The Met police is collecting children’s personal data from social media as part of a project to revive the notorious “gangs matrix” they were forced to abandon in 2018. The large scale “profiling” operation is revealed in police documents and is known as Project Alpha. According the files, which have been seen by the Guardian newspaper, a unit with more than 30 staff was launched in 2019.
That’s just months after the Information Commission ruled that the gangs matrix should be shut down because it breached data protection laws. The cops admit Project Alpha targets males aged 15 to 21 and searches videos of musical genres, such as Drill, that are popular with young black people in the capital.
Officers claim to have “decoded” rappers’ lyrics and “hand gestures and symbolism.” But campaigners say cops have deliberately got the wrong end of the stick. Stafford Scott, a long-standing community organiser in north London, said he feared the project was part of a continued assault on young black people.
“Young people use social media to magnify their lived experience,” he said. “It is a tool for projection, you can’t rely on it for detection,” he said. He insisted Project Alpha is “racially motivated, racially driven and involves racial stereotypes.”
Campaigning group Stand Up To Racism is this weekend helping organise a major conference on racism in schools. The move comes after a string of revelations about racist policing of school children.
The event, entitled, “Conference for the Black Child—After Child Q, Racist Police Out of Our Schools” runs this Saturday from 11am until 5pm at Stoke Newington School in Hackney, east London. Speakers at the event include Diane Abbot MP, Professor Gus John, Voice newspaper editor Leroy Logan and NEU education union general secretary Kevin Courtney.
Weyman Bennett of Stand Up to Racism is also speaking. He told Socialist Worker that the conference was a vital step towards stopping the “illegal practice of strip searching our children in their schools”.
“We want the officers responsible for the strip searching of Child Q sacked, but more than that we want an end to the racist policing of young people,” he said.
“The conference can be a springboard to local campaigns and a national one that involves pupils, parents and educators in the big teaching unions.” Sessions will include—organising against racism in schools, racist police out of our schools, decolonising education and students and school students organising against institutional racism.
Police and the media seem keen to invent a gang war in south London. So in the run up to the bank holiday the repeated press version was “Parents and families have been warned about an upcoming ‘postcode war’ which has been planned by ‘gang members’ in South London.”
The Express offered “Horror TikTok warning as gangs of violent youths plan to storm leafy London park”. The BBC and others joined in. And to not calm things down Southwark cops tweeted “Police are aware of information circulating on various social media channels regarding possible violence in the Burgess Park area of SE5 on Thursday, 2 June.
“Anyone intent of committing criminal activity will be identified and dealt with.” However the cops tweeted at the end of the day. “Remember all that fuss on the socials & in the press about Burgess Park? Local people & community leaders helped @MPSSouthwark to defuse and de-escalate today No violence seen AT ALL!”
This follows a fair in Blackheath in April where despite press reports no victim of a stabbing emerged and reports of acid attacks were a fantasy.
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