SPLC Action Fund: Alabama joins other states with civil asset forfeiture reporting law, but does not go far enough to protect property owners
SPLC Report: Corporal punishment in school disproportionately affects black students, students with disabilities
SPLC Report: Corporal punishment in school disproportionately affects black students, students with disabilities
SPLC Report: Corporal punishment in school disproportionately affects black students, students with disabilities
Book launch of After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response, edited by Dan Bulley, Jenny Edkins and Nadine El-Enany (Pluto Press, 2019).
- 18 June 6pm
- Room B01, Clore Management Centre, Torrington Square
- London WC1E 7JL
- Speakers include: Shareefa Energy (award-winning spoken word poet), Daniel Renwick writer (youth worker and videographer), Phil Scraton (Queen’s University Belfast)
- Book free tickets here
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
22 May: Six UN special rapporteurs and independent experts write to the Italian government demanding the withdrawal of the interior ministry directive that, in prioritising security over refugee rights, justifies the closure of Italian ports and criminalises civil society organisations carrying out search and rescue operations. (Statewatch News, 22 May 2019)
25 May: A 27-year-old Afghan refugee named Habib commits suicide in a park in Strasbourg, where he had been living alongside 50 other migrants. One resident of the camp says Habib had spent the previous evening trying unsuccessfully to find emergency shelter. (France 3, 25 May 2019)
25 May: The court of appeal rules that Home Office policy for assessing the age of young asylum seekers is unlawful. Assessing someone’s age based on their appearance or demeanour, lawyers for an Eritrean asylum seeker successfully argued, was ‘inherently unreliable’. (Free Movement, 28 May 2019; Guardian, 29 May 2019)
26 May: Maltese NGOs issue a joint letter calling for Maurice Mizzi, the head of a government commission promoting sustainable development in state policy to be sacked after he says that Muslims are ‘taking over’ by a demographic shift , that children born to migrants should not be given Maltese citizenship and that his Guardian for Future Generations commission will support development in migrant origin countries as a means of reducing migration to Europe. (Times of Malta, 26 May 2019)
31 May: A government response to a parliamentary question reveals that Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has rejected around three-quarters of applications for family reunification from refugees in Greece this year. (Deutsche Welle, 31 May 2019)
3 June: Experienced international lawyers submit a 245-page legal indictment to the international criminal court calling for the prosecution of the EU and member states Italy, Germany and France for causing the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, the refoulement of migrants to Libya, and the commission of inhuman acts against them. Evidence cited in the submission includes internal Frontex papers which warned that the move away from successful rescue policies in 2014 would result in a ‘higher number of fatalities’. (Guardian, 3 June 2019)BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS
23 May: Two asylum seekers are acquitted by the court of Trapani, in Sicily, on charges of provoking a ‘revolt’ on board the Vos Thalassa vessel, which had rescued them and 65 other migrants in the Mediterranean last July, but was returning to Libya under orders from the Libyan coastguard. (Alqamah, 23 May 2019)
1 June: Kent Refugee Action Network criticises Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s ‘inflammatory’ rhetoric about migrants crossing the English Channel, after British border police responded to 13 small boats carrying 74 people off the coast of Kent on Saturday morning. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)RECEPTION AND DETENTION
25 May: In Samos, Greece, police fire warning shots and use tear gas as they block the route of refugees attempting to march from the Samos camp to the city in protest at overcrowding and intolerable living conditions. NGO workers and a photographer who refuses to hand over his photographs are also briefly detained. (Euro News, 26 May 2019)
26 May: The Irish Refugee Council and other migrant rights groups call on the Irish government to fulfil its legal obligation to conduct vulnerability assessments for asylum seekers, many of whom are placed in emergency accommodation as a result of over-capacity in Direct Provision centres. They say that failure to do so puts LGBT and torture victims at risk. (The Journal, 26 May 2019)
28 May: Home Office figures obtained by BBC Scotland reveal that 39 per cent of the people detained in Dungavel immigration removal centre at the end of 2018 were classified as ‘adults at risk’. Asylum charities say this shows that guidance aimed at reducing the detention of vulnerable people, including victims of trafficking and torture, is not working. The figures also reveal that 21 under-18s were detained there between 2010 and 2018. (BBC News, 28 May 2019; BBC News, 1 June 2019)
30 May: An inquest jury finds that a series of institutional failings contributed to the death of Moroccan migrant Amir Siman-Tov in Colnbrook immigration removal centre in February 2016. After being treated at Hillingdon Hospital for overdosing on painkillers he was returned to detention, and was found dead the following morning. (Morning Star, 31 May 2019)
1 June: At least thirty-two people are injured in a fire at a migrant centre in Velika Kladuša, north-west Bosnia-Herzegovina, believed to have been caused accidentally by a cooking device. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)
3 June: Human rights lawyers accuse the Home Office of incompetence and a disregard for the safety of victims of trafficking, after several cases emerged in which vulnerable women, following release from immigration detention, were told to return to addresses where they had been enslaved. (Independent, 3 June 2019)CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS
24 May: In its investigation into the Home Office’s response to the English language testing scandal, the National Audit Office concludes that some students may indeed have been wrongly accused of cheating and also unfairly deported, though it is unsure of the exact numbers involved. (Guardian, 24 May 2019)
26 May: The Guardian reports that hundreds of destitute children, including many who have British citizenship, have been unlawfully denied support under section 17 of the 1989 Children Act because local authorities are wrongly focusing on the parents’ immigration status, which often has the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition attached. (Guardian, 26 May 2019)
29 May: The Home Office reaches an agreement with the Scottish government that asylum seekers under the age of 18 with ‘no recourse to public funds’ will be allowed to access the new Best Start Grant, which provides parents with £600 for a first child and £300 for each subsequent child. (Holyrood, 29 May 2019)RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS
26 May: A new report by the chief inspector of borders and immigration reveals that police chief constables compiled an intelligence report on the grassroots Anti-Raids Network in 2016 and the Home Office produced over 60 intelligence reports on anti-raid protests between April 2016 and October 2018. Read the report here. (Morning Star , 26 May 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
21 May: Our Homeland Movement (OHM) leader Laszlo Toroczkai denounces ‘gypsy terrorists’ at a demonstration attended by hundreds of people, including the uniformed militia National Legion, in the provincial town of Törökszentmiklós, in east-central Hungary. The riot police intervene after clashes with local Roma. (France 24, 21 May 2019)
28 May: On a secret audio recording by BBC Northern Ireland, far-right Britain First leader Paul Golding admits to assaulting his former deputy and partner Jayda Fransen and another unnamed woman. (BBC News, 28 May 2019)
29 May: 4,000 people rally against the far-Right Vlaams Belang in the centre of Brussels. (The Brussels Times, 29 May 2019)
29 May: A guide to help high-ranking British officers spot right-wing extremists in their ranks is leaked . The document ‘Extreme Right Wing (XRW) Indicators & Warnings’ was produced in 2017, following the arrest of soldiers linked to the banned neo-nazi organisation National Action (Mail Online, 29 May 2019)
29 May: 29 May: The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) cancels its attendance at the Almedalen political festival after receiving threats from the neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) which also attends the festival. (The Local, 29 May 2019)
31 May: Italy’s cultural heritage ministry says that it has revoked a lease granted to Steve Bannon to rent a monastery and transform it into a far-right training centre after reports of fraud in the tendering process. (Quartz, 31 May 2019)
1 June: The Guardian reports that in the run-up to the European parliament elections, the far-Right Die Rechte party hired a bus, displaying a picture of a convicted Holocaust denier and drove it part a synagogue in Pforzheim shouting ‘Leave Germany’ and ‘Go back to Israel’. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)
1 June: Police in Croatia defend their decision not to ban the civic initiative ‘I want a normal life’ protest that was targeted at the Roma in the northern town of Čakovec on the grounds that the protest was tolerant and no hate speech took place. (Croatia News, 1 June 2019)
2 June: Peacekeepers sporting yellow vests rally to protect a group of Muslims breaking fast in Copenhagen’s municipality square against the far-right Stram Kurs and its leader Rasmus Paludan, who burn a Quran and open a banner that reads ‘Europe is ours’. (Hurriyat Daily News, 2 June 2019)
2 June: UKIP leader Gerard Batten, who took over unopposed in April 2018 and steered the party further towards the far right, resigns after the party loses all of its MEPs in the European elections. (Metro, 2 June 2019)
3 June: Dutch Muslim organisations in Eindhoven write to the mayor, protesting at far-right demonstrations at the Al-Fourqaan mosque in Otterstraat and saying that every time Pegida is allowed to demonstrate, they will organise a counter-protest. (Eindhoven News, 3 June 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
25 May: The Middle East Forum is criticised after publishing a paper supporting Alternative for Germany’s billboard in the European parliament election campaign. The poster features a portion of the ‘The Slave Market’ (1866) painting by French painter Jean-Leon Gerome, depicting several dark-skinned men inspecting the teeth of a nude white woman, with the words ‘Europeans vote AfD! ‘So Europe doesn’t become Eurabia!’ (Sputnik News, 25 May 2019)
26 May: The newly re-elected Labour MEP Neena Gill, who is of British-Asian Sikh heritage, is heckled by people telling her to ‘go home’ during her acceptance speech in the West Midlands. Those responsible are said to be Brexit Party supporters. (Evening Standard, 26 May 2019)
26 May: The far-right UKIP party is decimated in the European elections with only 3.6 per cent of the vote, dropping from first place with nearly 27 per cent in 2014. Party leader Gerard Batten loses the London seat he held since 2004. His political advisor Tommy Robinson sneaks out of the election count in Manchester having won only 2.2 per cent of the vote. (Guardian, 27 May 2019; Guardian, 27 May 2019)
26 May: Magid Magid, the 29-year-old Somali refugee and former mayor of Sheffield, becomes an MEP for the Green Party in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. He is known for previously banning Donald Trump from visiting Sheffield and for defending children skipping school to take part in the climate strikes. (Independent, 27 May 2019)
27 May: Following the European parliament election, the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom Group, which includes Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, emerges with a projected 58 seats, up 21 from five years ago. Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, home to Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, increases its seats from 48 to 54. On the continent, there are gains for Alternative for Germany, People’s Party – our Slovakia, the League in Italy, Fidesz in Hungary, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, National Rally in France, but the Freedom party in the Netherlands, under pressure from Thiery Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, loses all its seats, the Danish People’s party loses three of its four seats, and an extreme-right coalition in Poland fails to cross the 5 per cent threshold. (Guardian, 27 May 2019)
27 May: In the Sicilian capital of Palermo, Pietro Bartolo, a candidate for the Democratic Party, who is known as the ‘doctor of migrants’ due to his commitment to refugees in Sicily, is elected to the European parliament following a campaign in which he is presented as the last defence against the anti-immigration rhetoric of the extreme Right. (Guardian, 28 May 2019)
27 May: In triple elections in Belgium, for federal, regional and European parliaments, the far-Right Vlaams Belang make huge gains, emerging with 18 seats in the federal parliament (up 15), 23 seats in the Flemish parliament (up 17) and 3 seats in the European parliament. (Politico, 27 May 2019; Euractiv, 28 May 2019)
28 May: After undertaking preliminary investigations since March, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launches an official inquiry into anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, to determine whether the party or its employees have committed unlawful acts of discrimination or failed to effectively respond to complaints of such acts. (Guardian, 28 May 2019)
28 May: The Muslim Council of Britain submits a dossier to the Equality and Human Rights Commission calling for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party among both politicians and members, and the alleged failures of the party’s complaints process. (Guardian, 28 May 2019)
28 May: Yiannis Lagos, one of two members of the far-right Golden Dawn elected to the European Parliament, is on trial for the suspected murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and is banned from leaving Greece until the trial is over. (Keep Talking Greece, 28 May 2019)
28 May: In municipal elections, Moses Elisaf becomes the first Jew ever to become a mayor in Greece as he is elected on an independent ticket in Ioannina, a city that was once at the heartland of Romaniote Jewish tradition but now numbers just fifty people. (Keep Talking Greece, 28 May 2019)
4 June: In Tromello, a small Milanese town knowns as a far-right League stronghold, Gianmarco Negri is elected Italy’s first transgender mayor. (Guardian, 4 June 2019)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
29 May: During a landmark court hearing in Cardiff, the independent London policing ethics panel says that live facial recognition technology should only be used by police if they can prove that it won’t introduce racial or gender bias into operations and if the overall benefit to public safety outweighs public distrust. (Guardian, 29 May 2019)
30 May: The Northern Police Monitoring Project publishes an open letter calling on Greater Manchester Police to respond to community concerns about Project Servator, a sweeping patrol tactic involving firearms, plainclothes and dog-handling officers. (Northern Police Monitoring Project, 30 May 2019)
3 June: The education watchdog Ofsted says that staff at the G4S-run Oakhill Secure Training Centre must stop using pain-inducing techniques to discipline boys detained in the young offenders centre near Milton Keynes. (BBC News, 3 June 2019)
4 June: The number of Section 60 stop and searches carried out in London has increased by five times since 2017, the Metropolitan police deputy commissioner tells the London Assembly police and crime committee. (Guardian, 4 June 2019)
4 June: The coroner for the inquest into the murder of Vietnamese migrant Quyen Ngoc Nguyen near Sunderland in August 2017 concludes that Northumbria Police and the National Probation Service failed to coordinate and act upon intelligence about Nguyen’s two killers, both of whom were convicted murderers who had breached their licence conditions. (Independent, 4 June 2019)EDUCATION
27 May: Cornwall Live publishes a story about a ‘mixed-race’ ethnicity 11-year-old child in a primary school in West Cornwall who endures regular racist comments from his peers like ‘black idiot’ and ‘slave’. The child’s parents say they have visited the headteacher several times but no action has been taken. (Cornwall Live, 27 May 2019)
29 May: Following a tribunal hearing, the University of Essex dismisses Dr Maaruf Ali, lecturer in computers and electronics, after he publicly opposed the creation of a Jewish society on campus and made allegedly anti-Semitic Facebook posts. (The Jewish Chronicle, 29 May 2019)
4 June: The University and College Union (UCU) launches a petition calling for the reinstatement of branch secretary and maths lecturer David Muritu, dismissed from Sandwell College for gross misconduct after writing ‘racist’ on a poster promoting the Prevent programme. Sign the petition here. (Birmingham Mail, 4 June 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
24 May: After Morrissey was seen publicly wearing a far-right For Britain badge earlier this month, Merseyrail removes posters promoting the Manchester-born singer’s new album from train stations across Liverpool, while Spillers Records in Cardiff bans the sale of his albums. (Guardian, 23 May 2019; Sky News, 24 May 2019)
3 June: TalkRadio sacks former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway after Tottenham Hotspur F.C. condemned him for ‘blatant anti-Semitism’ for his tweet that read ‘no Israel flags on the cup’ following the club’s loss against Liverpool in the Champions League final. (Guardian, 3 June 2019)HEALTH
1 June: The Royal College of GPs withdraws an invitation to the TalkRadio presenter and Telegraph columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer to speak at its annual conference after 729 family doctors launch a petition drawing attention to her views on immigration, including a tweet in 2016 in which she said she could not see anything in Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech that he had got wrong. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)HOUSING
28 May: A year after its original damning report, a new report by the Galway Travellers’ Movement says that many Traveller sites across Galway city and county are still neglected by local authorities, with no progress being made on overcrowding, structural damage, rodent infestations and several other problems. (Irish Times, 28 May 2019)EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
30 May: A University of Sheffield study finds that global fashion companies selling clothes in the UK are still failing to ensure that subcontracted workers receive living wages and decent work conditions, six years after the Rana Plaza disaster. Read the report here. (Independent, 31 May 2019)
31 May: A three-year Guardian investigation into the global supply chain for Italy’s multi-million Euro tobacco industry finds that 80 per cent of migrant workers do not have contracts; and that African migrant labour, including children, in Calabria suffer deep exploitation, working up 12 hours a day without sufficient health and safety equipment, with no access to clean water, and subject to verbal and racial discrimination. (Guardian, 31 May 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
28 May: After the artist Luigi Toscano’s ‘Lest We Forget’ installation – photographs of Holocaust survivors mounted on textiles and displayed on Vienna’s Ringstrasse road – is slashed and daubed with swastikas, Muslim and Catholic youth organisations organise nightly security vigils, with Muslim women arriving with sewing kits to stitch the pictures back together. (Deutsche Welle, 29 May 2019)
30 May: Using official police figures, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children finds that in 2017-18 there were over 10,000 racially-motivated hate crimes against children under 18, adding new evidence of rising racism in British society. Children report being told to go home and being insulted for their skin colour, with some telling counsellors they conceal the pain from their parents to avoid upsetting them. (Guardian, 30 May 2019)
30 May: A man who was convicted of racially harassing a black colleague during their work Christmas party in Cardiff, at which he dressed up as a black and white minstrel and performed a racist singing routine, wins his appeal. (Wales Online, 30 May 2019)
1 June: German ombudsman Felix Klein, having previously warned Jews not to wear the kippah in public because of anti-Semitism, now calls on Germans to wear skull caps in solidarity with the Jewish community, to coincide with al-Quds day. Earlier in the week, chancellor Angela Merkel said that the country has a historic duty to confront the problem of rising anti-Semitism. (Guardian, 28 May 2019; Guardian, 1 June 2019)
This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson and the IRR News Team.
A long-term resident of North Kensington recalls the area’s social history as representative of momentous Black British community struggles.
Beyond memorialising the lynch-murder of Kelso Cochrane on 17 May 1959, we have to look at the history that surrounds it. New arrivants to fashionable twenty-first-century Notting Hill, along with new generations of long-standing residents, will have next to no idea of the social history of the space that they now inhabit around the northern end of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London’s richest. They will know little or nothing of the area’s working-class ‘slum lands’ of the 1940s and 1950s; of the incoming Caribbean migrants who, from the late 1940s through the ‘50s and ‘60s, had to deal with unscrupulous Rachman-plus landlords; of the Empire Loyalists and other fascist and racist organisers, headed by Oswald Mosley and Colin Jordan, who stirred race hate among poor Whites, sparking the attacks that flared up into the historic Notting Hill riots of 1958 in ‘the Grove’; of the Black community’s protest and fight back, and its subsequent refusal to stomach prejudice and crude discrimination in the neighbourhood – all of which contributed to the defining of ‘the Grove’ as a local community and cultural space that transcended ‘race’.
The wealthy new residents, accompanied by the gold rush of their property- dealing estate agents, know nothing of the history – even if it is that very history that they now buy into when they come to ‘the Grove’ (their ‘Notting Hill’) with its wonderful, sophisticated, cosmopolitan ‘vibe’.
But more than merely contributing to a marketable ‘vibe’ for wealthy middle-class incomers, the Grove’s social history is representative of the momentous Black British community struggles in the second half of the 20th century; Black struggles that joined and rejuvenated the fight of the entire working class in the UK against injustice and impoverishment, and forced anti-racism on to the nation’s change agenda.
Let me provide some bullet points in regard to the Black rebel history of ‘the Grove’. A fuller, more detailed telling can be found in Sivanandan’s seminal 1981 essay ‘From resistance to rebellion: Asian and Afro-Caribbean struggles in Britain’.
In the summer of 1958, the Black fight back against racist attacks in the course of what has come to be known as the Notting Hill riots, signalled a militant refusal to take any more nonsense, as well as a call to other communities across the UK to stand together in order to resist further racist attacks. Whiteness would have to adjust its attitude to Blackness. In time, heroic progressive people’s lawyers like Gareth Peirce and Ian Macdonald, would cut their teeth and find their feet in support of community activism in the Grove.
Out of the 1958 mobilisation for the antiracist fight-back came The West Indian Gazette (WIG) – the first post-world war two British Black newspaper. The WIG could well have been dreamed up in the Grove by Claudia Jones, (now an acclaimed heroine of twentieth-century Black British struggle), who would have been welcomed to the Grove by the equally significant Amy Ashwood-Garvey who had her house at 1 Bassett Road.
Amy Ashwood-Garvey was the first of the two Amy’s serially married to the pre-eminent pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) – the largest global mass organisation in Black African political history. And Amy Ashwood-Garvey had been central to the organising secretariat of the 1945 watershed Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, England.
The first Caribbean carnival celebrations in London, held indoors, were explicitly promoted as a response to the 1958 ‘riots’ and the lynch-murder, in the Grove, of Kelso Cochrane in 1959. This was another initiative of Claudia Jones, using her West Indian Gazette as an organising tool. Along with others, Claudia Jones took a justice for Kelso campaign to the Home Office. No one was ever arrested or prosecuted for Kelso Cochrane’s murder.
No Colour Bar
In early 1962, part and parcel of a ‘No Colour Bar’ campaign initiated by war resister and left Labour MP, Fenner Brockway, Claudia Jones also founded the Conference of Afro-Asian-Caribbean Organisations (CAACO), which evolved from the Coloured People’s Progressive Association. CAACO was formed to fight against the first restrictive Commonwealth Immigrants Bill – overtly racist legislation which ended free movement from the (Black) Colonies and effectively said that unless Commonwealth citizens had a ‘family connection to the UK’ (i.e. White heritage) they could in future not enter without a specific entry work- or study-related voucher.
We Shall Overcome
And in August 1963, it was CAACO that organised a London demonstration (in solidarity with Martin Luther King’s historic ‘People’s March’ on Washington) and Black and White people moved off from the Grove and marched on the US embassy in Grosvenor Square. Pearl Prescod, actress-singer and Grove resident of Cambridge Gardens, organised with and marched next to Claudia, singing the adopted civil rights anthem ‘We Shall Overcome’. She was my mother. I was there – a teenager.
In 1965 another leading ‘rebel’ organisation, the Racial Action Adjustment Society (RAAS) was formed by Grove militant Michael De Freitas (who, inspired by the African-American radical Malcolm X’s visit to London, changed his name to Michael X). RAAS was led by Michael De Freitas and Roy Sawh – both stridently militant and not afraid to use the threat of a violent fight-back to intimidate would be racist attackers.
Then, in 1967, a sister organisation to RAAS, the revolutionary-socialist Universal Coloured Peoples’ Association (UCPA) was forged by another Grove associate, Obi Egbuna – an essayist and playwright and one of many intellectuals, writers and theatre people who regularly visited my mother’s home in Cambridge Gardens in the early 1960s. Indeed, my mother and a number of other London based Caribbean and African actors performed Obi’s play ‘Wreath for Udomo’ at FESTAC in Dakar Senegal in 1966. The UCPA set up study groups about the country, as well as a ‘Free University for Black Studies’ with a base in the Grove. The UCPA foreshadowed the UK’s ‘Black Panther Movement’, founded by Obi Egbuna, and later led by Altheia Jones-Lecointe who would become one of the Mangrove Nine in later Grove history.
The UCPA, along with RAAS, was so stridently militant that several of its leading voices, including Obi Egbuna and Roy Sawh, were arrested, jailed, prosecuted and fined for, of all things, incitement to racial hatred. Irony of ironies – they were amongst the first people to be arrested under the then new race relations legislation.
Black – a political colour
It is not insignificant that, against all the racialised divide-and-rule strategies of the White colonial order, RAAS and the UCPA, (as with Claudia Jones’ CAACO before them), defined ‘Black’ as a political colour, inclusive of Asians, Caribbeans and Africans – united by their historical humiliations, under racist White colonialism, as ‘coolies’, ‘slaves’, and ‘savages’, respectively. And let us not pretend that those divisions and animosities amongst the ex-colonised and what are now called ‘people of colour’ have disappeared even today.
Black activist self-help
The late 1960s and early 1970s also saw the emergence of a number of local, activist, self-help organising centres in the Grove, which provided much-needed advice and support to Grove residents encountering, and confronting the authorities over discrimination in schooling, housing, policing and judicial proceedings. Chief amongst these organisations were ‘Back-a-yard’, which became the Black People’s Information Centre (BPIC) on Portobello Road; ‘Grassroots Storefront’ in Golborne Road; and, the ‘Mangrove’ on All Saints Road. ‘Grassroots’, founded on pan-Third World principles, published a regular Black Liberation Front (BLF) information bulletin-cum-newspaper. And, although mainly White staffed, the first people’s neighbourhood law centre in the UK, the North Kensington Law Centre, set up in Golborne Road, would have been prompted in part by these ‘rebel’ Black initiatives. Today there is nothing to mark the sites of these historic life-blood community supports.
All of those organising centres were influenced and fuelled by the Black Power fight-back ideologies of the day. And all were standing up for ‘the youth’ – the first generation of Black young people born and mis-educated here post WW2 – then facing, amongst other everyday discriminatory frustrations, an outrageous police ‘sus’ offensive.
Police forces, up and down the land, had unearthed and dusted off an old nineteenth-century law and used it to target, regularly accost, and often arrest Black youth on suspicion that they were likely or about to commit crimes!! The ‘sus’ legislation and police practice were exposed and embarrassed by insistent political protest to the point of being taken off the books – even if, as many noted, the same provisions were almost immediately reinstalled in new police powers legislation. Today something of that discriminatory ’sus’ practice survives in what we now refer to as police ‘profiling’.
The other major influence on the militant ‘vibe’ in the early 1970s ‘rebel’ Grove was Rastafari – who established important ‘12 Tribes’ and ‘Nyabinghi’ chapters located here, and stirred the emergence of ‘metropolitan reggae’ with the Grove as a major centre. ASWAD and Sons of Jah were amongst a number of notable Grove reggae pioneers of the period.
In the same moment of the early 1970s, drawing on and reflecting the spirit of all the struggles/history of the Grove, the Caribbean-roots Carnival, which had come out of the indoor venues, took root in the streets. In a way the Carnival is the Grove’s living monument to its long social struggle against racist bigotry and for civilised, cosmopolitan ‘livity’ as the Rastafari say it. Hardly remembered now is the fact that in the early days, the Carnival hosted tens of street stalls set up by community campaigns and political groups.
Remembering ‘rebel’ history
The transformational resistance that we see in the Grove’s ‘rebel’ history, in the decades immediately following the 1958 ‘riots’ and the 1959 racist murder of Kelso Cochrane, is joined by similar community militancy in other parts of London, and indeed other parts of Britain. New generations need to read and be reminded of this ‘rebel’ history – with its anti-racist, womanist, internationalist, and socialist drivers.
Our ‘Grove’, their Notting Hill
Beyond the early 1970s, the substantial community that set up the liberated Grove ‘vibe’ suffered dispersal, the weakening of its drive, and the corruption of its potential. There followed a ‘cleansing regeneration’, a state blitz that, in effect, handed the liberated Grove ‘vibe’ eventually to new incomers with loads of disposable income. Our Grove became their Notting Hill.
The urgency of struggle today
Today the scandal of disproportionate Black working-class ‘exclusions’ from schools bears a disturbing resemblance to the 1970s state abandonment of West Indian children labelled ‘educationally sub-normal’. The over-representation of Black youth in prisons, borstals and mental health institutions looks like something, now institutionalized and continuous with the humiliations of that era. And early twentieth-century media panics about urban knife and gun crime – the violence of the violated – would wash the establishment’s hands of responsibility for the systematic extinguishing of hope, and consequent alienation of substantial sections of this youth.
So, for all that promising 1950s-1970s history of resistance, challenge and transformation, the predicament of brutalised and alienated Black working-class youth today, and the resurgence of racism and indeed fascism in Britain as across Europe, do not allow us to be triumphalist about past struggle successes. The need to engage in today’s versions of the old struggles is arguably as urgent as it was in the days of Kelso Cochrane’s murder sixty years ago.
Colin Prescod’s keynote for ‘Festival of Dissent’ – Kelso Cochrane’s murder memorial event 60 years on, Kensal Library, 15 May 2019.
Images from the IRR’s Black History Collection.
A new book on forced labour, trafficking and other forms of extreme exploitation encourages reflection on the duplicities and contradictions in the current debate.
What is ‘modern slavery’? What is being done to combat it, and with what results? As home secretary, Theresa May oversaw the passage of the Modern Slavery Act of 2015. Her government is fond of boasting that its measures to tackle ‘modern slavery’, forced labour and human trafficking, culminating in the Act, are ‘world-beating’. A timely and important new book, The Modern Slavery Agenda: policy, politics and practice in the UK, demonstrates the hollowness of that boast.
The huge changes seen in the global supply chain and the global labour market in the past couple of decades have created insecurity, precarity and misery for vast numbers of workers all over the world. Migrants and refugees, forced to move to find work or safety, often end up in the very worst conditions, their vulnerability to exploitation through poverty and marginalisation exacerbated by debt bondage, or by an immigration status tied to a specific employer, or the condition of deportability brought about by having no status, which employers can use to their benefit. At the November 2018 London hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Violations of the Rights of Migrant and Refugee Peoples, which focused on workplace rights, we heard evidence of horrendous abuses in many sectors in the UK, including warehousing and logistics, hospitality and cleaning, care and domestic work, agriculture and food processing. An important question raised by the book is: what is gained and what lost, by framing the issue as one of ‘modern slavery’?
Avoiding structural causes
What emerges from the careful analysis by different authors – in particular, in the chapters by Ruth van Dyke on the UK response, Alex Balch on the organisational and regulatory challenge, and Hannah Lewis and Louse Waite on migrant illegality and exploitative work – is that such framing fits with a criminal justice response, rather than one centred on tackling labour exploitation or on human rights. The criminal justice response targets individuals or criminal networks while avoiding an examination of the structures – in particular the immigration controls, the ‘hostile environment’ and the criminalisation of unauthorised work, which allow extreme exploitation, forced labour and related abuses to thrive.
Kate Roberts’ chapter on domestic workers demonstrates the paramountcy of immigration control and the blindness to its malign effects. Overseas domestic workers were – and are – subjected to extremely high levels of physical and sexual abuse and workplace exploitation. Before 1998, they came in on six-month ‘visitor’ visas, with a handwritten endorsement ‘accompanying (named) employer’, tying them to the employer they came in with, however abusive,whom they could not leave without risking deportation. In 1998, following a marathon campaign, domestic workers won the right to remain and to switch employers, with a route to settlement after five years in the domestic work sector – rights which, by treating them as workers, immeasurably improved their conditions. Both rights were removed in 2012 by the coalition government, which was more concerned to ensure that wealthy visitors were free to bring in their servants without worrying
that they might abscond, than with the rights of abused. In 2015, campaigners won back the right to switch employers – but the right to stay for more than six months was refused, rendering the right to switch employer useless.
Workers can, of course, seek a referral as victims of trafficking or modern slavery through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – but as van Dyke and Roberts both note, that means, first, meeting a high threshold of proof; second, not being permitted to work during the period of ‘recovery and reflection’ while awaiting a decision from the NRM – supposed to be 45 days but frequently three times that length – and third, having no automatic right to remain even if they are conclusively recognised as victims. At most, they might get a two-year visa. Who would want that, rather than recognition that domestic workers are above all workers, who should be treated as such? It is not surprising then that many, not only in domestic work but in other sectors where extreme exploitation is the norm, remain in or return to it rather than consent to referral to the NRM. Once again, the government’s fear that migrant workers would abuse the system – its rationale for refusing to grant the right to remain to all those recognised as victims by the NRM –leaves those workers open to abuse.
Punishing the vulnerable
Another area where immigration control trumps protection is the government’s failure to honour its commitments to child refugees in transit in Europe, through the family unity provisions of the Dublin Regulation and through the Dubs amendment, with its promise to bring in vulnerable lone children from the camps. It’s a pity that Chloe Setter does not refer, in her chapter on child trafficking, to these failures, or to the government’s refusal to support family reunion rights for child refugees in the UK, which would allow their parents to join them: these factors hugely increase children’s vulnerability to exploitation. Her coverage of the procedural failures and inconsistencies within the fragmented system of child protection in the UK is harrowing in its implications.
As Patrick Burland shows in his chapter on the treatment of trafficked ‘cannabis gardeners’, even on its own terms, the criminal justice approach is strikingly unsuccessful given the resources provided. It is not just bad at identifying and prosecuting perpetrators, but it consistently prosecutes victims. The criminal justice system fails to identify those prosecuted for drug cultivation as trafficked (which should trigger the statutory option not to punish them), and even when they are identified as such, no consideration of the no-punishment option owing to widespread ignorance of the law on the part of the police, prosecuting and defence lawyers and judges.
A related problem is the fragmentary nature of the UK’s policy initiatives, highlighted by van Dyke and Balch. The Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2003, when 23 Chinese cockle-pickers drowned and were found to have been suffering extreme exploitation, led to the formation of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) in 2004, with a remit to monitor labour suppliers in specific sectors, to grant or withhold licences and to take enforcement action where necessary. Two problems dogged it from the start: its limited remit, and the fact that immigration officers always tagged along on raids. So an exploitative gangmaster might be exposed, even prosecuted, but those exploited might end up in detention or on a plane home. And while the 2016 Immigration Act turned GLA into GLAA (Gangmasters’ Licensing and Abuse Authority), extended its remit to more sectors and gave it a Director of Labour Market Enforcement and more powers, what it gave with one hand it took away with the other by making it a criminal offence to work without authority.
The international context
While the book’s main focus is the UK, the first and last chapters, by Aidan McQuade and Klara Skrivankova respectively, look at the global and the European context to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act – taking us through the UN Protocol against Trafficking in Persons 2000 (the Palermo Protocol), the Council of Europe’s 2005 Convention against Trafficking, the EU Directive, the UN Guiding Principles, and the plethora of international and national initiatives and bodies set up to implement their obligations. Vicky Brotherton compares the Scottish and northern Irish legislative response to that of England and Wales – frequently to the latter’s disadvantage. In another important chapter, Colleen Theron discusses the global context from the perspective of the supply chain, examining the extent to which reform and transparency in supply chains, pledged and legislated for following disasters such as Rana Plaza, have been buried, sidelined or undermined by corporate outsourcing.
It is difficult to do justice to the breadth and depth of expertise, information and analysis in this densely packed book. There is a vast amount about the history of policy initiatives, and discussions on the terminology, on the constellation of factors creating or enabling trafficking and extreme exploitation, and on the degrees of state responsibility, which I have not touched on here. In an edited compilation, there is also, inevitably, some overlap, and contributors vary too in their degree of scepticism over the anti-trafficking and anti-slavery measures they describe. But whether they take government efforts at face value or not, all share the frustration of seeing how the system fails victims, and how an obsession with immigration control not only undercuts protection but helps create the conditions in which forced labour and extreme exploitation can thrive.
The Modern Slavery Agenda: policy, politics and practice in the UK, Gary Craig, Alex Balch, Hannah Lewis and Louise Waite (eds), Policy Press (2019).