Socialist Worker


Issue No. 2109

Are black police part of the campaign for justice? (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

Are black police part of the campaign for justice? (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

It’s brave to speak out about racism in police

Sergeant Rajendra Joshi has made a very brave statement by writing about racism in the police (» Police officer explains how racism row shakes the Met , 5 July). I hope that readers realise the danger that he has placed himself in by standing up to be counted.

As a past member of the National Black Police Association and now retired from the police service, I can only say that I have the utmost admiration and respect for this officer.

He is truly aware that, “For evil to prevail it only requires that good people do nothing.”

In my experience in challenging intolerance within the police service for many years, I was made only too aware of how many “good” people there were, but in the main they just keep their heads down, and in doing so allow others – and the system – to persecute people.

Sir Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, likes to portray himself as a “liberal” and an exponent of his namesake Tony Blair’s policy of being “Tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime.”

Ian Blair issued a statement last week saying, “I believe I have a long, honourable and occasionally blood-stained record on the championing of diversity – not perfect but always principled and persistent.”

I know of no individual that I have worked with and stood beside while challenging the intolerances of the police service, that would have the arrogance to say this of themselves.

Clearly Sir Ian is living out the story of the “Emperor’s New Clothes” and surrounds himself with courtiers who do not inform him of reality.

The police service should be a guardian of human rights and not the oppressive arm of society.

We need fewer people like Ian Blair, and more like Rajendra Joshi.

I would commend all the readers of this newspaper to observe what happens to sergeant Joshi, for the police service and the establishment do not take being challenged lightly.

If history repeats itself, then some “fault” will be found with this officer and he will find himself subject to the disciplinary code.

Of course this will have nothing to do with challenging the system – it is just an amazing coincidence that this is what has happened to many others, who have trod this road.

Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, Newbury, Berkshire

I am pleased to see that some officers have the guts to stand up against racism in the police, but I believe they are fighting a losing battle.

Over ten years after the botched investigation into the murder of Stephen Lawrence, it seems institutional racism is still endemic in the force.

The police’s role in enforcing policies that criminalise young people, especially young black men, as well as carrying out headline-grabbing “terror raids”, means many black people have little or no faith in the police.

Sabiha Ghani, Manchester

A crucial win for civil liberties

As someone who has campaigned alongside human rights lawyer Aamer Anwar for many years, I was delighted to see him found not guilty of contempt of court (» Human rights lawyer cleared of contempt, 5 July).

Aamer has been a thorn in side of the authorities ever since he was adviser to the Chhokar Family Justice Campaign which exposed the institutional racism at the heart of the Scottish criminal justice system.

Aamer went on to campaign and represent asylum seekers and many others fighting for justice.

He has never been afraid to take on controversial cases.

The contempt charges related to a statement that Aamer read out on behalf of his client Mohammed Atif Siddique who was convicted on charges relating to terrorism.

The bulk of the evidence in Mohammed Atif’s case centred on reading material found on his computer. Aamer said that his client had been convicted of a “thought crime” and also commented on the hostile atmosphere surrounding the trial.

There has been a groundswell of support for Aamer.

In the run-up to the contempt of court hearing, hundreds of people signed an open letter in his defence – deploring racism, Islamophobia and attacks on free speech and civil liberties.

At a time when Islamophobia is increasing and the government is using the “war on terror” as an excuse to pass ever more draconian laws attacking our civil liberties, it is important to defend individuals who are being demonised and criminalised, and to defend our right to criticise the judiciary.

The law lords have recently revisited cases that seem to have similarities to Mohammed Atif Siddique and have quashed some convictions made under the most contentious anti-terror laws.

Mohammed Atif’s family, friends and supporters hope some legal grounds will yet be found to free him and address the original injustice.

Margaret Woods, Glasgow

Learn the lessons, say Italian partisans

Italian resistance fighters in the National ex-Partisans Association (ANPI) – who fought Mussolini’s fascists and Hitler’s occupation forces in the Second World War – recently held their first national festival.

It was a big success – about 30,000 people attended over the three days.

The ANPI opened up membership to non-partisans three years ago so the vast majority of people attending were the children and grandchildren of resistance fighters.

The most moving session discussed the reasons 35,000 women decided to become active partisans. Many women recalled the persecution of school children who did not join fascist youth organisations.

But the festival wasn’t just a series of history lessons. Rita Borsellino, sister of a magistrate killed by the Mafia, called for a new form of resistance against the Mafia.

It was very inspiring to see the commitment and anger from men and women well into their 80s about what is happening in Italy today.

Luigi Fiori, an 88 year old at the festival, said he was worried about the recent election of the “post-fascist” Gianni Alemanno as mayor of Rome.

“These people have learnt from the past and don’t come across as fascists. That’s what makes them even more dangerous,” he said

Tom Behan, Whitstable, Kent

Stop Manchester airport expansion

Manchester Airport was 70 years old last month.

The newly formed Stop the Expansion at Manchester Airport (Sema) coalition is urging contemplation not celebration – and it’s easy to see why.

Sema was formed to tackle the reckless attitude of the airport bosses and to ask for a halt to expansion, followed by a planned decline.

Sema is urging a responsible approach.

The umbrella group brings together environmentalists, NGOs, trade unionists and residents.

We are part of a growing global campaign against aviation expansion.

Manchester airport has planned on doubling its passenger numbers over the next decade.

It is aiming to do this by drawing in the budget airlines at a time when analysts are warning that high fuel costs forecast the end for these low cost airlines.

It is now widely recognised that aviation is a carbon intensive industry that is heavily subsidised.

We hope with the influence of Sema that the airport will learn to act its age, take it easy and retire.

Gayle O’Donovan, Manchester

More to read on Connolly

The articles on James Connolly by Dave Sherry (» Socialist rebel against the empire, 28 June and 5 July) make very interesting reading.

I would recommend any reader interested in the lives of two truly great men to read Rebel City: Larkin, Connolly and the Dublin Labour Movement by John Newsinger, Lion of the Fold by Donal Nevin – for a very in-depth look at the life and work of James Larkin – and The Life and Times of James Connolly by Charles Desmond Greaves.

Ronnie Williams, Runcorn, Cheshire

Tribute to Terry Fields

Merseyside anti-war activists salute the passing of Terry Fields who was a principled MP and fighter for his class.

He was a beacon of hope for the movement that defeated the Poll Tax and a ray of hope in the otherwise dark times of Thatcherism.

Unlike the slithery things that pass for Labour MPs today, Terry would have broken the whip and spoken out against the genocide in Iraq and Afghanistan and all forms of social injustices.

He will be sadly missed.

Mark Holt, Chair, Merseyside Stop the War Coalition

Don’t use the bosses’ terms

Your report about the Peterborough refuse workers who walked out to fight for their back pay was an important article (» Refuse workers walk out over single status, 5 July).

What wasn’t so good was the reference to them as “wildcat” strikers.

It was, apparently, an unofficial strike and they were rank and file workers.

Language is important. Let’s not use language of rags like the Daily Express and the Sun, which is the language of the employers, to describe collective determination to fight for pay justice.

It reminds me of the term “townships” used by South African whites when they were talking of cities of several hundred thousand such as Soweto.

A college principal once shouted at me during a teachers strike that he “would not be ruled by the mob”.

He clearly had not heard – and didn’t want to – of James Connolly’s magnificent phrase, “All hail to the mob – the great movers of history.” 

More strength to the Peterborough strikers – others should follow their example.

John Clossick, South west London

Population is a threat

I agree with virtually everything in John Molyneux’s article on world population (» Is the world full up?, 5 July).

However I still think that overpopulation is putting a terrible strain on the Earth’s resourses. For example fishing is harming the ecosystem and the production of harmful emissions is threatening the environment.

As for jobs, it’s easy to move a whole factory and make thousands unemployed in one area, but it is made extremely difficult for a thousand people to migrate to find work.

This is part of the dirty tricks of capitalism.

Dannie, Girona, Catalonia

Learn from birth of NHS

The BBC’s recent screening of The NHS: A Difficult Beginning showed how the formation of the NHS was an incredible breakthrough against all the odds.

The elite medical establishment completely opposed the proposed NHS.

Though this elite kicked and screamed in protest at the time, the NHS is now often seen as a “national treasure”.

We can learn a huge lesson from this.

In today’s climate of greed and indifference, we need to find a balance between money and “life” and so put our shoulder to the wheel for a better world.

Randolphe Palmer, Thaxted, Essex

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Article information

Tue 8 Jul 2008, 19:08 BST
Issue No. 2109
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