- Published on Friday, 18 March 2016 18:10
The Phil Martin Centre in Moss Side, Manchester played host to another of the Northern Police Monitoring Project’s public events, ‘Gangster and Terrorists?: Criminalising our Black and Asian Communities’ on Wednesday 16th March. The event, attended by over 70 people, sought to explain how the combination of media stereo-typing and state violence have painted communities of colour as guilty until proven innocent. The infamous Stop and Search powers under the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 (disproportionately used against the black community), Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 (a stop and search power that does not require reasonable suspicion to exercise and is mainly used against the Asian/Muslim population) the largely discredited Prevent strategy (a government program to allegedly tackle radicalisation) and the Joint Enterprise law (in which individuals were criminalised, mainly from the black community, by association with others who had committed criminal acts*) have formed part of the state’s powers to criminalise Black and Asian communities.
The master of ceremonies, local youth worker and Legacy FM radio host Anthony Downer, provided a brief history of problems with police-community relations in Moss Side and Hulme. Patrick Williams, lecturer and doctoral researcher at MMU, explained his research (undertaken with his colleague Becky Clarke) on the Greater Manchester Police ‘Gang database’. The main points touched on how the database was ‘racialized’, how the very term ‘gang’ is almost exclusively used to describe groups of black youths and how the database disproportionately represented black youth, many of whom had not committed serious offences (unlike the minority of white youths that were represented on the database, the majority of whom had).
Dr Rizwaan Sabir, previously arrested under ‘counter-terror laws’ for downloading the ‘Al-Qaeda training manual’ (a book which is readily available on US government website and Amazon) which he used for his PhD research at the University of Bath, spoke candidly of his experiences and how the Prevent strategy, now a law** both misunderstands the causes of terrorism and what terrorism actually is.
Dr Katy Sian then followed with a detailed history of where the origins of criminalising communities of colour came from. Her overall thesis was that it wasn’t just poor journalism that was responsible for vilifying Black and Asian communities but the very nature of the state and its laws and policies. She drew a direct connection between the way the state deals with areas like Moss Side, Brixton or Solihull to the way British Colonialism dealt with the Global South.
Dr Waqas Tufail then began by explaining how Muslim communities had been targeting, also focussing on ‘gendered violence’ against Muslim women. He explained that the state was happy to blame communities of colour for social issues (‘racialising social problems’ such as grooming, terrorism) whilst ignoring the violence committed against Muslims, like the recent murder of the Imam in Rochdale. Waqas also spoke about the current Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign where 12 Muslims have been arrested for protecting their communities against racist and fascist organisations. Members of the Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign later spoke from the floor.
Continuing the discussion of community defence campaigns, Dr Tariq Mehmood, himself a member of the Bradford 12 that managed to successfully argue community self-defence when protected their areas from the fascist National Front, spoke vividly about his experiences and the links between British Imperialism and the profiling of Black and Asian communities. His main message was one of unity amongst the working class to address and fight these issues.
The Q & A produced a lively discussion, primarily on moving forward and how organisations like NPMP (and others such as the Green and Black Cross) are doing things to address these issues in our local community.
An audio recording of the event is available here.
Photo credits: Shaheda Choudhury
* A recent UK Supreme Court ruling has said that those convicted under Joint Enterprise can now appeal their sentences. The judges stated that two earlier cases which had formed the law had taken ‘a wrong turning in their reasoning.’ A summary of the judgement can be read here and a shorter blog post here
**The Prevent Strategy is now on legal footing since the introduction of the Counter Terrorism and Security Act 2015. This means teachers, doctors and other public sector workers are under a legal obligation to report the signs of terrorism. Nursery workers referred a four year old who mispronounced cucumber as ‘cooker bomb’ under this new law as prone to radicalisation. See here for more info
- Published on Tuesday, 27 January 2015 16:16
Last Saturday, 24th January, NPMP community monitors went out into Manchester, covering parts of Moss Side and Hulme, focusing on Claremont Road, Great Western Street, Hulme High Street, Alexandra Road and Withington Road from 1-4pm. The main purpose of the day was to talk to people about the project and listen to their responses. The team was mainly composed of women.
There was a high police presence in Manchester city centre due to a Manchester City home game. At the start of the shift, the only visible sign of police in the part of the city the team was in, were occasional unmarked police cars with sirens speeding along Princess Road towards the centre. As it was a fairly cold day, the streets were not busy, leaving volunteers to seek people out to talk to by going in to shops, cafes, community and faith spaces and parks.
Feedback back from younger and older residents differed. The latter told monitors that this was 'needed a long time ago' and welcomed the initiative, while the former were much more abrupt, saying 'What good will it do', which is perhaps indicative of the fact that this is still a huge problem in our communities. Common throughout however, is that people wanted more public meetings to raise NPMPs profile and work
The plans are to keep training more and more local volunteers and send out monitors on a regular basis. But volunteers reported an overall positive and receptive response from local people to the project alongside useful critical feedback that they felt should shape the future of the project. Watch this space!
To get with involved NPMP, either email whopolicesthepolice@gmail or alternatively follow us on Twitter @npolicemonitor or join the Facebook group 'Northern Police Monitoring Project.'
- Published on Wednesday, 21 January 2015 14:32
This Saturday 24thJanuary, NPMP along with NETPOL, will pilot its community monitoring project.
For the past month, the community groups have trained many local volunteers, through interactive workshops, to act as community monitors. Community monitors seek to work with the community to deter and police harassment and brutality, particularly in parts of the city which are disproportionality targeted by the police.
Their role will be to walk and talk to as many people as possible about the project, distribute rights information about stop & search/dispersal powers etc, listen to people’s comments about policing, and, if any police presence is seen, observe and act if necessary. NPMP observers will have backroom support in place if there are any incidents between members of the community and police, and will call partner solicitors to track arrests, should they occur.
Observers will be working around Hulme and Moss Side generally, particularly Princess Road and Claremont Road between 1-5pm. If you are in the area, please look out for our volunteers (we'll be wearing high vis jackets) and join us for a chat to share your thoughts about policing in your area. Part of this projects success lies in having important conversations with people in our communities.
- Published on Saturday, 17 January 2015 15:22