SPLC files claims against Trump administration on behalf of parents and children who suffered harm from family separation policy
A new project Fighting Sus! brings the youth experience of racialised policing to the fore.
In Fighting Sus! a group of young people engage with past struggles against racist state violence and, with angry intelligence and politicised creativity, range themselves against its present manifestations. Developed during 2018, this grassroots history project began with a handful of Year 10 students in East London – all from BAME backgrounds– collaborating with oral historian Rosa Kurowska and heritage cooperative On the Record. Their focus on the fight against the ‘sus’ law in the period 1970-81 became an exercise in reparative history, ‘excavating histories of resistance, solidarity and collectivity as vital for the now’.
Fighting Sus! is a considerable and timely achievement. The content available for review, accessible online, includes: interviews with community activists who participated in the struggle against sus; a zine, which places the interviews– pictorialised into comic strips by Jon Sack– beside the team’s spoken-word responses to them, along with reproductions of documents and images from the archive; learning resources for an anti-racist curriculum; and a video featuring performances of the poems.
Institutional racism persists two decades on from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report. It still determines who is harassed by the police ‘on suspicion’ and who is not. Racially disproportionate stop and search rates began rising again in 2003 and remain high. What Sivanandan said after Macpherson is as true now: ‘the performance on the ground for the black community is racism as usual’. Notwithstanding, the regime of racial neoliberalism has worked to downplay institutional racism even as the targeting and policing of racialised groups has intensified.
The substitute, more comfortable notion of ‘unconscious bias’ serves to blank out state racism and, from a historical perspective, disconnects us from past struggles against it. But counter-histories are, and always have been, transmitted along more grounded channels, often in overt contention with official narratives. This is ‘true history’, as understood by Saqif Chowdhury of Fighting Sus!: ‘A history taught us by our mothers, our/fathers, our ancestors/ The truth, the experiences of those around us’. This is ‘the history they want us to forget’, and which Fighting Sus! reactivates.
The project is important because BAME youth, though often talked about—as victims or as problems—rarely gain entry to the public sphere as opinionated subjects, despite possessing the clarity born of experience. Even as critical a review of the Criminal Justice System as the 2017 Lammy Review suffers, as Liz Fekete argued, from ‘an absence of the youth voice, or an acknowledgement of their perspectives in their own words’. Fighting Sus! brings the youth voice to the fore.
What was sus? Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act gave police officers the discretionary power to arrest anyone they suspected of loitering with intent to commit an arrestable offence. A survival from a much earlier period of social upheaval, following the mass demobilisation of soldiers after the Napoleonic Wars, it was redeployed intensively from the sixties onward against young black men in Britain. They could be arrested, charged and convicted simply for walking down the street.
As the IRR argued in its submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure in 1979, a sus charge was ‘virtually impossible to rebut’—the subjective word of two police officers sufficed. In the first interview in Fighting Sus!, Hackney activist and poet Hugh Boatswain reflects on his first experience of it: ‘the problem with sus for us was that it was your word versus whoever arrested you’—and it was enough simply to be black and ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.
Sus was acutely felt in a post-Powell climate of escalating popular racism, ranging from everyday intimidation to ruthless murder. The relationship between the street and the state was clarified during events like the Battle of Lewisham in August 1977. The National Front chose to march through Lewisham because it was a key sight of organised resistance to racist policing, exemplified by the Lewisham 21 campaign. During the march, police protected National Front members but confronted the mixed anti-fascist crowd with cavalry and riot shields (for the first time on mainland Britain). A striking photo from the day is reproduced in the zine.
The racial disproportionality of sus arrests in London was well-documented by the late 1970s (see the Runnymede Trust’s 1978 publication, Sus – A Report on the Vagrancy Act 1824). It was a key mechanism in the racialisation of urban space, maintaining the whiteness of certain areas and policing the blackness of others. And it was the latter that became the ‘symbolic’ locations, as 1982-87 Met Police commissioner Kenneth Newman described them, of community self-organisation against police brutality.
A movement to ‘scrap sus’ developed through the politicisation of everyday experiences of police antagonism. Images and documents from two campaigning groups appear in the zine. In her Fighting Sus! interview, veteran black activist Martha Osamor recalls how black mothers discussed the issue during the school pick-up. They would go on to campaign against it as the Black Parents Movement. The Black People’s Organisations Campaign Against Sus (BPOCAS), a broad coalition of black groups and lawyers, launched later, in 1978. Effective campaigning by BPOCAS and others forced the issue onto the government’s agenda, and by 1980 the Select Committee on Home Affairs would recommend immediate repeal, which was achieved in 1981.
The anti-police uprisings of that year, beginning in Brixton on 10 April, gave repeal an added urgency. But this was reform not transformation. In his state-commissioned inquiry into the Brixton uprising, Lord Scarman conceded that the mass sus operation that triggered it, Operation Swamp 81, was ‘unwise’. But he rebuffed the broader accusation that the Met police was institutionally racist. Only a few bad apples tarnished the force’s reputation, he concluded. In ‘Scarman’s Speech’, Jolina Bradley’s poem in Fighting Sus!, a different Scarman is imagined, heralding a more hopeful future. He says: ‘I respect, acknowledge, invite and envision what could be’. But the question remains whether substantive change could ever have come at the instigation of the state.
‘Where does it start? Where does it stop?’
The myth of policing by consent became even less tenable after 1981. Accordingly, Fighting Sus! looks beyond the moment of repeal. Campaigns against police violence continued—the Fighting Sus! team interviewed Goga Khan, one of the Newham 8 defendants tried in 1983, and the zine contains an image of a Newham 7 demonstration in 1985. England would burn again in that year. As Osamor remarks at the end of her interview: ‘they repealed [sus]. But if you look at the law as it is now, it’s stop and search… It’s still happening’.
The 1981 Criminal Attempts Act, which repealed sus, was succeeded in 1984 by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), which in effect reinstated it as stop and search. The proviso of ‘reasonable suspicion’ was ineffectual. Stop and search was expanded later in Section 60 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which introduced targeted emergency powers. In 1999, Macpherson recommended a series of regulatory mechanisms but did not fundamentally question the practice itself. A year later, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act legitimated racially profiled stop and searches. And although it was ruled illegal on human rights grounds in 2010, Section 60 continues to be rolled out.
The zine’s introduction wisely suggests that ‘sus may have embedded itself into modern society’, and Liza Akhmetova asks in her poem: “where does it start?/ where does it stop?’ This is Fighting Sus!’s key historical insight: that the policing of suspect communities in Britain is a prevailing logic of social control under racial capitalism, manifest in laws and practices that change over time. The project acknowledges this with the scope of its timeline, which stretches from the original 1824 legislation—and its introduction to the colonies after the formal abolition of slavery—all the way through to the Riots and the Windrush Scandal of our decade. Regimes of race have changed throughout, but always as part of a connected and unfolding racial-colonial history.
Creative, collective resistance
More than the sum of its products, for those involved Fighting Sus! was a year-long process. Initially, research and discussion, in dialogue with the interviewees. Then the creative responses—in music, spoken word and other forms—which were performed in nine venues across London during Black History Month. There was also the production of the 45-minute film, the zine, and the teaching materials for schools. Practical workshops were held along the way, for example, on stop and search rights with Adam Elliott-Cooper. Altogether, this would have been an educative, creative and collective experience.
The forging of solidarity through the project is clear in the all-women group performances of ‘Mangrove 9’ (01:17) and ‘Verbatim’ (34:05) in the film. However, most of the poems still contain distinct individual perspectives. Brandon Leon and Jessica Lima understand sus as a ‘prison out of prison’, part of a web of control. Memuna Rashid’s poem ‘The System’ begins similarly but turns towards struggle and the freedom dreams that sustain it. And a harder vision of the future can be found in Rotimi Skyers’ poem, which invokes the flames of past uprisings, but scaled-up to a revolutionary vision of the end of the world as we know it: ‘and if the whole world burns, for us to come in from the cold,/ then let the whole world burn’.
The fire this time
Fighting Sus! gathers a previous generation’s history and a new generation’s hope, despair and rage in one place. Thanks to the team, an archive dedicated to sus, the first of its kind, now exists at the Bishopsgate Institute. The project invites other young people to explore this and related histories for themselves, to create their own archives and develop responses to them. The zine’s back matter lists key archives for further research—including the IRR’s own Black History Collection—and includes the details of some organisations—Y-Stop, Stopwatch and Release—where information, advice and political involvement can be sought. More projects like this need to be funded and realised.
Colin Prescod, chair of IRR, writes on the launch of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into Grenfell and the continuing wait for justice.
Twenty-one months on from the disaster that was visited on their community, Grenfell people still wait for justice. On 13 March 2019 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report on Grenfell.[i] The findings and recommendations are being submitted to the Government’s Grenfell Public Inquiry in regard to the 14 June 2017, west London, Grenfell residential tower fire in which seventy-two people perished.
Earlier last month, the Metropolitan Police admitted that no prosecutions would be likely until the public inquiry has reported its findings and recommendations – although at its inception in 2017, it was indicated that it was already possible to see grounds for prosecutions to be brought.
Meanwhile the Public Inquiry’s Phase 1 hearings, concerned with exactly what happened on 14 June 2017, were completed in December 2018. The report from those Phase 1 hearings, chaired by Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is not yet delivered. And the Public Inquiry’s Phase 2 hearings, to examine the circumstances and causes of the fire (original design and construction; subsequent modifications; fire safety advice and prevention; communication with residents) are due to commence in 2020. And the Public Inquiry is expected to complete its work in 2022.
Given the slow progress of the Public Inquiry, and the fact that human rights and equalities concerns belong properly to its Phase 2 hearings – the EHRC’s submission is timely.
The EHRC report
The EHRC reported on its investigations in regard to Grenfell residents’ access to services and support in the period before and after the 2017 fire. And, in a bold and politically sensitive move, it chose to hold the public launch of its findings and recommendations at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in west London – in the neighbourhood of the tower.
Highlighting an urgent need for ‘duty of accountability’ public sector training, the EHRC reported that overall it had found a degree of ‘institutional inadequacy’ in regard to communicating and sympathising with those most affected by the Grenfell disaster. The investigation found, for example, that the local Roma gypsy community, mostly overlooked in media coverage about the Grenfell neighbourhood, could obtain no assistance with clearance of the litter of burnt debris covering its site, in the wake of the fire. Just so, the EHRC notes, as many others have done, that the Public Inquiry itself has been convened geographically too far away from the Grenfell locality!
Sifting through the evidence gathered by Race on the Agenda (ROTA)[ii] along with that emanating from the Public Inquiry hearings, the EHRC investigated matters specifically related to both ‘the right to life’ and ‘equality rights’. It found evidence of serious breaches to the right to life – for which see the coroner’s report to the Public Inquiry in relation to improper use of cladding, lack of proper evacuation procedures, poor high-rise fire-fighting training, poor advice to residents – all of which demonstrate past, and continuing, breaches of the right to life. What’s more, the EHRC has concerns as to whether the duty to investigate potential risks to the right to life has been complied with. And, in terms of equality rights, the EHRC found violations of the public sector duty in regard to the rights of the vulnerable, women, the disabled, and children – where ‘minority ethnic’ groups made up the majority of the residents in the Grenfell tower.
Looking to the continuing process of the Public Inquiry, the EHRC representatives stressed a concern that right to life and equalities matters would in all likelihood not be picked up in the Phase 2 hearings. And, in conclusion, they stressed the need for urgent attention in regard to changes to buildings legislation, adequacy of information to residents, lack of regulatory systems, remedial works, fire-fighting training, systemic failure – affecting a large number of now existing sites around the UK.
In the Q&A with which the event ended, local activists appeared to be under-impressed. The tone of their questions – so what now? where is the focus on power-inequality in these human rights concerns? can ‘independent’ organisations like the EHRC please give some explicit guidance and specific action support? – hardly disguised the fact that they would like to see considerably more militancy added to the need for urgency that is acknowledged in the the EHRC’s report.
The platform speakers came up with judicious responses – (a) keep up the campaigning, (b) try to effect change in public sector practices by using the electoral system, (c) take legal advice and action.
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS
20 March: The MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, writes to immigration minister Caroline Nokes raising concerns that the Home Office may have acted illegally when it invited a Zimbabwean asylum seeking woman to an interview at Vulcan House in Sheffield, where Zimbabwean officials were waiting for her. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
20 March: The day after Italian authorities seize the Italian-flagged Mare Jonio rescue ship, Italian Senators vote 237 to 61 in favour of blocking the trial of interior minister Matteo Salvini for his role in preventing the Diciotti patrol vessel, which was carrying 190 rescued migrants, from docking in Italian ports last August. Those on board were allowed to disembark after ten days. (The Local, 21 March 2019; (Relief Web, 22 March 2019)
21 March: France’s Constitutional Council rules that X-ray bone age tests are a valid way of determining the age of young migrants and therefore whether they qualify for child protection services. (The Local, 22 March 2019)
26 March: The EU announces that as of 30 September Operation Sophia search and rescue boat missions in the central Mediterranean will end, as Italy continues to close its ports to refugees. Air patrols and funding of Libyan coastguard will continue. (Reuters, 26 March 2019; Deutsche Welle, 27 March 2019)
29 March: In response to Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ lodging of the first ever super-complaint against the police last December, police watchdogs launch an investigation into the alleged practice of sharing data on witnesses and victims of crime with immigration enforcement authorities. (Guardian, 29 March 2019)
29 March: Emails obtained by Justice First show Home Office officials asking Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo to issue statements saying that they have no information about people being persecuted after deportation from the UK. The DRC-based officials reply that they are unable to monitor the lives of deportees. (Guardian, 29 March 2019)
29 March: The High Court orders the Home Office to extend interim support for victims of modern slavery over the current 45-day threshold until the next hearing of a legal case brought by two victims on 14 April, which may see the Home Office policy required to extend support indefinitely if the policy is found to be unlawful. (Guardian, 29 March 2019)
30 March: Migrants and solidarity activists gather in Calais to denounce France’s repressive immigration politics and police violence. Holding rainbow flags and ‘Welcome Refugees’ banners they are protesting Dublin III and the current EU policy of securitisation. (Liberation, 31 March 2019)
31 March: Emails from the UN Refugee Agency to the Home Office reveal concerns about the health of at least 35 unaccompanied minors in Calais as they waited for transfer to the UK under Dublin III family reunification provisions. 15 children were said to have gone on hunger strike, and one to have attempted suicide. (Guardian, 31 March 2019)BORDERS
21 March: The European Court of Justice rules that France cannot use border controls on the Franco-Spanish border to send back undocumented migrants entering the country from Spain. France, which returns thousands of border-crossers to Spain each year, reintroduced controls in 2015 purportedly for counter-terrorism purposes. (El Pais, 21 March 2019)
28 March: Maltese naval forces raid the Turkish merchant ship, Elhiblu 1, which was ‘hijacked’ by some of the 108 migrants it rescued off the coast of Libya on Tuesday after it became apparent that it was returning to Libya. Five are initially arrested, and three African teenagers are charged for terrorism offences. They plead not guilty and are placed in preventive detention. (Guardian, 27 March 2019; Telegraph, 28 March 2019; Al Jazeera, 30 March 2019)RECEPTION AND DETENTION
21 March: In a new report on immigration detention, the home affairs select committee finds that the Home Office has ‘utterly failed’ to safely and humanely detain people, pointing to failures including ‘vulnerable people being wrongly detained, people being held in detention far too long, and serious failings in the operation of individual immigration removal centres’. The committee also calls for a 28-day limit to detention. Read the report here. (Guardian, 21 March 2019)
25 March: Migrants and refugees are being subject to ‘horrific and routine sexual violence’ in Libyan detention centres, a report by Women’s Refugee Commission finds. Many of the victims are returned there by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard while crossing the Mediterranean. Those who reach Italy are said to be receiving ‘woefully inadequate’ treatment. (Guardian, 25 March 2019)
25 March: A coroner’s inquest into the death of 64-year-old Bangladeshi man Tarek Chowdhury, who was fatally attacked by another detainee in Colnbrook immigration removal centre in December 2016, finds that the Home Office, Prison Service and private contractors contributed to his death, not least by their failure to properly assess the killer’s mental health and violent tendencies. (Morning Star, 25 March 2019)
26 March: Asylum seekers housed in Clonakilty Lodge, a direct provision centre in County Cork, Ireland, stage a protest because they were not informed of the visit the previous day by the Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration, denying them the opportunity to raise concerns and issues directly with a government official. (Irish Examiner, 26 March 2019)
26 March: An Eritrean asylum seeker dies in Hazel Hotel, a direct provision centre for asylum seekers in County Kildare, Ireland. He had been living there for six months. Other residents are said to be feeling ‘traumatised’, and an investigation is ongoing. (Irish Times, 26 March 2019)
27 March: A high court judge dismisses a case brought by five former immigration detainees with Duncan Lewis solicitors challenging the ‘slave labour wages’ of £1 an hour paid in immigration detention centres. The rate, which is less than one seventh of the legal minimum wage, has remained the same since 2008. (Guardian, 27 March 2019)
30 March: An investigation by the Observer and Argos Radio in the Netherlands reveals that, in the past five years, at least 60 Vietnamese children have disappeared from protected shelters for unaccompanied minors, probably ending up in UK working on cannabis farms and in nail salons. (Observer, 30 March 2019)CITIZENSHIP
20 March: The family of Shamima Begum lodge an appeal with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) against Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip her of her citizenship. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
28 March: Denmark’s immigration announces that the government plans to change nationality law so that children born to Danish citizens who fought for Islamic State in Syria will no longer inherit Danish citizenship. Dual citizens who travelled to Syria to Iraq to fight in an organisation deemed terrorist will also be stripped of citizenship. (Middle East Eye, 28 March 2019)
2 April: The Home Office comes under fire for planning to launch the long-awaited Windrush compensation scheme on Wednesday behind closed doors, leaving many Windrush victims, immigration lawyers and journalists off the invitation list. (Independent, 2 April 2019)DEPORTATIONS
27 March: Freedom of information requests by the Independent reveal that 15,200 of 24,674, or over half, of the deportation orders issued by the Home Office in 2018 were cancelled. More than two-thirds were called off within a week. The most common reason was the submission of legal representations. (Independent, 27 March 2019)CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY
29 March: The Swedish student activist Elin Errson, who grounded an Istanbul-bound flight carrying a refused Afghan asylum seeker last July, will face a retrial as her conviction for breaking aviation is overturned because one of the lay judges, who called her a ‘criminal’ on social media months before the trial, was not believed to be impartial. (The Local, 29 March 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
25 March: Germany’s popular newspaper Bild rejects an attempt by German prosecutors to raid its offices as part of an investigation into the alleged existence of a far-right ring in the Frankfurt police force (The Times, 25 March 2019)
26 March: In Vienna, police raid the home of Martin Sellner, head of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, as part of an investigation into possible ties with the Christchurch killer flagged up by a ‘disproportionately high donation’ from a person named Tarrant. The extreme right Freedom Party is also being investigated for its ties to the Identitarian Movement. (Guardian, 26 March 2019; The Local, 30 March 2019).
27 March: A cross-party group of around 40 MEPs ask the EU’s transparency tsar to open an urgent investigation into claims that US Christian right ‘fundamentalists’ linked to the Trump administration, Steve Bannon, the World Congress of Families and the far Right have poured at least $50 million of ‘dark money’ into Europe. (Open Democracy, 27 March 2019)
28 March: In Finland, the Supreme Court places a temporary ban on the activities of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL) pending a final decision as to whether the group should be permanently outlawed on the basis of recommendations by the Police Board. (YLE, 28 March 2019)
29 March: Former deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, Jayda Fransen, is convicted for an anti-Islam speech she gave in August 2017 at the Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally in Belfast. The judge rules that her words were ‘intended to stir up hatred and arouse fear’. Three others are acquitted of similar charges. (Irish Times, 29 March 2019)
29 March: It is revealed that two policemen from the German state of Baden-Württemberg were members of the far-right Uniter group, which was founded by a former Bundeswehr sergeant. (Spiegel, 29 March).
30 March: The World Congress of Families (WCF), a US coalition that promotes the values of the Christian right in order to ‘defend the natural family’, takes place in Verona, Italy, bringing a global network of anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-feminist activists to the northern Italian city. Attendees include Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, Katalin Novák, a minister of the far-right Hungarian government and the Italian neo-fascist party Forza Nuova. (Guardian, 30 March 2019; OpenDemocracy, 29 March 2019)
30 March: Approximately 50,000 feminists and human rights activists protest the anti-LGBT and anti-abortion World Congress of Families (WCF) hosted in Verona, Italy. The Italian feminist movement Non Una di Meno (NUDM) organise a three-day festival, street demonstration and transnational assembly in protest of the congress, attracting activists from Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Croatia, the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belarus and Argentina. (Independent, 2 March 2019; OpenDemocracy, 29 March 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
19 March: The far-right Forum for Democracy makes strong gains in Dutch provincial elections, capturing 13 seats in the Senate. FvD leader Thierry Baudet blames the Utrecht shooting, in which three people died, on the government’s migration policies, describing the attack by a Turkish-born man as ‘half-terrorist’ and half ‘honour killing’.(Politica.eu, 19 March 2019).
20 March: Catherine Blaiklock, the leader of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party, resigns after the Guardian questions her about racist and Islamophobic tweets and retweets on her Twitter account, which was deleted shortly before she co-founded the party. Among her retweets were 7 of Tommy Robinson and 45 of Mark Collett, former head of the BNP’s youth wing. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
20 March: The centre-right European People’s party grouping in the European parliament suspend Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party over alleged violations of rule-of-law principles. (Independent, 21 March 2019)
22 March: A known far-right figure, Ken Kearsey, has his commission as a lay pastoral assistant in the Littlemoor/Preston ward of Dorset removed by the Church of England, which initially failed to vet him. Local residents also begin campaigning against Kearsey, who is standing as a candidate for the extreme right party Britain First. (Telegraph, 22 March 2019; Dorset Echo, 23 March 2019)
21 March: Fernando Paz, extreme right party Vox’s candidate for Albacete in the Castilla la-Manche region, withdraws his candidacy after intense media scrutiny of his homophobia and Holocaust denialism. (El Pais, 20 March 2019; The Local, 22 March 2019)
24 March: The Guardian finds that 15 Conservative councillors suspended for Islamophobic or racist remarks have been quietly readmitted to the Party, prompting concerns about its investigation process. On the same day, the Guardian sees Islamophobic or racist Facebook messages by five self-professed party members.(Guardian, 24 March 2019; Guardian, 24 March 2019)
25 March: In Italy, the hard right coalition led by The League wins control of the southern region of Basilicata, where it ended 24 years of centre-left rule to notch up its third regional electoral success in recent months. (Guardian, 25 March 2019)
25 March: According to the BBC’s political editor, senior pro-Brexit Conservative politicians nickname themselves the ‘Grand Wizards’ at a meeting at Chequers, which critics point out was a title used by US white supremacist organisation Ku Klux Klan. (New Statesman, 26 March 2019)
26 March: The Conservative MP for Fareham, Suella Braverman, is widely rebuked for repeating the far-right, anti-semitic conspiracy theory ‘cultural Marxism’ in a speech at an event organised by the Bruges Group, a Eurosceptic think-tank. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)
28 March: The We Belong Here Roma Association in Hungary demands the dismissal of Fidesz MP János Pócs, after he broadcasts a graphic staged home video in which he threatens to teach a Roma man a lesson about drinking by burning him in his furnace. An unfortunate jest open to misinterpretation, say Fidesz. (Hungary Today, 28 March 2019)
28 March: The Spanish far-right Vox party hold a series of meetings at Westminster brokered by the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan including a meeting with a government minister for the Department for Exiting the European Union. The SNP accused Scottish Conservative MP Ross Thompson of ‘shocking misjudgement’ for attending. (The Herald, 28 March 2019)
29 March: As the Spanish general election approaches, a book published by Fernando Sánchez Dragó shows Santiago Abascal, leader of the extreme right Vox party, calling for the construction of two anti-migrant walls at Morocco’s border with Spain’s north African enclaves Melilla and Ceuta. (The Local, 29 March 2019)
28 March: In response to a leaked dossier showing anti-semitic social media messages allegedly posted by Labour Party members, the Met police arrest three people on suspicion of publishing or distributing material likely to stir up racial hatred. (Guardian, 28 March 2019)
1 April: Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg quotes the controversial leader of Germany’s far-right AfD party, Alice Weidel, and defends himself by saying her opinions are of ‘real importance’. (Independent, 1 April)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
23 March: Mark Duggan’s family launch a civil claim against the Metropolitan police. (Guardian, 23 March 2019)
26 March: A Northumbria police officer, who was sacked in June 2018 for racially abusing workers at an Asian takeaway during the 2017 staff Christmas party, wins her job back after an independent appeal panel reduces her punishment to a final warning. PC Katie Barrett claims she did not deserve to be sacked because ‘it is not the worst kind of racism’. (Independent, 26 March 2019)
31 March: In response to rising serious youth violence, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announces increased police powers to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion in areas where violence is thought likely to occur. New rules will give inspectors the power to approve Section 60 orders, whereas more senior officers’ approval was formerly required. (BBC News, 31 March 2019; Guardian, 31 March 2019)
1 April: The Independent Office for Police Complaints finds that police who shot an unarmed black man outside his home in Birmingham in July 2017 were following ‘policy and procedure’, as they were briefed about facing an armed threat. Sharif Cousins, who was not the subject of the police operation, suffered a broken rib and punctured lung, and was comatose for nearly a month afterwards. (Guardian, 1 April 2019)
1 April: The Home Secretary launches an eight-week consultation into a multi-agency ‘public health approach’ to high rates of serious youth violence, which will impose a legal duty on professionals in health, education, social services, housing and other sectors to look for and report signs that a young person is at risk. Teachers unions have criticised the proposals. (Independent, 1 April 2019; Guardian, 1 April 2019)COUNTER-TERRORISM AND NATIONAL SECURITY
19 March: As part of the Prevent strategy, UK counter-terrorism police are recruiting companies including Tescos, McDonalds and River Island for training programmes to help staff spot signs of extremism in their colleagues. (Financial Times, 19 March 2019)
31 March: After a four-year inquiry last year proved that MI6 was ‘aware’ of the ‘extreme mistreatment’ of Palestinian Abu Zubaydah at secret CIA sites in 2002, Met police detectives begin investigating allegations that UK intelligence officers were involved his investigation under torture. (Guardian, 31 March 2019)
2 April: Security minister Ben Wallace tells a defence committee hearing that the far Right are learning from Isis terror manuals and that forty-three per cent of referrals to the ‘Channel’ part of the Prevent programme are right-wing neo-nazis, with many living in the North East and North West. (Tell Mama, 2 April 2019)DISCRIMINATION
26 March: European parliamentarians overwhelmingly back a non-binding resolution calling on member states to develop national anti-racism strategies to target structural racism and discrimination against Europeans of African descent. The declassification of colonial archives and some form of reparation for crimes of the colonial era, including public apologies and the restitution of artefacts from museums, is also sought. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)EDUCATION AND YOUTH POLICY
20 March: The Greek public prosecutor is investigating after parents in Samos, a key point of arrival for migrants crossing from Turkey, protest plans for migrant children to attend classes by keeping their children out of school for two weeks. (Ekathemerini, 20 March 2019; Ekathemerini, 23 March 2019)
22 March: Freedom of Information requests by the Green Party’s Sian Berry show that, in 26 of London’s 32 boroughs, the number of youth centres has fallen from 234 to 130 since 2011, the year of the Riots, a net loss of 104, resulting in the loss of 506 youth worker jobs. Under austerity, overall spending in youth services has been cut by 46% since 2011. (Guardian, 22 March 2019)
22 March: The head of the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism warns that schools and family courts must be more aware of the indoctrination of children by their far-right families. (Evening Standard, 22 March 2019)
22 March: A libertarian society at the University of Kent is suspended after private messages published by Kent Anti-Racist News show jokes allegedly referring to Hitler’s ‘brownshirts’ and the Holocaust. (BBC News, 22 March)
25 March: With backing from the National Union of French Students (UNEF), students at the Sorbonne picket a performance of an Aeschylus play for its use of blackface actors, claiming it is ‘Afrophobic, colonialist and racist’. The University cancels the play but accuses the students of attacking freedom of expression. (Guardian, 28 March 2019)
27 March: The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner tells the cross-party education select committee’s one-day inquiry into knife crime that the number of police officers with full-time roles in London schools has increased from 280 to 420 over roughly the last year, with plans to reach 600 in future. (Guardian, 27 March 2019)
1 April: Government data shows that the number of primary school children in pupil referral units (PRUs) has more than doubled from 715 in 2011 to 1572 in 2018, suggesting that increasing exclusion rates are affecting even the youngest children. (Guardian, 1 April 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
20 March: Counter-terrorism chief Neil Basu says that far-right terrorists are being radicalised by mainstream newspaper coverage, singling out the Mail Online, the Sun and the Mirror for uploading footage of the massacre and/or uploading the manifesto. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
23 March: A Times investigation finds that far-right groups are operating on gaming platforms popular with British children, where they are praising the Christchurch massacre and encouraging further acts of far-right violence. (The Times, 23 March 2019)
24 March: A Counter Extremism Project (CEP) report shows that Facebook refused to remove pages operated by far-right organisations, including Combat 18 units in Australia and Greece, even after they were reported for racist content, because they did not violate its ‘community standards’. CEP senior director Hans-Jakob Schindler accuses Facebook and other platforms of enabling the far-right to ‘network and build echo chambers worldwide’. (Independent, 24 March 2019)
24 March: Twitter and Youtube are criticised for providing a platform to Steve Stone, one of the hosts of far-right Radio Aryan, which is thought to be based in Wales and is described by Hope not Hate as ‘a platform for British Nazis’. Twitter deleted Stone’s account and Youtube only after being contacted by the Sunday Times. (The Sunday Times, 24 March 2019; Gob Online, 24 March 2019).
2 April: Following Facebook and Twitter bans, Youtube imposes new restrictions short of a ban on Tommy Robinson’s Youtube channel, including removing his videos from searches and recommendations and prohibiting him from live-streaming. (Buzzfeed, 2 April 2019)HEALTH
20 March: The charity Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) warns that Travellers and other minority groups without fixed address or proof of ID, such as asylum seekers and the homeless, are being turned from GP surgeries, against NHS guidance. (The Guardian, 20 March 2019)
23 March: Freedom of Information requests by the Observer reveal that 77 of 102 NHS hospital trusts in England are using private debt collectors to pursue overseas patients and refused asylum seekers for treatment costs, primarily for general medicine and maternity care. 60 trusts that provided patient numbers referred a total of over 8000 patient debts. (Guardian, 23 March 2019)HOUSING
28 March: An independent study by the University of Central Lancashire finds ‘significant environmental contamination’ in soil samples and fire debris surrounding Grenfell Tower, and warns that surrounding communities and survivors of the fire may be seriously vulnerable to respiratory problems like cancer and asthma. (Guardian, 28 March 2019)SPORT
22 March: Police say that three men captured in a video shouting racist abuse at players Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gündogan during Germany’s draw with Serbia on Wednesday have turned themselves in. (The Local, 22 March 2019)
25 March: The Football Association submits a formal complaint to UEFA after two black England players, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi, are subjected to monkey chants in the final minutes of England’s 5-1 win against Montenegro in Podgorica. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)
26 March: An open letter signed by politicians and activists calls on West Ham United to issue a public condemnation of the far-right Democratic Football Lads Alliance before the team’s game against Everton on Saturday. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)
30 March: In response to an apparent rise in racist incidents during football games, the Premier League launches a brief No Room for Racism campaign, running from 30 March to 8 April, which will see adverts and banners at stadiums and on social media. (Guardian, 25 March 2019; Guardian, 30 March 2019)
1 April: UEFA fines and orders Dinamo Zagreb to play its next home European game behind closed doors as punishment for its fans’ racism during the game against Benfica in early March. (BBC Sport, 1 April 2019)
2 April: Black Juventus forward Moise Kean is abused with monkey chants during his side’s 2-0 victory at Cagliari, with Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri calls for ‘lifetime bans’ of those responsible. (Sky Sports, 3 April 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
19 March: In northeastern Greece, masked men attack a sports event involving refugee children at a refugee reception facility in Konitsa, injuring one them. (Ekathimerini, 19 March 2019)
20 March: The Greek public prosecutor orders a probe into an incident in the village of Villia, southwest of Athens, where a hotel housing dozens of migrants was attacked with stones after local residents voiced opposition to their arrival. (Ekathimerini, 20 March 2019)
21 March: Police began to investigate a fire that destroyed seven caravans at a site allocated to Travellers in Melton Mowbray on Monday as both arson and a hate crime. (BBC News, 21 March 2019)
22 March: Tell Mama says that anti-Muslim crimes increased by nearly 600 percent in the week after the Christchurch massacre, higher than following the 2017 Manchester bombing. Of the 95 incidents reported to the charity, 85 contained references to Christchurch. The real figures are likely to be higher. (Guardian, 22 March 2019; Independent, 22 March 2019
24 March: In the town of Ostritz, Saxony, journalists and police are attacked by attendees of a far-right rock gig, where they were investigating reports of ‘Sieg Heil’ chants and banned symbols. (Deutsche Welle, 24 March 2019)
24 March: At an election rally, Finland’s foreign minister Timo Soini is approached by an ‘aggressive and threatening’ man wearing a far-right anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin t-shirt, but police quickly restrain him. (Reuters, 24 March 2019)
25 March: West Midlands police and counter-terrorism unit say that they are not treating the attacks on five mosques in Birmingham on 21 March as far-right-related. A 34-year-old man handed himself in on 22 March. An attack on another mosque that same day is being investigated as a separate incident. (Guardian, March 25 2019)
25 March: French police arrest 20 people after attacks on Roma communities in Clichy-sous-Bois and Bobigny areas, north-east of Paris. A French broadcaster says around 70 people were involved, motivated by false rumours about child abductions. The Voice of Roma calls for round-the-clock police presence in Parisian suburbs. (BBC News, BBC News, 27 March 2019; Guardian, 27 March 2019)
26 March: Six teenagers are arrested in Newcastle under suspicion of hate crime after the Bahr Academy, an Islamic centre, was broken into and vandalised. A similar incident occurred at the centre in January, though the perpetrators were never found. (The Guardian, 26 March 2019)
27 March: A Freedom of Information request by West Yorkshire Police shows that reports of ‘racially-aggravated crimes of an anti-Muslim nature’ in Leeds increased by 1035 per cent between 2013 and 2018, from 23 to 261. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 27 March 2019)
27 March: A 45-year-old man is threatened by two men with a metal bar while driving away from Shah Jalal Mosque in Bristol. The car is damaged but the man is unhurt. (Bristol Post, 27 March 2019)
29 March: The teenage boy shown in a viral video last October assaulting a 15-year-old Syrian refugee known as Jamal is given a police caution. The Crown Prosecution Service decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge the boy with racially aggravated assault. (Sky News, 29 March 2019)
29 March: The neo-nazi organisation Crypteia say they broke into the offices of the Afghan Community in Greece, smashing computers, and dousing the office in petrol and setting it ablaze. The attack, which happened when the workers were on their lunch break, is part of an escalation of attacks including violence targeting Pakistani labourers and Afghan refugees in Aspropyrgos, Athens and Piraeus, as well as a series of death threats against civil society organisations. (Best World News, 29 March 2019)
2 April: A 51-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated assault after a Muslim woman’s hijab was allegedly ‘ripped off’ in an attack on an Underground platform in North London. (Independent, 2 April 2019)
2 April: After being caught twice on CCTV spitting on the front door of a mosque in Nottingham last December, a 70-year-old man is given a one-year community order and £200 fine for two counts of racially-aggravated criminal damage. (West Bridgford Wire, 3 April 2019)
This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson, Jamie Wates and the IRR News Team.
The April 2019 issue of Race & Class shows how the reinvention of colonialism through the domination of digital technology and transnational flows of securitisation is being met by unique forms of resistance.
‘Today, a new form of corporate colonisation is taking place’, argues Michael Kwet, ‘Instead of the conquest of land, Big tech corporations are colonising digital technology’. Kwet, a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School, reveals in a path-breaking article, with South Africa as an example, how the US is reinventing colonialism by exerting structural control of the tech ecosystem, leading to perpetual resource extraction and US economic and cultural dominance in the global South.
And as US multinationals exercise imperial control of the digital world, flows of securitisation also travel via geopolitical relationships. Chandni Desai and Heather Sykes, faculty members at the University of Toronto, trace the flow of securitisations between Israel and Brazil, showing how Israeli companies use Gaza as a ‘lab’ to develop weapons, policing techniques and security technologies that is then sold at the Olympics to police the favelas. The way that favela communities in Rio were perceived and violently policed during the 2016 Olympics resonates with Alan MacLeod’s timely article on how western media represents Venezuelan chavista supporters (who are mainly working-class black communities) as dangerous ‘gangs’, hoards or mobs.
As Jair Bolsonaro was embraced by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the presidential swearing-in ceremony in 2018, revealing the deepened relations between the two rightwing leaders, Desai and Sykes also highlight the ‘the unique forms of solidarity from Brazil to Palestine’, through which global struggles against the policing and militarisation of oppressed communities are being strengthened.
And actively recalling these anti-racist histories of resistance is an important political act. As Jasbinder S. Nijjar writes in his commentary on Southall, a key community of resistance in the UK, ‘out of systemic racial oppression comes political awakening, collective organising and persistent campaigning – guidelines for resisting the many forms of contemporary racism.’
- Digital Colonialism: US empire and the new imperialism in the Global South by Michael Kwet
- An ‘Olympics without Apartheid’: Brazillian-Palestinian solidarity against Israeli securitisation by Chandni Desai and Heather Sykes
- Chavista ‘thugs’ vs. opposition ‘civil society’: western media on Venezuela by Alan MacLeod
- Southall: symbol of resistance by Jasbinder S. Nijjar
- Unravelling the concept of unconscious bias by Jenny Bourne
- On the creation of the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ by Frances Webber
- Churchill: walking with destiny by Andrew Roberts (John Newsinger)
- Sceptics of Islam: revisionist religion, agnosticism and disbelief in the modern Arab world edited by Ralph M. Coury (Donald Malcolm Reid)
- Choke Points: logistics workers disrupting the global supply chain edited by Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Immanuel Ness (Jerry Harris)
- Colonial Lives of Property: law, land, and racial regimes of ownership
by Brenna Bhandar (Liz Fekete)
- Racial Ecologies edited by Leilani Nishime and Kim D. Hester Williams (Al Gedicks)
- L.R. James: the artist as revolutionary by Paul Buhle; The Young C.L.R. James: a graphic novelette by Milton Knight, Lawrence Ware and Paul Buhle; The Polemics of C.L.R. James and Contemporary Black Activism by Ornette D. Clennon (Christian Høgsbjerg)
- The Stopping Places: a journey through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas (Chris Searle)
Order for £5 here
View the whole issue online here
London: Representatives from across society stand together against far-right attempts to hijack Brexit debate
View Tweets from the event including attempts by far-right to disrupt anti-racist protest here
As the Brexit stalemate continues in Westminster, anti-racists took to the streets today to warn of attempts by the racist far-right to use the crisis to spread hatred and violence. … Read the rest
Alabama Voting Rights Project helps 2,000 people cast ballots in Alabama, but many more do not know they can vote
SPLC: Conversion therapy provider continues to secretly operate nearly four years after jury finds practices unconscionable
Tomorrow: London UKIP/Tommy Robinson to be opposed by leavers and remainers against racism & fascism
Thursday 28 March 2019
This Friday 29 March, UKIP and Tommy Robinson have called a ‘Make Brexit happen’ demo in Whitehall. A counter demonstration of anti-racists, trade unionists, faith groups and politicians both leave and remain will take place against them from 4-5pm on Richmond Terrace, between Whitehall and Embankment. … Read the rest