Racist policing practices have been thrust into the spotlight by the Black Lives Matter movement. A spate of recent incidents indicate the scale of the problem. As Labour MP Dawn Butler has correctly stated, we need ‘system change’.

Racist policing practices have been thrust into the spotlight by the Black Lives Matter movement. A spate of recent incidents indicate the scale of the problem. As Labour MP Dawn Butler has correctly stated, we need ‘system change’.

A police station in north west London was blockaded last Friday after a 14-year-old was arrested. Police alleged that they had smelled cannabis and found drugs nearby. The 4Front Project – a youth organisation fighting for police accountability and racial justice – was made aware of the arrest and showed up to de-escalate the situation.

Onlookers sat down in the middle of the road to stop the police vehicle from leaving. In response, according to 4Front Project director Temi Mwale, the police “started grabbing people, dragging them across the floor.”

“One person had 10 or 15 officers around him,” Mwale stated. “They were pinning him down with their knee on his neck.”

Mwale says that strip searches of young people in the area are not uncommon. “Here we have enormous issues with strip searches...We have had young people with their trousers down on the main road.”

She claimed that the 14-year-old arrested had been the victim of an illegal search, in which police officers had put their hands in his underpants.

Institutional racism

The issue of racist profiling and the over-policing of black communities is in the spotlight thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and a spate of recent incidents.

Last Saturday, protestors marked the anniversary of the murder of Mark Duggan with a demonstration outside a police station in Tottenham (see below), with demands to end institutionally racist policing.

Speakers at the Tottenham event noted that racist policing practices had escalated during the lockdown.

In late July, for example, 12-year-old Kai Agyepong was arrested at gunpoint in his home by up to 25 police officers with sniffer dogs. He was then taken handcuffed to a police car. All of this after his toy pistol was mistaken for a gun. Kai had been playing with the toy in his home, but police arrived after receiving a report of a “black male with a gun”.

System change

Dawn ButlerLabour MP Dawn Butler has correctly called for “system change” in relation to policing, after herself being stopped by the police whilst travelling in a car driven by a black male friend.

The police claim to have made a mistake in entering the car’s registration details. But the question remains: what reason did they have to be checking the registration in the first place? As Butler herself has stated, this is yet another clear example of racist profiling.

The issue of institutional racism in the police is a fact acknowledged as recently as 1999 by the Metropolitan Police itself, as part of the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry. Yet Butler has faced outrageous calls to be sacked from the Parliamentary Labour Party for daring to raise this publicly in response to her own experiences, and those of countless others.

Which side are you on?

The Labour leadership, while happy to take a knee for a photo op, has missed numerous opportunities to support the Black Lives Matter movement, or to show solidarity with the victims of institutional racism – including one of its own MPs.

As racist policing and counter-demonstrations become ever more heightened, it is increasingly clear that there can be no more equivocation or fence-sitting. We must take a side. Do you stand on the side of the oppressed or the oppressors?

Socialists stand firmly on the side of the oppressed and exploited. We need a united and organised movement of the working class and all oppressed layers in society against the common enemy: this racist Tory government; the bosses, and the ‘armed bodies of men’ who defend their property and profits; and the capitalist system that has racism woven into its very fabric.

“I don’t want reform – I want revolution!”: Anti-racist activists protest outside Tottenham police station

Keelan Kellegher, UCL Marxists

tottenham police racism demo 2On Saturday 8 August, 400-500 people gathered outside Tottenham police station to protest against police racism and brutality. The demonstration marked the nine-year anniversary of the beginning of the London riots, which were sparked by the police murder of Mark Duggan.

As with the Black Lives Matter protests of recent weeks, the mood was very militant. None of the anger unleashed by the murder of George Floyd has dissipated.

Many of the speeches were extremely radical. These connected with the mood of the crowd far more than the milder platitudes offered by some. This reflects the growing hunger for revolutionary ideas in society.

Even more noticeable was the fact that it was the younger speakers who were most radical. One even proclaimed that she was “sick of demanding reform”, saying that we must instead “overthrow the system”.

“I want revolution!” the speaker exclaimed to tremendous enthusiasm from those gathered.

This is 100% correct. To end police violence and racism, we need a revolution.