Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Brixton College To Be Sold Off: The Process of Gentrification Continues

Demonstration Save Brixton College Thursday 27th March 5 - 7pm Brixton College Brixton Hill Lambeth

If I were to describe to you a scenario where a College in one of the most deprived diverse areas of London was to close and the site was bought by Government, with tax payers money, to be handed over to an free school organisation whose chair has a track record of articulating the most disgusting right wing racism, you would think me quite mad and rightly so.
Unfortunately in the world of Education Secretary Michael Gove such things are what dreams are made off by plans to close Brixton College.

Placards 2

Brixton is changing and changing fast, in part because of the manufactured austerity economic crisis, in addition to housing market that is out of control and a stealth agenda of creeping gentrification. 
Take a walk around Brixton and you will see what I mean, parts of it resemble Kensington and there are those, including the local council who seem more than happy with theses developments.
Brixton is the black capital of Europe and the UK. This status is now under threat as a consequence of savage public sector and welfare cuts and the ideological extremism of a Tory party that knows the cost of everything, and the value of nothing. 
Alongside the gentrification of Brixton we see a determined effort by the new middle class residents of the locale to pressurise the local Council and the Police into taking action to 'clean up' Brixton. 
What do the shiny new residents of Brixton need? Shiny new predominantly white free schools to teach their children.
Late last year staff and students at Lambeth College were shocked by the announcement  that the college is to lose 70% of its Brixton Centre campus and turned not yet anther free school. it is to be noted that there is pare capacity in Lambeth's existing free schools that are undersubscribed . 
Black Activist Against the Cuts (BARAC) have been part of a growing community campaign to stop the sale and to keep and expand the provision of further education in Brixton. Staff, students and The local community is outraged  at this recent development in the college’s plans, which will see a reduction in the Brixton centre from 6000 to 2000 sq feet, with a loss of two thirds of the current number of classrooms, as the site is sold to the government Department of Education (DfE) for £18 million. 
The hypocrisy of the Government means they are prepared to spend our tax payers money to buy the College and in effect close it rather than give that cash to Brixton College to expand further education provision. This government strategy is to close colleges, increase university student fees and build more prisons. 
We disagree  that this massive reduction of the Brixton Centre campus is  “really good news for the College and the community” as has been presented by the College and 
With 1.2 million young people in Britain out of work and in Lambeth 70% young black men unemployed, we believe that it Further Education is absolutely vital to providing a pathway out of poverty and alienation. 
Brixton College  provides vital educational opportunities for adults with disabilities and learning difficulties, for young people who need to re-engage with education, and for migrants and those with English as a 2nd language (ESOL) who need to learn English to improve their lives
The fact that local  MP Chuka Ummuna  and Lambeth Leader of the Council Liz Peck seems unconcerned  should be of no surprise to anyone. 
Despite strong local opposition the college has decided to press on with its plans to sell 70% of the Brixton Centre campus and as a result BARAC will continue to campaign alongside Lambeth Unison, the UCU, the NUT and Unite the Community
Placards 2
The proposed new Trinity Free School is even more worrying given its chaired by a Mr Dennis Sewell whose views on the issues facing poor working class and black communities are breathtaking in their arrogance , racist sentiment and patronising tone.

He writes regularly for the right wing Spectator magazine and has revealed himself as an arch bigot and right wing ideologue. Here are a number of his views as written for the Spectator.

Commentating on poor inner city neighbourhoods he says;

"The neighbourhoods in which they live are falling apart. The squalor is palpable; crime rampant; local schools are very often failing or ‘sink’ schools. If you think I’m exaggerating, choose any area with a high level of welfare-dependency and go and look for yourself."
Dennis Sewell - Spectator Nov 2009
On his attitude to inequality and poverty in the UK he says;
 "We need the filthy rich to feel right at home here."
Dennis Sewell - Spectator Sept 2011
And finally here he speak of the Tottenham disurtbances following the shooting, by Police of Mark Duggan:
 "I wonder what he made of the savagery on display in the streets of Tottenham. Would he express the same mixture of puzzlement and dismay that David Livingstone had felt when, sent out by the London Missionary Society, he first encountered the thieving Chiboque tribe beyond the Zambezi? ‘I was very struck by what seemed to be a vacuum of ethical values,’ Fr Darline says. ‘It was as if they had no system by which to judge what they should do, or not do. You would see someone presented with the opportunity to loot a shop and it was like watching a cat on a wall — will it jump this way, or that? In many cases it seemed there had been an absence of any ethical dimension in upbringing or education."

Dennis Sewell - Spectator - 21 Dec 2011
 It is scandalous that Michael Gove cannot find Brixton College but can find an &£18 million giveaway to this racist bigot who will now run a school in our community. I say hell no... Join us in defeating the mad man Gove and his attempt to give away one of most precious assets to someone who is big donor to the Tory party and arch racist too boot. 

Help us defeat this madness and circulate, share and post 

Wednesday 26 March – NUT Strike – please support striking teachers and visit picket lines to give out flyers

Sign the online petition http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-lambeth-college-in-brixton-no-free-school

Like our Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/savebrixtoncollege?ref=hl

Follow us on Twitter www.twitter.com/brixtoncollege<http://www.twitter.com/brixtoncollege>

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

The darkest day in the history of the Metropolitan Police Service; Time for Hogan to get the heave ho.

Crisis? What crisis? This was the famous phrase invented by a Sun journalist, that helped bring down the 1979 Labour Prime Minister, Jim Callaghan.

Despite the endless series of public scandals currently surrounding the Metropolitan Police Service, listening to the infrequent comments made by the Mayor of London and the 
Commissioner of Met Police Bernard Hogan Howe, one can be forgiven for invoking this classic phrase.

Plebgate and Andrew Mitchell MP, spying on the Lawrence’s, the use of undercover policing and the state sanctioned rape of environmental activists, the adoption of the names of dead children by undercover officers, the links between the Murdoch media empire and corrupt police officers as exposed by the Levenson inquiry, the cases of Daniel Morgan, Sean Rigg, Smiley Culture and Mark Duggan and the latest revelations about potential police corruption in the Lawrence case , together constitute the most profound crisis ever to face the Met police in its post war history.

Bumbling Boris just doesn't get black communities. 
Both the London Mayor and the Met Commissioner have failed the test of public leadership, accountability and transparency.  In the context of national and global press interest in the Lawrence case and the powerful intervention of the Home Secretary, we've heard virtually nothing from either man, that has provided a scintilla of leadership or any degree of vision or real accountability. This is remarkable given the scale and potential of the current crisis and the serious implications for London.

Home Secretary demands policing reform.The Cabinet resists
The fact that a Tory Home Secretary has announced her intention to reform stop and search powers and hold a public inquiry into police corruption in the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation, should be cause of celebration, an opportunity to restore public confidence. The fact rumour has it the Home Secretary is despised by the Mayor and Commissioner as a result of announcing the latest public inquiry , not celebrated.  

Real political tensions within the Tory Party on police reform and stop and search, are all evident to see.The Home Secretary believes that Boris is incompetent and has failed to deal with racism in the Met. Boris believes the Home Secretary is seeking to undermine his leadership challenge  Such public disagreement on these issues pours scorn on the claim that the Tory Party is united on its commitment to the principles of justice, fairness and equality

 Hogan Howe probably the worst Commissioner we've had since Sir Paul Condon
Boris Johnson is entirely focused on his leadership bid and getting back into the House of Commons. He has nothing substantive to say on these issues, nor does he demonstrate any understanding of what kind of leadership multicultural city like London needs now.

His preferred solution, to the combustible state of police and community relations in London, is to abolish locally based, Community Police Consultative Groups established by Lord Scarman and instead buy the police water cannons.

These two incredibly important decisions provides a damming insight into extent to which the Mayor himself has assumed a Colonel Blimp like persona disconnected from the real world.

These groups are the very bedrock of true police accountability in London. Boris’s decision to abolish groups such as these that can literally, prevent disorder is not only an extraordinarily stupid and reckless thing to do, it could potentially cost lives.

I am personally aware of the many countless times positive policing interventions Consultative groups have made when critical incidents occur. Staffed by dedicated volunteers they work tirelessly on behalf of their communities. The work they've done and continue to do, has prevented London burning in the past. Their abolition is an act of municipal vandalism. 

When tensions rise in local communities these groups play role in allowing people to legitimately vent their frustrations and maintain the Queens peace.

The Mayors decision to abolish these critical frontline groups is an act of such gross political short sightedness and crass stupidity that it simply beggars belief. Its a tragic error and one that I believe will ultimately cost the country dear.

Boris is not a fan of public inquiries as evidenced to his reference to the original Stephen Lawrence Inquiry as a hysterical anti police with hunt.

The Commissioner has been a little more visible, however he has real communication issues. Nobody know who he is, his lacklustre deadening prose, his reliance under pressure to revert to rote repetition, his lack of vision and credibility leave him floundering in London’s stormy political waters.

That would be bad enough itself but when one takes into account a senior management at the Met, whose distinguishing feature seems to be their stunning inability to come up with a credible plan to begin the process of restoring public confidence, means he must be a ‘dead man walking.’ 

My information is that his own senior management team are losing faith in the Commissioner and some are were now plotting his demise.

The charge is simple and straight forward. 

At the highest level the Commissioner has been found wanting, incapable or unable to navigate the Met through these turbulent times and is facing the most profound series of challenge's in its entire history. The scale of this crisis is such that Met cannot survive in its present form and must now be broken up and reformed.

The Metropolitan Police Service is facing the unprecedented crisis of gargantuan proportions and yet the men elected to lead the Met, the men ultimately responsible for everything the police do in London, the Mayor and his erstwhile Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime Stepehen Greenhalgh, remains staggering aloof and largely silent on an issue that poses an acute threat to the peace and security of London.

As public scandal after public scandal, is revealed so the wealthy and jovial arrogance of Mayor Boris de Piffel Johnson, disconnected from London’s multicultural, reality begins to jar with the urgent requirement to repair the public confidence in the police. During the August 20121 riots when London was burning and deadly and riotous disorder broke out in the capital, Boris was busily refusing to return to London whilst preferring relaxation on his summer holiday on the Algarve.

The multi-cultural incompetence of the Mayor and the Commissioner cost the nation dear. In the immediate wake of Mark being slain, both the Duggan family and the people of Tottenham, desperately waited for answers. Neither man, Boris or Bernard was at his post.

Their other key failing is reflected in the fact that neither have any senior black people in their teams that could have advise them. Had both had the necessary black expertise and the right personal around them, they would have been alive to the potentiality for disorder, that was predicted in January 2011 by myself and others, after the death in custody of Smiley Culture. 

Had they had such expertise they could have deployed a pre-emptive community reassurance engagement strategy that would have lessened the likely hood and could have potentially prevented disorder.

Any fool could have told them as much. It’s a form of white colonial arrogance that assumes white people can run a multicultural city like London. Such ignorance does not come cheap as London found out to its cost.

Ken vigorously challenged Met Police racism.
London governance needs the right balance of necessary credibility, insight and experience. We’ve already paid a heavy price for their ignorance of the multicultural reality of London. 

The tragic reality is the way things are at the moment, a recurrence of the disturbances we saw in August 2011,are almost inevitable.

The Metropolitan Police Service is an institution I know extremely well, I have challenged police racism and bad policing practices for over 30 years, man and boy. I consider myself to be one of the few black men who have had the opportunity to externally challenge police racism for two decades and lead the change, I wanted to see as Policing Director for London for eight years, as a part of the progressive and enlightened administration of Ken Livingstone. 

My breath of experience, in this regard, is almost unparalleled in the UK. 

On the 7th October 1998 I appeared and gave evidence as the youngish Director of the 1990 Trust to the Sir William McPherson inquiry into the murder of Stephen Lawrence. The public inquiry sat in south London Elephant & Castle, at Hannibal House and I was one of only of handful of black organisations giving evidence to the inquiry. 

Reading my evidence to the today it struck me how critical was black political interventions into the national conversation about justice for Stephen, the shape and thinking behind the McPherson inquiry report. It’s a sign of the times that so many of the black organisations listed as providing evidence back then, are no longer in existence today.

One of my most memorable contributions to the inquiry sought to summarise the black experience of policing to a largely cynical public and press. I remember the line I gave today as clear as if it happened just yesterday. I told McPherson that…

‘As a black community we are over policed as law abiding citizens and under policed as victims of crime’

The debate about how much has really changed since 1998 is interesting. There is a view that things have moved on and improved since those dark days. I would agree over the course of a period of 15 years, it would be churlish to deny that we have seen some improvements and changes in police behaviour and attitudes. The problem is however, that such progress that has been made, was and to a large extent remains sporadic and tenuous, driven by individual commitment rather than systemic cultural and professional change.  

Treating incidents of institutional racism as simply isolated acts, committed by rogue individuals, leads to the adoption of peicemeal cosmetic, superficial changes, rather than fundemental, radical reform. 

Progress becomes linked to charismatic individuals rather than any fundamental changes to organisational culture ethics or values. 

The powerful and all conquering ‘policing canteen sub culture’ eats New Scotland Yard's diversity and equality policies for breakfast.

In 21st Century Britain police racism has become much more nuanced, hidden and sophisticated, whilst at the same time becoming increasingly efficient in camouflaging itself seamlessly into the general environment. That’s why if I were giving evidence today I would now say;

 ‘Police racism has become much more nuanced and as a consequence much more insidious and destructive in terms of discriminatory outcomes for black people. As a result, we are being criminalised en masse by an institutionally racist police service and criminal justice system whose operational focus, is the deliberate targeting of black youth for unjust, unfair discriminatory and disproportionate treatment’

Whilst Boris sits in his testicle on the Thames reciting Latin verses from the Iliad and quaffing Mo√ęt & Chandon with property developers , his banker chums and his hapless Deputy Mayor for Policing, the capital is being rocked to its foundations by a series of public and professional scandals that have simply confirmed what many have suspected for some time. 

The Metropolitan Police Service has become increasingly riddled with a toxic culture of corruption, racism and sexism.

Of course there are many Officers who uphold the highest standards of professionalism and on a day to day basis. These officers support help and protect Londoners from both crime and criminals. They, as they say, ‘do a good job in difficult circumstances’. Whilst this is true, there is another profoundly disturbing reality.

The current Gov and previous Labour Governments have both, over the course of the last decade progressively abandoned any real commitment to promoting the benefits of  multiculturalism, become ideologically opposed to anti-racist policies, and the equality agenda.   Labour strengthened Equality law and then reduced people access to affordable legal expert advice capable of prosecuting anti discriminatory legislation. 
Trevor Phillps: The man who closed down the CRE.

Having made the catastrophic error to abolish the Commission for Racial Equality, this was quickly followed, in 2010 by the Tory wrecking ball strategy that destroyed all the McPherson monitoring and partnership forums and eviscerated, marginalised or ignored all aspect of race equality policy in Government.

The message from Governmen  to the  public sector specifically and wider society in general, is clear and resolute, ‘we’re not interested in race equality’. 

And so it is, that outside the sanitising glare of political, professional and public scrutiny, institutional racism in policing has returned with bloody vengeance. Like a dangerous virus that was initially suppressed by strong antibiotics, the patient having declared themselves fit without finishing the proscribed full course of treatment, inevitably suffers a relapse and is now the grip of a now toxic and resurgent infection.   

Racial profiling is rampant. 
Meanwhile the wretched calamity that passes for a publically accountable Police Service in London has witnessed the drip, drip, drip of scandal after scandal, poising of the well of public confidence.

The very nature of modern policing in neoliberal, capitalist multicultural democratic 21st century societies is changing before our very eyes.

The much cherished policing philosophies established by the founder of policing in England Sir John Peel of ‘policing by consent’ and that the ‘police the public and the public are the police’ seem, today like nothing more that romantic echoes of an idealistic past.

Britain's international reputation abroad is often referenced by lofty quotations about the absolute sanctity of the rule of law, a nation where our liberties and freedom as British citizens, are guaranteed by our democratic tradition.

This is a profoundly a compelling historical narrative that begins with the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215 and ends with the adoption of Human Rights Act 2001.

The ideal, the fervent belief, was that on this emerald isle all citizens, including the King are treated equally before the law. These idea’s transformed over time into the idea that English law was in some way transcendental, that ours was gold standard democracy built on the ancient antiquity of our Parliament.

For many black British citizens such sentiments remain Disneyesque. Their reality is one of constant police pressure, racism and corruption. 

The Met need urgent and radical reform and we need a new Mayor and Commissioner.

Tribute To Bob Crow

Bob Crow has passed, may he rest in peace. My tribute to Bob who fought tirelessly for the right of his members. The only man to back up the Bullingdon Club boys and a fearless opponent of racism and fascism. #BlackSalute
A Working Class Hero 

Monday, 10 March 2014

Press TV interview on Stephen Lawrence Police Corruption.

My interview with Press TV on Stephen Lawrence can be accessed here. Time for Commissioner Hogan Howe to go.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Operation SWAMP Brixton Cancelled

The intended Operation SWAMP due  taken  place today Thursday 6th March has now been cancelled   after after a strong and successful intervention by Lambeth Police Consultative Group. 

There will be no UKBA presence in Brixton today. There will be no arrests of rough sleeper or street drinkers, there will be no tenancy evictions, no gang sweeps or stop and search sweeps all thanks to massive community resistance.

The whole operation has now been down scaled and replaced by a small scale crime awareness event and some parking and ticket tout activity. Many thanks to those who supported the efforts to prevent this happening. Please share.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Police Operation SWAMP 81 Returns To Brixton This Thursday

No to Operation SWAMP Brixton 2014. (Now cancelled!) 

Saturation Policing Aggravates Police/Community Relations
This Thursday 6th March 2014 will see the return of the discredited policing tactic Operation SWAMP to central Brixton. The discredited policing tactic that saw hundreds of officers literally swamp local communities triggered the civil rights uprising of 1981.

Now refreshed and re-branded as a Lambeth Council led initiative and beautifully named  Brixton Unites, the tactic sees its return under the broad banner of the Met Commissioners Total Policing initiative.

Given the total breakdown of relationships between the Metropolitan Police and the local Black community, the local council has been persuaded to take the lead in an attempt to soften the impact on what will be a extremely aggressive enforcement activity whose stated aim is 'to make Brixton feel safer'.

What is planned is unprecedented in the local area in terms of its scale and the fact that no consultation has taken. No surprise there given the mayor of London and Met Commissioners appalling record on community engagement.

The SWAMP Brixton day will begin with Trident Anti Gang Unit raids starting around 6am and last until the early evening.

In addition there will be drug enforcement units using sniffer drugs in the center of Brixton, parking enforcement will be ruthlessly enforced and Traffic police cars will be stopped and checked for tax and insurance, British Transport Police will check tickets at the Tube and use drugs dogs in the station. Immigration officers from UKBA will be targeting suspected illegal immigrants and Council Officers will hit all the shops with health and safety inspections, rough sleepers will be moved on and street drinkers arrested.

There will be a huge search for weapons. Abandoned vehicles will be towed away and the Truancy team will be targeting children throughout the day. All this will be filmed by the BBC as part of a documentary on the MPS.

What is remarkable is virtually no consultation has taken place with local communities about this massive enforcement operation taking place in two days time.  Neither the Council nor the Police have seen fit to consult in any meaningful manner beyond their usual group of compliant pro police partners.

Given that tensions are running high in the aftermath of the Mark Duggan verdict this operation feels both oppressive and disproportionate. It is beyond belief that no one thought it necessary to consult with the community about this Total Policing operation designed to send a clear political message form the Met "We control the streets" and Council seeking to luck tough on crime in the run up to local elections in May.

This operation must not be allowed to go ahead if the important principle of policing b consent is to mean anything at all. At the last public meeting recently organised by the Mayor Office for Policing and Crime in Lambeth resulted in the Met the sheer anger at the Met and the Mayor was palpable.

It is my view that this SWAMP operation is designed to send a clear message to local communities and that is the Police are a law unto themselves. The focus will be on the Coldharbpour Lane ward where we have seen an influx of new well organised middle class resident,  slumming it from Chelsea and demanding that police and Council take actions

I hear that new residents on Coldharbour Lane are already making noise complaints about established black business of many years standing who for years have played music outside their shops.As these new resident move in they demand the ambiance and policing that they enjoyed in areas such as Chelsea and Richmond.  This SWAMP policing operations also speaks to the politics of policing, post the Mark Duggan verdict, it has a focus on press public relations management, short term electoral gain,  reputation management and gentrification than it has to do with tackling crime.

If this goes ahead,  we need as many people out monitoring and  filming activity, providing rights on arrest cards, immigration advice, taking pictures and advising juveniles of their legal rights. I intend to be out there for the entire day and would encourage others to come and join me. I will be in Windrush Square Brixton from 1pm please join me.

No doubt this operation is more to do with the ongoing rapid gentrification of Brixton than it has to do with tackling crime.

We simply cannot allow these bully boy policing tactics to take place in Brixton, the Council and the police simply cannot be allowed to impose a style of policing upon our local community at the behest of another.

Community consultation cannot be simply dismissed as an unnecessary adjunct to tackling crime particularly in areas where relations with the police are strained. Lack of communication in such circumstances could potentially be catastrophic. We cannot have drug dogs, immigration deportation teams, traffic enforcement cops British Transport police parking officers and many others simply swamp a community where relations are so bad.

There is a meeting of Lambeth Police Consultative group taking place this evening Tuesday 4th March at 5.30 at the Karibu Education Center Gresham Road SW9 where I will be raising these and other issues. Please do come along and have your say.

No to Operation SWAMP Brixton 2014

Racism in Britain Is Rising: What Do We Do Now ?

Peoples Parliament Meeting.

Racism and Injustice in the UK: 

Community campaigns and 

transforming Society

Tuesday 11th March 6.30pm – 8.30pm 

in Macmillan Room, Portcullis House.

Limited places! Book now you can find out more information here