When Stephen met Trayvon

July 23, 2013 in Blog

Credits: "Stephen Lawrence memorial", by Darryl_SE7 (Flickr - CC BY-NC 2.0)

Credits: “Stephen Lawrence memorial”, by Darryl_SE7 (Flickr – CC BY-NC 2.0)

Stephen Lawrence – 1993 to 2013 and continuing… Trayvon Martin – 2012 to 2013 and continuing… So, who will guard and police the guards? Who and what are those guards protecting and on whose behalf?

When does ‘neighbourhood watch’ morph into vigilantism, with vigilantes exercising what they see as their moral and God-given right to determine who is acceptable in a neighbourhood and who is not; who could go visit residents without fear of challenge and who should just know that, if they do, they are eligible to be challenged by those who appoint themselves as gatekeepers to exclude people like them?

Who has the inalienable right to walk the street and go wherever they like, irrespective of their dress code and who does not? Who are immediately identified with those of their ethnic or social group who commit crime and engage in anti-social behaviour and from whom the same could be expected automatically and who are not?

Who can presume to have the protection of the law and the services of the police when their rights have been infringed and their person or/and property violated and who cannot?

Why should any society presume that it is held together by liberal democratic values and principles and can export those to, if not impose them upon, others when from childhood every African heritage person born in that country learns that they carry an ethnic penalty that restricts their freedom of movement and access to opportunity and that they forget that fundamental fact at their peril? Read the rest of this entry →

To iconize and canonize: Stephen Lawrence 20 years later

April 23, 2013 in Blog, Essays

From: The Guardian's website (http://bit.ly/11KVIgp)

From: The Guardian’s website (http://bit.ly/11KVIgp)

On 22 April 2013, senior representatives of the British state joined the Lawrence family in marking the 20th anniversary of the murder of 18 year old Stephen Lawrence by white racists. Leaders of the three main political parties and the Mayor of London attended a memorial service at St Martin in the Fields, near Trafalgar Square, to pay tribute to Stephen and to acknowledge ‘the debt the country owes to the Lawrence family for  refusing to give up, ensuring those who were guilty of Stephen’s murder were brought to justice’. 

Beguiling as some might have found it, there is something both fascinating and deeply disturbing about that memorial, the presence at it of those leaders of state and above all, about the statements they made.

In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were finally convicted of Stephen’s murder after repeated failures by the Metropolitan Police that arose from corruption, incompetence and what the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry led by retired judge, Sir William Macpherson called ‘institutional racism’. Indeed, the convictions were possible only because in 2005 the ‘double jeopardy’ law that had existed for 800 years was changed to allow a suspect to be tried again for the same offence if there was “new, compelling, reliable and substantial evidence”, which had not been previously available. Three suspects Gary Dobson, Neil Acourt and Luke Knight, had been acquitted following a private prosecution brought by Stephen’s parents in 1996. David Norris had not been prosecuted before. The Lawrence family is still hopeful that sooner rather than later they will see all of Stephen’s murderers behind bars. Read the rest of this entry →

Boris J. youth violence strategy: ‘sabotaged’ and ‘a shambles’

March 6, 2012 in Gus in the Media, Print

Boris Johnson’s undertaking to get to grips with knife and youth crime was one of the most welcome of his pledges during the last mayoral campaign. Since moving in to City Hall he’s put time and energy into delivering. But what has really been achieved?

Three members of an advisory group Boris set up to help him tackle serious youth violence have made known their disappointment with his administration’s approach to the issue. The educationalist and social investment consultant Professor Gus John describes the mayoral strategy as “directionless” and “a shambles.” Leadership coach and social policy adviser Viv Ahmun believes the group’s work was undermined by people around the mayor. Richard Taylor, the father of Damilola Taylor who was killed when aged 10 in south London in November 2000, was “hugely frustrated” by his experience with the mayor’s regime. Read the rest of this entry →

Justice for Stephen but racist murders continue apace

January 17, 2012 in Blog

Since the late 1990s and the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report, there has been the popular view that the head of the monster of racism in British society has been exposed and that the nation and its institutions are at last both aware and free of the perniciousness of racism.

Curiously, the conviction last week of Gary Dobson and David Norris has earned the Metropolitan Police many plaudits in an ever widening number of circles.  Yet, despite the Lawrence’s herculean struggle since 1993, this is a case of ‘justice delayed is justice denied’ in more ways than one.  Let us hope that the other killers of Stephen Lawrence will be brought to justice in his parents’ lifetime.

One of the dangers of locking in on a murder such as Stephen’s and on the Lawrence’s indomitable struggle for justice is that one murder becomes a ‘cause celebre’ and defines the state’s and the country’s attitudes to the outrage itself and to those centrally involved in it.  We need to remember, as the Institute of Race Relations points out, that there have been 96 racist murders since Stephen Lawrence was so savagely knifed to death in 1993.  Only a handful of those have had campaigns organised to secure justice and bring their murderers to book.  The nation does not know of the 96 or of how the police failed their families just as they did the Lawrences. Read the rest of this entry →

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 →