Ruhullah Aramesh was a 24 year old refugee from Afghanistan. He was attacked in Thornton Heath on 31st July, 1992, by a gang of twenty yelling racist epithets. They beat him with iron bars and wood planks until his skull was crushed.
He died on August 2, 1992. Barry Hannon (17), his brother, Paul Hannon(18), and Joseph Curtin (17), were sentenced to life for murder. Richard Turner, (19), and Jamie Ware (19), were acquitted of manslaughter and murder. Another boy, seventeen years old, whose name was not released, was acquitted for attacking Mr. Aramesh but convicted for assault for having previously attacked a friend of Mr. Aramesh. Barry Hannon and Joseph Curtin had also attacked an Asian family only an hour before killing Mr. Aramesh, hitting a man, sixty-five years old, on the head with a bottle.
It was recorded as racially motivated. Barry Hannon, Paul Hannon, Joseph Curtin were given life for murder. One other was convicted of manslaughter through diminished responsibility, and three were acquitted. Curtin was freed on appeal after 3 years, due to the judges’ failure to summarise the police interview.
His death was just one of multiple killings that happened near to the BNP headquarters, as well as Stephen Lawrence and Rohit Duggal.
We have footage of the march and speakers representing:
The speakers are announced but it is difficult to work out exactly their names or how to spell them, so if you have any idea of who they are please let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
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In honour of the anniversary of the 1990 anti-poll demonstration on March 31st, Spectacle hosted a free screening of Despite TV’s film Battle of Trafalgar. This was followed by an online Q&A with filmmaker Mark Saunders.
The discussion brought out the many ways that the public order policing tactics captured by the film are still in use and can readily be seen in the policing of the #KilltheBill protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill, and recent public order policing at Clapham Common of the Sarah Everard Vigil.
The Protest and the Making of the Film
Despite TV was a filmmaking collective based in Tower Hamlets that operated through the 80s and 90s. Working as a co-operative, sharing resources, and making all editorial decisions through consensus, the collective published magazine videos.
The main aim of Despite TV was to revert hierarchies commonly reproduced in the media industry, promoting video production as inclusive, non-hierarchical group activity, and shared authorship and editorial control. Everyone in the group, in fact, had access to equipment and initial training, could propose what to film, contributed to the technical realization of the initial ideas, and was co-director of the final films. In order to enhance participation and avoid the exclusion of marginal voices in the group, all decisions were taken by consensus and all tasks and roles -such as chairing meetings, but also interviewing, operating cameras, sound recording, or carrying out runner’s tasks- were shared in turns.
In 1990, Despite TV was working on a special issue on the poll tax called Despite the Poll tax. The proposed poll tax was despised throughout the country. It was a blatantly extortionate tax which required all individuals, regardless of wealth, to pay the same amount, and anti-poll tax chapters sprang up across the country. Despite the Poll Tax was not so much focused on the inequities of tax, but how the law would necessitate ID cards, which were the origin of infamous SA pass laws during aparthied. The tax would offer a great deal of social control and create a data blackmarket. The tax itself was therefore a colonial instrument. It was actually the second time that the British government had tried to institute such a tax. The first time was in the 14th century and led to a famous peasants revolt.
The magazine was nearly finished. Three camera crews went to the protest to get some shots for the end credits. They stationed one camera near the front, one in the middle, and one at the back. Their expectations for filming a peaceful joyous mass demonstration quickly went out the window.
Violence against protestors by the police left many bruised and bleeding. Hundreds were arrested. Police horses and vans repeatedly drove through the crowd, trampling people underfoot – all in the name of public order. However, none of this violence was reflected in the narrative on the evening news which depicted the demonstrators as violent and the police as responding to life or death violence.
Despite TV managed to persuade Channel 4 to commission a film based on the footage to create a film showing the events in the order they really happened. The documentary was broadcast on Channel 4 in Sept 1990 and resulted in the upending of the accepted narrative of that day.
The film was also used in court as a part of a common defence of protestors who had been arrest that day, showing many were acting in legal self defence.
Connections to the Current Moment
In policing of public events in the last year including at the George Floyd BLM protests in 2020, Sarah Everard vigil at Clapham common, and Kill the Bill protests happening currently in Bristol.
In the Battle of Trafalgar we see police vans driving through crowds, and the same tactics were used in Brooklyn 2020. Police vans were driven into crowds of BLM protesters who were protesting the murder of George Floyd. The Battle of Trafalgar demonstrates that the police were not “out of control” but following a dangerous and near secret tactic which was very likely to cause a crowd to react violently. During the anti-poll tax demonstration, the film argues, the protesters gained no benefit from violence, but the state did benefit because it allowed them to paint all protestors as criminals.
This narrative is easily created when media sources uncritically present police statements as their only coverage of such protests. Again there is an uncanny similarity between the commentary of a mounted police woman in 1990 and one in 2021, both who claim to have never seen such violence directed at police in their entire lives.
The use of provocation by police including the use of vans, attacking women, collective punishment, kettling, creates a large dragnet of offenders and erases the divide between peaceful and violent protests. The criminalising of protesting creates an excuse for the use of violence which paints the entire cause (whether it be BLM or anti-tax demonstrations) to be viewed as criminal in the court of public opinion.
April 3rd – National Day of Action
The 3rd of April has been designated as a national day of action against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill. Over 40 cities and counting across the UK will see #killthebill demonstrations, and they will be joined by those supporting the #ReclaimTheseStreets movement which grew from the murder of Sarah Everand and the policing of the vigils in her honour.
In the demonstrations the week before violence from the police in Bristol created headlines of “violence against police” and “rioting,” but, as in 1990s, from the point of view of those on the ground the papers seemed to have switched around the subjects and objects of their sentences.
It will be interesting to see what policing tactics will be employed and what narrative the media will offer after April 3rd.
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With the recent revelation of the true events of the Hillsborough disaster, new accusations are flying…
‘So, former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie has instructed solicitors to demand an ‘apology and recompense’ from South Yorkshire Police over the newspaper’s discredited reporting of the Hillsborough disaster’ writes Granville Williams on the CPBF web site www.cpbf.org.uk . ‘It really is the most amazing cheek for him to portray himself as a ‘victim’. Disgusting in fact…’
Despite the Sun is an investigation into one of Rupert Murdoch’s scandals back in 1986:
In January 1986, Rupert Murdoch moved his printing operation, News International, from Fleet St to Wapping in East London. Over 5,000 print workers, clerical staff, cleaners and secretaries were sacked in one day.
Despite TV documentary Battle of Trafalgar will be screened Monday 30th April at 7pm during Law & Disorder followed by a panel discussion at the new film festival at Bread & Roses in Clapham. The event pays tribute to the 100th anniversary of the 1912 strike, led by female textile workers in Massachusetts. Marching for better pay and working conditions, the workers chanted the slogan “We want bread, but we want roses, too!”, a line borrowed from the James Oppenheim poem which became an emblematic catchphrase in the history of socialism.
Bread & Roses celebrates the centennial of this key moment with a selection of films questioning capitalism, and tackling workers rights, social activism and immigration. Family Unite, Unpaid Internships, the Arab Spring and Law & Disorder are some of the daily themes that have been chosen to structure the festival.
Channel 4 commissioned Battle of Trafalgar from Despite TV in 1990 during the poll tax riots; the film documents the mass protest held on Saturday 31 March in central London against Margaret Thatcher’s controversial measure. From the unfair aspect of the tax system to the partiality of mainstream media and the violent policing of the demonstration, the film’s topics specifically resonates in today’s socio-political context, and justify its screening to Bread & Roses’s committed programme.
Bread & Roses festival is organized by Natasha Caruana and Afshin Dehkordi, the two artists behind StudioSTRIKE: a creative space launched in 2010 on the top floor of the last union-owned pub in London, the Bread & Roses – the name inspired the idea for the festival.
The free festival, supported by the BFI and Film London, will run in various venues around Lambeth from April 27th to May 10th. Some of the films presented during these two weeks will include the classic The Grapes of Wrath, the Oscar-nominated documentary If a Tree Falls, and a recent project on the August riots titled My Child The Rioter. The festival will also encompass a live music event, Q&A sessions, and art installations.
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.
Walking through Covent Garden today, I found myself nearly knocked over by a speeding police car down a small street with no sirens or lights on. I thought it strange they were in such a hurry but had no warning system. As I reached the Tesco’s in Covent Garden, I saw 6 heavily armed police officers surrounding a man. I walked past and saw a small, middle aged, Indian man. He was holding a white charity bucket in one hand. Two officers were standing behind him telling him not to move and to spread his legs; they were going to search him. Another 2 officers were taking all his belongings out of his small beige rucksack and reading every piece of paper and asking him about their contents. At the same time one other officer was asking him who he was, what his name was and why he was behaving suspiciously. Someone else was going through his wallet. It seems in London these days to be Asian, and carrying a rucksack makes you instantly suspicious.
The man spoke broken English and he did not seem to quite understand what was going on. He kept saying he was collecting for charity and you could see from his body language and the way he was looking at them he was stunned and very scared. These men were tall, heavily built, all Caucasian, talking loudly, moving him around physically, going through his things and saying he had been reported for suspicious behaviour. Someone they said had seen him collecting for charity outside Covent Garden station and had called the police saying they had seen a terrorist.
You could feel the adrenalin rising in these men as they went through his bag and flashes of the fear mongering and its terrible outcome with Jean Charles went through my mind. This man had been stopped and searched purely because of the colour of his skin. If a Caucasian man or woman had been standing outside Covent Garden station with a charity bucket and a rucksack would someone have rung the police saying there is a possible terror attack? Do people go around calling the police every time they see a Big Issue seller? Or one of those chuggers? They look more threatening half the time than this small framed middle aged man. But then Jean Charles had no padded jacket on, did not jump over any barriers. He was not even carrying the dreaded rucksack. He was simply the wrong colour. The colour of a terrorist.
They spotted me watching and I felt myself get worked up. I wanted to cause a scene. To let people know what was going on here. I said Racists out loud. They heard me and none of the armed men could look me in the eye. An Asian bobby who had turned up, couldn’t stop eyeballing me. I stared right back. Police tactics work in so many ways to provoke, intimidate.
After reading all his personal papers, and telling him they thought he could be a terrorist; they had to admit they found nothing. To stop anyone seeing what they were doing they formed a ring around him. They could see me watching, so they blocked my view. The biggest of them was laughing and asking where he should go next. To the next brown man I suggested. He ignored me. People walked by but because they had ringed him in no one could see what was happening. It was clear now he was not carrying a bomb- so now they formed a tighter ring round him- to hide what? The fact they had been searching a man based on the colour of his skin perhaps?
After half an hour the armed police left. 2 plain clothes were left taking his details and the Asian bobby kept eye balling me. I had nothing to hide. I eyeballed him back. Eventually they left and the man was left crouching in the street putting his things away. I went up to him and put my hand on his shoulder. Asked him was he okay. I did not want to scare him. I told him I had seen what had happened . He seemed wary and said yes he was fine. I said I would have been scared, I was scared because of how many men there were. And his eyes started to fill with tears and he said yes he was scared but he was okay. He asked me my name and where I was from. He said he did not understand why he had been stopped. I told him it was because he was carrying a rucksack. He did not understand what that word meant. And because he was brown. He understood that with a resigned acceptance . Just as I was asking him if he needed anything the Asian bobby turned up again. They had been sat in the police car watching me.
He looked down at where I was crouched with the man and asked me if I was okay. I said yes thank you fine. He would not move. He looked at my brown paper bag from the Tea Shop in Neal Street. There was a terracotta tea pot in there and some Jasmine tea. I told him I did not have a bomb and would he like to arrest me because I was brown too. He said nothing. I said I am having a private conversation please would you go away. He said I saw you say “racists” and I wanted to explain we are not and I am Asian. Good for you I said. You stopped this man because of the colour of his skin. He started to say no and started to get quite pushy. Provocative I would call it. I was not going to be riled. I told him I was exercising my human right to have a private conversation, he was disturbing this, he had no legal right to stop me speaking to someone and to go away. He would not go away. He said he wanted to explain to me why they had stopped his man. Perhaps he thought me press. Perhaps he thought this would go further. I turned my back on the bobby and finished my conversation with the man.
I wandered dazed and upset into Tesco’s to get away from the meddling Bobby, who would not even let me extend some generosity to the man they had just harassed. Aimlessly moving through chiller cabinets and food aisles, I went to leave and there he was, resilient, by the entrance with his white charity bucket in Tesco’s. He was not making any noise. Just silently standing there with his bucket collecting for charity. We spoke some more. He seemed stunned but he thanked me for being kind to him. I asked him for an interview and he said sure. I hope to share his story with you in his own words here of the experience. He told me he was from Bangladesh and was collecting for the poor and sick back home.
This incident is a sharp reminder of where we are with the terror laws that were rushed through. Take this incident and change a few variables. The man has a beard and Muslim dress. The man is younger, resents being stopped, resists the Police. The man has no papers to prove who he is. The man doesn’t speak English. The man has a Koran on him and literature that is anti war. The man has people who want to teach him a lesson, has annoyed his neighbour, who report on him-and you are one step closer to cases like Baber Ahmad. To extraordinary rendition, to Shaker Aamer still languishing in GTMO.
Wrong place, wrong time, and most definitely the wrong colour.
Glastonbury 2012 has been cancelled due to the London Olympics procuring all available portable toilets in the south of England. In addition, the organisers have also been told that all the 600 strong police force which patrols the event will also be redirected to patrol the Olympics.
Michael Eavis spoke of a price hike in 2012 for any spare toilets due to their scarcity, which would also inevitably lead to problems. “I can see it getting very expensive,” he said. “So we looked at the timing and thought that a year off seemed sensible.”
Sadly, yet somewhat unsurprisingly, the Glastonbury Festival has become another casualty of the ever increasing collateral damage inflicted by the controversial 2012 Olympic event.
Wanstead Flats: A vast, open grassland in Epping Forest, east London, surrounded by residential areas: This is where the Metropolitan Police plans to site an operational centre for the 2012 Olympics. On 5th September 2010, about 350 people attended a Mass Community Picnic on Wanstead Flats, demonstrating their opposition to the police’s proposal.
Official statements by the City of London, responsible for Epping Forest, have stated it will be a police briefing centre in the southwestern part of the Flats for a period of three months. However, subsequent conversations with officials have revealed that the site, covering three hectares, will seemingly be used for police deployment, and include a feeding station and stabling for police horses and also holding cells. Since those plans became public in June, local residents have started to organise their protest in order to preserve the open green space. Wanstead Flats are protected by the Epping Forest Act, 1878 which inhibits any use other than for recreation and public enjoyment and does not allow the erection of permanent structures. It is feared that the police’s proposal will set a precedent for further developments on the Flats in the near future. The fact that the Epping Forest Act has to be adapted in order to legalize the planned project is strengthening these apprehensions. These and other critical issues such as lack of public consultation, concerns about traffic and accessibility were discussed by local residents during the event on 5th September with Paul Thomson, Superintendent of Epping Forest. Two similar temporary police centres are to be erected for the Olympic Games, one in Hackney and another in Greenwich.
The next Local Residents’ Public Meeting of the Save Wanstead Flats Campaign will take place on Wednesday 6th October 2010, 7pm, at Durning Hall Community Centre, Earlham Grove, Forest Gate E7 9AB. For further information see savewansteadflats.org.uk
Wanstead Flats is one of many green sites that the “Greenest Olympics” will affect.
The “Save Wanstead Flats Campaign” invite all of us to protest with a picnic on Sunday 5th September.
All welcome 1pm on the spot to the west of Centre Road where the police want to site their Olympic operations base in 2012. Ever since over 250 people attended a packed public meeting in July, residents living near Wanstead Flats have been demanding answers about plans by the City of London Corporation to allow the Metropolitan Police to base its Olympics operational centre on the Flats in 2012. In order to push this proposal through, the Corporation would need to amend an Act of Parliament that has protected Wanstead Flats from enclosure and development for well over a century.
Local people want to know why the proposed site for this police base, west of Centre Road, has been chosen, how that decision was made and why the Olympic stadium site itself cannot be used. There has been no consultation, even though the plans involve locating a fenced, high-security compound – with buildings, parking areas, stables and apparently even police holding cells – for at least 120 days and so close to residential neighbourhoods.
The Save Wanstead Flats campaign is organised by local people and on Sunday 5 September, we’d like to invite you to show your opposition to the City of London Corporation’s plans by joining us for a picnic – occupying the very spot where the police operations base would be constructed. FLYERMAP
BRING FOOD, PICNIC BLANKETS, YOUR CHILDREN AND YOUR FRIENDS! MEET ALL YOUR NEIGHBOURS WHO ALSO WANT TO SAVE WANSTEAD FLATS!
According to The Guardian (July 10), the metropolitan police have launched an investigation into allegations by Binyam Mohamed that MI5 officers were complicit in his torture.
The investigation has been launched by the Attorney General after Binyam, a former Guantanamo detainee, persistently argued he was interrogated by MI5 and the FBI while being tortured in Pakistan.
Later on in his detainment, whilst being held captive in Morocco, Binyam became aware of British agents feeding his torturers questions and information. This supports the claim of many other former captives, including Omar Deghayes who is featured on the Spectacle website, that British agents were not only aware of torture by foreign agents but used it to garner information from suspects.
The question we have to ask is why it has taken the police so long to launch this investigation and when will criminal investigation be extended to every case of torture?
Furthermore, given the governments reluctance to release key documents related to Binyams case how indepth is any investigation going to be?
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