A former Green councillor who scrawled ‘Dickens racist’ on wall of museum dedicated to 19th century author pleaded not guilty in court
Ian Driver, 63, was arrested for criminal damage after graffiti was plastered on the outside of The Charles Dickens House Museum in Broadstairs, Kent, on Saturday night.
Driver – who was a Green Party councillor in Thanet until 2015 – pleaded not guilty to seven counts of criminal damage worth £2,000 during his appearance in Medway Magistrates’ Court.
Ian Driver pictured scrawling graffiti on the Charles Dickens museum in Broadstairs, Kent, on Saturday
Mr Driver (pictured) admitted daubing the graffiti in the seaside town of Broadstairs
Was Charles Dickens racist?
Charles Dickens is one of the most beloved authors of the Victorian era.
His works, including A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist, are viewed as championing the plight of the working class during the Industrial Revolution.
The celebrated writer’s works have garnered criticism since his death in 1870 for antisemitic and genocidal views.
In 1857, following an unsuccessful uprising by Indians against the British East India Company, Dickens wrote he wanted to ‘exterminate’ the race.
Dickens, writing as though he were a addressing Indian citizens, said: ‘I… have the honor to inform you Hindoo gentry that it is my intention, with all possible avoidance of unnecessary cruelty and with all merciful swiftness of execution, to exterminate the Race from the face of the earth.’
In his book The Noble Savage wrote: ‘I call a savage as something highly desirable to be civilised off the face of the earth.’
His depiction of the character Fagin in Oliver Twist has also been described as antisemitic – both during the time Dickens was alive and today.
The first 38 chapters of the book refer to Fagin as ‘the Jew’ more than 250 times’ compared to calling him ‘Fagin’ or ‘the old man’ 42 times.
Dickens said he made the character Jewish as it: ‘Unfortunately was true, of the time to which the story refers, that the class of criminal almost invariably was a Jew.’
It comes after Driver admitted that he targeted the museum dedicated to beloved 19th century author. He also said he was behind graffiti on various other locations across Broadstairs and Ramsgate in a blog post.
He said he picked his various targets because they ‘represent the deep-rooted institutional racism’ in local councils and charities.
Driver was arrested on Monday by police investigating the writing on The Charles Dickens House Museum as well as other incidents in Broadstairs and Ramsgate.
He was charged with the damage done to the wall in local council-owned Charles Dickens House Museum – costing £400 to fix.
He was also charged with £1,000-worth of damage to local dance and music festival Folk Week’s office door and the offices of council building Piermont Hall.
He also allegedly caused £400 damage each to road signs for Dickens Street and Leopold Street as well as £150-worth of damage to a council-built box put up to protect a plaque to Uncle Mack – a minstrel troupe leader.
He categorically denies all charges – even though he admitted that he was behind the graffiti in a blog post.
The carer wore a denim jacket and cream shorts as he took to the streets in the dead of night on Saturday to campaign against what he claims is ‘institutionalised racism’ in the seaside town.
He told Sun Online: ‘I’ve never hidden the fact that I did it, I grassed myself up – which must be a first!’
The blog post read: ‘I selected the targets as they represent the deep-rooted institutional racism of Broadstairs Town and Thanet District councils and the Broadstairs Dickens Week and Folk Week charities who openly support, celebrate, and fund with public money, offensive blacked up Morris dancers, Uncle Mack’s blacked up Minstrel show memorial, and genocidal racists such as Charles Dickens and King Leopold of Belgium.’
He added: ‘My actions are nothing to do with the Black Lives Matter movement, of which I am a supporter, and are purely part of my own individual protest for which I alone am responsible.’
Prior to his blog post, Driver was already under investigation by Kent Police for vandalising a box erected over a ‘racist’ memorial to Uncle Mack, who ran a minstrel group in blackface on the local beach in the early 19th Century, after a Black Lives Matter protest on June 13.
He claims Broadstairs Town Council’s vote to keep the plaque on June 24 was ‘totally provocative and racist’ and forced him to take ‘direct action as a last resort’.
But the father-of-three said he has ‘no regrets whatsoever’ over his latest demonstration and was expecting officers to knock on the door of his Broadstairs home ‘any minute.’
Dickens House, a museum in Broadstairs, Kent, dedicated to the Victorian author, was daubed with graffiti by Mr Driver
Mr Driver said he has long campaigned against folk week in the seaside town
He added: ‘I will go to court and fight my case. If I had my way, the museum would be shut down.
‘The council is not listening and has no intention of addressing these issues. I believe that Broadstairs is Racism-on-Sea.
‘The Black Lives Matter campaign is uncovering history we shouldn’t be celebrating. Some of the things these people said and did would be appalling even in their own times – it’s not just outdated views.’
The father-of-three was arrested earlier today
His grafitti came amid growing calls from the Black Lives Matter movement to remove statues and monuments of racist figures.
A statue of slave trader Edward Colston was pulled down and dumped into Bristol Harbour earlier this year, while statues to Oliver Cromwell, Lord Holland and Nancy Astor, the first woman to take a seat in Parliament, have all been defaced in recent weeks.
The museum on the East Kent coast inspired the home of Betsey Trotwood, a character in the novel David Copperfield, which was released in full in 1950.
By the end of the 19th century the museum had come to be known as Dickens House, before it was opened a museum to the writer in 1973.
Dickens Road, which is less than 10 minutes walk away from the Broadstairs museum was painted over with black ink
During his life and more so after his death in 1870, Charles Dickens’ writing has been criticised as antisemitic and racist.
In a letter penned in 1857 reacting to an uprising in India, the Oliver Twist and Great Expectations author said he wished to ‘exterminate the Race from the face of the earth.’
While penning a non-fiction book titled The Noble Savage, he suggested Indians should be ‘civilised off the face of the earth’.