Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Is London wrong to hold its breath this weekend?

(Original post date 11th January 2014)

‘Hackney? Not going there mate, it’s all going off’

These were the words of the third cab driver we hailed. It was my birthday in 2011 and the riots were coursing through London like a virus. I had already watched from my flat window the helicopters casting their laser-like rays over Tottenham days before, the night of the shooting of Mark Duggan, and the resulting plumes of smoke from the burning shops left in the rioters’ wake. I am extremely lucky the riots didn’t come to my street and this was down to the close knit Turkish community taking up arms to protect their livelihoods that kept the thugs away. The whole experience left me feeling vulnerable, worried for family and utterly powerless to do anything to stop it.

After a jury deemed the shooting of mark Duggan ‘lawful’ amid angry calls from his family, a vigil for Mark is set to take place outside the Police station in Tottenham tomorrow afternoon.

The fury of the Tottenham community over this killing felt bigger than all of us and my initial thoughts on hearing about this vigil churned up the same question: while it is everyone’s right to peacefully protest, what if your previous protest ignited the worst riots in English modern history resulting in 5 deaths, countless injured and millions of pounds worth of damage, not just to buildings but people’s livelihoods? Having only my own personal experience of witnessing riot damage around London to draw on, the only conclusion I could find was that the Duggan family had not thought this through.

However, after some consideration and a little further reading, my opinions have changed somewhat. The reason for the initial protest in August 2011 came about, in part, due to the poor treatment of Duggan’s family by the Police who failed to properly inform them of his death. Since then it has taken nearly 3 years for the inquest to happen compared to other high profile cases such as the inquest into the Policemen who shot the brutal murderers of Lee Rigby, although this was backed up with a wealth of filmed evidence, which has taken less then a year. Police watchdog, The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) is yet to release it’s report on the Police’s conduct that evening, despite the amount of time that has now passed. However, most importantly the hearing threw up convoluted, confused and conflicting statements by the Police Officers involved, who were also allowed to confer on their statements, demonstrating ineptitude and incompetence (read full details of this here). Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty, said the IPCC investigation into the Duggan case ‘had been a disaster from day one’. She said ‘nips, tucks and incremental improvements to this so-called watchdog will never win credibility, public or even Police trust. It may be time to shut down this failed institution and replace it with a tougher, more nimble and robustly independent body to police our police’
There have been ridiculous intimations in the media that regardless of justice, the Police succeeded in removing a gangster from our streets. Whilst there is no doubt Duggan, a father of 5, had a criminal background and by transporting a weapon across the capital, this brought about his demise however, the Police remain accountable and the very least his family deserve is their basic human right, to be informed of what actually took place, something that from day one didn’t happen.

Today, in an expose by the The Independent via a leaked report, the lid was lifted on the corruption that allowed Scotland Yard to be infiltrated by organised criminals who had bribed detectives to gain vital intelligence on live investigations and thus allowing the culprits to evade the law (read more here) Today also PC Keith Wallis pleaded guilty to fabricating an email posing as a false witness who overheard Andrew Mitchell abusing Police officers at the gates of Downing Street (read more here). In recent years we have seen a newspaper shut down as a result of corrupt activity including bribing Police officers and finally the sickening cover up conducted by West Midlands and South Yorkshire Police of their actions that resulted in the Hillsbrough disaster. To be able cite such a catalogue of corruption, with very little investigation on my part, chills me to the core.

In an organisation that employs in excess of 200,00 full time workers there is always going to be staffing issues but surely it is mandatory that there is an effective Policing body to manage potential misconduct and corruption. It is the Police’s duty to clearly explain their activities. So tomorrow I will be bracing myself, not for violence, but on behalf of the Duggan family and the people of Tottenham, in hope that they succeed in peacefully demonstrating their right for the truth.

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