In light of the Mark Duggan verdict, ‘The Lifting the Veil Project’ is posting this article about police brutality and institutional racism.
What is the purpose of the police? As infants we probably had them visit us to teach us about stranger danger and watched Crimewatch to see if we recognised anyone; they seemed to be doing a public service. I personally tuned into The Bill for many years and learned about how this prime time TV show was a form of social control in my GCSE year. I did my work experience at the West Midlands police HQ press office. I even, get this, requested a cop application form because I thought I would do well to bridge the gap between them and my community seeing as they were always in it, for one reason or another (a ghettoised part of Birmingham with mostly brown Muslim people in it). I had to stop filling the form when they wanted to pry into my family and their histories, I couldn’t say for certain my dad or his brothers were never stopped and searched, maybe worse, they are people of colour from a deprived area after all. Anyway, if I was going to be a copper I’d have to be honest about it, I was going to change the system from within.
I’ve been thinking about all the times I may have needed the police, I called them often enough growing up. Even as a young girl I didn’t hesitate to dial 999 if I saw a neighbour beating up their child. I was that member of the public who called the cops at the slightest sniff of trouble. I’ve called them on members of my family but no one’s ever gone down on record as breaking the law. I’ve liaised with them through my work but what have they ever really done for me or anyone else I know?
When I was raped I couldn’t bear the thought of reporting it. I didn’t want to tell them what had happened because I feared the questions they would ask, whether they would believe me at all. I’d been working as a refuge worker for a while and my clients had not received appropriate support. I convinced myself my incident wasn’t even as serious as some of theirs so there was no point even bothering them with it. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to disclose such a violation to a couple of burly men. I didn’t want to answer their questions about my clothing for example or what I was doing there in the first place. Many women feel the same in my position. Many do not report.
When I was burgled the first time I was sent a leaflet from victim support and got a crime reference number. The second time it happened one of the officers attending the scene aggressively told me to stop crying and kept cutting me short to ask more questions. They never did find the people responsible for that one either. They are very good at turning up in a big van and piling out of it and this felt somewhat reassuring if I ever had to call them through my work at various refuges, it scared off any intruders at the very least.
I had a lot of sexual harassment from them through my work. Of course I couldn’t call it this because then the big men wouldn’t play ball. They spoke about my clients as though they were untrustworthy or ‘obviously asking for it’. There were some good ones but 2 of them were women and the other one was leaving the force. He was sick of being in a playground of ex-army thugs.
I’ve had many exchanges with the police. I always wanted to believe they were there for us. However that changed when I tried to report something to them earlier this year and for the first time didn’t ignore the loaded questions, the stereotyping, the tone of their voices etc. It wasn’t even something that affected me directly but it was prolific. I changed my mind about reporting to them because I was suddenly aware of my distrust of them. Good move really, considering what I’ve seen of them this past year. They’ve beaten my friends, arrested them. Yet somehow I am shocked by what happened today. Maybe they took it personally, we were actually telling them to fuck off but there was no justification for the violence and racism they seemed to revel in.
Cops were flying in as if from thin air, pouncing on individuals, punching them and forcing them to the ground. It shouldn’t make a difference whether the victim is male or female but I can’t help feeling distressed at seeing women pulled by the hair and ragdolled by these big men. When I tried to escape what seemed to be an attempt at kettling us I was flung back by a male copper who told me to “get the fuck back”. You try and tell one of them to get fucked and you spend a night in the cell. Infuriated but frightened I stared at him and said he couldn’t stop me looking at him. We had a staring out contest for at least 30 seconds and neither of us blinked. Finally he said “oi ‘spice is right’, move the fuck back”. I wanted to get his badge number, I wanted to call him every fucking racist prick under the sun but he was bigger than me and he can arrest me for not listening so I didn’t really have the option. They were pulling people off bikes, indiscriminately punching people’s faces. There were pools of blood on the street. Who the fuck are these police and what is their purpose I ask once again?
They’re not protecting us. They protect buildings. The notion that they are there to serve our communities is an accident, one that harnesses them more power. The purpose of the demo today was to remind the police they have no place on campus and how did they respond? They physically attacked and arrested 38 of us. It’s not a two way process with the police, they don’t do communication, they respond with brute force and they detain protestors to make it more difficult for people to stand up for their rights. We’ve seen this at every demonstration in the last few years.
What will it take for people to notice this tyranny? Does someone have to die before someone actually gives a fuck?
Sam Ambreen tweets as @SamAmbreen,