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  • Police heavy-handedness at Notting Hill Carnival

    by Sunny
    28th August, 2008 at 10:30 am    

    The letters page of thelondonpaper yesterday was full of angry people. Some were angry at Mayor Boris Johnson’s lame performance at the Olympics handover, and others were angry at the newspaper’s article yesterday that black youths were rioting at the Notting Hill Carnival. The original article, unsurprisingly, was mostly the result of police briefing, with its clear bias.

    Most of the letter writers, who said they were white, said they saw the police being completely over-the-top in harassing and targeting black youths at the carnival, to the point that it was clearly agitating people. One local resident pointed out that in previous years when the police were more relaxed, the mood at the carnival was much better. Another said he was disgusted by the racist comments that some policemen were making.

    In one sense it’s a low level campaign to challenge the legitimacy of the carnival. When Boris will look to pull the carnival’s funding, he’ll use the “violence” as his excuse. The police and the media will be on hand to help out on that front. Let’s see how long it takes.

    For another example, see this Daily Mail article challenging the legitimacy of “black history” by insinuating that Winston Churchill is being ditched instead. See Akela’s diary for a rebuttal.

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    Filed in: Race politics

    17 Comments below   |  

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    1. 5cc — on 28th August, 2008 at 11:03 am  

      The BNP are already using it as an excuse to call for the pulling of the Carnival until ‘the African Carribean community learns to control its violent and aggressive young men,’ over at the blog of Chief Goon Barnbrook in the Telegraph in the wonderfully titled (but totally not racist) titled post “Smile, we’ve all just been mugged”

      It seems Muslims have been supplanted as chief BNP hate group by black people.

    2. Col — on 28th August, 2008 at 12:54 pm  

      Does anyone seriously believe that police officers, on duty at Carnival in 2008, would be making racist comments to members of the public? Are you wring a script for Life On Mars?

      I too was at Carnival and what I saw was 1) Highly professional police officers managing the crowds in a competent and non-aggressive manner 2) Thousands of Londoners of all ethnicities having a great time 3) a small minority of mainly (but not exclusively) black young men behaving like arseholes - shoving, shouting abuse, chucking cans and bottles.

      Do you know what the biggest problem is? Not the bad behaviour itself but the way that utter idiots like Sunny seek to excuse thuggery and even turn reality on its head by blaming the police.

    3. terrry — on 28th August, 2008 at 12:59 pm  

      I wondered why that guy in Clifford Road was chased down, beaten up and stabbed in the back twice. It’s all because of police heavy-handedness. Why didn’t I see that.

    4. Sunny — on 28th August, 2008 at 3:19 pm  

      Does anyone seriously believe that police officers, on duty at Carnival in 2008, would be making racist comments to members of the public

      The comments were made amongst themselves, and overheard by white members of the public. That was in the letter.

      I know its hard for some of you to believe, but it happens.

    5. Leon — on 28th August, 2008 at 3:56 pm  

      No one believes brutality exists until they or someone they know feels the smack of a truncheon…it’s just the way of things.

      Black (and Asian I might add) have been victimised for decades by the police in this country, and still people act like they’re all little angels doing a public service.

    6. Dan Wright — on 28th August, 2008 at 3:58 pm  

      It does make me laugh that people call for the banning of the NHC due to a few trouble makers.

      (I’m white and not partcularly interested in attending the NHC or any other carnival,btw).

      Violence is a part of British culture. Every day there is violence in Britain.

      Black kids throwing bottles? - Well, that’s something no white kids in Britain would ever do is it?

      It’s not like we’re a nation globally infamous for our football hooligans, is it?

      Ban the NHC on “violence” grounds but first ban footabll and ban pubs.

    7. halima — on 28th August, 2008 at 4:24 pm  

      The problem i have with coverage on the Notting Hill carnivel is this:

      people see it as an event that black people are responsible for - why? so we can blame the black community (whoever they are, as though they are one community) for lack of policing? It’s our event, a publc event more broadly that belongs to London. Like the London tube. It’s not ‘their’ problem as though we live in a world where black and white people divide on these issues.

      When we consider English football hooliganism we don’t start discussing the white community’s failure to police hooliganism? We discuss it as a national issue, one where we seek solutions, but don’t push ownership and management of the problems onto the white community( whoever they may be).

      It’s the largest festival in Europe, and sure, there’s an issue around policing, and we shoudl manage it, but there’s no call for police treating black young people as though they’re fatalistically violent when in groups.

      It’s terribly un -PC to say this, but there’s that mentality, when we see black or asian kids in groups we tend to over-react, as though they will do something bad.. because they’re together. Visibility and numbers seem to cause alarm. It’s as though we want our non-white kids to just hide all the time, and not take to the streets and public spaces.

      I don’t know the numbers but in an event the size of Notting Hill some violence is to be expected.

      As someone points out .. the police aren’t angels.. we’re forgetting how the police institutionally behave and history has been to criminalise black youths in the past, and since the war on terror, young asian lads have suffered the same treatment….

      I liked the analogy on football. you should hear what other Eurpeans say about English football violence, and our town centres and binge drinking which is a major consideration for tourists coming to Britain.

      I don’t see calls to ban drinking in the UK due to excessive bing drinking and the violence that arises from it.

    8. Shamit — on 28th August, 2008 at 7:38 pm  

      Today the senior most BME police officer of the metropolitan force complained to the Employment Tribunal for the treatement he has been receiving from the Commissioner. So, it does not take much to believe that the police force is racist.

      But, police officers are members of our communities. The metropolitan police force’s composition does reflect the wider London Society. And, therefore, if racism (btw, I find Asians also quite racist towards others) exists in the police force, it exists because racism exists in wider society.

      A British Asian Police Officer (a personal friend) told me last night — that the police had intelligence that there would be serious trouble (in terms of gang revenge etc) at the Carnival and thats why they made some preemptive strikes and confiscated weapons, drugs and curtailed gang activities prior to the carnival. And, the chaos this weekend was a reprisal against the police action prior to the carnival.

      Policing London is not easy — and they are damned if they do and damned if they dont. And, I find it hard to believe that police officers in 2008 (where there were a lot of BME police officers) would be making open racist comments which were somehow overheard by some “white” bystander. By giving credence to heresay, aren’t we also following the Daily Mail?

      Also, why didn’t this concerned citizen go and file a complaint rather than writing a letter in a newspaper. If you think the police behaved wrongly there are very effective procedures now to address them.

      If you go to Liverpool/Merseyside, the police is said to be against the poor people and working class estates — but those estates are where most crimes take place and children are shooting at children. And they are white. So there police is not called racist but against poor people.

      In London, black teenagers are dying at the hands of other black teenagers and gang war is a reality in many parts of our capital. And the police would say they were trying to protect black lives and you would find it hard to argue against it.

      So, attacking the police and clubbing them all in one racist group is as wrong as saying all black people are criminals or all Asians are terrorists.

      There are bad apples in every group and why should the police be any different.

      But the bigger question is this — should the police wait for something to happen (where another or more young lives are lost) or they take preemptive action before hand.

      Boris Johnson is a politician and I doubt he is politically that inept to challenge the legitimacy of the Carnival. And even if he does, I doubt very much if that is going to go very far. And, this would be used against the Tories in the General Election as being racist — Boris would most likely lose the next election.

      So, people take a chill pill — the Carnival is going no where and the police is more professional now than it has ever been in the history of this country.

      If we do believe that our society is not broken then these are aberrations than the norm. However on the other hand, if you believe this is the norm, then you support Cameron’s argument that our society is broken - which apparently Boris does not believe.

    9. Ravi Naik — on 28th August, 2008 at 7:48 pm  

      Policing London is not easy — and they are damned if they do and damned if they dont. And, I find it hard to believe that police officers in 2008 (where there were a lot of BME police officers) would be making open racist comments which were somehow overheard by some “white” bystander. By giving credence to heresay, aren’t we also following the Daily Mail?

      Well said, Shamit.

    10. ramiie — on 28th August, 2008 at 10:29 pm  


      As the token Black male on this site, I should like to thank you for your comments. I would however like to correct you on one thing: NHC is, in fact, an important African Caribbean cultural product transplanted to the UK. I agree with you that in recent years the festival has grown in popularity with everyone else (everyone loves a good party) but it remains an event firmly rooted in the African Caribbean experience - a signifer for resistance to oppression in the West Indies and here. I make no apologies for that, and I wouldn’t expect any Asian person to apologise for Diwali. Truth is..even if all non-africans decided to boycott the annual event, it will still be celebrated by us (unless of course it is shut down by: the Police, the BNP, the White British Media, a craven cryptofascist government and liberalfascists who opine for the Guardian.

      The fact of the matter is that our carnival is under grave threat by the powers that be. It’s not hard to understand is now a successful Europe beating festival, an popular feature in the European calendar of public festivals..and the likes of Simon Heffer et al find that kind of success nothing short of an abomination.

      The festival will of course be winded down over the next decade. “Common Sense and fair play” that trusty British ideological neutron bomb will take advantage of the apolitical, consumerist folly of the current generation of Blacks and the festival will be moved to Hyde Park, where it will be castrated (no sound systems) or turned into another flaccid British Party in the Park. I have no illusions about that one. Violence by a few mindless thugs won’t be the catalyst for change, but merely the fig leaf for the racist machinations of the whites and their acolytes on the right & left of the political spectrum

      Yet its all part of our (Black and poor Asians) experience of resistance to oppresion. The Carnival spirit has always/will always represent a challenge to a still oppressive and racist status quo. And while the celebration of that spirit may be banned or hemmed in, it will always live in us.


    11. Dave S — on 29th August, 2008 at 4:01 am  

      Shamit @ 8:

      Also, why didn’t this concerned citizen go and file a complaint rather than writing a letter in a newspaper. If you think the police behaved wrongly there are very effective procedures now to address them.

      I’m afraid that while, on the surface, this appears to be the case, it isn’t really so.

      You complain to the IPCC, and very little happens. They are next to useless, so much so that it’s pretty much not worth the bother of filling in the forms.

    12. Informer — on 29th August, 2008 at 11:08 am  

      “…my people perish from a lack of knowledge” and “…where there’s no vision, the people cast off restraint”. The problem is that society’s answer to non-compliance is prison rather than education.

      Caribbean “carnival” is an annual rememberance of the one day, given to slaves by their French owners, to walk on the streets and masquerade.

      The police are needed in carnival. The youth are needed in carnival. Exclude any and we’re in big trouble. Both need educating. On carnival Monday I experienced beligerance from the police and at the same time, bloody-mindedness from some youth, thinking they were having fun.

      Finally, we need to make a distinction between misguided youth and career criminals. The police must keep up a heavy hand on criminals attempting to use any event to peddle death and misery. But more needs to be done to help the youth understand their choices.

    13. The Scribe of Rotten Hill — on 29th August, 2008 at 2:38 pm  

      I was caught up in the violence on Monday I won’t go into too much detail here (you can read it on my blog. I suspect the couple of beers I’d had prevented me from feeling truly scared.

      I honestly didn’t think about any racial element at the time so I didn’t notice the colour of the perpetrators, nor do I care (though for the record it’s clear to me that, wrong as it may be, it’s to do with being underprivileged rather than belonging to any specific ethnic group - to wit, i could be any of us).

      I was lucky and maybe I’d feel differently if I’d emerged from underneath the flats on Ladbroke Grove a few inches to the left as the first bottle whizzed past my ear, but honestly even with the increased Police powers, that few arrests out of well over 1,000,000 people?!! I’d be interested to know what the average arrest rate on a normal day is for comparison.

      Yes. some among us are predisposed towards causing trouble and I’m sure some cops are predisposed towards saying un PC stuff to each other (there’s a touch of the macho rugby club syndrome in any tight knit group of people who all work and play together and stress brings out both the best and worst in us). It’s bad, but it’s not all THAT bad.

      I won’t hear of it as an excuse to close down Carnival (that would have happened after 1976 if it was going to) and I don’t believe BoJo will either.


    14. Sofia — on 29th August, 2008 at 3:03 pm  

      My sister went to the carnival on children’s day and had a great time…she went with her two kids. I used to live pretty close to the area and heard lots of great stories of how wonderful the atmosphere etc was. Only when we turned on the local london news would we hear about the trouble…the carnival is a huge tourist attraction (I remember seeing posters up in Chatelet les halles metro station in paris and thinking how amazing it was that people would come from other countries specifically for our west london carnival)…as mentioned in other posts..nobody cries that football should be stopped because of a hand full of (bnp) fascist hooligans. Nobody compensated my parents when their front garden looked like the local pub dustbin after a match..or the fact that the alley way adjacent to their house was used as a public toilet…but this was back in the 80s and the council actually made some changes…i don’t see why the same can’t be done for the carnival…maybe a bit more community liaison between police officers and the local community (and not just when they’re arresting someone or when there is an event coming up). I’m sure there are some serial offenders (much like their football hooligan counterparts), who cause most of the trouble..focus on them and don’t blame the event.

    15. billaricaydickey — on 29th August, 2008 at 4:33 pm  

      As always Halima, a breath of fresh air, “so you are darlin”, as one of my two Irish grandmothers would say.

      I must be careful otherwise I will be deleted by Sunny and co, but there is a violent, agressive and criminal element among, mainly young black men, who attend the Carnival.

      This is fuelled by the “race industry”, the black press and the whole “hip hop” smack up your bitch, get rich or die young culture which, is unfortunately, now permeating into others like the Bangladeshi.

      I am just off Brick Lane and, in terms of aggresive young men, could be anywhere from Brixton to South LA.

      Just been to the Anarchist bookshop, Freedom Books, and picked up a copy of” Bash the rich: The class war radical history tour of Notting Hill” by Tom Vague. I always cast doubt on anything when, as in this case, some of it is a load of crap.

      People who have seen me post before will know that, as far as I am concerned, people like Frank Critchlow, Darcus Howe etc were little more than pimps posing as revolutionaries. Critchlow certainly was one.

      I have also said, backed up by no less a person that Brian Paddick, that Lee Jasper was a “street hustler”.

      Look at what has happened in these terms and also that in 1976 Howe was winding up the “yoot” to riot.

      I don’t want deleting or slagging off, I was there and I know these people as well as where the bodies are buried.

      Sunny and Leon. You guys tend to run away from difficult subjects do you not?

      Halima, Afia is singing tonight next to the baths in Roman Rd.

    16. ramiie — on 29th August, 2008 at 4:47 pm  

      Informer..i think you have been laughably misinformed when you write:

      “Caribbean “carnival” is an annual rememberance of the one day, given to slaves by their French owners, to walk on the streets and masquerade. ”

      There are no carnivals in French Caribbean territories, did you know that? Read my type..the English speaking islands created their own take on the European carnivals to celebrate emacipation from slavery. Its a well known fact actually, if you took the trouble to find out.

      So much information can the informer learn. Hopefully.

      billarickay..certainly we dont need your bigoted type at our cultural event.Please stay away, and dont even comment on it.

    17. billaricaydickey — on 29th August, 2008 at 4:53 pm  


      I was organising festivals with ethnic minorities befir you were born and I will do and say anything I like.

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