On 22 March, three South Asian men were arrested in Beeston. Subsequently it has been reported that they were being held for questioning in relation to bomb attacks in London. Police were given first one week and subsequently another week’s extension to hold the men for questioning in London.
At the same time as the arrests, searches began at the houses where they lived and a number of other houses in the Beeston area. Families – including women and young children – were given 15 minutes to leave their house and were only allowed to take with them essential items like a few clothes and items for children. All mobile phones and bank cards were confiscated.
Following the arrests, the families were not allowed back in the houses which were guarded by police stationed outside on the pavement, making them easily identifiable.
The media once again reported the arrests and speculated on the links between these recent arrests and the bombing attacks of 7 July 2005 Little attention was drawn to other similar raids and arrests in East London and Birmingham, when those arrested were later released without charge.
The addresses and houses being searched were identified by the media in such a way that they could be targeted later for racist attacks. After one week, at least one family has been told to return to their house, without being reassured or offered any protection from racist attacks.
Families feel that they have been abandoned and left to cope on their own at a time when hysteria is being whipped up by the media. They feel that they have been found guilty on the basis that all Muslims are treated as suspects and terrorists. They have little information about what is happening to their husbands, brothers and sons.
We, the undersigned, residents and people active with churches and other organisations in Beeston, are concerned about what is happening:
These men are innocent until proven guilty. No charges have been made to date. They are being held for questioning for long periods, justified by the threat to public security. Yet in other places, men have subsequently been released, without charge.
As far as we are aware, there is no principle of collective punishment in the UK. Families, including young children, have been thrown out of their homes and feel targeted and threatened by the media. Women have been left to cope with all the problems, uncertainty and fear.
Once again, Beeston is being portrayed a place of hate and tension, source of extremism. Time will tell whether there is any evidence of criminal activities by the arrested men.
In the meantime, we the undersigned residents and members of churches and other organisations from Beeston, want to confirm that, in this community, people from different religions and no religion, people who have lived here all their lives and those who have come from other countries, are happy to live in peace, side by side. We want to protest against the lengthy detention of these men, the treatment of their families and all those who use this opportunity to fan hatred against the men, women and children of the Muslim faith.
Steve Johnston (South Leeds Community Alliance, Beeston Respect), Ejaz Hussain (South Leeds Community Alliance, Beeston Respect), Ed Carlisle (Together For Peace, Beeston resident), Jane Tate (Beeston resident, South Leeds Asylum Seekers Helpers), Reverend Stephen Day, Al Garthwaite (Video Vera, Beeston resident), Rob Hardy (Beeston resident), Sally Kincaid (Beeston resident, South Leeds Community Alliance), Dave Berryman (local church leader), Tony Lee (local church leader), M Rashid (Beeston resident), James Dean (Beeston Respect, Beeston resident), Amar Ali (Beeston resident)