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Cambridge undergrad racially abused at GP surgery

Fresher told “Brexit, go home” after calling out sexist remarks

A Cambridge undergraduate was racially abused in a local doctors’ surgery last month by a man he had initially challenged over sexism.

Rickesh Advani, a first-year HSPS student at Hughes Hall, started filming in the waiting room of Cornford House Surgery when he heard a white middle-aged man making suggestive remarks towards a fellow patient.

The man in shot allegedly said “Yeah, spread ‘em” as a female patient nearby moved to put down her bag before goading her to “get your tits out for him”, referring to a younger man who was sitting beside him.

The same man was then heard saying “No, not you, love” to a woman wearing a hijab who looked up in response to the previous comments when Advani, 28, decided to step in and confront the verbal abuse.

“I found it disgusting that no one else in the surgery spoke up.”

“I took the first opportunity to ask him politely to stop,” Advani told The Tab Cambridge. “Assuming any reasonable human being would refrain from making the situation worse, I expected him to become defensive.

“But as the video shows, he was very aggressive with me in his tone.”

After insistently asking Advani, who is of Indian descent but was born in Britain, whether he was a police officer, the man can clearly be heard telling the Cambridge student: “Home, home, Brexit, go home.”

“That was one of only first times I have experienced racism directed towards myself in this country,” Advani said. “I found it disgusting that no one else in the surgery spoke up. Not only did no one speak up, no one would support me in using the telephone to contact the police.

“The woman subjected to the comments did come to thank me.”

“It's all over the TV. You lot are always making trouble.”

Immediately asked to clarify his racist remarks, the man said “So what?”

He added that “it is all over the TV” and, in another incendiary claim, accused Advani of making it up: “You lot are always making trouble.”

Staff at Cornford House, southeast of Cambridge, escorted Advani to a separate area until his appointment and refused his request to phone the police while allowing the other man to remain in the waiting room.

The surgery has since apologised for both actions, praising Advani for complying with them and conducting himself “admirably throughout”.

Simon Gridley, a surgery manager at Cornford House Surgery, wrote in a letter to him: “I would like to apologise for our handling of the racial abuse you received on that day.

“My colleague mentioned that you felt you were unfairly treated as you [were made to feel] that you were the guilty party, when you had, quite rightly, stood up for another member of the public.

“This I would particularly like to apologise for, as this was not our intention. Our intention was to simply defuse the situation before it turned into something physical, and I deeply regret that the way we did this made you feel like you had done something wrong.

“We do not possess the authority to forcibly remove/detain a person unless they commit an act of physical violence or aggression. Thus we could not force the other person into a separate room.

“I know an apology is NOT the same as getting it right the first time, but again, I sincerely apologise.”

Racism incidents at doctors’ surgeries are not uncommon. Last autumn, the Royal College of GPs raised concerns over a rise in racism at practices, blaming Brexit for “turning the clock back 30 years”.

Cornford House Surgery later agreed to pass on the perpetrator’s details to the authorities. Advani has reported the incident to Cambridgeshire Police but, two weeks on, he is yet to receive a reply.