet us.

“The first speaker acknowledged my presence by mischaracterising me as having associated the murders in Forbury Gardens with the BLM march that day in Reading.

“At the time I explicitly, publicly and frequently said that there was no association between those events and have repeated this regularly.”

He added: “I did not commandeer the flag as you suggest, in fact I was invited to join my council colleagues who were holding the flag, when an individual in a mask snatched their flag from them and ran away.”