Police racism runs far deeper than they admit
I was a student in Sheffield when Stephen Lawrence was murdered.
It was absolutely horrifying to discover that Stephen was killed simply because of the colour of his skin.
When petitioning in support of the Lawrence family I was struck by the number of people literally queuing up to sign their names.
This was evidence that the shock at the murder and at police failure to act went way beyond the African-Caribbean community.
It’s important to remember that the police had enough evidence to make arrests at the time. They received a total of 26 tip-offs naming the suspects within 48 hours of Stephen’s murder—countering the claim that there was a “wall of silence” around the killing.
It’s a tribute to the Lawrence family that they did not give up, and that the case has gained such public significance.
Tahera Aziz, South London
It is some justice at last that Gary Dobson and David Norris have been convicted of Stephen Lawrence’s murder.
But let us not forget the black and Asian people who have died in police hands since the 1999 publication of the Macpherson Report, which was supposed to challenge police racism.
And let’s hope that the others involved in Stephen’s killing are brought to justice.
Mitch Mitchell, Cambridgeshire
We should congratulate the cold case investigation team and forensic scientists who have helped to belatedly bring two of Stephen Lawrence’s killers to justice.
Perhaps it is now time for them to move on and investigate the death of Blair Peach with similar enthusiasm.
The New Zealand-born activist was knocked unconscious during a demonstration against the fascist National Front in Southall on 23 April 1979.
He died the next day.
The Metropolitan Police claims to have changed over the years since Stephen was murdered. A conviction for the member of the former Special Patrol Group responsible for striking Blair Peach would do much to show that it actually has.
So would a prosecution of the officer’s silent colleagues for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
John Hein, by email
Life in the debris of Dale Farm
I was at the Dale Farm Traveller site on the day of the eviction, and for a week afterwards until it became impossible to stay.
It looks like a no man’s land. Deep craters like shell holes litter the site’s five acres.
The council’s bailiffs have destroyed people’s homes and the very plots of land they were built on. In some plots they have dug down eight or nine feet.
They have also built up mounds of earth eight feet high that stop people from accessing some of the plots that they are still allowed to be on.
Sewer pipes have been cracked and broken, water pipes are dug up and leaking, and crater holes are filling up with a mixture from both.
The council maintains this wasn’t a spiteful eviction, stating the law has to be the same for everyone. But they conveniently ignore that Travellers have 90 percent of their applications for planning permission rejected—against 20 percent of non-Traveller applications.
The Dale Farm residents had told the council, the press and the world that they had nowhere to go. The council and local press orchestrated a rumour that the people of Dale Farm had houses in Ireland—something that they have never been able to prove other than with a nudge, a wink and a sly innuendo.
But then why have people stayed the time since October—including over Christmas—on a piece of muddy road, facing a bomb site overrun by rats, with the smell of raw sewage polluting their caravans, their clothes and their very lives.
The council hopes this misery will make the owners of the land leave. But this bit of land spoiled and contaminated by the actions of the council is the only home these people have.
They stay around it like refugees worldwide remain in their destroyed villages.
The Dale Farm people are now internal refugees in this country. Their community, their home has been torn asunder in the name of planning law, yet they remain in the debris.
Phien O’Phien, Pavee Advise, Assist & Direct
What ever happened to Hitchens’s socialism?
Alex Callinicos’ obituary has nicely summarised the contradictory traits in the life of Christopher Hitchens (Socialist Worker online).
First a socialist in his early life, he then became an American super-patriot when he settled in the US.
But what became of his socialist convictions and socialist ideas? He had strongly opposed US foreign policies. But then he had a change of heart.
He gave his approval to the criminal war of aggression unleashed by George Bush and Tory Blair, in which hundreds of thousands of Iraqis were massacred. He was happy with what the imperialists did in Iraq.
He was not a friend of the oppressed or of the victims of US imperialism.
Nasir Khan, by email
Is it not possible that Christopher Hitchens may have been recruited by MI6?
His support for wars made excellent propaganda for the establishment. He was prominent in the US media at the time.
Seumas Milne has written about how ITN reporter and newsreader Sandy Gall boasted about his work for MI6 during the 1984-85 miners’ strike.
It may be a long time ago, but I doubt the establishment has changed that much.
Patrick Quinn, Romford
Daily Mail boasts stink of hypocrisy
The Daily Mail is trying to take credit for the Stephen Lawrence case verdicts. It’s harder to imagine more blatant hypocrisy.
Papers like the Mail must take their share of the blame for legitimising the institutional racism exposed by the Lawrence case.
Its campaigns to vilify trade unions, protesters and “political correctness” pit it against all those who fight for justice.
The paper joined the campaign to identify and arrest people on the October 1993 anti-fascist demonstration that was attacked by police after Stephen’s death.
So why did the Mail eventually stick its neck out for the Lawrences?
According to investigative journalist Nick Davies, the Mail had originally intended to attack those who argued for an inquiry into the Lawrence case.
But when Hal Austin, the only black reporter on the Mail at the time, interviewed Neville and Doreen Lawrence, he realised that Neville had worked years earlier as a plasterer on the house of Mail editor Paul Dacre.
Only then did the news desk instruct Austin to “do something sympathetic” about the Lawrence case.
Alex Chandran, East London
The Tories are stuck in 1981
Newly declassified documents show many parallels between 1981 and 2011—a Tory government, riots, attacks on benefits and public services, and the length of the unemployment queues.
The mainstream media have homed in on Geoffrey Howe’s proposal of “managed decline” of Liverpool.
But perhaps this is where the similarity between past and present stops.
The current government seems willing to preside over the “managed decline” of the whole country.
Kathryn Rimmington, Portsmouth
Bankers will play for time
Last week saw the launch of yet more government consultation on ring‑fencing high street banks from the “casino banking” of the financial markets.
The Vickers report recommended this course of action, but gave no clue as to how it would work. And nothing is planned until 2015 at the earliest.
This isn’t surprising. The financial markets need the constant input of “real” capital to operate. So bankers don’t want any barrier between the two arms of banking.
Expect interminable delays on this “reform”!
Dermot Smyth, Chesterfield
Are our unions caving in?
I am concerned to hear the news that many trade union bureaucrats appear to have accepted a deal over the pensions dispute.
There is a huge gap between what union members are asking for and what the union bureaucracies are willing to negotiate for.
People may ask what the point of the strikes was if most union leaders cave into the government so easily.
Workers need to seize this opportunity to make sure their unions are representing their views properly.
Paul Collins, Oxfordshire
Korea needs real socialism
I couldn’t agree more with your call for genuine working class revolt against the elite that runs North Korea (Socialist Worker, 7 January).
You are right to stress the false nature of North Korean “socialism”. The state has starved ordinary workers of both food and power. The workers need to gain real power for themselves.
Graeme Kemp, Shropshire
Are free museums now history?
One of the last Labour government’s success stories was introducing free entry to museums and galleries.
This proved to be popular, particularly among families with young children.
Now up and down the country some local authorities are reviewing this policy.
Kirklees council in West Yorkshire is considering closing its museums for three months of the year.
John Appleyard, West Yorkshire
Who watches the Queen?
The audience for the Queen’s speech last year was three million.
But the BBC axed Mastermind because its viewing figures dropped below six million.
So why is this bloody awful royal propaganda still being broadcast?
William, by email
SW is wrong about Iraq war
Your editorial says that Iraq is not a victory for the West (Socialist Worker, 7 January).
But the US plans were to get rid of Saddam, gain greater access to Iraqi oil and stop a radical Shia regime emerging.
All three have been achieved. The costs in dead Iraqis, troops and money do not trouble the US government. The proof—where is the mainstream opposition to a war on Iran?
It gives me no pleasure to say it, but the US won.
Name withheld, Kingston-upon-Thames