Institute of Race Relations News
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
The context of war and the influence of the New Right intelligentsia cannot be left out of the reckoning when it comes to understanding the making of the New Zealand terrorist.
The massacre of fifty Muslim worshipers, and wounding of fifty more people, at the Al Noor mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, streamed live on Facebook via the gunman’s body camera, has left Muslims scared and angry. Angry because they could see it coming, yet their fears were talked down. Scared because in today’s climate it seems virtually impossible to trust those in power to stop creating the conditions for even more Islamophobia.
Islamophobia is the breeding ground for racism and fascism in Europe today, and anti-Muslim racism has more than one face. It is institutional (enshrined, since September 11 and the war on terror, in a punitive criminal justice system that singles Muslims out for greater punishment and enhanced surveillance); it is electoral (witness the Conservative Party campaign against Sadiq Khan in the 2016 London mayoral election or more recently, in Italy, with the League electioneering on the slogan ‘Stop Invasion’ and the promise to close down mosques). Islamophobia is legally sanctioned by the state (many European countries have deprivation of citizenship laws targeting Muslims, also restricting the wearing of the burqa and the hijab); it is popular (note the British media’s obsessional referencing of ‘on-street grooming’ as a specific Muslim crime and the fashionable Muslim-bashing in mainstream debates). And all this inevitably leads to attacks on Muslim places of worship and racist violence on the streets.
Muslims, then, are feeling vulnerable because though the massacre may have happened nearly 12,000 miles away, it felt very close. Exactly how close was made manifest in the UK in the immediate aftermath, in the number of attacks on Muslims, including the abuse of a taxi driver in Rochdale, attacks on Muslim worshippers in Whitechapel and Finsbury Park, and what police are describing as a Christchurch-inspired ‘terrorism-related’ incident in Stanwell, Surrey, where a teenager was stabbed by a man dressed all in green (ie, camouflage gear) and wearing a balaclava, shouting, according to one witness, ‘kill all Muslims’ and ‘white supremacy rules’. (Read a full list of attacks here).
A soldier in a war against Muslims
The first thing to say of the perpetrator of the Christchurch massacre is that he considered himself a partisan in a war – a war against Muslims. He refers to himself, in the 74-page document he sent by email to thirty New Zealand politicians including prime minister Jacinda Ardern minutes before the massacre, as a ‘freedom fighter’, an ‘ethno soldier’ taking a stand against ‘ethnic and cultural genocide’. Dressed in military fatigues, the gunman listened on his car radio to a song idolising the genocidal war criminal Radovan Karadzic, as he pumped himself up, like a paramilitary mercenary, to carry out the murders. Inscribed on his ammunition were the names of other perpetrators of racist crimes, including Luca Traini (responsible for the drive-by shootings of African migrants in Macerta, Italy, in 2018), far-right prisoners (Spanish neo-Nazi and ex-soldier Josué Estébanez who killed a 16-year-old anti-fascist in 2007), individuals and places synonymous with white supremacist narratives about dangerous Muslims (Rotherham) and the names of historical Crusade figures of the Middle Ages who fought Muslim armies.
His obsession with war should have – but hasn’t – been cause for reflection about the recent cultural impact on Europe of eighteen years of wars in the Middle East. Since 2012, the IRR has been warning that the far Right is preparing for ‘race war’. In the 2012 publication Pedlars of Hate: the violent impact of the European far Right we warned that the far Right was utilising ‘enemy images’ of Muslims made respectable by the war on terror, imbibing the warmongering of counter-jihadi websites (such as Pamela Geller’s Atlas Watch and Robert Spencer’s Jihad Watch), and drawing on the ‘not dissimilar’ views of mainstream neoconservatives and culturally conservative writers. We specifically warned of the dangers posed by Europe’s growing counter-jihadi movement and network of defence leagues that were depicting the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as conflicts between a superior civilisation and a barbaric Muslim enemy, as well as the growth of far-right militia and vigilantism, particularly in Europe’s border areas. According to a detailed analysis by the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right, there ‘is no doubt that [the manifesto put out online before the killings] is essentially “counter-jihadist”. It is saturated with “counter-jihadist” and Islamophobic enemy images.’
Australian by nation – European by identity
The second thing to say about the alleged perpetrator is that he might be Australian by nationality, but by identity he is European – Scottish, Irish and English’ by ‘stock’, is his own self-description. Certainly his white supremacist fantasies come in European shades. Such was his attachment to the European ‘motherland’ that he travelled in 2016 and 2017 through France, Portugal and Spain, Bulgaria and Hungary, describing in his ‘manifesto’ the ‘fuming rage and suffocating despair’ he felt against the invaders, claiming that French people were ‘often in a minority themselves’.
But to use his term, manifesto, to describe his 74-page document is to flatter him. It would give respectability to the incoherent scribblings of an unadulterated white supremacist and arrested adolescent obsessed with ‘sub-replacement fertility’, civilisational decline, decay and death. Everything in the manifesto is redolent of the deluded narrative of white victimhood and white martyrdom that is everyday exchange in far-right chat rooms and online subculture. It conveys no thought-out ideas, only the self-pity of a 28-year-old man who compares himself to Nelson Mandela and expects, in his own delusional words, to one day win the Nobel Peace Prize. The Norwegian mass murderer, Anders Behring Breivik, who also described himself in military terms (his manifesto was signed AB Justiciar Knight Commander, cell 8 Knights Templar, Europe), said much the same in his manifesto, further claiming, at a pre-trial court appearance, that he should be honoured with a military medal for his actions.
French intellectual incendiaries
But in all the debate since Christchurch, one category of people has not been called to account as it should be. In the gunman’s journey through racism and hate he greedily gobbled up any pseudo-intellectual titbit thrown his way by a coterie of New Right writers and journalists who have stretched the limits of public debate and made racism respectable under cover of cultural critique.
First, the title of his manifesto, The Great Replacement: Towards A New Society, is taken from the FN- and PEGIDA-sympathising French writer Renaud Camus, who in 2012, echoing the Eurabia theme of Bat Ye-or (‘Europe is being colonised by the Arab world and forced into an attitude of dhimmitude’), coined the term le grand remplacement to describe the colonisation of France by Muslim immigrants from North Africa and the Middle East. This process, through changing demographics, replaces an existing culture with a new one, and threatens to ‘mutate’ the country and its culture permanently. In the UK, there was outrage when the BBC invited a leading member of Generation Identity (a movement that originated in France) onto the ‘Newsnight ’ TV programme to discuss the causes of the Christchurch massacre. Generation Identity is a movement that has its roots in France, where New Right authors like Renaud Camus, Eric Zemmour, Jean Raspail and philospher Alain Finkielkraut have dominated the broadcast and print media for at least a decade. When challenged, the high-minded and apparently well-mannered Camus took to Twitter to deny accusations that he provided the intellectual inspiration for the killer, opining that this ‘criminal, idiotic, and awful’ attack was carried out by a perpetrator who is guilty of an ‘abusive use of a phrase that is not his and that he plainly does not understand’. Camus’ words, so elitist and insensitive, make it all the easier to understand Guardian columnist Nesrine Malik’s declaration that she’s ‘done with debating racism after Christchurch’. Malik’s point is that the fork-tongued ‘genre of response protocol’ that follows attacks on Muslims, which ‘blows dog whistles even as carnage is unfolding’, makes it ‘futile’.
A struggle against the culture that provides ammunition and space
In his 1,500-page manifesto, Breivik, now serving a 21-year prison sentence that can be extended indefinitely, made a number of references to New Zealand, in particular suggesting that it might be a place for Europeans to move to in order to avoid immigration. It’s worth recalling that after Breivik was arrested, the mainstream media sought to present him as a disturbed loner, denying that the mass murder of seventy-seven people, mostly children, could be racially or politically motivated. (Let’s not forget that the children he killed were attending a Norwegian Labour party youth summer camp.) Initial psychiatric assessors, who had no knowledge of the universe of ideas that Breivik was part of or the hyper-reality he had joined on the internet, assessed him as suffering from paranoia and delusional fantasies, failing to recognise the ideological roots of his violence and the intellectual currents that nurtured him. Thankfully that view was challenged and overturned.
Today we must stop the mainstream media similarly erasing the roots of the terrorist’s Islamophobia, recognising also that at a time when the extreme Right is represented in nearly every European parliament, the rhetoric of war has become normalised. The idea that European civilisation is threatened by Muslims and by immigration is part of mainstream European political thought. In the UK our struggle is not just against the far Right but the wider culture and politics that provide it with intellectual ammunition and space.
Liz Fekete is author of Europe’s Fault Lines: racism and the rise of the Right. Order a copy here.
The terrible events in Christchurch, New Zealand, which left fifty people dead and fifty people injured, reverberated across the UK.
Below we provide a round-up of the most important developments, drawing particular attention to criticism of the media, online posts in support of the perpetrator and attacks on Muslims across the UK. We also draw attention to the European dimension.
15 March: In the 74-page manifesto, published shortly before the massacre, the perpetrator describes himself as of ‘Scottish, Irish and English stock’, calls for the ‘removal’ of Sadiq Khan, declares support for Finsbury Park mosque killer Darren Osborne, and alludes to the Rotherham ‘grooming scandal’. A number of references are made to the Norwegian mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik, and other European ‘partisans/freedom fighters/ethno soldiers’ who have taken a stand against ‘ethnic and cultural genocide’. (ITV News, 15 March 2019; Express, 15 March 2019; New York Times, 19 March 2019)
15 March: British police respond to calls from Muslim leaders to increase ‘reassurance patrols’ at mosques in London, Manchester, Birmingham and other cities. On the same day, worshippers at a mosque in Whitechapel are racially abused and physically attacked by two men carrying a hammer and another object. (Independent, 15 March 2019; Guardian, 15 March 2019; Independent, 15 March 2019)
15 March: MailOnline, the Mirror and the Sun admit that decisions to host edited versions of the footage of the Christchurch massacre was a mistake and remove the videos. MailOnline delete the suspect’s manifesto after being accused of spreading terrorist materials. (Guardian, 15 March 2019)
15 March: The BBC faces criticism for airing a conversation between one of its reporters and the leader of the British branch of far-right Alternative Right group Generation Identity in a discussion about the Christchurch massacre. (i News 15 March 2019)
15 March: Officials in Turkey, Bulgaria and Greece begin investigating the Christchurch killer’s travels through their countries in 2016 and 2017. (Guardian, 18 March 2019)
15 March: The mother of Ebba Akerlund, an 11-year-old girl killed in Stockholm in Sweden, April 2017, in an Islamist-inspired terrorist incident, condemns the New Zealand attacks and says that she finds ‘it extremely tragic that Ebba’s name is being misused in political propaganda’. (France 24, 15 March 2019)
15 March: Swedish Youtube star, PewDiePie, who has the most highly-subscribed channel in the world and has been accused of racism and support for the far Right, issues a statement saying he is ‘absolutely sickened’ that his name was used by a suspect who was heard on a video shooting saying ‘Remember, lads! Subscribe to PewDiePie’. (Independent, 15 March 2019)
16 March: MI5 begins investigating the links between the Christchurch suspect and the far Right in Britain. (The Times, 16 March 2019)
16 March: Sammy Woodhouse, a victim of sexual abuse in Rotherham condemns the ‘evil act’ at Christchurch and says the terrorist attack was ‘not done in our name’, a reference to the ‘For Rotherham’ message inscribed on the gunman’s ammunition. (Daily Mirror, 16 March 2019)
16 March: A 24-year-old man from Oldham is arrested for making a post on social media in support of the Christchurch attack. (Bolton News, 16 March 2019)
16 March: Swastika graffiti is found on a wall in Cheney School in Headington, Oxford, alongside a message to ‘SUB 2 PewDiePie’. The alleged killer had said ‘subscribe to PewDiePie’ moments before he began shooting the previous day. (Oxford Mail, 16 March 2019)
16 March: Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini tells a press conference that ‘Islamic extremism’ is the only threat facing Italy and that ‘far-right and left-wing fringes’ are under control. He then condemned the Christchurch attacks and asked for ‘compassion’ for anyone who might blame him for the killings. (The New Arab, 16 March 2019)
16 March: Renaud Camus, the French author responsible for the theory of ‘The Great Replacement’ in his 2011 publication and was found guilty of inciting hatred against Muslims in 2015, denounces the Christchurch massacre as ‘appalling’ and dismisses the idea that he influenced the alleged killer. (Channel News Asia, 16 March 2019)
17 March: Front National leader Marine La Pen, whose defeat in 2017 caused the Christchurch killer to ‘despair’, tells France 3 Television that she never used the phrase ‘The Great Replacement’ and that she did not even know what it meant. (Washington Post, 19 March 2019)
17 March: Britain’s counter-terrorism chief warns that sharing the killer’s livestream of the massacre may result in jail time for disseminating ‘terrorist propaganda’ that could inspire further attacks. Home Secretary Sajid Javid and shadow digital secretary Tom Watson accuse social media platforms like Youtube and Facebook of doing too little to halt the spread of the footage. (The Times, 17 March 2019; ITV News, 15 March 2019)
17 March: A 33-year-old man and 34-year-old woman are arrested in Queensway, Rochdale, on suspicion of racially aggravated public order offences after reports that they abused and threatened a cab driver with reference to the Christchurch massacre. (Manchester Evening News, 17 March 2019)
17 March: Police announce that they are investigating a stabbing in Stanwell, Surrey on Saturday as a possible Christchurch-inspired ‘terrorism incident’, following reports that the attacker shouted ‘kill all Muslims’ and ‘white supremacy rules’. A 50-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder while the 19-year-old victim remains in hospital. (Guardian, 17 March 2019; Telegraph, 18 March 2019)
18 March: As security minister Ben Wallace says that a far-right massacre of Muslims ‘absolutely could happen here’, UK Muslim leaders call on the government to provide funding for mosque security in the same way that it did for Jewish institutions, which received £14m to support 400 synagogues and 150 schools, after a rise in antisemitic attacks. (Guardian, 18 March 2019; Guardian, 18 March 2019)
18 March: On his way home from a meeting at Regent’s Park mosque, Finsbury Park imam Mohammed Mahmoud, known and praised for preventing community retaliation against the Finsbury Park mosque killer Darren Osborne in June 2017, is called ‘despicable’ and a ‘s***hole’ while on the bus and later spat at by a cyclist. (Evening Standard, 19 March 2019)
19 March: In response to calls the previous day for increased security funding for UK mosques, the Home Office doubles the annual Places of Worship Protective Security Fund for religious institutions to £1.6 million and opens a £5 million fund for security training, though Muslim leaders still say this is not enough. (Independent, 19 March 2019)
19 March: A 31-year-old man from Newport is arrested by Gwent police for allegedly posting material on social media relating to the Christchurch massacre that is ‘threatening, abusive or insulting and likely to stir up racial hatred.’ The man has been released pending further investigation. (Wales Online, 19 March 2019)
19 March: The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre (JTAC), a Whitehall unit responsible for producing Islamist and Ireland-related terrorism warnings, will begin issuing official threat-level warnings for far-right terrorism this year. (Guardian, 19 March 2019)
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)
21 March: West Midlands police confirm that four Birmingham mosques were attacked with sledgehammers overnight. They ascribe no motive but express heightened security concerns relating to the Christchurch massacre. (Birmingham Mail, 21 March 2019)
21 March: Facebook which, alongside YouTube, initially defended its response to the Christchurch terrorist attack, now says that it did not deal with the attacker’s live stream quickly enough because it was not reported as a video of a suicide. (Guardian, 21 March 2019)
Compiled by Joseph Maggs and Liz Fekete
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.
An additional calendar on the Christchurch massacre of fifty people in New Zealand, its European implications, and related racial violence in the UK can be found here.ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS
6 March: The public accounts committee accuses the Home Office of a dereliction of duty for its failure to monitor the human impact of the hostile environment. The committee’s report highlights the department’s ‘lack of urgency’ in response to the Windrush scandal, citing the eight months it took to set up a hardship fund and the continued delay of a compensation scheme. (Guardian, 6 March)
6 March: The supreme court overturns a previous ruling that a Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seeker organised his own torture in order to improve his chances of receiving asylum in the UK. The landmark judgement says that the Home Office and immigration tribunal judges should follow international standards on torture cases by giving more weight to expert medical evidence. (Guardian, 6 March 2019)
6 March: In an out-of-court settlement with the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Home Office agrees that its caseworkers will not refuse settled status to EU nationals who are ‘economically inactive’, in part-time work, lacking private health insurance, or who have previously been served a removal notice. (Guardian, 6 March 2019)
7 March: The Home Office freezes immigration and nationality fees for 2019. However, fees remain high, having rocketed since being introduced in 2003, leading to recent calls by the Royal British Legion to scrap them because Commonwealth veterans are struggling to pay to remain in the UK after being discharged. (Childrens Legal Centre; Guardian, 8 March 2019)
19 March: A rescue ship run by a collective of Mediterranean aid groups and associations rescues 50 people on a rubber boat off the coast of Libya, prompting fears of a showdown with the Italian government as interior minister Matteo Salvini declares the operation ‘detrimental to the order and security of the Italian state’. (Guardian, 19 March 2019)
19 March: The Home Office confirms that it is ‘able to access and examine data’ from the micro-chipped prepaid Aspen debit cards given to asylum seekers, and that 186 people had their support removed last year as a result of such monitoring. (The Times, 19 March 2019)BORDERS
6 March: After a dispute with Viktor Orbán’s government about the EU’s ability to control immigration, the European Commission declares the ‘migrant crisis’ over, citing the 89 percent reduction in Mediterranean crossings last year. This is the result of the near closure of the Libyan route by the Libyan coastguard, funded by the EU and Italy (to the tune of Euros90million). Only 262 seaborne migrants reached Italy in the first two months of 2019, compared with more than 13,000 during the same period in 2017. (Guardian, 6 March 2019; Wall Street Journal, 10 March 2019)
12 March: Students, lecturers and activists stage a ‘Blood on your hands’ protest as Italy’s former interior minister Marco Martini, responsible for the Memorandum of Understanding with Libya and the Italian Code of Conduct which criminalised SAR-NGOs, gives a lecture at the LSE on ‘the situation of the Mediterranean Sea, migration, and security’. (Repubblica.it, 13 March 2019)
13 March: Amnesty International publishes Pushed to the Edge: Violence and abuse against refugees and migrants along the Balkans Route. It accuses European governments, which fund Croatian police, of complicity with its vicious assaults as well as the practice of collective expulsions whereby thousands of asylum seekers are left trapped in two small Bosnian towns near the Croatian border, where a humanitarian crisis looms. (Amnesty International, 13 March 2019) Read the report here.IMMIGRATION ENFORCEMENT
6 March: In the largest eviction yet in Italy, 1,000 paramilitary police officers force 1,500 people out of a refugee camp at San Ferdinando, Calabria, demolishing the shanty town in a matter of hours. (Guardian, 6 March 2019)
15 March: Activists from Anti Raids Network successfully blockade the entrance to Eaton House, Hounslow, one of the Home Office’s four immigration enforcement centres in London, where UK Border Agency officers plan and leave for their operations and where migrants are compelled to report on a regular basis. (Morning Star, 15 March 2019)RECEPTION AND DETENTION
18 March: The Ferret reveals that Scottish police are investigating an ‘IT incident’ that occurred in late January at Dungavel immigration removal centre in South Lanarkshire, resulting in continuing problems with the facility’s computer system. The migrant solidarity group Unity Centre says that detainees have been left feeling ‘isolated’ and ‘legally in the dark’. (The Ferret, 18 March 2019)
19 March: During an inquest into the killing of Tarek Chowdhury, a Bangladeshi man, by an Iraqi man, Zana Assad Yusif, in Colnbrook immigration removal centre in December 2016, a senior Home Office official apologises several times for institutional failures that led to Chowdhury’s death. (Guardian, 11 March 2019; Guardian, 19 March 2019)CITIZENSHIP
10 March: Following reports that Shamima Begum’s baby died soon after she was stripped of British citizenship, details emerge of two more women from the UK, currently living in Syrian refugee camps, whose citizenship was stripped by Amber Rudd in August 2018. (Guardian, 9 March 2019; BBC News, 10 March 2019)
12 March: Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar says he will allow Lisa Smith, an Irish woman detained on suspicion of association with Islamic State, to return to Ireland with her two-year-old child to face justice, saying that to render her stateless would not be the ‘compassionate’ thing to do. (Guardian, 12 March 2019)
15 March: France repatriates five orphaned children of French jihadists from camps in north-east Syria. One of the camps at Al-Hawl, where Shamima Begum’s newborn son died, is described by the British government as too dangerous to visit. Kurdish officials agreed to the repatriation as soon as Paris lodged a request. (Guardian, 15 March 2019)DEPORTATIONS
14 March: In a case brought by charity Medical Justice, the High Court suspends the Home Office’s ‘removal window’ policy, which allows the UK Border Agency to deport migrants at any time without warning during a three-month period. (Medical Justice, 14 March 2019; Mirror, 14 March 2019)CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY
11 March: A Moroccan court drops a human trafficking investigation into the activities of a Spanish human rights activist whose Walking Borders NGO saved lives by passing on the locations of people crossing the Mediterranean to the Spanish coast-guard for rescue. (Guardian, 11 March 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR-RIGHT
5 March: Journalist Mike Stuchbery, known for writing about the contemporary far-right, complains to the police after Tommy Robinson appears outside his home. Stuchbery was involved in organising the crowdfunding of legal fees for Syrian schoolboy Jamal’s libel action against Robinson, which was delivered to the latter’s home the previous Sunday. (Guardian, 5 March 2019)
5 March: A Tommy Robinson supporter and convicted rapist is handed a 28-day custodial sentence for posting threatening comments about Home Secretary Sajid Javid on Facebook, including a desire to see him ‘hung, drawn and quartered’. (Independent, 5 March 2019)
10 March: Germany’s Military Counterintelligence Service admits it has underreported the figure of soldiers removed from the military for right-wing extremism. They reported that just four soldiers in 2018 and six in 2017 were removed from service on these grounds, and are currently investigating around 450 suspected cases of right-wing extremism in the military. (Independent, 10 March 2019)
13 March: In the US media outlet Unicorn Riot release more than 770,000 messages from chat servers associated with Identity Evropa, which show links between the Alternative Right and white supremacists in the US and also with the Sweden-based Red Ice TV, which has more than 230,000 followers. (High Plains Reader, 13 March 2019)
14 March: Berlin state prosecutors begin investigating over 100 threatening letters apparently sent by neo-Nazis to German politicians, lawyers and other notable figures. The letters were signed the letters by the ‘National-Socialist Offensive, ‘NSU 2.0’ and other suggestive names. (BBC News, 14 March 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
5 March: The Conservative Party suspends 14 party members for posting allegedly Islamophobic comments on social media, many of them on a facebook group supporting Jacob Rees-Mogg. Eleven other individuals were profiled but are not believed to be members. (Guardian, 5 March 2019)
6 March: Spain’s far-right Vox party suspends José Antonio Ortiz Cambray, a party leader in Lleida, after he is arrested on suspicion of sex offences against at least one person at a centre for the disabled. (El Pais, 6 March 2019)
6-7 March: Two East Staffordshire Conservative councillors resign after it was revealed that they liked a cartoon on Facebook depicting a mock beheading of Sadiq Khan, though the council finds neither of them guilty of wrongdoing. In the Kent borough of Swale, a leading Conservative councillor is suspended for retweeting an image describing far-right figurehead Tommy Robinson as a ‘patriot’. (BBC News, 6 March 2019; Independent, 7 March 2019)
7 March: The Equality and Human Rights Commission launches an investigation into antisemitism within the Labour Party. If the regulator finds evidence that equalities legislation has been breached, a full inquiry may be launched. (Guardian, 7 March 2019)
7 March: Work and Pensions secretary Amber Rudd is criticised for referring to Diane Abbott as a ‘coloured woman’ in a BBC Radio 2 interview about women and online harassment. (New Statesman, 7 March 2019)
11 March: Estonia’s Prime Minister Juri Ratas invites the anti-immigrant ethno-nationalist Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) to coalition talks, as his Centre party looks to form a new governing coalition following deadlocked parliamentary elections. (Reuters, 11 March 2019)
14 March: In the run-up to the general election, Spain’s opposition conservative Popular Party (PP) proposes a so-called ‘law to support maternity’ that would temporarily safeguard undocumented migrant women against deportation for the duration of their pregnancy if they agree to give up their child to adoption. After birth, however, they will be as vulnerable to deportation as before. El Pais, 14 March 2019)
17 March: After proposing the building of a mosque to attract immigrants and reverse local population decline, Mark Collins, a representative of the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats on the Kramfors municipal council, is threatened with expulsion by his party’s central leadership. (Telegraph, 17 March 2019)
17 March: Alternative for Germany MP Anton Friesen and other AfD politicians set up a party platform called ‘New Germans’ for those they consider to be both migrants and ‘German patriots’, and who believe in the ‘complete de-Islamization of Germany’. (Telegraph, 17 March 2019)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
9 March: The Met reveals that it has placed restrictions on police officers’ leave in March and April, to ensure their availability in the event of disorder in the build up to and aftermath of Brexit on March 29. (Sky News, 9 March 2019)
9 March: Three Met police officers are found guilty of gross misconduct for their handling of events that led to the killing of Linah Kezah by her abusive ex-partner in east London in 2013. The officers are said to have failed to recognise the gravity of the threat to Kezah, who was regularly in contact with the police. None of the officers has been dismissed. (Guardian, 9 March 2019)
11 March: West Midlands Police call in the Independent Office of Police Conduct to investigate the events of a viral video clip showing a group of police officers violently restraining an apparently Muslim man. The force reveals the incident took place on 25 February, after a doctor called the police during a mental health assessment at a patient’s home. (Independent, 10 March 2019; Birmingham Mail, 11 March 2019).
11 March: Police forces across England and Wales launch a new phase of Operation Sceptre, first introduced in July 2015, a nationwide scheme that uses emergency stop and search powers, surrender bins and weapons sweeps to tackle high rates of knife crime. (Sky News, 11 March 2019)
12 March: Using data obtained from the Home Office in freedom of information requests, a report by the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) shows that 51 percent of children who are shot by stun guns in England are from BAME backgrounds, as well as 34 percent of children bound by spit hoods. For London, the figures are even higher, reaching 70 and 72 percent respectively, with black children highly over-represented. (Guardian, 12 March 2019)
14 March: A disciplinary panel rules that policeman Marcus Tyson will be dismissed without notice after he was found to have directed racist language towards Kurdish activists at a British Kurdish People’s Assembly in August 2016. (ANF News, 15 March 2019)
15 March: A black man named as Trevor Smith is shot dead by armed police in Lee Bank, Birmingham just before 5am, in what the police are calling an ‘intelligence-led operation’. The Independent Office for Police Conduct is investigating. Friends of Smith have since launched a funeral fund appeal, and are demanding an autopsy. (Birmingham Mail, 15 March 2019; Birmingham Mail, 19 March 2019)
16 March: Munich police announce that thirteen police officers from the Support Commando unit (USK) are suspended and under investigation for sharing anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist content over social messaging services. (Deutsche Welle, 16 March 2019).
18 March: The inquest into the death of Annabella Landsberg opens. The 42-year-old Zimbabwean refugee died in a segregation cell in HMP Peterborough in December 2017. The inquest will explore, among other things, the use of restraint by prison officers and the management of her health conditions, including diabetes. (Inquest, 18 March 2019)COUNTER-TERRORISM
7 March: Mehdi Nemmouche, a French citizen returning from fighting in Syria, is found guilty of the terrorist and anti-Semitic murder of four people at a Jewish museum in May 2014. (Guardian, 8 March 2019)
7 March: Official Home Office figures for 2018 show that of 43 percent of the 273 people arrested on suspicion of terror-related activity were of ‘white ethnic appearance’, a rise of 9 percent on 2017. (Metro, 7 March 2019)
9 March: 33-year-old Pawel Golaszewski faces six counts under the Terrorism Act after a police investigation into his far-right activity led to his arrest in Leeds. (Independent, 9 March 2019) ￼
9 March: In a case brought by a Muslim author who was labelled an extremist by the government, the court of appeal rules that Prevent guidance on inviting controversial speakers to universities violates freedom of speech. (Guardian, 8 March 2019)HEALTH
14 March: A group of paediatricians publish a co-authored journal article arguing that hostile environment policies introduced in 2014 prevent the estimated 120,000 undocumented migrant children living in the UK from accessing NHS care, in violation of the UK’s United Nations commitments. (Guardian, 14 March 2019)DISCRIMINATION
10 March: In its assessment of the state’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire, the Equality and Human Rights Commission finds that the best interests of children affected by the disaster were neglected, breaching international obligations. The report highlights inadequate mental health and education support, as well as discriminatory practices among immigration officials. (Guardian, 10 March 2019)
14 March: A petition signed by over 5000 people opposing plans by Kirklees Council to build a new ‘travellers’ site’ in Birstall, West Yorkshire, is denounced as racist anti-gypsyism by law-student Brigitta Balogh, who hopes to become the UK’s first Roma barrister. (Batley News, 14 March 2019)EDUCATION
9 March: A campaign is started to prevent the deportation of Bamide Chika Agbakuribe, a blind international student at the University of Dundee, which cancelled his student status because of an alleged failure to meet academic requirements. Bamide lives in Dundee with his wife and four children, and is billed for deportation on 26 March 2019. (The Courier, 9 March 2019)
12 March: Goldsmiths University students occupy Deptford town hall after the university allegedly failed to respond adequately to a student whose student election campaign posters were defaced with racist graffiti. The students are demanding ‘an institution-wide strategic plan’ on institutional racism at their university, which has a 40% BAME student population. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
15 March: Far-right group Generation Identity target a Theology and Religious Studies academic from the University of Glasgow, putting up posters around campus with the slogan ‘your lecturers support your replacement.’ The act is allegedly in response to the lecturer’s social media activity. (Glasgow Live, 15 March 2019)
20 March: Student activists at King’s College London are barred from entering their university during a visit by the Queen, allegedly because they are considered a ‘security threat’. The targeted students, most of them BAME, are involved in campus campaigns including KCL Justice for Cleaners and KCL Action Palestine. (The Times, March 20 2019; Middle East Eye, 20 March 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
7 March: Police in Brunnen, Switzerland begin an investigation after a video of surfaces showing a group wearing KKK costumes during the town’s annual celebrations. (Independent, 8 March 2019)
14 March: Leading right-wing Polish newspaper The Tylko Polska (Only Poland) publishes a front page story ‘How to recognise a Jew’, listing, among others, anthropological features, expressions, and character traits. (Newsweek, 14 March 2019)
15 March: The BBC faces criticism for airing a conversation between one of its reporters and the leader of the British branch of far-right identitarian group Generation Identity in a discussion about the Christchurch massacre. (i News, 15 March 2019)SPORT
9 March: The commercial manager of the fourth league German football club Chemnitzer FC resigns following criticism of his decision to allow supporters to stage a pre-game tribute to the recently deceased leading local neo-nazi, Thomas Haller who founded the ‘HooNaRa’ (Hooligans-Nazis-Racists) group in the 1990s and took part in the racially motivated riots in Chemnitz in 2018. (Deutsche Welle, 10 March 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
4 March: In The Hague, the As Soennah mosque is defaced with a banner reading ‘Prophet Muhammed a child fucker’ and a mannequin meant to show the Prophet having sex with a baby is left on the premises. Pegida claim responsibility. (Netherlands Times, 4 March 2019)
7 March: According to the victims support group RAA Sachsen, racist and far-right crimes, including assault, arson and the murder of a gay man, have risen sharply in the east German state of Saxony, with 481 victims last year. (France24.com, 7 March 2019)
8 March: A video goes viral on Twitter and Instagram showing an unidentified young white man on the Northern Line taunting a black passenger with monkey movements and noises. (Metro, 10 March 2019)
11 March: In the context of the rise of the Vox party, there have been three serious incidents in Catalonia where racists targeted unaccompanied young refugees. In one incident, 25 young Spaniards, wearing hoods and with their faces covered, broke into a shelter where 35 unaccompanied foreign minors were living and attacked the children with rocks ‘bigger than their heads’. (El Pais, 12 March 2019; Independent, 17 March 2019)
11 March: Student Giulia Viola Pacilla, files a defamation case in Italy against almost 300 people for online hate. She became a target after interior minister Matteo Salvini posted a photograph on social media of her at an anti-racism demo with the sign ‘Better to be a do-gooder and a whore than a fascist and Salvinist’. One message stated that ‘a gang of horny illegal immigrants’ could be arranged for her. (Guardian, 11 March 2019)
13 March: Five young men, aged 14 to 21, are arrested after a mob of around 100 people, some chanting ‘Geert Wilders’, surround the home of a Dutch Moroccan family and force their way in, injuring the mother and her two children, in the former fishing village of of Urk. (DutchNews.nl, 13 March 2019)
More Christchurch-related violence and harassment documented here.
This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson, Jamie Wates and the IRR News Team.
The Tamil community has lost a valiant fighter.
Just one year after the passing of A. Sivanandan (Siva), the Tamil community suffered another devastating loss with the sudden death of human rights activist and community organiser Vairamuttu Varadakumar. Friends found him at his home last week, after he uncharacteristically had failed to attend several engagements.
Varadakumar (or ‘Varada’ to his friends and colleagues) was the long-time Executive Secretary of the London-based Tamil Information Centre (TIC), an independent community-based human rights organisation focussing mostly on the two largest minorities in Sri Lanka: Tamils and Muslims. TIC has, for the best part of four decades, fought racist and imperialist government policies – whether deportations of asylum seekers; the proscribing of the LTTE (‘Tamil Tigers’); or the use of the British SAS and some elements of its police undertaking training of a variety of oppressive Sri Lankan state forces.
Varadakumar came from the village of Manipay in Jaffna, the cultural capital of the Tamil North-East of Sri Lanka. After fleeing the emerging civil war, he arrived in the UK in the early 1980s and thrust himself into the urgent task of assisting fleeing Tamil refugees at the still-fledgling TIC. The organisation was instrumental in researching and documenting some of the most important and accurate stories and testimonies. Today, TIC is in possession of thousands of precious and original materials in its archives – a special responsibility given the destruction of the Jaffna Library in 1981 at the hands of a government-inspired Sinhalese mob.
In December 2015 TIC, with Varadakumar the driving force, gave Siva an award for his ‘dedicated contribution to civil rights and championing economic justice’ at its annual Human Rights Day community event in Merton, South London. When Siva passed away in January 2018, Varadakumar penned a lengthy tribute with some personal memories, reflections and observations. The admiration was reciprocated when Siva bequeathed his invaluable archive of books on imperialism, India and the Tamil struggle and Ceylonese/Sri Lankan history to TIC. These volumes will be known as the Sivanandan Collection, as part of TIC’s library in its Kingston-based premises.
Varadakumar’s final project was an ambitious exhibition to take place on the weekend of 18 and 19 May 2019 – the tenth-year anniversary of the Tamil Holocaust perpetrated by the Sri Lankan state on its citizens. He had been working diligently round the clock for the best part of a year on this,‘to showcase Tamil history, culture and heritage alongside the impact of the conflict through time and war. We have chosen to focus on the resilience and vitality of the community despite the exceptionally difficult circumstances.’
This event will now also become a space for celebrating him and what he has built at TIC and an opportunity to affirm our determination to continue his life’s work so as to truly honour his legacy. But to make it happen, the event still needs support.Please consider donating to the exhibition fundraising platform: gofundme.com/tamils-of-ilankai-museum.
The ‘Tamils of Eelam: A Timeless Heritage’ exhibition will take place on the weekend of May 18-19 in Tolworth Recreation Centre, Fuller’s way North, Surbiton KT6 7LQ. Entry is free.
On International Women’s Day, Kay Stephens reflects on how the far Right and the mainstream co-opt a feminist stance for racist and anti-feminist ends, particularly around issues of sexual violence.
In 2018, we witnessed an escalation in far-right demonstrations in the UK as a response to the arrest and then jailing of ex-EDL leader Tommy Robinson for filming outside Leeds Crown Court during an ongoing child sexual abuse trial. Robinson’s arrest sparked six far-right mobilisations in the months that followed, with four specifically calling to ‘Free Tommy Robinson’, attracting up to 15,000 people on the street. These far-right marches have been continually framed around sexual violence, feeding off moral panics about so-called ‘Asian groomers’.
When the far Right complains of ‘political correctness’ preventing sexual violence from being named and addressed as a distinctive issue of Muslim culture, it seems obvious enough that they are weaponising ‘free speech’ and co-opting the language of feminism to further their anti-Muslim agenda. But mainstream media and politicians, across the spectrum, too, perpetuate racialised narratives of sexual threat, which obscure the systemic nature of sexual violence, whilst at the same fuelling anti-Muslim racism. This in turn legitimises state authoritarianism, whilst absolving the state of its responsibility to provide adequate support services for vulnerable people and survivors of sexual violence.
In order to resist this toxic narrative around ‘Asian grooming gangs’, we need to unpack the dangers of viewing sexual violence through a primarily racialised lens and also examine how these ideas have taken root.
The trope of the Asian groomer as a racial crime threat builds on a 2011 Times article by journalist Andrew Norfolk, which claimed to identify a distinctive form of child abuse – ‘on-street grooming’ – perpetrated predominantly by Pakistani Muslims targeting white girls. This set the terms for the ensuing wall-to-wall media coverage, which attempted to locate the problem in the repressive and patriarchal ‘cultural mindset’ of perpetrators, while citing political correctness as a stumbling block in identifying this as the issue and hence dealing with it in the normal way. There was little, if any, media speculation about the cultural reasons for sexual offences against children committed by white men – while Muslim perpetrators were depicted as the norm in their ‘deviant’ culture, white perpetrators were apparently mere aberrations. In fact, as extensive coverage catapulted Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) cases involving Asian perpetrators – such as in Rotherham and Rochdale – into national consciousness, those involving groups of white perpetrators such as in Penzance, Torbay, Derby and Bristol passed by with little attention or scrutiny.
The volume of commentary on ‘Asian grooming gangs’ makes the political correctness suppression argument hard to maintain. Instead, in a desperate attempt to not seem out of touch, media pundits and politicians seem to be falling over themselves to highlight issues of ethnicity and culture in CSE cases – essentially framing the debate on far-right terms.
Some maintain that political correctness afflicted investigations at an earlier stage. After the Jay Report, an independent inquiry into CSE in Rotherham 1997-2013, was published, the media latched on to its claim that a ‘fear of being thought racist’ amongst officials prevented a thorough investigation into reports of CSE in the area. But this focus elides the many structural issues at play. In terms of policing, there were no operational targets for CSE in South Yorkshire Police, and property crimes such as burglary and vehicle theft were prioritised over CSE investigations. Victims were also often criminalised – in one case, a victim was arrested for being ‘drunk and disorderly’ when found in a derelict house with a group of men against whom no action was taken. Cases brought to the police were often not properly pursued because victims were not judged to be credible witnesses. Victim-blaming attitudes were common amongst both police and social workers, who frequently described children and young people who were being sexually exploited as ‘promiscuous’, ‘asking for it’, or ‘sexually available’, with many interpreting relationships between men and girls as young as 11 as consensual. Such institutional failures won’t be addressed by seizing on ‘political correctness’ as the central problem.
The point is not to deny that Asian men commit sexual violence – gendered sexual violence exists in all communities, and cultural context plays into how it manifests itself. The problem is that frames of ‘race’ and racialised ‘culture’ are always emphasised and overstated in media commentary and public discourse to the exclusion of others, such as misogyny, rape culture, vulnerability and austerity. When ‘Muslim ideology’ or ‘Pakistani culture’ are posited as the explanation for child sexual exploitation, this obscures the structural conditions that enable such abuse, whilst implying it is an issue of ‘their’ community, as distinct from ‘our’ (white) community. Perpetrators are often said to come from ‘closed’ or ‘segregated’ communities – framing them as those ‘bad immigrants’ who cannot or will not assimilate into (white) British society and respect imagined ‘British values’. The issue becomes one for which an essentialised and homogenised ‘Muslim community’ is held solely and collectively responsible, and subject to retaliatory attack.
As well as erasing white perpetrators, the ‘Asian model’ of grooming erases non-white and male victims of abuse, as if such cases are somehow less worthy of attention or less serious. We have seen how little public sympathy was elicited for Shamima Begum, a British Muslim who was targeted for online grooming by ISIS and left her East London home to join ISIS in Syria in 2015 when she was 15-years-old. Contextualising this in terms of a broader moral panic about the ‘Islamisation’ of the West, the popularity of the grooming gangs narrative is not borne simply of a concern for gendered sexual violence, but seems informed by anxieties about preserving the racial purity of the nation and tied to recycled tropes of white female victimhood at the hands of licentious ‘foreigners’.
(This is not to say white women are simply instrumentalised by the far Right. Exceptionalising Muslim sexual violence provides fertile ground for racist feminisms in which white women often collude. For instance, the white women-led German group 120 Decibel campaigns against sexual violence as a phenomenon ‘imported’ by migrants, positioning itself as part of the #MeToo movement.)
The racialised coverage of CSE and ‘political correctness’ narratives the media propagates encourage people to understand CSE primarily through the lens of race, as a distinctly ‘Muslim’ or ‘Asian’ problem – drawing on and feeding anti-Muslim tropes. Any attempt to centre other relevant structural and contextual factors then becomes ‘politically correct’ denialism, giving the green light to anti-Muslim sentiment whilst failing victims of abuse.
Local effects of media coverage
Politicians and commentators justify their focus on race by claiming that a refusal to talk about race in CSE cases only fuels the far Right. The fact is that the first large EDL mobilisation about ‘grooming gangs’ in Rotherham occurred on 13 October 2013, after years of sensationalised coverage, and less than a month after the Times ran a front-page feature making repeated mention of the Pakistani or ‘Asian’ heritage of perpetrators and the whiteness of victims in Rotherham. In the fifteen months following the Jay Report’s publication and the subsequent media storm, there were fourteen far-right demonstrations in Rotherham, the policing of which cost around £3 million. Far-right groups’ commitment to fighting sexual violence is somewhat doubtful when members shout things like ‘I hope your daughter gets raped’ to counter-demonstrators. But they are fairly successfully capitalising on the moral panic generated by the media, organising in affected towns to spread their anti-Muslim propaganda – sliding seamlessly from the issue of grooming gangs to ‘taking our country back’ and banning mosques.
As the far Right has gained in public prominence, we have also seen an increase in anti-Muslim violence and harassment in areas affected by high profile ‘grooming scandals’. In Rotherham, there have been reports of verbal harassment and blame attributed to South Asian people, attacks on mosques and Muslim businesses, verbal and physical attacks on Afghan- and Pakistani-heritage taxi drivers, Muslim women spat at and abused, young Muslim and Sikh girls threatened with ‘revenge’ gang rapes by white men, and South Asian children being called ‘groomers’ by classmates. In 2015, an 81-year-old Yemeni man, Mushin Ahmed, was murdered in Rotherham on his way to early morning prayer by two white men who called him ‘groomer’, one of whom had recently racially abused an Asian taxi driver.
Racialised discourses of threat – whether about mugging, knife-crime or grooming – legitimise an increase in state powers and interventions whilst simultaneously deflecting attention from the areas in which the state has actually failed in its social responsibilities. The rendering of Muslims as an inherent threat, prone to terror and sexual deviance, increases public willingness to collude in the erosion of civil liberties – through initiatives like Prevent and increased police and state surveillance powers – in the name of tackling crime and terror. These media scares can also serve to redraw the bounds of citizenship to increasingly exclude those ‘immigrants’ whose status here has always been precarious and contingent. In the Rochdale child abuse case, four of the (once) British-Pakistani offenders have been deprived of their British citizenship, and could face deportation after serving their sentences. Such cases normalise differential and increasingly higher standards for people of colour to have the right to remain in the UK. Just recently, the home secretary Sajid Javid attempted to justify the first deportation charter flight to Jamaica since the ‘Windrush scandal’ broke by referring to the criminal status of deportees. When concerns were raised with Sajid Javid that places like Pakistan do not have a sex offenders register, making it easier for offenders deported from the UK to repeat their crimes, he simply responded, ‘my job is to protect the British public’. Those deported or deprived of citizenship are then another country’s problem. 
Scapegoating ‘Muslims’ also lets the state off the hook for years of underfunding and privatising essential services. The one organisation singled out for praise in the Jay Report for its work identifying and supporting victims – the Risky Business project – was shut down (or ‘incorporated’) into a bigger team in 2011, amidst the ongoing CSE scandal. In the same year, the Labour-run council voted to close half of Rotherham’s youth centres. Between 2010 and 2016, Rotherham Council lost 33 per cent of its spending power in real terms, despite being faced with high demands for vulnerable children and family services, associated with significant levels of poverty and deprivation. Children in care are also disproportionately represented amongst CSE victims – in Rochdale, the majority of children’s care homes are privately run, with property values and cost cutting inevitably prioritised over the needs of vulnerable children. The broader structural issue of how austerity has failed victims is elided when commentary circles around the issue of race, or whether or not we should be talking about race.
Just as a singular racialised focus on CSE fails to address issues of sexual violence, so too can simplified denouncements of such explanations. If we are to build real forms of anti-racist feminist solidarity today we have to strengthen our analyses. For example, rather than only pointing out that ‘white men rape too’, we need structural, contextualised analyses of all cases of sexual abuse. Whatever the ethnicity of perpetrators, we need to ask what were the structural conditions in that context that enabled sexual abuse, and understand what obstacles victims face in seeking help and support. Funding for youth services and accessible support spaces that do not stigmatise or criminalise victims would be a start. And if we are serious about dealing with issues of sexual violence within different communities, we must also fight for specialised support services that can address particular cultural and language needs of victims – many organisations on the frontlines providing this kind of support are having to fight for survival. Already many have been shut down.
The sticking point is how to address culturally specific forms of sexual violence without stigmatising entire communities. One way of dealing with this is to make the connections between apparently culturally-specific forms of gender-based violence – so-called honour-based violence, FGM, forced marriage – and issues of domestic violence more generally, focusing in on similar themes – for instance, control of women’s bodies. This would mitigate against the exceptionalisation of certain cultural manifestations of gender-based violence by connecting issues cross-culturally and forms a basis for meaningful feminist solidarity.
Another important strand in the argument is to recognise and emphasise that cultures are not monolithic or frozen in time – in any situation there will be many factors at play, including gender, class, sexuality, and diasporic context that inform practice. That way we can recognise specific cultural manifestations of gendered violence without blaming particular cultures as a whole.
As there has been an escalation of far-right demonstrations in the UK this past year, the fight back has also significantly grown and changed. We’ve seen connections between anti-racism and anti-fascism grow stronger into a resistance movement that is fundamentally feminist. As the far Right changes and evolves, feeding off new moral panics around immigrants, and by extension, Muslims (and anyone perceived to be Muslim), our resistance must continue to broaden and expand.
This means rooting anti-fascism in our communities – bringing together people across society, including teachers, social workers, and doctors, and setting up community support services such as refuges for victims of domestic violence.
In October last year, the far Right was stopped on the street by a coalition of feminist and anti-fascist groups that created a feminist bloc at the front of the march. While street-based interventions are important, what is vital is this sort of coalition-building (including a range of grassroots groups such as queer migrant solidarity groups, sex worker activist groups and Asian mums’ networks), which builds on a history of fighting the far Right in the communities that are at the sharpest end of racist violence.Related links
Today, on International Women’s Day, the IRR warns that anti-immigrant Islamophobic currents in Europe are growing on the back of the racialisation of sex crimes.
Writing in the UK context, Kay Stephens, as part of an anti-racist feminist collective in London, argues that in order to resist the toxic narrative around ‘Asian grooming gangs’, we need to unpack the ways in which sexual violence today is viewed primarily through a racialised lens. Her warning that the far Right, as well as some more mainstream voices, is co-opting a feminist stance for racist and anti-feminist ends is particularly pertinent. This week it emerged that far-right groups are attempting to infiltrate child protection charities; their purpose to further an anti-Islam agenda, particularly in towns with historical problems of child sexual exploitation (see our calendar of racism and resistance).
Across Europe, far-right parties are gaining political ground by racialising sex crimes, as they introduce profoundly anti-feminist measures. Amidst a resurgence of the far Right in Spain, a bus campaign has been launched ahead of International Women’s Day, featuring an image of Hitler wearing makeup with the hashtag ‘#Stop Feminazis’ and the caption ‘gender laws discriminate against men’, calling for repeals of both the 2004 gender violence law and legal protections granted to the LGBTQI community.
This is not unique to Spain, as we continue to see anti-feminist measures, often in opposition to reproductive and sexual rights, introduced across Europe. Last December, Verona’s local council passed a municipal motion to prevent abortion, introduced by a Lega councillor who said that if Italian women won’t have more babies, ‘we will be conquered by the Muslims who will impose Islamic law’. Similarly, incentives to encourage ‘indigenous’ women to give birth, (for instance, Victor Orbán’s declaration that women with four children or more will be exempt from paying income tax in Hungary) must be viewed in the context of policies that keep migrants out by force.
In this dystopian, but very real, context that utilises women’s bodies for chilling demographic ends, there are some positive signs, notably the emergence of a feminism that seeks to challenge racism and sexism simultaneously.
For further information contact Sophia Siddiqui, email@example.com
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
21 February: Humanitarian organisations criticise new parliamentary legislation in Denmark that increases the numbers of people eligible for deportation, a removal of indefinite stay for refugees and a reduction of social welfare given to asylum seekers. (The Local, 21 February 2019)
25 February: Concerns mount over the fate of two Palestinian refugees from Syria who, due to the prohibitive nature of German family reunification laws, opted to return to Syria to reunite with their partners. One disappeared at the Lebanese-Syrian border before being reunited with his wife; the other appears to have been detained by secret services shortly after arrival in Damascus. (InfoMigrants, 25 February 2019)
25 February: The Institute for International Political Studies says that in Italy over the last four months 1,000 asylum claims submitted by Nigerian women and 1,134 humanitarian protection claims, have been refused, with many women, who are victims of sex-trafficking, disappearing after being thrown out of reception centres under the Salvini decree. (Guardian, 25 February 2019)
28 February: The Danish Government’s Immigration Service publish a report stating that there has been a ‘general improvement of conditions in government-controlled areas’ in Syria, and therefore, refugees to Denmark who come from these areas will no longer be automatically given asylum. (The Local, 28 February 2019)Borders and externalisation
17 February: The French Defence Ministry announce the purchase of six boats that will be given to the Libyan coast guard in the spring to assist in Libya’s effort to ‘curb clandestine migration’. (Infomigrants, 25 February 2019)
19 February: Italy’s Senate Committee votes 16 – 6 to block an investigation into Interior Minister Salvini for kidnapping over his decision to allow 150 people to be stranded at sea for 5 days in August 2018. (Al jazeera, 19 February 2019)
20 February: The German municipalities of Kiel, Lübeck, Flensburg, and Sylt, in conjunction with the state of Schleswig-Holstein, declare themselves ‘safe ports’ for people rescued in the Mediterranean. (Borderline Europe, 20 February 2019)
21 February: Unnamed sources in the Spanish rescue mission Salvamento Marítimo claim that an agreement reached between Morocco and Spain, which has come into immediate effect, means that some migrants rescued sea can be disembarked at Moroccan ports. (El País, 21 February 2019)
21 February: ANAFE publishes ‘Persona non grata’ which reveals that between 2016 and 2018, nearly thirty people died at the France-Italy border where dozens of illegal push-backs take place every day. (Read a summary of the report here)
24 February: An African Union ‘common African position paper’, on the EU blueprint for stemming migration by establishing ‘de facto detention centres’ on African soil, is leaked to the Guardian. Coastal states are urged to resist plans that will ‘lead to the establishment of something like modern-day slave markets’, with the ‘best’ Africans being allowed into Europe and the rest ‘tossed back’. (Guardian, 24 February 2019)
25 February: Channel 4 News broadcasts mobile phone footage showing people being tortured inside camps in Libya where, with EU support, the Libyan authorities detain migrants to prevent them from crossing the Mediterranean to Europe. (Channel 4 News, 25 February; The Times, 1 March)
2 March: The EU’s funding of the Libyan coastguard comes under renewed focus as Al Jazeera reports that around 30 refugees and migrants, including minors, are punished for a revolt at Tripoli’s Triq al Sikka detention centre, by being beaten with sticks and bars, with the leaders taken to an underground cell and allegedly tortured. (Al Jazeeera, 2 March 2019)
3 March: Leaked documents from the European External Action Service and Frontex reveal that the EU knows its Mediterranean naval operations are making sea crossings more dangerous and that the Libyan coastguard that the EU funds, equips and trains collaborate with smuggling networks. (Politico.EU, 2 March 2019)
5 March: Thirty-five people are arrested in Lesvos after they illegally entered state land in order to install a huge metal cross – aimed at intimidating Muslim refugees – on a cliff that overlooks the Aegean Sea and the Turkish mainland. (The Times, 5 March 2019)Reception and detention
19 February: The parents of two Iraqi families are denied food by Hungarian officials whilst detained in Hungary’s transit zones, prompting the European Court of Human Rights to intervene. (Al Jazeera, 21 February 2019)
25 February: Following the deadly stabbing of a welfare official in Dornbirn by a rejected Turkish asylum seeker, the Austrian prime minister tables a constitutional amendment to allow for preventative ‘security detention for asylum seekers’ deemed a ‘potential threat’. Refugee reception centres will be renamed ‘departure centres’. (Deutsche Welle, 25 February 2019)
2 March: Forty-four people are detained in Calais after climbing aboard a cross-channel ferry to try and reach the UK. (Times of Malta, 3 March 2019)Deportations
19 February: Around 300 people protest outside Vulcan House, the Home Office building in Sheffield, to protest the deportation of asylum seekers to Zimbabwe. (Assist Sheffield, 19 February 2019)
22 February: In Germany, an Air Algerie pilot refuses to deport a family, including an eight-month pregnant woman, to Algeria. The authorities issued the woman with a medical certificate declaring her fit to travel, despite documenting a high-risk pregnancy and the pilot expressing concern about the lack of medical equipment on board. (Hessenschau, 22 February 2019)Citizenship
25 February: As lawyers acting for Chagos Islanders in the UK warn of the potential for a new ‘Windrush scandal’ affecting their clients, the UN’s International Court of Justice concludes that the Chagos Islands were not lawfully removed from Mauritius’ control in 1965, and urges the UK government to relinquish its continued colonial possessions. (BBC News, 25 February; Telegraph, 1 March 2019)HOUSING AND WELFARE
19 February: A Project 17 report on the hostile environment accuses the Home Office of forcing thousands of children into extreme poverty and homelessness because their parents’ immigration status means that they have no recourse to public funds (NRPF), and says that local authorities are avoiding their duty of care under Section 17 of the Children’s Act. Read the report here. (Independent, 19 February 2019)
21 February: The Local Government Association (LGA) says that council spending has risen from £77m to £152m between 2014 and 2018 as a result of increases in the number of asylum-seeking children in care in England. The LGA’s asylum, migration and refugee task group calls on the government to ensure that long-term funding is available for councils to provide adequate care for these children. (Guardian, 21 February 2019)
24 February: Lewisham Council says it will remove the embedded Home Office official who sits in on meetings between the council and vulnerable, often destitute migrants seeking recourse to public funds. (Guardian, 24 February 2019)
1 March: The High Court rules, in a legal challenge brought by JCWI, that the Right to Rent law, which requires private landlords to check the immigration status of tenants and potential tenants, breaches human rights law. The policy leads landlords to discriminate against BAME British citizens and ethnic minorities in general, foreign nationals with the right to rent, and anyone without a British passport. (Guardian, 1 March 2019)
1 March: A homeless Polish man who was unlawfully detained for 38 days as part of Operation Gopik, a policy to deport homeless EEA nationals, is awarded £14,800 in compensatory damages by the High Court. (Metro, 1 March)CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
26 February: Protestors clash with riot police in Omonia, Greece following a march in central Athens to protest the death of a Nigerian migrant at a police station. Media reports that the 34 year old was beaten by police prior to his collapse. (Ekathimerini, 26 February 2019)
27 February Following the launch of Inquest’s Legal Aid for Inquest’s campaign on 25 February, shadow lord chancellor Richard Burgon pledges that a future Labour government would provide automatic legal aid for bereaved families at inquests where the relative died in state custody. Read Inquest’s campaign briefing here. (Guardian, 27 February 2019)
27 February: Basingstoke MP Maria Miller calls for more transparency from Hampshire police as it emerges that 16 police officers and 3 members of staff from a specialist team at the Basingstoke Investigation Centre are still under investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct, a year after allegations of making racist and homophobic comments were made. (The Breeze, 27 February 2019, The News, 25 February 2019)
1 March: Despite a 2012 inquest ruling that ‘unnecessary’ restraint contributed to Sean Rigg’s death in August 2008, a Metropolitan police panel dismisses misconduct charges against the five Met police officers involved. (Guardian, 1 March 2019)
4 March: To tackle high rates of knife crime, the chairman of the West Midlands Police Federation calls for the nationwide use of emergency stop and search powers under Section 60 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. (Telegraph, 4 March 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
17 February: Ahead of upcoming May elections, leaders of Spain’s far-right Vox party hold a rally in Torrejon de Ardoz, a town near Madrid, attended by 800 supporters. Four of the towns where the far-right party is holding upcoming rallies are low-income towns with a high percentage of immigrants. (El Pais, 19 February 2019)
22 February: The far-right Brothers of Italy, which has its roots in fascism, is admitted to the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe in the European parliament, the grouping of the UK Conservative party. (Independent, 22 February 2019)
23 February: In Salford, Manchester, around 4,000 people march to the BBC in support of Tommy Robinson and in protest of an upcoming BBC Panorama investigation into him. A counter-protest is held. (BBC, 23 February 2019)
24 February: As part of an intelligence-led investigation, an unnamed 33-year-old right-wing extremist is arrested in Leeds on suspicion of preparing acts of terrorism. (Independent, 24 February 2019)
26 February: Tommy Robinson is permanently banned from Facebook and Instagram for repeatedly breeching hate speech rules. His breeches include public calls for violence against people based on issues of race, hate speech targeted at specific groups and public praise for hate figures. (Guardian, 26 February 2019)
28 February: The Italian intelligence services warn that neo-nazi groups could target migrants in the run-up to the European elections, pointing out that racist attacks have tripled over the past year. (Guardian, 28 February 2019).
26 February: The Cologne administrative court rules that intelligence services acted disproportionately and in breach of the constitutional rights of political parties when it classified Alternative for Germany as ‘case to investigate’ for its alleged breach of constitutional safeguards against extremism. (Reuters, 26 February 2019)
1 March: A Spanish ultraconservative catholic organisation Hazte Oír (Make Yourself Heard) has launched a bus campaign featuring an image of Hitler wearing makeup with the hashtag #StopFeminazis and the caption ‘Gender laws discriminate against men’ written below. The bus will travel through Spanish cities until International Women’s Day on 8 March. (El Pais, 1 March 2019)
3 March: A Guardian investigation suggests that, although membership is well down from the days of Farage, there has been a 50 per cent increase in UKIP party membership since February 2018, and that under the leadership of Gerard Batton, UKIP has shifted decisively towards the far right. (Guardian, 3 March 2019)
5 March: Anti-extremism officials say that far Right groups are attempting to infiltrate child protection charities to further an anti-Islam agenda. A community group for child sexual abuse survivors said it has been approached by senior UKIP figures who offered to fund an open-top bus to raise alarm about so-called ‘grooming gangs’. (Guardian, 5 March 2019)EMPLOYMENT AND LABOUR EXPLOITATION
20 February: A probe is launched into a livestock farm in Larissa, Greece, after two Pakistani men were physically assaulted for asking to be paid for their work. (Ekathimerini, 20 February 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
21 February: In the run-up to European parliamentary elections, the Hungarian government launches a poster campaign showing European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker alongside George Soros, with the words ‘You have the right to know what Brussels is doing’. (Guardian, 21 February 2019)
2 March: The Hungarian government launches a new poster campaign, replacing the posters of Juncker with the president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, which claim to show ‘what kind of pro-migrant plans are under preparation by the Brussels bureaucracy’. (Deutsche Welle, 2 March 2019)
3 March: The anti-immigration Conservative People’s Party of Estonia (EKRE) more than doubles its share of the vote in the Estonian general election; with almost 18 per cent of the vote it is the third largest party in the parliament. (Guardian, 3 March 2019)
MEDIA AND CULTURE
4 March: After a public outcry, the digital channel BBC One Scotland promise not to air programmes featuring Mark Meechan (also known as Count Dankula), a YouTuber who was fined for training a dog to give a Nazi salute on camera. (Guardian, 4 March 2019)
5 March: Social media is flooded with complaints after grotesque puppets of Orthodox Jews, as well as people wearing KKK outfits and blackface, were displayed on flats at Belgium’s world-famous Aalst Carnival recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. (Sputnik News, 5 March 2019)
19 February: Belgium’s former Secretary of State for Asylum and Migration Theo Fracken announces that his book launch at the Veriers Hotel, Belgium, is cancelled after more than 200 people gather in front of the Hotel in protest. (Le Soir, 19 February 2019)DISCRIMINATION
28 February: The Dutch appeals court rules in favour of Amersfoort city council which suspended a Muslim man’s welfare benefits for a month after he refused on religious grounds to shave his beard while training for a job as an asbestos removal officer. (Guardian, 28 February 2019)NATIONAL SECURITY
3 March: The Austrian government says that as part of its efforts to preserve the rule of law and stop terror it will by 2020 establish an institution to monitor Islamist associations and organisations, including the spread of patriarchal courts of honour, ‘anti-integration content’ in mosques, and Islamist currents on social media.(Vienna Times, 3 March 2019)
28 February: Two Belgian women, widows of Syrian fighters, are denied the right to return in the Brussels Court of Appeal. The decision overturns the courts previous decision which ordered the government to accept their return. (Brussels Times, 28 February 2019)SPORT
22 February: Supporters of The Hague football club ADO, attending a fixture in Amsterdam against Ajax (whose supporters refer to themselves as ‘Joden’), spray-paint anti-Semitic graffiti across the capital, including the letters JHK, or Jews have cancer. (DutchNews.nl, 22 February 2019)RACIST VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
20 February: Assault charges are dropped against Gillyon Emmanuel, a black ice-cream parlour owner in Hilversum, the Netherlands. Having suffered months of racial harassment, when three youngsters said ‘climb back into your tree…cancer ape’ and threw oranges at her shop window, she responded by hitting one of them with a mop. (DutchNews.nl, 20 February 2019)
21 February: In Berkshire, a 15-year-old boy suffers a broken jaw after a suspected racist attack in a Bracknell underpass, reportedly by a group of five to six men. (In your area, 21 February 2019)
22 February: A man is jailed for six years after he was convicted of racially aggravated wounding with intent for attacking a doorman in Llandudno in April 2018. (North Wales Live, 22 February 2019)
23 February: A 30-year-old personal trainer from Nottingham who set up a fitness class for Muslim women is bombarded with racist abuse and death threats from Tommy Robinson supporters after Robinson shared her flyer on his Instagram page. Her car tyres are also reportedly slashed. (The Independent, 26 February 2019)
26 February: A women from Sandwell, West Midlands, is given a 12-month community order for racially aggravated assault after she attacked a shop worker wearing a headscarf in Debenhams and told her to ‘Go back to your own country, f****** Muslim’. (Evening Standard, 26 February 2019)
26 February: In Islington, north London, a Jewish man in his 70s is punched in the face and brutally assaulted as he lay on the ground by a shaven-headed assailant who asked him if he was Jewish before attacking him. (Islington Gazette, 26 February 2019)
27 February: A new Scottish government report shows that of the 6,736 hate crimes recorded in 2017/18 by Police Scotland, two thirds are race-related. Of the 5 per cent of crimes with multiple aggravators, race and religion are the most common combination. (Scotsman, 27 February 2019)
2 March: A memorial stone that marks the site of Strasbourg’s old synagogue which was burnt down by the Nazis in 1940 is vandalised. Last month dozens of graves were sprayed with swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans at a nearby Jewish cemetery. (BBC News, 2 March 2019)
4 March: Northern Ireland police are treating an incident in which graffiti was spray painted on to property in Cookstown as a racially motivated hate crime. (Mid-Ulster Mail, 4 March 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News Team, with the help of Zeeshan Ali, Graeme Atkinson, Joseph Maggs and Jamie Wates.
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.Asylum and Migration Asylum and migration rights
7 February: Lawyers and rights groups say increases in funding proposed in a review of legal aid by the Ministry of Justice (MoJ), including restoring legal aid for migrant children separated from their parents, is a ‘drop in the ocean’ of need created by the cuts imposed by the 2012 Legal Aid Act. (Guardian, 7 February)
8 February: UK universities are told to ignore the net migration target when recruiting international students. (Times Higher Education (paywall), 8 February 2019)
9 February: The Times reports that hundreds of Commonwealth soldiers enlisted in the British Army are working second jobs to meet minimum income requirements to bring their children to the UK. (The Times (paywall), 9 February 2019)
10 February: In Rome, the mayors of ten Spanish and Italian cities (Barcelona, Madrid, Zaragoza, Valencia, Naples, Palermo, Syracuse, Milan, Latina and Bologna), some of whom meet with the Pope, launch a call to ‘Welcome Migrants and Refugees’ and oppose current policies in the Mediterranean, particularly the closure of Italian and Maltese ports to search and rescue NGOs. (il manifesto, 10 February 2019)
15 February: The Institute for International Political Studies releases statistics showing that Italy has rejected a record 24,800 asylum applications in the last four months. Rejections, which coincide with the implementation of the Salvini decree, are up 25 per cent on the previous four months. (Guardian, 15 February 2019)Borders
8 February: French magistrates open an inquiry into the death of Derman Tamimou, a 29-year-old man from Togo, who was found unconscious on the side of a highway linking the Hautes-Alpes with the northern Italian region of Piedmont. He is believed to have died of hypothermia. (Guardian, 8 February 2019)
16 February: The mayor of the Italian town of Oulx says that since the implementation of the Salvini decree, which has rendered many asylum seekers homeless, more migrants are arriving in the town, hoping to cross over via the Alps into France. (Guardian, 16 February 2019)Reception and detention
7 February: MPs and peers on the Joint Committee on Human Rights (JCHR) recommend a 28-day limit to immigration detention, alongside other measures to improve the ‘prison-like’ conditions endured by detainees in immigration removal centres (IRCs). (Guardian, 7 February 2019)
8 February: The Morning Star launches a campaign to end wage slavery in immigration detention centres, estimating that detainees would have earned an additional £27.7m over the last decade on the minimum wage instead of the £1 per hour they receive. (Morning Star, 8, 9 February 2019)
9 February: Government figures reveal that of the 6,300 people in immigration detention identified last year by doctors and social workers as vulnerable and at risk of self-harm, only 364 – or 6 per cent – were subsequently released. (Guardian, 9 February 2019)
13 February: Lawyers and campaigners say the Home Office admission that a Chinese woman showing multiple indications of trafficking was unlawfully detained for six months demonstrates that its Adults at Risk policy fails to protect vulnerable people. (Independent, 13 February 2019)
15 February: The Hungarian Helsinki Committee says that despite being sanctioned by the European Court of Human Rights, the authorities are once again leaving asylum seekers without food for long periods of time in order to convince them to give up asylum claims and leave the country. (InfoMigrants, 15 February 2019)Enforcement
16 February: The Observer reveals that the Home Office is offering to hire out immigration officials to public services, NHS trusts, local authorities and private companies at around £60 an hour, to attend interviews, perform real-time immigration status checks and encourage undocumented migrants to leave the country. (Observer, 16 February 2019)
17 February: MPs establish an all-party parliamentary group to investigate the fates of the 35,000 people accused of cheating in the Home Office’s official English test, to determine how many have been deported, allowed to stay, or are in detention. (Independent, 17 February 2019)Deportation
7 February: Detainees, campaigners and politicians demand an apology from home secretary Sajid Javid after he claimed that the people deported by charter flight to Jamaica the previous day were all guilty of ‘very serious crimes’. They also call for an end to deportations of long-term UK residents, which divide families. (Independent, 7 February 2019, Guardian, 9 February 2019)
12 February: Peers, asylum lawyers, charities and a former British ambassador to Zimbabwe condemn the resumption of deportations of refused asylum seekers to the country, described as a ‘human rights-free zone’. (Guardian, 12 February 2019)
14 February: A bot designed by anti-deportation activists in the Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) group is used on Valentine’s Day to raise awareness about deportations using the Tinder dating app. (Guardian, 14 February 2019)
15 February: Following parliamentary questions by Die Linke on police brutality, separation of families and the use of sedatives during deportation flights, the German government admits that physical restraint was used against 300 people on 156 deportation flights in 2017 (until November), but declines to investigate further. (ECRE Newsletter, 15 February 2019)Citizenship
7 February: Home Office statistics revealed to the Home Affairs Committee by Sajid Javid show that over 3,000 of the Windrush generation have been granted British citizenship since the Windrush scandal. But there is still no accessible compensation scheme or hardship fund for those affected. (Sky News, 7 February 2019)
19 February: Sajid Javid signs an order revoking the British citizenship of 19-year-old Shamima Begum, who travelled to Syria to join ISIS aged 15, making it impossible for her to return to the UK from the refugee camp where she is living with her newborn child. Her family say the order will make her stateless and are to challenge the order. (Guardian, 16, 19 February 2019)Criminalising solidarity
7 February: A private letter from United Nations human rights experts to the government expressing ‘grave concern’ at the use of terrorism offences against the Stansted 15 is revealed. (Guardian, 7 February 2019)
11 February: Migration and anti-deportation activist groups including End Deportations launch a week of action against the Home Office with a day-long ‘Trial of the Home Office’ outside the ministry, to mark the conviction of the Stansted 15 and the cruelty of Home Office policies. Two activists are arrested. (i, 13 February 2019; End Deportations (facebook) 11 February 2019)
18 February: Swedish student Elin Ersson, who filmed herself preventing the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker, is fined 3,000 kroner (€287, £352) by a Gothenburg district court. The prosecutor had called for a six-month prison sentence. (Deutsche Welle, 18 February 2019)Police and criminal justice system
6 February: The home secretary announces that police are to be given ‘greater power to crack down on trespassers’ at ‘illegal’ Traveller sites. (Travellers Times, 6 February 2019)
7 February: The Ministry of Justice rejects INQUEST’s demand for automatic, non-means-tested legal aid for families in inquests where state officials such as police or prison officers are represented. (The Law Gazette, 8 February 2019)
8 February: Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures show that in the year to March 2018 knife killings reached their highest level since records began in 1946. A quarter of all victims were black, an increase of 78 per cent for black men aged between 16 and 24. (Independent, 8 February 2019)
11 February: Up to 100 convicted knife crime offenders are to be tagged after leaving prison under a pilot scheme beginning on 18 February in Lewisham, Croydon, Lambeth and Southwark, four boroughs with high knife crime rates. (Guardian, 11 February 2019)
12 February: Liberty publishes Policing the Machine, an exposé of discriminatory police computer programs which highlights the implications of the use of predictive algorithms by 14 UK forces for already over-policed BAME communities. Download the report here. (Liberty press release, 12 February 2019)
12 February: A coroner says that the inquest into the death of 43-year-old Leroy Junior Medford in Thames Valley Police custody in April 2018 will focus on the fifteen hours after his arrest. (BBC News, 12 February 2019)
13 February: Three Met Police officers involved in the death of Sean Rigg in police custody in April 2008 have misconduct charges against them dropped, although they still face other charges relating to their reporting of the death. (BBC News, 13 February 2019)National security
15 February: Sajid Javid tells The Times that he ‘will not hesitate to prevent’ the return to the UK of British citizens who have supported a terrorist organisation abroad. (Guardian,15 February 2019)
16 February: The Islamic Religious Community of Austria (IGG) welcomes the Vienna Administrative Court’s ruling against a government plan to shut down six mosques belonging to the Arab community as part of its crackdown on ‘political Islam’. (Muslim News, 16 February 2019)Anti-fascism and the far Right
2 February: Three far-right activists are arrested in Lille in connection with an assault on a young woman filmed by an Al Jazeera undercover reporter for the documentary Generation Hate. The prosecutor does not name the accused, but the media name Remi Falize of Generation Identity’s Flanders branch as one of those arrested. (Al Jazeera, 5 February 2019)
15 February: Fascist Forge, a US website believed to be hosted in the Ukraine but used as a meeting ground for neo-nazis globally, most notably recently in Scotland, to plan race war, share bomb-making manuals and boast about their urges to rape women, has been taken down by the site’s register DreamHost. (Vice, 15 February 2019)
15 February: On the death of 96-year-old anti-Semitic conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche, the Justice for Jeremiah Duggan campaign calls on those who attended the LaRouche conference in March 2003 in Germany, following which 22-year-old Jeremiah Duggan died, to reveal the true circumstances of his death. A court in Frankfurt is considering a fresh application to re-open the case on the ground that previous investigations were deeply flawed (Justice for Jeremiah, 15 February 2019)
17 February: Rape Crisis reports ‘overtly racist’ communications to the police after being bombarded with racist communications from Tommy Robinson supporters, when Robinson drew attention to a pamphlet from the charity aimed at helping black, Asian and minority ethnic women. (Independent, 17 February 2019)Electoral politics
7 February: The Bulgarian deputy prime minister announces new measures to ‘integrate’ Roma by curbing welfare, demolishing unauthorised settlements and offering free abortions to Roma mothers who have more than three children. All the measures are included in the government’s ‘Concept for the Integration of the Unsocialised Gypsy (Roma) Ethnicity’. (Balkan Insight, 8 February 2019)
14 February: Mike Whitehead, former Police and Crime Commissioner candidate for Humberside, resigns from UKIP, saying party leader Gerard Batten’s promotion of Tommy Robinson and ‘alliance with right-wing extremists and his fixation with Islam is totally unacceptable’. (Hull Live, 14 February 2019)
15 February: The Austrian far-right interior minister, Herbert Kickl, citing crimes against women, announces a package of tough new measures, stating ‘We observe that very, very often people involved in these violent crimes are not Austrian and are from other countries and other cultures’. (Reuters, 13 February 2019)
18 February: Seven Labour MPs leave the party to form an independent grouping, with some citing ‘institutional anti-Semitism’ as a factor in their decision. One of their number, Angela Smith, is later forced to apologise for apparently describing people from BAME backgrounds as having a ‘funny tinge’. (Politico.eu, Guardian, 18 February 2019)
Media and Culture
9 February: Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, leader of the Five Star Movement, attack the ‘radical chic’ judges of the annual televised Sanremo song festival who award the prize to ‘Mahmood’, whose song contains Arabic words. (Guardian, 11 February 2019)
12 February: William Mitchell, a former UKIP candidate, claims that he has appeared in the audience of BBC’s Question Time four times, and that he did not have to go through the process of applying but was personally invited by the BBC. (The Herald, 12 February 2019)
15 February: A group representing British East Asians in the TV and film industry accuse the BBC of racist stereotyping and ‘orientalist cliches’ over a children’s sitcom featuring a British Chinese family. (Guardian, 15 February 2019)
15 February: Eight high-profile French male journalists are suspended or stand down, as it emerges that they formed a ‘club’ called the League of LOL that ran an online harassment campaign against feminists, female journalists, writers of colour and gay people, often using false accounts to spread racist and sexist abuse. (Guardian, 15 February 2019)Education
6 February: A report by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI) finds that the Home Office prioritised immigration status checks on pupils over their eligibility for free school meals. (Schools Week, 6 February 2019)Employment
8 February: Fijian lance corporal Inoke Momonokaya, who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan with the British Army, wins £490,000 in compensation for sustained racist bullying, including an order in 2011 to dress and act as a Taliban insurgent for a Ministry of Defence (MoD) training video. The racism left him suicidal and unable to serve (Metro, 10 February 2019)
9 February: A Guardian exposé finds that African migrant agricultural workers in Italy are paid as little as €2-3 an hour, 80 per cent of agricultural workers without contracts are migrants, and the Salvini migration decree is accelerating illegalisation and exploitation. (Guardian, 9 February 2019)Housing
11 February: Politics.co.uk reveals that between December 2016 and July 2018 almost 300 Commonwealth nationals were evicted under the government’s ‘right to rent’ rules, introduced in 2016, which require landlords to end a tenancy if the Home Office notifies them that the tenant does not have permission to be in the UK. (Politics, 11 February 2019)
16 February: Activists, relatives and models representing the 72 people who died in the Grenfell Tower fire stage a protest at the start of London Fashion Week. (Independent, 16 February 2019)Health
17 February: The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) admits that at least 22 people have been wrongly ordered to pay advance charges before receiving urgent care, violating safeguards in the charging regulations. (Guardian, 17 February 2019)Discrimination
10 February: More that 55 per cent of voters in Geneva back the introduction of a law that bans elected officials and public employees from wearing visible religious symbols in the city. The law was originally proposed by the right-leaning cantonal parliament in April 2018, but Left, Muslim and feminist groups gathered enough signatures to force a public vote. (The Local, 11 February 2019)
15 February: Hundreds of Spanish citizens of Chinese origin take to the streets of Madrid accusing Spain’s second bank, BBVA, of racism after the bank suspended and closed their bank accounts with no warning or explanation. (The Local, 15 February 2019)Sport
7 February: The Football Association charges Sheffield United Women forward Sophie Jones with racially abusing Tottenham’s Renee Hector in a match on 6 January. (BBC, 7 February 2019)
18 February: Raheem Sterling meets a young Newport player who has suffered racial abuse and encourages him to ‘always be proud of who you are, and never stay silent’ in a post on social media. (Independent, 16 February 2019)Racial violence and harassment
7 February: The Community Security Trust reports a record number of antisemitic incidents in 2018. Violent attacks decreased by 17 per cent, and the most common type of incident was verbal abuse. (Guardian, 7 February 2019)
8, 16 February: The home of Jackson Yamba and his ten-year-old son is targeted with ‘No Blacks’ racist graffiti, as are communal doors, days after they move into a small block of flats in Salford, Greater Manchester. The police fail to respond to Yamba’s report, leading the trainee solicitor to take to Twitter, where offers of help and support pour in.(Guardian, 17, 18 February 2019)
8-9 February: A prayer hall at a Jewish cemetery in Whitefield, Bury, is desecrated in what a senior Greater Manchester police officer describes as ‘an abhorrent act of hate’. (Guardian, 10 February 2019)
9 February: In Berlin, two teenage Syrian girls are punched in the face by a man shouting racist abuse, and hours later a woman tries to tear off the hijab of a 12-year-old girl, threatening her with pepper spray before allegedly trying to stab the child with a syringe filled with what appears to be blood. (Deutsche Welle, 10 February 2019)
11 February: A Spanish bar owner is ordered to pay €1,500 (€300 each) to the five people he threw out of his bar saying that he didn’t ‘want black people here’. The judge says his action shows his ‘undisguised contempt’. (El Pais, 11 February 2019)
11 February: A man who was fined £800 nearly a year ago for posting a grossly offensive video featuring a dog doing a Nazi salute, boasts on a radio show that he has refused to pay the fine and taunts the police to come and get him. (Daily Record, 11 February 2019)
12 February: A retired university lecturer in Wilmslow is fined for racially aggravated harassment after twice telling his German neighbour to ‘go home’. (Manchester Evening News, 12 February 2019)
15 February: Official figures show incidents of anti-Semitism rose by 74 per cent in France and over 60 per cent in Germany in 2018. (Guardian, 14 February 2019)
16 February: A shopper was reportedly subjected to racial abuse by a group of 70 young people, who also damaged his car, outside a Tesco in Ingleby Barwick. (Teeside Live, 17 February 2019)
18 February: Police investigate reports of racially aggravated assault after Maajid Nawaz, presenter on LBC radio and founder of the Quilliam foundation, is reportedly attacked and racially abused by a man in Soho, London. (Guardian, 19 February 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News Team with the help of Zeeshan Ali, Graeme Atkinson, Joseph Maggs and Jamie Wates.
New IRR publication provides a fresh take on housing, policing and racism in London.
The moral panic over supposedly dangerous black, urban subcultures in London, emerges at a crucial time, argues the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in a challenging background paper published today. The impact of financialisation on local authority housing is converging with location-specific intensive and intrusive policing. In The London Clearances: Race Housing and Policing, researcher Jessica Perera traces the overlap between attempts to gentrify so-called ‘sink estates’ and the criminalising of young black men, seen as an obstacle to such ‘regeneration’. She provides historical context to understand the current moment, analysing not just the Estates Regeneration Programme of the current Conservative government, but the ‘positive gentrification’ policies of New Labour, as well as its creation of ‘ASBO Britain’.
There are thousands of people waiting for housing across the capital, and yet new housing developments are not being built to meet their needs. Instead, the report reveals how ‘regeneration’ projects are being used to actively dispossess working-class and low-income families of their homes. This process, often referred to as ‘social cleansing’, has previously been understood as a class issue. But the fact that BAME families are over-represented in social housing in the capital and highly racialised language was used to describe London’s post-war housing estates in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, would strongly suggest, the IRR argues, that this is also a race issue.
IRR researcher Jessica Perera says, ‘this is a replication of the government’s “hostile environment” policy. Instead of the policy being a prelude to moving people out of the country, it is, at a local level, a prelude to decanting BAME families from local authority land.’ For Perera such localised hostile environments, administered by a range of state institutions (local authorities, housing associations, social services, schools, police) denotes the way policing in London today is being organised around the project of regenerating London and, in turn, gentrifying it.Related Links
Buy a hard copy here
Download free copy here
Seán Binder and Meena Aramish Masood, humanitarian volunteers on the Greek island of Lesvos, are initiators of this wide-ranging panel discussion which will be chaired by the LSE Human Rights Group.
- Thursday February 28th, 6.30-8pm
- Institute of Race Relations, 2-6 Leeke Street, Kings Cross Road, London WC1X 9HS
Register for the event hereRelated Links
- Saturday 23 March, 11am – 2pm
- 112 The Green, Southall, UB2 4BQ
The special walk is part of a series of events organised by Southall Resists 40, consisting of local community organisations to mark the 40th anniversary of the death of school teacher Blair Peach in April 1979.Related links
Link to the event
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
University of London, Birkbeck College holds event to discuss how to combat fascism, with a focus on the events that took place in Southall in 1979 and 1981.
- Sunday 28 April, 1pm-5:30pm
- Room B36, Birkbeck, University of London, Torrington Square, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7JL
This is one of a series of events to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Southall protests. Speakers include Suresh Grover, Sita Balani, Gurminder K Bhambra and David Renton.Related links
The event is free but please register here
For further information, please contact email@example.com
A Southall resident describes the community activities in Southall Resists 40, remembering the death of anti-fascist Blair Peach in 1979 and the historic opposition to racism and fascism in Southall.
23 April is mainly seen as England’s national St George’s Day. But, that day also stands out as a moment in British history when nationalist sentiment was supplemented with state racism and police brutality of the deadliest kind. Tuesday 23 April 2019 will mark forty years since the murder of teacher and anti-racist activist, Blair Peach. Peach’s death in 1979 was a consequence of a ruthless display of police violence against Southall’s predominantly South Asian community, with whom Peach was protesting in solidarity against the National Front’s unwanted and provocative presence in the town. It is with a commitment to honouring this salient milestone in British anti-racism, as well as remembering Southall’s wider history of grassroots anti-racist resilience, that Southall Resists 40 (SR40) was formed.
SR40 is a coordinating group comprised of local residents, organisations, activists and artists. Underpinning the project is the collective view that remembering the aggressive policing of Southall’s black and Asian community, and of the wider contingent of anti-fascist protesters, in April 1979 is imperative, not least because Peach’s murder remains ‘unfinished business’ – no police officer was held to account for it. SR40 also represents a collective effort to relate the pivotal moment of 1979 to Southall’s broader history of racist violence and anti-racist resistance, which includes the racially-motivated murder of Gurdip S. Chaggar in 1976, and the community’s successful efforts to defend the town from fascist intruders in 1981. The project also recognises the significance of Southall’s anti-racist history for ongoing struggles against state racism and far-right fascism. That is, SR40 remembers not for the sake of remembering, but rather to draw inspiration from the past for the anti-racist challenges facing us today.
SR40 in practice
In practical terms, SR40 serves as a hub for various projects to work together, support one another and use creativity as a political tool for learning about past anti-racist struggles to mobilise in the present. Some initiatives already underway include the Southall Rising Arts Project, to make the monumental events of 1976, 1979 and 1981 a point of sustained classroom discussion — decolonising the curriculum in action. The project has involved community members working with local primary and secondary schools throughout the year, with students learning about the struggles of Southall’s black and Asian working-class community through art and creative writing. Some of the artwork is, appropriately, on display at the Southall Town Hall. Complementing this, the history walks initiative traces the gradual development of Southall into a proud symbol of multicultural conviviality, while also covering sites like the Dominion Centre, where racist violence and community fightbacks underpinning that development took place.
Upcoming events that will recall Southall’s past anti-racist struggles, while also organising for the present, include ‘An Evening of Culture and Resistance’ on Friday 12 April 2019, which will involve poetry, music and film; a plaque ceremony and vigil in honour of Blair Peach and Gurdip S. Chaggar on Tuesday 23 April 2019; a procession on Saturday 27 April 2019; and a symposium on fighting fascism on the following day at Birkbeck, University of London. Each initiative is special in its own way and makes a unique contribution to the collective endeavour of acknowledging not only Southall’s anti-racist past, but also how it speaks to the now.
Hopefully, the momentum generated from these grassroots projects can be built upon beyond April 2019. The community victory that put paid to the far Right ever stepping foot in the town again, is a proud legacy to remember in radical history, but SR40 suggests how that tradition can be carried forward beyond Southall too.
Blair Peach memorial march following his death on 28th April 1979. Protesters look towards to spot where Blair Peach was killed.Upcoming Southall Resists 40 events:
23 March: Southall history and memorial walk (11am, starting from Dominion Centre, Southall)
12 April: An evening of culture and resistance (6.30pm, at Tudor Rose Club, Southall)
23 April: Screening of Southall on Trial, plaque ceremony and vigil (4pm, Southall Town Hall)
27 April: ‘Southall remembers, Southall united’ procession (2pm, starting from Dominion Centre)
28 April: Conference on How to fight fascists and win, (1-5.30pm, Birkbeck, University of London)
4 June: Conference on ‘State Racism and the far Right’ (6.30pm, Dominion centre, Southall)
For further information, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org
A lecture examining political resistance to the UK’s ‘deport now, appeal later policy’, the value of direct action and what the judgement on the Stansted 15 means for the future of political dissent.
- Wednesday 20 February, 6pm – 8pm
- Room 313, School of Law, Queen Mary, University of London, Mile End, London, E1 4NS
The event, hosted by the International State Crime Initiative, will feature Ali Tamlit and Helen Brewer – two members of the Stansted 15 – their legal counsel, and experts on policing and protest.
Register for the event here
Queen Mary School of Law International State Crime Initiative
A London conference bringing together activists from across Europe and beyond to discuss and organise against the rise of the far Right.
- Saturday 2 March, 9:30am – 5pm
- Bloomsbury Central, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8EP
Speakers include Diane Abbott MP, Liz Fekete, and more.
Register for tickets here
More information on No Pasaran
23 January: After two years of unlawfully refusing his safe passage from the Calais Jungle, the Home Office finalises arrangements for an Eritrean child refugee to join his aunt in the UK. (Independent, 23 January 2019)
28 January: The Labour Party’s last-minute opposition to the government’s post-Brexit Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill proves ineffective as Parliament votes in favour by 297 to 234 votes. (Guardian, 28 January 2019)
28 January: In Genoa, Italy, Prince Jerry, a 25-year-old Nigerian chemistry graduate, who arrived in Italy over two years ago on a boat from Libya, kills himself by jumping under a train after becoming deeply depressed after being denied a residence permit. (Naij.com, 31 January, Guardian, 1 February 2019)
30 January: The Dutch government announces that it will allow 630 ‘well-rooted’ child refugees facing deportation to stay but, after that, the amnesty for child refugees will be abolished and the number of refugees the Dutch take from UN resettlement schemes will be cut. (DutchNews, 30 January 2019)
30 January: In The Hague, a 96-day non-stop church service run by 1,000 volunteer pastors and priests from across Europe to protect an Armenian family from deportation comes to an end as the family of five benefits from the amnesty (see above). (New York Times, 30 January 2019)Borders
24 January: A special tribunal in Catania rules that interior minister Salvini could stand trial for kidnap in relation to his refusal to allow an Italian coast-guard ship carrying migrants to enter Italian waters. (The Local, 25 January 2019)
31 January: After twelve days at sea, the Dutch-flagged Sea Watch 3 is allowed to dock in the Sicilian port of Catania as six European countries agree to accommodate the migrants it carries. Italian interior minister Salvini is threatening legal action against the crew for aiding ‘illegal immigration’. (The Local, 31 January 2019)
February: The impounding of the vessel Sea-Watch 3 for technical irregularities by the authorities in Catania, Sicily, means that there are currently no independent search and rescue missions operating in the Mediterranean. (Euractiv, 5 February 2019)
4 February: A section of the port in Lesvos is named after Kyriakos Papadopoulos, a coastguard who distinguished himself during the peak of the refugee crisis in 2015/16 rescuing more than 5,000 people, but who died last year aged 44 of a heart attack. (Ekathimerini, 4 February 2019)Immigration enforcement
29 January: French police clear 300 people, many from Africa and Afghanistan, from a makeshift refugee camp by Porte de la Chapelle in northern Paris. La Cimade condemns repeated evictions, saying that more than 2,400 refugees and migrants, including children, are sleeping rough in camps north of Paris or in Saint-Denis. (Reuters, 29 January 2019)Reception and detention
23 January: The first mass eviction of refugees since Italy introduced the ‘Salvini’ immigration decree begins, with 500 people forced out of the Castelnuovo di Porto reception centre, near Rome. (Guardian, 23 January 2019)
23 January: Lewisham Council becomes the eighth local council to pass a These Walls Must Fall motion calling for an end to immigration detention. (Detention, 24 January 2019)
25 January: The Inspectorate of Prisons’ final report on Campsfield House immigration removal centre, due to close in May, finds that 41 per cent of detainees felt unsafe in the facility. (BBC News, 25 January 2019)
5 February Government figures, revealed in response to a written question by the Liberal Democrats, show that the government has spent £523.5 million on immigration detention between April 2013 and March 2017. (Independent, 5 February 2019)Deportations
30 January The Morning Star reveals that following the Stansted 15 action, Stansted Airport refused to allow the Home Office to use its runway for chartered deportation flights. The RAF, whose runways would be used instead, also began labelling anti-deportation activists as ‘enemy forces’. (Morning Star, 30 January 2019)
4 February Two men are earmarked for deportation on a charter flight to Jamaica despite being summoned as key witnesses in the inquest into the death of Carlington Spencer in Morton Hall IRC in 2017. (Guardian, 4 February; Independent, 5 February 2019)
6 February: About 50 people, including many who have lived in the UK with families and children for decades, are deported on a charter flight to Jamaica, believed to be the first such flight to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal. At least 7 people who were given removal directions are understood to have been granted a last-minute reprieve from the flight. (Sky News, 6 February, Guardian, 6 February 2019)
Crimes of solidarity
22 January: The Legal Centre Lesvos says that there is no basis for the arrest of human rights activist Bangladeshi asylum seeker, Sohel M, for criminal offences relating to a fire at the Moria detention centre in October 2016, in which no one was hurt. (The Legal Centre Lesvos, 22 January 2019)
6 February: As hundreds gather outside Chelmsford Crown Court in support of the Stansted 15, who were awaiting their sentence after being found guilty of endangering an airport for blocking the takeoff of a deportation flight in 2017, a Crown Court judge indicates that all 15 will avoid immediate jail time, with 3 given suspended sentences and 12 given community service. (Guardian, 6 February 2019)
ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
22 January: A man accused of causing an explosion during a nationalist protest against the Prespes ‘name deal’ between Greece and Macedonia, is linked to the far-right Apella group. Journalist Thomas Jacobi, who co-produced the documentary ‘Golden Dawn: a personal affair’, was also violently attacked during the same demonstration. (Ekathimerini, 22 January 2019, Anti-Fascist Action Greece, 22 January 2019)
25 January: The far Right is believed to be behind the firebombing of the home of Syriza MP Theodora Tzakri in the city of Giannitsa, and linked to the ongoing parliamentary debate on the ratification of the Prespes accord. (Ekathimerini, 25 January 2019)
25 January: Fourteen members of the far-right Austrian ‘Federation of States’, including a former police officer, are convicted of attempting to initiate an army-led coup. (Deutsche Welle, 25 January 2019)
27 January: On International Holocaust Day, around 70-100 neo-Nazis protest outside Auschwitz claiming that only Jews and not Poles who died there are remembered. Alternative for Germany is banned from participating in the commemoration at the Buchenwald camp. (i24news, 26 January 2019, Associated Press, 27 January 2019)
28 January: German bloggers post on netz.politik.org previously unseen classified intelligence on the far-right AfD detailing some members’ links to the Identitarian movement. (Deutsche Welle, 28 January 2019)
29 January: Tommy Robinson is refused a visa by the Australian authorities, derailing a speaking tour in which he was due to speak in five cities alongside Gavin McInnes and Milo Yiannopoulos. (Independent, 29 January 2019)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
23 January: An inquest jury finds that numerous systemic and individual failings contributed to the death from self-inflicted injuries of Tyrone Givans at HMP Pentonville on 26 February 2018, including a failure to recognise and address his profound deafness and vulnerability to alcoholism and substance abuse. (Islington Gazette, 23 January 2019)
25 January: Following a judicial review, the high court orders a new inquest into the death of Windrush citizen Dexter Bristol. The original coroner refused to designate the Home Office an interested party or to consider whether the stress caused by its hostile environment policies was a contributing factor to his death by heart failure. (Guardian, 25 January 2019)
27 January: Two police officers involved in the death of Sheku Bayoh in May 2015 challenge the Scottish Police Authority’s refusal to grant them early retirement on medical grounds. (Daily Record, 27 January 2019)
28 January: A report by the Inspectorate of Prisons finds that 51 per cent of young boys in young offenders’ institutions and over 40 per cent of those in secure training centres in England and Wales are from black or minority ethnic backgrounds. (Guardian, 29 January 2019)
30 January: A joint inspection report reveals that staff at the MOJ-run Medway secure training centre (STC), a children’s prison for 12- to 18-year-olds, are still restraining inmates who engage in passive non-compliance. (Guardian, 30 January 2019)
31 January: The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime says that a government proposal, to amend the offensive weapons bill to introduce ASBO-style knife crime prevention orders, risks criminalising a whole generation of young people. (Guardian, 31 January 2019).
31 January: New Ministry of Justice safety in custody statistics show that 325 people died in prison in 2018, a 10 per cent increase on the year before, and that there were even larger increases in incidents of self-harm, prisoner-on-prisoner and prisoner-on-staff assaults. Read the report here. (Guardian, 31 January 2019)
31 January: Guardian Cities gives the background to last week’s urban disturbances in Lisbon during which a spontaneous demonstration against police brutality is called in the city centre after a video showing police beating up the black residents of the Bairro de Jamaica goes viral. Rubber bullets are fired against the protesters, and disturbances erupt across the capital, with cars set on fire and police stations targeted. (Guardian, 31 January 2019)
1 February: Five Metropolitan police officers accused of gross misconduct over the death of Sean Rigg under police restraint in August 2008 lose their bid to have disciplinary charges against them dropped. (Guardian, 1 February 2019)
2 February: Swedish police launch two investigations after a video goes viral showing a heavily-pregnant black women travelling with her daughter being forcibly removed from the Stockholm metro. The security guards are being investigated for potential misconduct and the woman for ‘violent resistance’. (Guardian, 2 February 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
25 January: Over two hundred prominent Austrians, led by authors Elfriede Jelinek and Daniel Kehlman, demand the resignation of the country’s far-right interior minister, Herbert Kickl, after he questioned Europe’s human rights conventions in relation to asylum seekers and said ‘it was up to law to follow politics’. (Deutsche Welle, 25 January 2019)
4 February: Several conservative MPs, including Jacob Rees-Mogg and Priti Patel, tweet support for new right-wing youth group Turning Point UK, an apparent offshoot of a US group accused of anti-Islam views and connections to racism. (Guardian, 4 February 2019)DISCRIMINATION
4 February: University and College Union (UCU) research, based on interviews with 20 of the total 25 black women professors in UK universities, finds that black women professors have to overcome bullying, stereotyping, and institutional neglect in order to gain promotion. (Guardian, 4 February 2019)COUNTER-TERRORISM
22 January: Majed Al-Zeer, a British citizen and chair of the Palestinian Return Centre, wins £13,000 damages after bringing a case against the World-Check risk intelligence database for wrongfully designating him a terrorist threat leading to the closure of three bank accounts belonging to him and the Centre. (Al Jazeera, 22 January 2019)
25 January: The Counter-Terrorism Professional Standards Unit and Redbridge Council launch investigations after the parents of an 8-year-old boy say he was left traumatised after being questioned at school in Ilford by two counter-terrorism police officers and a social worker about alleged radicalisation. (Muslim News, 25 January 2019)EDUCATION
5 February: The Vice-Chancellor of Warwick University announces that two undergraduates who discussed women as rape targets in an online group chat, which included racist and homophobic remarks, will not be allowed to return to campus, reversing a recent disciplinary panel decision that drew heavy criticism. (Guardian, 5 February 2019)SPORT
31 January: Interior minister Matteo Salvini mocks the Italian Football Federation’s new measures to tackle racism in football, claiming they introduce a ‘Richter scale for booing’. (Guardian, 31 January 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
23 January: Batley and Spen Labour councillor, Fazila Loonat, links the racial abuse and threats she has received online and on the street to an article written by the owner of a local newspaper who described her as a ‘divisive extremist’ and member of an ‘anti-British’ ‘anti-Semitic’ organisation – a reference to Momentum. (Guardian, 23 January 2019)
24 January: Charlotte Knobloch, the 86-year-old former head of the Central Council for Jews in Germany is targeted for hate mail and threatened by email and telephone ‘almost by the minute’ after describing the far-right AfD, in a speech in the Bavarian parliament, as a threat to democracy. (i24News, 24 January 2019)
25 January: The Bahr Academy, an Islamic school in Newcastle, is attacked and vandalised with graffiti such as ‘Moslem terrorists’ scrawled on the walls. (BBC News, 27 January 2019)
25 January: Oxford hate crime figures may be an underestimate, warns the Oxford Polish Association. 188 racially or religiously aggravated crimes were reported to police in Oxford last year – an increase of over 40 per cent from the previous year. A total of 261 racist incidents were reported in Oxford in 2018, compared to 191 in 2017. (Oxford Mail, 25 January 2019)
25 January: Stockton council’s hate crime statistics for 2018 show that recorded cases in Teesside have doubled since 2014, and that attacks on taxi drivers are now a ‘daily occurrence’. A total of 268 incidents were recorded in 2018, with one in six of all victims aged 17 and under. (Teesside Live, 25 January 2019)
29 January: A man is arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated offence for a racist video posted online. It appears to have been filmed in Bow, east London and shows Muslim school girls while a male voice threatens a Nazi sterilisation programme and makes other racist and derogatory remarks. (inews, 29 January 2019)
30 January: In Xanthi, Greece, a teacher, Thanasis Papastathopous, vows to protect his pupils from racism after graffiti describing him as a ‘leftist mathematician, f****t and rabbit’ appears on the school walls, alongside comments like ‘punches and kicks to the Turkish-friendly teachers’ and ‘we will be back and the earth will tremble’. (efsyn.gr, 30 January 2019)
30 January: The Never Again Association in Poland publishes a report on the targeting on 2017/18 of Muslims, those perceived to be Muslim, Muslim-run restaurants and mosques often accompanied by racially abusive comments like ‘Osama, Osama’, ‘dirtbags’, ‘terrorists’ ‘your turban’ and ‘to the gas chamber’. (Never Again Association, 30 January 2019)
31 January: A leaflet featuring a cartoon of Sajid Javid with the words ‘Migrants: our country needs you to stay away’ and ‘just get out of England’ written underneath, is delivered to the headquarters of the Nottinghamshire Polish-language newspaper, and is being investigated by the police as a hate crime. (Holdthefrontpage.co.uk, 31 January 2019)
3 February: The family of the 15-year-old Syrian refugee who was filmed being bullied in Almondbury Community School last October say they have moved away from Huddersfield to escape threats of racist violence. (Guardian, 3 February 2019)
3 February: A brutal attack on 29 September 2018 in Sofia, Bulgaria on Leon Koffi – a British citizen originally from the Ivory Coast – is not reported on in the mainstream media. Koffi was set upon by neo-Nazis and beaten almost to death, losing his front teeth, suffering a broken jaw and severe concussion. He subsequently received scant support from any official agency, including the British Embassy. (Lee Jasper blog, 2 February
5 February: Police officers in Cumbria report a rise in racist, homophobic and transphobic hate crimes from 2017- 2018, and a decrease in the number of reports of religious hate crime. (News & Star, 5 February 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News Team with the help of Zeeshan Ali, Graeme Atkinson, Odysseas Grammatikakis, Joseph Maggs and Jamie Wates.