Socialist Worker

Stop and search isn’t courteous

by Kevin Ovenden
Issue No. 1963

“Have you been stopped before?” “Yes, twice in the last two weeks,” I answer. The policeman at Euston tube station seems quite excited.

His excitement seems to mount as he rifles through my bag and pulls out a book. It’s a study of Islamism by the French professor of Middle East studies Gilles Keppel — it has the word jihad in the title.

“It’s a book,” I suggest. The uncomprehending look on his face says everything about the scapegoating, paranoid atmosphere the government has whipped up in the wake of the London bombings.

We are supposed to accept that Asian people like me have to accept being stopped, searched and stared at.

But it is all very courteous, say government ministers and their supporters, who, in their vast majority, will never be stopped and searched.

Courtesy is the last thing to expect if you are stopped.

There was the stop and search before this one, when I told the officer that though I had no right to refuse I thought the entire policy wrong. “Don’t you want to sort out the threat in your community?” he said.

There were the two masters of sarcasm who stopped me on Whitehall deciding that “hello” should be supplemented by a swift tap on the arm.

It’s not new, of course. A recent letter in one of the Tory papers suggested that black and Asian people were “obviously” not targeted by the police when the IRA ran the last bombing campaign in the City of London.

I was stopped four times driving through the “ring of steel” erected around the City.

Then there is the routine stop and search and the rigmarole at airport passport control.

The result of all this? You rage, as hundreds of thousands of black and Asian people in this country are raging.

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Sat 13 Aug 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1963
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