Memories of Battersea: Mohamed

Memories of Battersea is a video oral history project run by Spectacle and funded by the Wandsworth Grant Fund. The project gives young adults from Battersea the opportunity to be trained in film-making while producing short films about their neighbourhood, collecting memories from elder Battersea residents, bridging intergenerational gaps and engaging with the history of their borough.

In this video, we meet Mohamed Ali, a local community organisation founder and Battersea resident who immigrated from Somalia with his family in the late 90s to seek a better life away from the on-going Somali civil war.

Mohamed Ali, local Battersea resident and founder of Elays Network.

Mohamed spends his time working in the R & E Centre on St Rule Street in the SW8 area. He started Elays Network to work primarily in youth development and education but as the organisation expanded, they began to involve men and women of all ages in various activities, focusing on building bridges between the migrant communities and the host communities.

Most recently some of the organisation’s women came together to curate an event called Somali Women in the Arts which saw them exhibit their artwork, from paintings to poetry, in the Battersea Power Station.

Somali Women in the Arts exhibition, held at the Battersea Power Station.

He talks about his early experiences adjusting to life in London, the urban development and gentrification in Battersea and its impact on the lower and working class, the establishment of the Somali community within the borough of Wandsworth and how he founded Elays Network. He also relives some key events of how Elays has helped to strengthen and and bring together the Battersea community, as well as suggesting how the migrant and host communities should move forward in becoming a better integrated, accepting and united society.

Watch the full film here on Vimeo.

Visit Spectacle’s Memories of Battersea channel on Vimeo to watch other episodes featuring Battersea residents’ unique stories.

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The truth about torture, terrorism and secrecy – as told by Britain’s former spy chief

 

 

 

 

 

 

A year ago, the former head of MI5, Eliza Manningham-Buller, raised eyebrows in the darker recesses of Whitehall by telling some home truths in her BBC Reith lectures about the security and intelligence agencies.

She returns to her three key themes – torture, terrorism and secrecy – on Thursday with the publication of a short book, Securing Freedom, based on those lectures. It is a refreshing antidote to the rhetoric deployed by ministers and their acolytes who appear too frightened to come clean on any issue relating to that elusive but overarching concept of “national security”. Here are some points that MI5, MI6, the CIA and the new justice secretary Chris Grayling should note:

1. “Torture is illegal in our national law and in international law. It is wrong and never justified … Torture should be utterly rejected even when it may offer the prospect of saving lives … I am confident that I know the answer to the question of whether torture has made the world a safer place. It hasn’t.”

MI5 and MI6 remain embroiled in the unresolved dispute about their role in the abuse and torture of terror suspects. The government tried to push allegations under the carpet by compensating UK residents and citizens taken by the CIA to Guantánamo Bay – and no sooner had it done so than evidence emerged in Libya showing how MI6 helped arrange the abduction of Libyan dissidents to Tripoli, where they say they were tortured by Muammar Gaddafi’s secret police. “There are clearly questions to be answered about … whether the UK supped with a sufficiently long spoon,” says Manningham-Buller, who was head of MI5 at the time. MI6, which was ultimately accountable to then foreign secretary, Jack Straw, says the rendering of the dissidents to Libya in 2004 was authorised by ministers.

2. “Rushing to legislate in the wake of a terrorist atrocity is often a mistake,” says Manningham-Buller in a clear reference to the Blair government’s practice of drawing up more and more “counter-terrorism” laws, a practice sharply criticised by Ken Clarke, now sacked as justice secretary. “We compound the problem of terrorism if we use it to erode the freedom of us all,” she adds. To the surprise of her former colleagues in MI5, she used her maiden speech in the Lords to attack the Labour government’s proposal to detain suspected terrorists without charge for up to 42 days.

Will the reshuffled government succumb to pressure from the security and intelligence agencies and introduce more laws they hope will frighten terrorists, ignoring the root causes? Governments, including the British, talk to terrorists, and, Manningham-Buller reminds us, they have “too often preferred the stability of the devil we know to the uncertainties of democracy” – a reference to the Arab spring and Britain’s close relations with Middle Eastern autocracies.

3. “The scrutiny of the security and intelligence agencies will evolve, and it is right that it should. But, given that intelligence to counter these threats will still be needed, that scrutiny will never be able to be transparent. For to secure freedom, within a democracy and within the law, some secrets have to remain.” And there’s the rub. “Overt information may be more important than secret intelligence. There are those, the sceptical observers I wish the readers of intelligence to be, who believe that governments hype threats for their own purposes to ensure legislation proceeds through parliament.”

The coalition government is determined to push through into law its “justice and security” bill designed to prevent any information from the security and intelligence agencies, domestic or foreign, from ever being disclosed in court. The very existence of such secret hearings would be secret, if the government has its way. Ironically, its fate may well end up in the hands of Manningham-Buller and others in the (unreformed) House of Lords.

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HSBC guilty but walk free, Shaker Aamer innocent but still in Guantanamo.

You get the justice you can afford…

According to the media, the City of London’s reputation has been severely damaged by HSBC’s money laundering scandal. What rubbish. It’s favourable services offered to the drug dealing and terrorist communities is precisely what gives the City its “competitive edge.” However, the City of London’s competitors may be a little more squeamish (or tightly regulated) to profit from such rich pickings.

So what happens to those caught red handed abetting Al Qaeda and drug dealing organisations?  They resign, say sorry and promise not to do it again.

HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA)’s head of group compliance, David Bagley, was faced with charges that HSBC gave terrorists, drug cartels and criminals access to the U.S. financial system by failing to guard against money laundering. The result; Bagley stated at a Senate hearing that he will step down. He has also been told to release a formal apology.

 

Compare this to how people like Shaker Aamer are treated. Shaker, a completely innocent man cleared for release but, even today, still stuck in  Guantanamo in a nightmare limbo. He had been  extraordinarily rendered from Afganistan, tortured and imprisoned for more than 10 years without trial or access to his family.

You can watch Spectacles new film on Shaker Aamer’s story here and sign the petition here.

You could also compare it to how ‘rioters’ were treated following the London riots in August 2011. Mother-of-two Ursula Nevin,  was jailed for five months for receiving a pair of shorts that had been looted from a city centre store, and Nicholas Robinson was jailed for six months for stealing a case of water worth £3.50.

So when the media talk about restoring the “City’s reputation” what they mean is restoring the cosy myth of decent trustworthy pinstripped chaps simply being better at “invisible exports” than their counterparts in Paris, Amsterdam, New York or Frankfurt. The big mistake, as was the case for Ursula Nevin and Nicolas Robinson, was being caught. The real loss of reputation is among the drug cartels and terrorists. Can they really trust the City of London to keep their operational secrets?

One wonders what the reaction might be if the bank and bankers in question were Islamic, or from say Iran or Gaddaffi’s Libya. Would it be a completely different story…?

Spectacle has made a short film about Shaker Aamer to mark the 10th anniversary of his incarceration. Watch Spectacle’s new video on Shaker Aamer and please sign the petition @ www.freeshaker.com. Get him out of Guantanamo!

Order Spectacle’s DVD Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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Olympic Borough Racist Policing and Selective Security

 

© Copyright Danny Robinson Forest Gate Police Station (Danny Robinson) / CC BY-SA 2.0

 

Forest Gate Police Station located in the Olympic borough of Newham is at the centre of alleged racist assault. The London Olympics website states that the Olympics are a “celebration of different cultures” and that “diversity was a key reason why London, one of the most multicultural cities in the world” was chosen to host the events. However, these testimonies of ‘celebrating diversity’ have been subsequently undermined from the allegations of racism from members of the Metropolitan police, which could be seen as a form of institutional racism.

These allegations of racism echo previous instances of institutional racism which have have been resistant to change. In the 1970s there was a report from a school boy in the borough of Newham who was attacked shows that the resilience of institutional racism in the face of police reform.  When the boy was taken by his employer to Forest Gate Police Station to report the incident the police officer, a character that resembled a Dixon of Dock Green style Desk Sergeant on hearing the story bent down under the counter, pulled out a double barrel shot gun and asked: ” Was he Black? We’ll get him wont we lads?” to the cheers of the other police officers in the station. When the Desk Sergeant heard that the assailant was white, and not black and leant his address he sighed, “Oh that lot. That family are well known”. No further action was taken.

The professionalism of the Metropolitan police force has once again come under scrutiny after new reports of racism have emerged.  Hours after PC Alex MacFarlane was recorded on a mobile phone apparently using racist and abusive language, a colleague PC Joe Harrington was allegedly recorded in the custody suite assaulting a teenage boy.

In the first incident of the alleged racial abusive language recorded by Mauro Demetrio, 21, on his mobile phone PC MacFarclane is heard saying that “You’ll always have black skin colour” has been recently suspended. While  PC Harrington was not heard making racist comments on the recording he was one of the three officers investigated for the alleged assault of Mauro Demetrio.

Soon after Demetrio was held custody at Forest Gate police station where he witnessed PC Harrington allegedly assault a 15 year old boy who was handcuffed. Demetrio stated that he saw PC Harrington kick the teenager in the back of the leg and once he was on the floor, kneed him in the back.

After Demterio’s report has been made public, a separate Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) investigation was launched into the case of the 15 year old and subsequent CCTV footage of the incident has been found.

The close proximity of these events which occurred during the London riots last August has caused concerns over the way police officers operate.  More controversy has arisen due to the initial advice from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) police complaints department that neither officer should be charged . This has subsequently caused pressing reviews by the CPS.

In recent years security has become a central issue in the planning of the Olympics, as the games will see some 12,000 police officers patrolling the streets of London at any one time as well as 5,000 military troops supporting them. However, are the recent allegations of racism undermine the security projects planned for the Olympics?  A spokesperson for the Newham Monitoring Project has stated that even “after years of re-branding its poor reputation of racial inequality, the culture of racism within the Metropolitan police is still deeply embedded.” “With 12,000 police officers based in Newham during the Olympics the borough’s black communities face the prospect of a regime of repressive policing” that mirrors an apartheid approach to policing. Black Olympic athletes may want to think twice about sightseeing in Newham.

 

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Olympics, Advertising and the Riot Panel’s call to curb Aggressive Marketing

The imminent Olympics will take place in a city still recovering from the riots. Seven months ago we were shocked by the images that dominated our television screens. The riots, in which around 15,000 people took part, were characterized by the looting of designer stores, such as Footlocker, JD Sports, Orange, O2 and Adidas. Roughly 50 per cent of the recorded offences from the riots were acquisitive in nature. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel, established by the Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and the Leader of the Official Opposition, this week published a report documenting the panel’s findings and recommendations to help prevent future riots. Rampant materialism is considered an underlying cause of last year’s lawlessness. In addition to the lack of economic opportunities, a breakdown of community ties and the loss of trust in the police and public sector, the panel considered aggressive advertising of designer brands a key cause of last year’s rioting. Aggressive marketing and enforcement of branding creates a demand for objects that low-income sectors of the society simply cannot afford. Big businesses, targeting children and young adults, have created a damaging consumerist culture in some of the most deprived parts of the country. In fact, the panel’s Neighbourhood Survey found that 85 per cent of people feel advertising puts pressure on young people to own the latest products and two-thirds of people feel materialism among young people is a problem within their local area.
Yet, aggressive advertising is a big feature of the Olympics (the LOGOC* have their very own report entitled Brand Protection) and ambush marketing (the association and consequent capitalization on a particular event without paying sponsorship fees) is one of the London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games’s major concerns. In addition to the concentration of world-famous sporting personalities, the Olympics has now become an effective publicity platform for the advertisement of a plethora of objects, many of which are completely unrelated to sports. In an attempt to keep up with a world rebuilt in a corporate image, the Games have secured sponsorship deals domestic and abroad, ironically culminating in a £20m-plus sponsorship deal with Cadbury. In light of the UK’s childhood obesity problem, some argue that a sweet brand should not promote a sporting event.
The Games now embody changes in our society that are incredibly remote from their notional or founding ideals. Increasingly obsessed with the global gaze and the prestige that hosting the Olympics will achieve within the media, the games are keen to promote big brands, and discourage (if necessary by using force) smaller brands that challenge the hegemony of prime corporate sponsors (including MacDonald’s, Visa and Dow Chemical). This will undoubtedly translate into hours of sponsor-related TV ads plaguing our television screens during the summer months and the city of London being literally branded by these bigger brands. In a city agitated by record levels of unemployment and rising social protests, the continual bombardment on the TV screen by designer brands of over-priced products, which will now be rendered all the more desirable and unaffordable by the Olympics logo stamped on the side, is surely not a good thing. The Riots, Communities and Victims Panel’s recommendation that steps need to be taken to reduce the amount of excessive and aggressive advertising aimed at young people should perhaps, in the essence of social responsibility, be listened to sooner, rather than later.

 

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