In this article Phil Scraton recalls a defining month in the career of Boris Johnson that laid bare his deep-seated prejudices, disregard for factual accuracy and self-serving arrogance.
On 7 October 2004 Ken Bigley, a civil engineer, was beheaded in Iraq by Islamic extremists. Just two days later a respectful silence was held in his home city, Liverpool. It was a death that resonated throughout the city and across the region, resulting in many public expressions of sympathy. In an editorial on 16 October 2004 the editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson, condemned the ‘mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood’. He derided ‘according [Mr Bigley] the same respect offered annually to the million and a half British servicemen who have died for their country since 1914’.
Accepting that Mr Bigley had witnessed the decapitation of two fellow hostages, a fate to which he knew he was consigned, Johnson opined that a ‘sense of proportion’ had been lost. He dismissed the public, collective mourning of this single death as an ‘extreme reaction fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian’. The city shared a ‘tribal sense of community’, its people possessed by ‘an excessive predilection for welfarism’, reflecting ‘a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche’.
Central to this generic pathological condition was, Johnson declared, the fact that ‘whenever possible’ Liverpudlians self-defined ‘as victims’. They ‘resent their victim status’, he opined, yet they ‘wallow in it’. A key element in their ‘flawed psychological state’ was a profound failure ‘to accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes’. Liverpudlians, he railed, consistently ‘blame someone else’, thus ‘deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society’. On what foundation did Johnson build his scurrilous attack on the collective integrity of a city’s people?
Repeating Hillsborough lies
Johnson’s calumnies came fifteen years after 96 men, women and children, many from Liverpool, were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough. The editorial continued that the ‘deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters’ had been ‘undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley’. Yet, ‘that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon’.
Not content deliberately resurrecting the myths of drunkenness, hooliganism and violence that had dogged successive inquiries and investigations, Johnson laid bare his ignorance and prejudice, the twin characteristics of his lazy journalism. In his narrow mind the South Yorkshire Police had become ‘a convenient scapegoat’ and the Sun ‘a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident’.
According to The Sun ticketless fans had rushed the stadium, stolen from the dying, beaten up and urinated on a police officer who was administering first aid and verbally sexually abused a dying woman. Such unfounded allegations were not ‘tasteless hints’ but were lies orchestrated in the immediate aftermath and given credibility by the South Yorkshire Police Federation, senior police officers and the Sheffield MP Irving Patnick.
Returning to Mr Bigley, Johnson questioned why he had sought ‘to make a living by undertaking work in one of the most dangerous areas on the planet’. It had been a decision taken ‘against the express advice of the Foreign Office’. He had lived ‘with a pair of Americans’, seemingly ‘unconcerned about his personal security’. Mr Bigley’s choice, Johnson opined, should ‘temper the outpouring of sentimentality’.
Such mawkishness reflected a ‘form of behaviour’ that had been ‘kick-started in this country’ following the death of Princess Diana, a woman he considered ‘an even more ambiguous figure’. Apparently ‘more ambiguous’ than Mr Bigley. Johnson disparaged public expressions of collective grief as a ‘manifestation of our apparently depleted intelligence and sense of rationality’ together boding ‘extremely badly for this country’.
According to Johnson, this creeping malaise was rooted in twin conditions of ‘peace and welfarism’. Together they had delivered ‘a society where the blame and compensation cultures go hand in hand’, where ‘modern-day buccaneers seem determined to go about their activities not merely unprepared for the likely consequences, but indignant about them’. What had to be excised was ‘the cancer of ignorant sentimentality’. Johnson’s editorial was crass and hurtful.
The public outrage that followed led the leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, to insist that Johnson visit Liverpool to apologise. Johnson characterised his trip as a ‘penitential pilgrimage’. Having arrived in the city, his ‘heart in his boots’, he felt trapped in ‘a cold, damp three-star hotel’, afraid to venture out for fear of being ‘beaten up’. He could not bring himself to sign a book of condolence honouring Mr Bigley as it would be dismissed as ‘playing politics’. In Liverpool no-one was convinced of Johnson’s remorse.
His 23 October 2004 Spectator column was headed ‘What I should apologise for’. His dismissive tone, his casual ignorance – characteristically masked by occasional Latin asides that impress no-one other than contemporaries at the notorious Bullingdon Club – were evident in his crass representation of his reluctant trip as ‘Operation Scouse-grovel’. During the course of a ‘companionable and bibulous ceremony’, aka lunch, he had been castigated by the Spectator’s media editor for succumbing to political pressure to venture north. Johnson portrayed himself a ‘whipped cur’, granting his critic a ‘sizeable rise’.
Following the ‘firestorm of hate that had engulfed the Spectator’, Johnson mused that his Liverpool trip had given the impression of a ‘penitential pilgrimage at the behest of a party leader’. Demonstrating regret falling well short of remorse, he compounded his initial offensive behaviour. While, he mused, ‘welfare-addicted Liverpudlians’ might well exist, it had been ‘wounding and wrong to suggest that this stereotype’ was applicable across the city. Further, it had been ‘sloppy to repeat the old canard that the Hillsborough tragedy was caused by drunken fans’.
Yet Johnson steadfastly refused to accept that his editorial had been wholly inaccurate and offensive. Such a climb-down ‘would require me to perform a kind of auto-prefrontal lobotomy’. He defended the central premise that ‘bogus sentiment, self-pity, risk’ generated a shared ‘refusal to see that we may sometimes be the authors of our misfortunes’. The public expressions of grief at the deaths of Mr Bigley and the 96 at Hillsborough together reflected the ‘tendency to blame the state’.
The meaning of Johnson’s broadside now became clear. We live, he wrote, at a time when ‘means-tested benefits multiply, and where good human emotions and affections that might once have been directed towards neighbours and family are now diverted into outbursts of sentimentality’. Warming to his reactionary theme he reiterated the reactionary tropes that since have remained his stock-in-trade at Tory Party conferences.
Collectively ‘we’ eagerly ascribe to ourselves ‘victim’ status inducing an ‘increasingly hysterical health-and-safety compensation culture’. He condemned journalists as ‘scaremongers’, politicians ‘cowards’ and judges ‘muddled’. Johnson’s parting shot was to ‘heartily and sincerely apologise for offence caused’ and ‘for the tasteless inaccuracies with which the point was made’. Yet the ‘point’, he asserted, remained valid.
Behind a veneer of class privilege Boris Johnson is neither buffoon nor intellectual. Successive political gaffes and economic failures as London’s mayor or as the state’s foreign secretary, mega-lies proclaimed on Brexit hoardings and the ‘battle-bus’, profoundly offensive comments directed at victims and survivors alongside his numerous personal indiscretions, reveal a whited sepulchre. Weak on detail, careless with facts and consistently insincere, fifteen years on from his Liverpool sojourn his crass insensitivity and provocative outpourings continue undiminished.
Phil Scraton is Emeritus Professor, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast, primary author of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Report, author of Hillsborough: The Truth. He holds the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.
Back in July 2014, Eric Brazau entered a crowded subway car along with fellow bigot Ron Banerjee. His intention was to "debate" (read: harass and harangue) individuals on the car about the dangers of Islam and Muslims while Banerjee, acting as if he didn't know Brazau, took a video of the exchange:
Not long after, Brazau was arrested:
Cut to January 2015 when he was convicted of mischief, causing a disturbance, and breaching probation. He was sentenced to 9 months in jail but was released pending an appeal:
At the time of his conviction, Christine Blatchford wrote an opinion column for the "National Post" in which she seemed to mock the sentence and overly sensitive Torontonians. One part stands out for me:Astonishingly in a province where those convicted of more serious offences regularly receive suspended sentences or house arrest, Mr. Brazau was denied bail and has been in custody since his arrest that day, July 29, or for five months and nine days.Yeah, about that....
Brazau did appeal his sentence which was perhaps not surprisingly rejected. ARC received a link to a copy of that appeal where we learned that Eric Brazau has a criminal history that includes assaults, uttering threats, and use of a weapon that goes back more than 30 years:
So, maybe a long criminal history and a history of failing to comply with the conditions of his probation has something to do with the reason he was held in custody prior to his trial?
Just throwing that out there.
Suffice it to say ARC will be updating our "History of Violence" article very soon.
This branch/committee/ organisation notes
- The alarming rise of racism, Islamophobia and Antisemitism and far right forces across Europe, America and elsewhere.
- The rise of right wing populism with racist Nigel Farage’s new project, the growth of a far right movement both in Britain and internationally centred on targeting Muslims, and the continuing dangerous racist rhetoric and scapegoating pushed by the Tories amidst their crisis.
PRESS RELEASE: fascist Robinson goes DOWN – anti racists vow to continue opposition to his politics of hate
Fascist ‘Tommy Robinson’ (real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon) was this morning, Thursday 11 July, sentenced to another prison term after being found guilty of contempt of court last week. … Read the rest
Let's take a little look into the social media posting history of Danny Donovan.
As you can see, he posts the usual Islamophobic garbage. He also posts anti-LGTBQ material as well.
Threats like this need to be taken very seriously. Yellow vest rallies in Hamilton have been attended by people carrying weapons. In particular an attendee swung a telescopic baton at counter protestors.
Not surprisingly #yellowvestscanada members are defending this. However this person is not being truthful regarding the laws. Owning a baton like this is legal, however concealed carry and using it on someone is absolutely not. @HamiltonPolice @CBCNews @antihateca @CBCHamilton pic.twitter.com/DygztPJARN— Yellow Vests Canada Exposed (@VestsCanada) January 14, 2019
We've covered similar events such as this. Last year a group of Proud Boys, Northern Guard, Nouns of Odin, and other extremists planned on going to Hamilton ostensibly to support businesses in the community but was really an effort at self-promotion as well as to antagonize anti-fascists so they could be ambushed and assaulted.
These far right groups also seem to be military fetishists in how they both glorify the armed forces and attempt to emulate them with the ridiculous quasi-military gear which allows them to "play" soldier without actually ever having to put themselves in harms way; the III%ers are the most notorious, but they certainly aren't alone:
Now as bad as it is when they are playing soldier, a greater concern are those who are in the military who have been radicalized by right-wing extremism:
- Member of a Neo-Nazi Terror Group Appears To Be Former Canadian Soldier
- Neo-Nazis chatted about joining Canadian military reserves, report says
- Canadian Military Confirms Neo-Nazi Group Atomwaffen Was Within Its Ranks
I will continue to write about this danger to our country until action is taken. My latest in @TheCJN https://t.co/IYVtLVVwFM @antihateca @ARCCollective #cdnpoli @CanadianArmy @HarjitSajjan— BernieFarber (@BernieFarber) June 27, 2019
ARC has documented a few such instances in the past:
- More Trouble For Boneheads Planning on Attending Calgary Rally
- Paulie Plays Fast and Loose With the Truth
- GermBrit Comments on ARC
- White Supremacists in Canadian Military
- Military "Proud Boys" Disrupt Mi'kmaw Memorial in Halifax
And now we have another person to add to this list:Read more »
PRESS RELEASE: Anti-racists celebrate Tommy Robinson guilty verdict & call for continued action against far-right
Friday 5 July 2019
As Ex English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson was found guilty of contempt of court Today at the Old Bailey, leading anti-racist activists have called for continued action to turn back the rise of the violent far-right, in which Robinson has played a key role. … Read the rest
An exhibition that bears witness to migrant deaths in the Mediterranean challenges us to confront the UK’s complicity in Europe’s war on asylum.
Two image-events bookended Refugee Week 2019. The first was artist-provocateur Christoph Büchel’s ‘installation’ of the migrant shipwreck known as The Boat of Innocents in Venice’s Arsenale. Rechristening it Barca Nostra (Our Boat) was no doubt Büchel’s way of acknowledging European culpability for the deaths of at least 800 people when it capsized in April 2015. But valid criticism of the project centred on its cost – reportedly in the tens of millions – and his rash insistence on presenting it without comment and lack of any strategy to engage passersby (locals, tourists, Biennale-goers). The second ‘event’ was the front-page photo of a Salvadoran father and daughter, Óscar and Valeria Ramirez, lying face-down, dead and drowned, a kilometre from the Texan border. For those already aware of the consequences of United States border violence, it prompted critical ethico-political questions regarding the circulation and consumption of the deaths of ‘others’ as spectacle.
There must be alternative ways of seeing that resist the logic of dehumanisation and also avoid diminishing the enormity of the ongoing calamity. Some of these can be found in Sink Without Trace, an exhibition on migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, hosted by Euston’s P21 Gallery. Succeeding two previous exhibitions on the subject in Gateshead (2017) and York (2018), it’s the most comprehensive in Britain yet, displaying work by eighteen artists from ten different countries in a variety of forms. Thankfully, the curators are conscious of art’s limits. One of them, artist Maya Ramsay, asks in the exhibition booklet: ‘Are audiences being encouraged through art to campaign for change in migration policies or is there simply an empathetic response followed by inaction? How much of what we are doing as artists and curators has any real impact on those that we are making the work about?’ What follows is an attempt to situate the exhibited works historically and politically, in the hope that those who see them come away with a better sense of what’s at stake in Europe and the Mediterranean.
The UK in and out of Europe
Since 2015 especially—though there are precedents going back decades—the European Union and its member states have taken increasingly extreme measures to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching Europe via the Mediterranean. It’s a deliberate political project that has cost thousands of lives, as a group of international lawyers recently charged. Those who succeed in crossing, if they aren’t deported, are subject to multiple overlapping forms of state and popular racism, as well as exploitation. In Britain, the domesticated borders of the ‘hostile environment’ have been challenged on many fronts since the Windrush scandal. Meanwhile, Britain’s highly-securitised external borders, its relationship of convenience with ‘Fortress Europe’, and its role in perpetuating a ‘global framework of massive injustice’, remain less understood and thus harder to oppose.
Polarised opinion on Brexit can sometimes obscure the EU’s fundamentally exclusionary nature. Remainers exalt it as the guarantor of internationalism and multiculturalism while leavers condemn it as the borderless supra-state allowing mass immigration to push Britain to ‘breaking point’. That last phrase appeared on a notorious UKIP campaign poster in June 2016, captioning a photograph of a long queue of non-European migrants at the Croatia-Slovenia border. Unmentioned was the fact that passage across the Balkan corridor had been severely restricted by those two EU countries just months earlier. Indeed, free movement within the Schengen Area has always been coupled with strong external borders. including pernicious externalisation agreements with countries in the ‘global south’, while over the past few years controls at internal European borders have also intensified. This architecture of deterrence and containment is designed to render the struggle of refugees and migrants, and Europe’s ‘unknown war’ on them, invisible.
Europe’s unknown war
Sink Without Trace begins in 2011—the ‘deadliest year’ in the Mediterranean since its records began, the UN Refugee Agency declared at the time. On 27 March, only two weeks after NATO’s intervention in Libya, seventy-two migrants set sail from war-torn Tripoli; after running out of fuel, they drifted helplessly for fourteen days before being borne all the way back with only nine survivors. In their report on the ‘left-to-die boat’—presented in video form at the exhibition—the Goldsmiths-based research collective Forensic Oceanography (FO) combine information derived from official sources and sophisticated geo-spatial technologies (the view from above) with the testimony of survivors (the view from below), to prove that the latter’s fate was not the result of fortuitous oversight but of callous non-assistance by several actors (national, supra-national and commercial). Accordingly, in his intimidating Annex canvasses, artist Mario Rossi maps a Mediterranean sea that is simultaneously a turbulent expanse that kills and a controlled political space governed by maritime bureaucracies for western military and trade interests.
FO’s subsequent reports detail the declension of European migration policy in the Mediterranean after 2011. Mare Nostrum (Our Sea), an unprecedented Italian search and rescue (SAR) operation, was launched in October 2013 after hundreds of migrants drowned in a widely-reported shipwreck off Lampedusa. But it was soon pilloried as a ‘pull-factor’ and, under EU pressure, consequently abandoned in November 2014. The ensuing ‘SAR vacuum’ was filled initially by commercial vessels that were ill-equipped for the job, however well-intentioned their crews. The ‘pull-factor’ argument was then redeployed to create a ‘toxic narrative’ around the NGO SAR missions that stepped in to counter the EU’s policy of non-assistance. Over the last few years, Italy – with EU backing – has revived and in effect taken full strategic and operational control over the Libyan Coast Guard, enlisting it to execute a policy of ‘refoulement by proxy’, effectively outsourcing its dirty work.
Asylum after empire
Where does the UK fit into this narrative? On one side of a canvas protest banner by English artist Victoria Burgher, A. Sivanandan’s defiant aphorism is reworked from the standpoint of white Britain: ‘they are here because we were there’. Quite literally, this reminds viewers that Britain colonised, occupied or invaded – in some cases very recently – many of the world’s largest refugee-producing countries. On the other side is a reproduction of the famous Brookes slave ship woodcut, a document of barbarism powerfully wielded by late-eighteenth-century abolitionists. The radical demand for open/no borders functions, in Britain, as both a humane response to a contemporary crisis and as an act of historical redress, acknowledging its roots in empire and its foundational role in racial capitalism.
Many migrants set out with Britain as their ultimate destination – because of historical or familial ties or, rightly or wrongly, its reputation as a haven compared to less tolerant and economically stable European countries. But the obstacles they must overcome to reach it are stupendous. In London-based artist Aida Silvestri’s Even This Will Pass photograph series, the blurred faces of Eritrean migrants to Britain are inscribed with the jagged cartography of their journeys. The difficulty of reaching Britain is not a natural outcome of its ostensible geographical distance and isolation. Since the early 1990s, the UK has extended a sophisticated system of ‘juxtaposed controls’ to checkpoints in France and Belgium. The few who attempt the alternative route across the Channel are dismissed a priori as ’illegals’. When the EU Border Agency (Frontex) was established in 2005, the government sought full participation. Europe’s unknown war is Britain’s too.
The exhibition’s one intervention in public space occurs on nearby Regent’s Canal, where English artist Lucy Wood has moored a small migrant boat from Libya, aboard which thirty-six North Africans successfully reached Lampedusa in 2012. (This isn’t the first time it has come to Britain: in late 2013, Wood encouraged a group of politicians to make a short journey on it along the Thames, something repeated in similar fashion with a different boat by German SAR NGO Sea-Watch in Berlin in October 2015.) The boat’s preservation as a ‘floating museum’ is important because most such vessels are summarily hacked to pieces and burnt in Lampedusa’s ‘boat graveyard’, a process recorded in Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s film The Bureaucracy of Angels.
But what happens to the bodies of the dead? Max Hirzel’s photo series Migrant Bodies focuses on the rare occasion when the Italian government salvaged a migrant shipwreck – the very Barca Nostra that now sits in the Arsenale – in order to forensically identify victims and provide at least some form of accountability and closure. But the clinical, bureaucratic nature of the process fails to overcome what SA Smythe described as ‘the farce of the recurrent practice of enumeration, of counting people without being accountable to them’. In Asmat (Names), the Ethiopian refugee filmmaker Dagmawi Yimer, who founded the Rome-based Archive of Migrant Memory, substitutes naming for counting and calls European powers to account while doing so, offering an alternative form of memorialisation.
The curators have chosen to frame the exhibition around migrant deaths, foregoing more positive concepts like ‘resistance’ or ‘struggle’. Fortunately, there’s no reduction of these deaths to a matter of mere ‘bodies’, as sometimes occurs in work shaped by politico-aesthetic discourses of bare life and necropolitics. For the most part, as in Hirzel’s work, it’s not death itself that is the focus but the systemic factors that do or not make such deaths ‘grievable’. Ramsay’s graphite rubbings of unidentified Sicilian graves remind us that even those who don’t sink without trace still often remain only as persone sconoscitue (unknown persons).
In spite of death, the works by refugee artists – seven of the eighteen exhibited – are necessarily the products of survival, displaying an agency and vision that cannot be reduced to numbers or structural push-and-pull factors. The Kurdish refugee Shorsh Saleh’s miniature paintings of migrant boats in different situations – floating, capsizing, and even breaking through borders – are a particular highlight. Such works challenge a neo-colonial visual economy in which, as Susan Sontag remarked in Regarding the Pain of Others, the other is regarded ‘only as someone to be seen, not someone (like us) who also sees’. Unforgettable, above all, are Ramsay’s photographs of anonymous drawings on shipwrecked migrant boats. One shows the simple black outline of a bird, wings spread in flight – the symbol of life beyond borders.
Spectatorship or solidarity
A curated exhibition in a private metropolitan art gallery can’t ‘do justice’ to an issue of this gravity. Perhaps all that Sink Without Trace can achieve is, to quote Sontag once again, to ‘invite us to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers.’ And, ideally, it wouldn’t end there. Those of us with citizenship and other privileges, who aren’t and won’t be compelled to cross seas to escape oppression and immiseration, should feel sympathy, compassion and anger. But more urgent is finding concrete ways to express and act in solidarity with those affected by border violence. Well before the photograph of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi shocked Europe into momentary compassion in September 2015, many ordinary Europeans were – and still are – busy engaging in a wave of voluntary solidarity efforts. In Britain, as in Europe, there remains much to be done.
In a major blow for one of the few BAME women-led organisations left in the UK, Newham council has decommissioned London Black Women’s Project’s refuges for BAME women escaping violence.
With one in four women in the UK experiencing domestic violence in the course of a lifetime, the scale of violence against women in the UK is huge. And although violence against women can affect anyone, we know that for BAME women and girls, the picture is even more stark.
Figures collated by Sisters For Change reveal that BAME and refugee women experience higher rates of domestic homicide and are three times more likely to commit suicide than other women in the UK. In addition, ‘40% of BAME women live in poverty and are more likely than other women to be living in a deprived area, have experience of the care system and suffer from discrimination and racism’. Yet despite these startling figures that reveal the desperate need for specialist services, since 2012, 50 per cent of shelters for BAME women in the UK have been forced to close due to government cuts.
And now, London Black Women’s Project (LBWP), a vital organisation which has provided specialist services for BAME women escaping violence across London for over three decades – including providing refuges, counselling, legal advocacy and help with housing and welfare – has been informed by the London Borough of Newham that it has lost its tender for providing refuge accommodation. ‘A generic charity with no specialism in the needs of Black and minoritised women, would be awarded the tender to deliver our work instead’, LBWP write in an open letter, ‘If the decision is not reversed our specialist refuges and our ability to deliver lifesaving services for women and children in Newham will be at serious risk.’
Why we need specialist services
Set up in 1981, the London Black Women’s Project (formerly Newham Asian Women’s Project) is an integral part of the radical history of women’s refuges in the UK and has been a lifeline for the community for thirty-two years. Led by BAME women, and for BAME women, the organisation provides specialist services which incorporate an understanding of the additional barriers around racism, cultural expectations, language barriers and immigration issues which make it even more difficult for victims from a minoritised background to access support.
LBWP recognises that you cannot address gendered violence without dealing with larger societal structures and power imbalances: ‘We work under a gendered, anti-racist and anti-discriminatory framework to ensure that local communities are represented in an organisation that looks like them, spoke their languages, represented their needs and valued their voice, agency and presence.’
The need for BAME safe spaces for victims cannot be overestimated, as these provide an essential point of access to services such as health, social services and housing. This is particularly crucial at a time when people with insecure immigration status cannot access welfare benefits or publicly-funded services because of ‘no recourse to public funds’ (50 per cent of casework of BAME service providers relates to victims with insecure immigration status). Immigration enforcement is increasingly coming before the protection of migrant victims of domestic abuse under ‘hostile environment’ policies. Without specialist support services, the exclusion of BAME women victims from systems of support remains a very real risk.
The gendered and racialised impact of austerity
Austerity cuts made by the government since 2010 have made BAME women’s lives more financially precarious and hit specialist support services particularly hard – between 2011-2012, BAME service providers for victims of domestic abuse experienced a loss of 47 per cent of funds. There are now only thirty-four specialist BAME services left in the UK which run on very little – Imkaan has found that the combined income of fifteen BAME-focused organisations in London is now less than the income of a single, more generic, provider.
A focus on cost-cutting and generic service provision has led to a ‘one size fits all’ approach to violence against women and girls which has decimated specialist services for minority ethnic groups. Tendering processes have depoliticised organisations that originally emerged out of community organising at a time of need, which in turn professionalises those services which do win out and aligns them closer to the state –all the more dangerous when violence against BAME women is often at an intersection between interpersonal and state violence.
International NGO Sisters For Change documents how, across the country, specialist services are being replaced by generic organisations with very little experience or understanding about culturally-appropriate ways of supporting BAME victims. Zlakha Ahmed, founder of Apna Haq in Rotherham, writes on the irony of this: ‘while the government and local authority constantly highlight specific forms of violence against Black and Minority Ethnic women like forced marriage and honour crimes, they ignore and try to do away with the organisations which have shown to be effective in dealing with these forms of domestic violence’  – pointing to the partial nature of the state’s commitment to supporting victims of domestic violence.
The fight continues
On 1 July 2019 a powerful protest took place outside Newham council with groups including Million Women Rise, Sisters Uncut, Imkaan, Latin American Women’s Aid, Apna Haq, Solace Women’s Aid, the Magpie project and the Ending Violence Against Women coalition all demanding that the council recommissions LBWP. The Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz spoke at the protest and affirmed that she is looking into the seriousness of the situation.
Minoritised women need specialist services, and the fight to protect these spaces will continue. LBWP is asking for support from communities across the UK to demand that Newham Council withdraws their decision to decommission their services, and to call for central government to create a pot of ring-fenced funding for BAME services. As Anjum Mouj stated at the rally, ‘We are not going to go quietly. They didn’t want us here when we set up our services, and they don’t want us here now. This isn’t about money, this is about murder. We cannot let it happen.’
Sign an open letter here: https://www.change.org/p/london-black-women-s-project-s-newham-refuges-at-risk-of-closure
Rebecca Wood, ‘Can community campaigns against racism survive the new funding agenda?’ http://www.irr.org.uk/news/can-community-campaigns-against-racism-survive-the-new-funding-agenda/
Newham council were approached for a comment but did not respond before we went to press.
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.
ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIPASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS
19 June: The Supreme Court rules that the Home Office acted illegally in requiring EU citizens from eastern Europe to register after 2009 to have residence rights, making hundreds of thousands eligible for a refund and for reconsideration of refusals of citizenship, permanent residence and pensions. (Free Movement, 19 June 2019)
19 June: Twenty migrants’ and rights groups accuse the EU of empowering unaccountable militias and undermining the rule of law and human rights in Africa through its migration policies there, in an open letter to Donald Tusk and other EU leaders. (Statewatch, 19 June 2019)
23 June: MPs and lawyers call for an inquiry into the Home Office’ recent outsourcing of visa applications to French firm Sopra Steria, which makes millions while forcing migrants to travel long distances or pay premium charges to submit applications in time. (Independent, 23 June 2019)
27 June: Home Office figures obtained by the BBC show that delays on decisions for asylum seeker children have tripled since January 2014, with almost 1,400 children waiting for more than five years for a decision about their right to remain. (BBC News, 27 June 2019)
1 July: Days before the hearing of a legal challenge to its policy of stopping support for survivors of trafficking after 45 days, the Home Office says it will drop the 45-day limit for needs-based support. (Free Movement, 2 July 2019)BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS
23 June: Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini announces that Slovenia and Italy will launch joint border patrols next month. (STA, 23 June 2019)
25 June: The EU announces funding of €14.8 million for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with only €1.8 million to go towards humanitarian assistance and the rest on ‘migration management’. (EU Press Release, 25 June 2019)CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY
20 June: A French court acquits British volunteer Tom Ciotkowski on charges of contempt and assault. He was arrested in Calais in July 2018 for filming and challenging a police officer who hit another volunteer with a baton while they were distributing food. (Amnesty Press Release, 20 June 2019)
29 June: Carola Rackete, the captain of Sea-Watch 3 is arrested after she defies Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini and brings forty refugees to shore in Lampedusa. Salvini describes her as an ‘outlaw’ who has put law enforcement officers at risk. Watch a video here. Sign a petition in support of Carola here. (Independent, 29 June 2019)
2 July: An Italian judge orders the release from house arrest of Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete, saying that she had been carrying out her duty to protect life and had not committed any act of violence. Campaigners have already raised £1.2m for a defence campaign. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)RECEPTION AND DETENTION
21 June: The French Council of State (the highest administrative court) orders the northern prefecture to provide clean water, showers and toilets within eight days for around 700 migrants living around a sports hall in Grande-Synthe, in a case brought by the Grande-Synthe commune and migrant rights groups. (FranceInfo, 21 June 2019)
25 June: After visiting ‘repatriation centres’ (CPRs) in Rome, Potenza, Bari and Brindisi, Italy’s Guarantor for the Rights of Detained Persons concludes that people in detention are still living in ‘deplorable conditions’, with people often held for up to six months and sometimes more. (Info Migrants, 25 June 2019)
26 June: Mette Frederiksen’s incoming Social-Democrat government in Denmark abandons plans for an immigration detention centre on the uninhabited island of Lindholm. (The Local, 26 June 2019)
26 June: Twenty prominent pro-migrant organisations, including Amnesty International and Medicins du Monde, warn the French government about dire conditions in its administrative detention centres (CRAs), where children and those with mental ill health suffer extremely. (Info Migrants, 26 June 2019)
27 June: The Home Office is ordered to pay £45,000 in compensation to a Vietnamese trafficking victim who was unlawfully detained in Morton Hall detention centre for five months last year after officials mistook him for a man deported from the UK in 2011. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS
27 June: According to Italian interior ministry figures, the number of asylum seekers deported to Italy from elsewhere in Europe under the Dublin regulation has tripled since 2014, raising concerns about their treatment in the country. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)
29 June: At Gay Pride in Paris, around a hundred mostly women protesters from the ‘Gouines against deportations’ collective block an Air France float in protest at the airline’s complicity in deportations. (Huffington Post, 29 June 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
18 June: An email signed by the ‘musicians of the Straatsstreichorchester’ is sent to politicians and media organisations across Germany warning that the murder of CDU politician Walter Lübcke is the first of ‘upcoming purges’ on left-leaning politicians, refugees and Jews in Germany. (Guardian, 20 June 2019)
26 June: Police in Austria search two apartments in Vienna linked to Generation Identity leader Martin Sellner as the investigation into the Christchurch massacre widens to include his US-based fiancée Brittany Pettibone and her alleged connections with the Australian far-right figure Blair Cottrell. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)
26 June: The Guardian reveals that Scotland Yard has paid over £700,000 in out-of-court compensation settlements to 153 anti-fascist activists who were detained during a counter-demonstration against Tommy Robinson in London in September 2013. Internal documents also show that two undercover officers were paid to spy on the anti-fascists. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)
26 June: Stephan Ernst, a 45-year-old German man with previous convictions for serious anti-migrant crimes, confesses to the ‘political murder’ of CDU politician Walter Lübcke, who was known among the far Right for supporting Merkel’s refugee policies in 2015. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)
26 June: Thessaloniki municipal authorities refuse to allow the far-right Golden Dawn to use public spaces to campaign for national elections in early July. (Keep Talking Greece, 26 June 2019)
27 June: Germany’s domestic intelligence service publishes a report showing a 3.2 per cent increase in violent crimes committed by known right-wing extremists, a new upturn following a dip after the peaks of 2015 and 2016. (Deutsche Welle, 27 June 2019)
28 June: The research agency RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland warns that the Nordkreuz (Northern Cross) group, which has close links with police and military, has accessed police records on 25,000 people in order to compile a ‘death list’ of left-wing and pro-refugee targets, has stockpiled weapons and ordered 200 body bags and quicklime to kill and dispose of victims. (Guardian, 28 June 2019)
29 June: After far-right group Cs take a bus to Barcelona’s Gay Pride march, ignoring organisers’ refusal of permission to join the march, LGBTI activists surround the bus chanting ‘They shall not pass’ and paint the bus with ‘fascists out’ and ‘LGBTI in struggle’, forcing the group to leave. (Público, 29 June 2019)
2 July: Britain First leader Paul Golding speaks at a special session of the Russian State Duma at an event hosted by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia entitled the International Conference of Peace-Loving Forces. The Polish extreme-right party Falanga also attended. (Independent, 2 July 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
22 June: In a video obtained by the Observer, shot in July 2018, Trump’s far-right former campaign manager Steve Bannon discusses his contact with Conservative leadership candidate and ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who last summer dismissed rumours of their association as a ‘lefty delusion’. (Guardian, 22 June 2019)
24 June: In Spain, Toni Roldán, the economic spokesperson for the centre-right Citizens party, resigns over the party’s drift to the Right and its alliance with the far-right Vox party after regional and municipal elections. (Guardian, 24 June 2019)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
20 June: In France, a 17-year-old boy, identified only as Farès, is taken to hospital after being stabbed in the neck with scissors by a police officer in Vaujours, Seine-Saint-Denis. Police claim that the teenager was with friends when he was arrested for taunting the police. (Le Point, 27 June 2019)
24 June: An inquest finds that Rafal Sochacki, a Polish cleaner subject to a European Arrest Warrant, died in June 2017 from excessive body temperature after being transported in a hot custody van by a Serco driver and subsequently held in a cell at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for almost 5 hours with only ‘faulty’ air-conditioning, on one of the hottest days of the year. (BBC News, 24 June 2019)
25 June: An inquest rules that ‘excessive’ and ‘probably avoidable’ restraint by Warwickshire Police, including the use of tasers and batons, contributed to the death of Darren Cumberbatch in July 2017. (BBC News, 25 June 2019)
27 June: An inquest rules that Leroy ‘Junior’ Medford died of a heroin overdose while in custody in April 2017, but that officers tasked with supervising Medford lacked awareness of drugs procedure, including the need for constant observation. (Get Reading, 27 June 2019)
27 June: A freedom of information request reveals that just one per cent of complaints made against Avon and Somerset police for racism since 2014 have been upheld. As local community leaders say they have lost faith, the police issue a statement saying that all complaints are treated seriously and ‘racism has no place in our police force’. (Bristol Evening Post, 27 June 2019)
2 July: The Guardian reports that a National Crime Agency investigation (Operation Probitas) into claims that some Metropolitan police officers involved in the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation were corrupt, has collapsed. The Independent Office for Police Conduct confirms that no further action is to be taken against the prime suspect, former detective sergeant John Davidson. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)NATIONAL SECURITY
29 June: The Belgian press report that dual Belgian-Moroccan national Ali Aarrass, wrongly imprisoned in Morocco since 2010 and adopted by Amnesty International in its campaign against torture, is named by an anonymous official as a suspect in a notorious string of 28 unsolved killings in Brabant, Belgium in the 1980s. The Free Ali campaign points out that the accusation comes as Ali, due for release next year, takes the Belgian state to court for its failure to protect his interests. (RTBF, 29 June 2019)DISCRIMINATION
19 June: The parliamentary human rights committee publishes evidence from human rights and data protection organisation warning that widespread data collection practices by private companies are not fully understood by most users, and may embed existing discrimination and lead to self-censorship. (Guardian, 19 June 2019)
19 June: The Equality and Human Rights Commission publishes a report saying that discrimination is going unchallenged because of lack of legal aid for those affected to take cases to court. Read the report here. (EHRC press release, 19 June 2019)
26 June: A report by Sisters for Change and the Manchester Maya Project warns that, as a result of institutional racism and sexism, BAME women and children in Greater Manchester who have been victims of domestic violence are not receiving the protection or specialist help they need. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)
27 June: A leaked draft report into the causes of the Windrush scandal, commissioned by the Home Office, finds that when the department implemented its ‘hostile environment’ policies it failed in its legal duty to prevent racial discrimination. It also accuses officials of ‘recklessness’. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)
1 July: A crematorium worker is awarded £6,000 compensation in a case that ended up at an employment tribunal but started in 2016 when a parks cemetery official, speaking at a meeting of Greenwich council about a burial ground in south-east London, asked whether the ‘residents of Bromley would want to be buried next to a Muslim’ and ‘No offence to the Muslim community but that’s what the Muslims do, they move in and take over.’ (Kent Live, 1 July 2019)
1 July: The Court of Appeal confirms a previous ruling in favour of the Agudas Israel Housing Association, confirming that it is not discriminatory to provide specialist services for Orthodox Jews in north London because of the significant disadvantages they face in accessing social housing. (Inside Housing, 1 July 2019)
2 July: A discrimination claim against the Ministry of Defence is launched by Hani Gue, a former black paratrooper, who claims that he suffered years of racist abuse in his 3 Para army unit and that fellow soldiers decorated company accommodation with Nazi, Confederate and SS flags, as well as pictures of Hitler. This is the latest in a series of controversies involving 3 Para, with one video showing paratroopers supporting Tommy Robinson and another shooting wax bullets at a poster of Jeremy Corbyn on a target range in Kabul. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)HEALTH
27 June: Research by psychologists at the University of Manchester and Lancaster suggests that discrimination is associated with a greater risk of psychosis. (Open Access Government, 27 June 2019)EDUCATION
20 June: The charity Refugee Action says that funding for English lessons for refugees and migrants (ESOL) has been slashed by over 60 per over the last decade, falling from £212.3m in 2008 to £105m last year, as a result of austerity cuts to the Adult Education Budget. (Metro, 20 June 2019)
27 June: After a petition by 100 overseas students called on Sajid Javid to make a public statement about the English language testing scandal, the House of Commons public accounts committee announces an investigation into the issue. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)
27 June: Trustees of the University of Warwick student’s union launch an investigation into institutional racism and allegations that the student union’s ‘exclusively white’ senior leadership demonstrate ‘a culture of ignorance and complacency’. (Coventry Live, 27 June 2019)
2 July: Netpol reports that a 14-year-old Derbyshire schoolboy was labelled a ‘domestic extremist’ and his family hounded by counter-extremism police, after he said he was an anti-fascist during a lesson on the US civil rights movement. (Netpol, 2 July 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
20 June: Six writers and activists withdraw from the annual Bradford Literature Festival after learning that organisers of the 10-day event accepted money provided as part of the Home Office’s counter-extremism ‘Building a Stronger Britain Together’ strategy. (Guardian, 20 June 2019)
28 June: Hollywood actors and directors issue a public statement of support for Cinema America after four cinemagoers are attacked by men suspected of belonging to the youth wing of the far-right Casa Pound party, at an outdoor screening of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed in Rome. (Guardian, 28 June 2019)
28 June: Stormzy becomes the first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury Festival, and is gloriously received by the crowd and reviewers. He wears a stab-proof Union Jack vest and, three songs in, samples a speech by David Lammy MP describing racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. (BBC News, 29 June 2019)HOUSING, EVICTIONS AND HOMELESSNESS
19 June: One man dies in hospital and another remains in a critical condition after their tarpaulin tent was set on fire in a suspected arson attack in Ilford, east London, the previous night. Police believe the men were homeless Romanians labourers, and are appealing to the East European community to identify the two victims. (Guardian, 20 June 2019; Evening Standard, 22 June 2019)
20 June: The Big Issue Foundation calls on Heather Wheeler, minister for homelessness, to resign after it emerges during the filming of an ITV documentary that she described rough sleepers in her South Derbyshire constituency as ‘the traditional type, old tinkers, knife cutters wandering through’. (Guardian, 20 June 2019)
20 June: A report by Help Refugees, L’Auberge des Migrants, Human Rights Observers and Refugee Info Bus reveal that there were over 800 forced evictions of displaced people in Calais and Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, between August 2018 and June 2019. Read the report here. (Help Refugees press release, 20 June 2019; Guardian, 22 June 2019)
27 June: A hundred demonstrators tie a chain to Serco’s Glasgow offices during a protest against the security company’s resumption of its lock-change eviction policy against asylum seekers it houses in the city. (Common Space, 27 June 2019)
2 July: Civic Platform accuses Brussels’ city authority of caring only for the city’s image when it hosts the Tour de France, after police with dogs move around 90 homeless migrants from Maximilian Park. The authorities say that complaints had been made by local residents and that the city’s homelessness agency has been given money to provide extra accommodation for those removed for one month. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)SPORT
2 July: British Sikh amateur boxer Aaron Singh challenges the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association over a rule that fighters must be clean shaven, which he claims is discriminatory as it prevents him from competing because of his faith. England Boxing overturned the rule following a campaign by Sikh and Muslim boxers and the WABA must now consider its position. (BBC News, 2 July 2019)EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
25 June: The European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) calls on European countries to enforce labour laws to protect migrant workers as it publishes new research on severe exploitation of migrant workers across global supply chains where workers complain of ‘concentration camp conditions’ and of being treated ‘like dogs’ and ‘slaves’. FRA claims its study was impeded by ‘mafia networks’. (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, press release, 25 June 2019).
25 June: New Home Office country guidance on asylum seeking women who have been trafficked from Nigeria says that some become ‘wealthy from prostitution’ and attain a ‘high socio-economic status’ upon returning home. (Free Movement, 28 June 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
19 June: Following allegations of a racist attack on a Middlesborough taxi driver, who received hospital treatment for his injuries, police confirm they have received ‘a number’ of other reports of assault in the same area at a similar time. (Teesside Live, Teesside Live, 19 June 2019)
19 June: In Burnley, a court hears that a drunk woman punched a bus depot boss in the nose, racially abused him and called him a rapist, after she was told to leave the bus. (Mirror, 19 June 2019)
21 June: At Bellingham train station, two men sipping cans of pink gin are filmed hurling racist and homophobic abuse at a black man, telling him to ‘f*** off’ after Brexit. (Mirror, 22 June 2019)
21 June: Julia Ogiehor, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Muswell Hill in Haringey, north London, is aggressively confronted by two men asking her where she is from – refusing to believe that she was from London – and calling her uneducated. (Ham & High, 22 June 2019)
21 June: A 14-year-old boy’s hair is ripped out in an alleged racist attack by a girl in Long Ashton, Somerset. (Bristol Post, 26 June 2019)
23 June: The mother of a 14-year-old boy who was racially abused and punched in the stomach on his way home in Woodbridge, Suffolk, says that the ‘growing culture of intolerance’ is getting worse, and that the family has discussed moving as a result. (East Anglian Daily Times, 23 June 2019)
24 June: In a case described as the ‘worst known peacetime atrocity against women in Cyprus’, Nikos Metaxas, a Greek-Cypriot army captain, is given seven life sentences after pleading guilty to the premeditated murder and abduction of five migrant domestic workers from the Philippines, Romania and Nepal, and two of their daughters, between September 2016 and July 2018. (Guardian, 24 June 2019)
26 June: Avon and Somerset’s police launch a CCTV appeal after a racially aggravated assault at a post office in Warmley. (Avon and Somerset police news, 26 June 2019)
27 June: Police appeal for information after a 15-year-old girl is racially abused and punched in the face by a man in Swindon. (Swindon Advertiser, 27 June 2019)
28 June: At Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, a 40-year-old woman pleads guilty to racially aggravated threatening behaviour, for racially abusing a mother and threatening to set fire to her house while her children were inside in May 2019. (Derbyshire Live, 28 June 2019)
1 July: New figures show that despite the fact that mosques account for 52% of all religious hate crime, just 22 mosques received funding last year, with applications by 24 mosques rejected. The Muslim Council of Britain has told the Home Office that widespread distrust of the Home Office’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy has led some Muslim communi8ties to ignore the fund. (Guardian, 1 July 2019)
2 July: A south London pensioner is found guilty of a racially-aggravated public order offence after a court hears how he ‘unleashed a torrent of racist abuse’ at a black female customer in a betting shop describing her as a ‘f***ing n****’ and telling her ‘when Brexit comes you will be gone’ (Independent, 2 July 2019)
2 July: A man is arrested for a suspected racially aggravated public order offence following an anti-Semitic incident in Bethnal Green during which a Jewish man was threatened with a knife. (East London Advertiser, 2 July 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News Team with the help of Joseph Maggs, Ifhat Shaheen-Smith and Graeme Atkinson.
SPLC Action Fund: Congress should adopt NO HATE Act to neutralize growing threat from white supremacists
By Weyman Bennett, co convenor Stand Up To Racism
Last week kicked off with a storm with revelations about Boris Johnson and the potential of domestic violence with the police called to his partner’s home. Rather despicably, Johnson came up with a quick and calculated solution to take the heat off. … Read the rest