Police are investigating racist abuse aimed at the mayor of a Cornish town after she said union flags that had appeared on the seafront to celebrate Brexit had to be taken down.
Nicole Broadhurst, the mayor of Penzance, received abuse on social media when she said the 18 flags had been hoisted without permission and needed to be removed.
Thousands of people have signed a petition calling for the flags to be reinstated and hundreds of people left comments on social media, many criticising Broadhurst’s stance but some aiming personal abuse at her.
Devon and Cornwall police said on Thursday they were investigating racist abuse posted on social media.
Flags are not normally flown on Penzance Promenade in the winter because they can be damaged by high winds. But over new year 18 flags appeared on poles owned by Cornwall council to mark the end of the Brexit transition.
Broadhurst said at the time: “Penzance council didn’t authorise these or have anything to do with their installation. We are working with Cornwall council and the flags will be taken down.”
She went on to insist the flags were not removed because they were union flags but because they were unauthorised.
Broadhurst said: “If they were Peppa Pig flags or Saint Piran flags or EU flags they would still have to come down if no permission had been given for them to be put up.”
The town council said it was deeply saddened at the racist abuse the mayor suffered.
In a statement it said: “We are deeply saddened at the offensive and personal comments, including racist abuse, made in response to the removal of the flags; unity and community spirit are needed in these uncertain times rather than division and negativity.”
The statement added: “The flags on Penzance Promenade are usually put up around the time of the Golowan festival [in June] until the end of summer, helping to define our town’s positive spirit and bring joy to those enjoying our wonderful seafront.
“The flags which were put up on New Year’s Day have been removed because they were flown without the permission of Cornwall council or Penzance town council.
“We do not fly flags during the winter months when the promenade is often exposed to gusting winds which could damage both the flags and flagpoles themselves.”