Socialist Worker

Notting Hill Carnival: cops and curfews

The police took out their anger over the riots on Notting Hill Carnival last week. Patrick Ward hears stories of police harassment on the streets

Issue No. 2267

Stop and search at Notting Hill Carnival (Pic: Smallman )

Stop and search at Notting Hill Carnival (Pic: Guy Smallman)

A record number of police officers swamped Notting Hill Carnival last bank holiday weekend.

Over 6,500 officers patrolled the carnival itself, with an extra 4,000 officers drafted in across the rest of London.

TJ, a student from Birmingham, spoke to Socialist Worker about police harassment.

“It puts your back up a bit,” he said.

“I didn’t like it. Last night police blocked off the area I was in and they didn’t say why. That’s what causes problems.

“That’s what started the riots, police harassing young people.”

The police lost face after they were unable to prevent the widespread riots last month, and they were desperate to show their authority.

Over a million people came to carnival this year.

Police enforced Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act across London for the period of the carnival.

This meant that police had far greater powers to stop and search individuals who they believed may be carrying weapons. But a large number of those arrested were for drug possession.

Police are most likely to detain young black men under the law.

Michael, from south London, was angry at police actions on Sunday night. “They were intimidating, lining up in rows and blocking off areas,” he said. “It was really quiet at the time, it wasn’t necessary.”

The police ordered an early curfew. Teams of police forcefully cleared the streets of anyone still enjoying carnival by 7pm.

A police helicopter hung in the air above the party-goers, overpowering the music.

“The police are definitely the biggest group in costume,” joked Ali, from east London, as a column of police swarmed by him on Westbourne Park Road.


Major transport links to Notting Hill were tightly policed with metal detectors and sniffer dogs.

At Kings Cross underground station, a line of police with dogs and knife arches hauled anyone they thought looked suspicious over to the wall to search them, or into a room where several could be searched at a time.

“Why are you doing this to me?” shouted one middle aged black man as he was searched by two officers against a wall.

“I went through the detector, I don’t have a knife. The dogs didn’t smell anything.”

One young man hesitated as he turned the corner and saw the police. He was grabbed by a plain clothes officer and taken away to be searched.

The Notting Hill Carnival is the largest such event in Europe.

The police have repeatedly attempted to shut it down since it began in 1959 as a festival of resistance to racism.

Heavy-handed policing has led to clashes between police and revellers on several occasions.

But despite the police presence—and the media scaremongering over further rioting and looting—the event continues to be a huge celebration of multiculturalism.

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Article information

Tue 30 Aug 2011, 17:11 BST
Issue No. 2267
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