Police to Stop and Search Less?

January 12, 2012 in Gus in the Media, Print

"MOD Police Search Dog", By Defence Images (Flickr)

The following letter was sent to the London Evening Standard on January 12th, 2012.

At long last police in London have acknowledged what young people, communities and academic researchers have been saying for decades and particularly since the escalation of stop and search operations, supposedly in an attempt to tackle gun and knife crime.  Stop and search is an oppressive, ineffectual and alienating form of policing, whether geared towards preventing or solving crime.

The problem with Bernard Hogan Howe’s targets for reducing stop and searches is that they are arbitrary.  Why aim at a 50% reduction in Section 60 stop and searches rather than the use of Section 60 only when there is firm and reliable evidence to warrant it?  And if stop and search is intelligence led, why do the police need Section 60 powers anyway? Read the rest of this entry →

Black, Asian, minority ethnic communities and inner city riots

November 29, 2011 in Gus talks, Speeches

The following speech was delivered at the “Beyond the Unrest – Community Safety & Civil Society” seminar, promoted by the BME Leadership & Engagement project, on November 29th, 2011.

The subject I have been asked to address is vast and it is simply impossible to do justice to it in the time I have been given.  For one thing, a ‘historical perspective’ raises the question:  where does history begin?

I say that because there have been riots in England involving ethnic minorities since the 12 century, at least.  At his coronation in Westminster Abbey on 3 September 1189, for example, Richard I barred all Jews and women from the ceremony, and when some Jewish leaders arrived to present gifts for the new king, his courtiers stripped and flogged them and ejected them from the Abbey.   A rumour spread that Richard had ordered all Jews to be killed and the people of London began a massacre, robbing Jews, beating them to death or burning them alive. Many Jewish homes were burned down, and several Jews were forcibly baptised.  Richard later punished those who were known to have been involved in the massacre.

To span the decades and centuries between 1189 and 2011 would be instructive if not deeply depressing.  More to the point, though, it would keep us here till this time next year and I do not for one minute suppose you love me that much.

So what I want to do is say something briefly about the types of riots there have been that have involved black and ethnic minority people and to look in more detail at the riots thirty years ago, the riots in August this year and what they tell us about the society and how the nation should respond if they are not to become an even more regular occurrence in a society that remains decidedly ill at ease with itself. Read the rest of this entry →

Riots: The People, the State and the Media

November 26, 2011 in Gus talks, Speeches

Prof. Gus John gave the keynote address at the Media and the Riots Conference’s Big Debate event on Saturday, November 26th, 2011, at the London College of Communication. The full text of his speech:

I thank Marc Wadsworth and his team for inviting me to share some thoughts with you at this most important debate.

I have to confess to a wearying sense of deja vu about all this, for reasons which will be apparent in the course of this presentation.

There has been much debate since the events of 6th August to 13th August 2011 as to whether what the nation had experienced was a riot, a race riot, an uprising, an attempt by organised gangs to subvert law and order and outwit the police on a massive scale, or an orchestrated and opportunistic outburst of criminal activity led by gangs and known criminals, with ‘feral’, ‘feckless’, ‘greedy’, thuggish and morally bankrupt ‘mobs’ joining them on a spree of burglary, looting, criminal damage and arson…, or all of those.

For me, the most disturbing thing about the way the nation responds to events such as the violent civil disorder last August is that politicians, the courts, the media and ‘disgusted of Wilmslow and Tunbridge Wells’ behave as if the civil unrest and those who engaged in it were suddenly visited upon an orderly, socially cohesive and consensual nation from nowhere and cannot, therefore, be treated as if they belong among us and should be guaranteed the same rights as us. Read the rest of this entry →

Open letter to Prime Minister David Cameron

August 13, 2011 in Gus talks, Open letters

This open letter was sent to the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, on August 13th, 2011.

Dear Prime Minister,

I write as someone whose contribution for more than four decades to the struggle for quality schooling and education for all and for racial equality and social justice is a matter of public record.  I write as a former youth and community worker, community development officer and director of education and leisure services whose work has been predominantly in urban settings.  I am a social analyst and professor of education.  I am interim chair of Parents and Students Empowerment, an offshoot of the Communities Empowerment Network which for the last twelve years has been providing advice, guidance and advocacy in respect of the one thousand (1,000) school exclusion cases on average we deal with each year.

It is with profound sadness that I write to you.

Sadness at the events the nation has witnessed since Thursday 4th August 2011 when a police operation in Tottenham, North London, resulted in the killing of Mark Duggan.

Sadness at the lives lost and families traumatised as the civil unrest spread across London and elsewhere in the country.

Sadness at the number of young people who are now being taken through the courts, most of whom will doubtlessly end up with criminal convictions, if not prison sentences, thereby compounding the social exclusion that had already engulfed many of them. Read the rest of this entry →

London Riots: a youthful underclass

August 11, 2011 in Gus in the Media, Print

Camden New Journal's website

Chalk Farm became one more of some unlikely places to be targeted by violent street protesters in the last few days.  It was also the scene of yet one more of those senseless killings of young people by their peers in recent months.  What is it that connects these events?

The serious violent unrest we witnessed in London since Saturday has involved principally the urban poor, unemployed and restive.  A majority of the protesters will have had the experience of being stopped and searched by the police repeatedly and would be aware of the number of deaths of black people in the custody of the police or while engaging with the police, typically with no action taken against those responsible for those killings.

It was always only a matter of time before the police use of ‘Stop & Search’ powers, however justifiably, resulted in an incendiary incident such as we saw in Tottenham on 6 August.  The conditions for what followed have always been there.  They were there in 1981 and have been there since, however much underlying factors may have altered. Read the rest of this entry →