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Policing Communities: Race, Class and the State

26/06/12

Breandán Mac CionnaithIn his role as a community activist, éirígí’s Breandán Mac Cionnaith recently attended a two day symposium held in the Tottenham area of London on June 19th and 20th.

Entitled “Policing Communities: Race, Class and the State”, the event brought together many prominent activists, human rights lawyers and others from the Irish, black, Islamic, and Traveller and Gypsy communities for a series of intense round-table discussions on the state, surveillance, and “public order policing”.

By bringing campaigners from key ‘suspect’ and ‘outcast’ communities together, the mini-conference was designed to maximize the lessons gleaned by grassroots community activists over their years of involvement in various campaigns. Among the topics discussed were matters relating to ‘security’, surveillance, saturation policing, stop and search, the use of plastic bullets, control orders and state intelligence gathering. Other issues under discussion included the use of secret evidence and secret courts, inquests, torture and the use of lethal force.

Speaking on his return, Mac Cionnaith said, “It was very clear throughout the course of the two days that the Black, Islamic and other communities are experiencing the same type of injustice and political policing on a widespread level that we frequently only associate with the Six Counties.

“The whole event allowed for a full exploration of those experiences and afforded everyone the opportunity to exchange and discuss various strategies aimed at combating the ever-increasing social control of communities evidenced through the so-called multi-agency approach, much favoured by politicians in both Westminster and Stormont and which is a central element in the British state’s ‘Prevent’ strategy.

“The symposium, organised by the Institute of Race Relations, an independent educational charity and anti-racist think-tank, saw the coming together of representatives from a wide range of organisations and groups including the Tottenham Defence Campaign, Cageprisoners, the Monitoring Group, Coalition Against Secret Evidence, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, Newham Monitoring Project, and the Federation of Gypsy and Traveller Liaison Groups.”

Many of these representatives, along with lawyers and academics, availed of the opportunity to sign an open letter to the Six Counties’ colonial overlord, Owen Paterson MP, calling on him to order the immediate release of Marion Price and Martin Corey, and which stated, “Both have been denied due process and have been returned to prison on the basis of spurious undisclosed ‘intelligence’. Their on-going and indefinite detention without trial is contrary to fundamental human rights principles.”

Additionally, all the various groups affirmed their opposition to plastic bullets and supported a demand for an outright ban on the weapons.

Mac Cionnaith also stated, “All of those in attendance were unanimous in their view that the conference should not be a one-off event, but the start of a series of similar events aimed at building solidarity, engagement and information and knowledge exchanges between marginalised and oppressed communities, irrespective of their colour, race or nationality.”

 

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