Sunday, August 07, 2011

If we didn't know different

... we would think it was just the BBC propagandising. A propos the Tottenham riots, it has youth worker Michelle Jackson, 43, saying: "The way the police treat black people is like we're nothing, they handle us really like we're nothing. They speak to the young people like they're nothing".

She said the police needed to engage more with youngsters. "They pull us out of cars like we're drug dealers. The only reason why people did what they did is because this is the only way we're going to get heard", she said. Former accountant Alfred Griffith, 68, who has lived in the area for almost 30 years, is also cited, saying: "I have seen the behaviour of some of the police in this area and I haven't been happy about it".

On the other hand, riots do happen, and the people who cause them and who take part in them are very far from guiltless. But the capacity of the police to inflame situations must be taken into account.

If I had not experienced it myself, I would find it difficult to believe how obnoxious and provocative they can be. But too many encounters with the police have put me in a situation where I could cheerfully do violence to them. It thus takes little imagining to work out how blacks might feel when exposed to the plod.

But the politicians really do not get it. We have Lynne Featherstone, the Lib-Dim MP and "equalities minister", clearly reading from a teleprompt a prepared statement, declaring: "I want to condemn utterly the attacks on police and on property ...
Disregard for public safety and for property will not be tolerated and the Metropolitan Police Service has the Government's full support in restoring law and order, and I want to thank those police officers and those commanders who put themselves in harm's way and express the Government's gratitude for their exemplar demonstration of bravery and professionalism in the face of extreme provocation and violence.
This is pure establishment-speak, the ruling classes closing ranks. One awaits in vain for any recognition that policing in this country, as with so many other public services, has been seriously degraded. That, at least, would show that there is some understanding that urgent improvements are needed.

Of course, this foul woman had a different tune when she was out garnering votes, telling us all how awful the local council was. That and the current wave of violence might not be totally unconnected, but you will not hear this from the minister now she has her nose in the trough.

And yes, disorder must be suppressed, but how you do it is as important as doing it. As long as this is not recognised and you get this blind, knee-jerk support for the police, with the closing of ranks, the problem will get worse.