Saturday, February 28, 2009

London round-up

Police predict ‘summer of rage’

A SENIOR London police officer last week predicted that growing numbers of people losing their jobs and homes through the economic crisis are likely to take to the streets to demonstrate against financial institutions.
Superintendent David Hartshorn, who heads the Metropolitan Police public order branch, said his force is preparing to cope with hundreds of middle class individuals who would never have considered joining demonstrations may seek to vent their anger through potentially violent mass protests.
The police definition of middle class probably extends to anyone who has had a regular job and or a mortgage, reserving the term working class for the low paid who live on council estates.
Hartshorn said that banks, especially those still paying big bonuses after multi-billion pound taxpayer bail-outs, will become “visible targets”, along with other financial institutions in the City which are being blamed for the financial crisis.
To most of our readers this prediction of a sudden dawning of class consciousness may seem welcome and long overdue. But Hartshorn could be signalling changes in Met policy towards demonstrators, going back to the policies of confrontation that marked the miners’ and poll tax campaigns in the days before Ken Livingstone was Mayor of London and before the existence of the Greater London Authority police authority.

Met accused of apartheid

AN ASIAN community police officer formerly employed at Belgravia police station in London last week told an employment tribunal that the Metropolitan police still has a “culture of apartheid”.
Police community support officer Asad Saeed claims white officers framed him over an alleged assault on a vagrant in a McDonald’s burger restaurant in central London.
Saeed was ordered to be dismissed, but was later reinstated on appeal. Both hearings heard allegations of racism that Scotland Yard thought belonged to the “canteen culture” of two decades ago.
According to Saeed’s claim, which has been leaked to the press, one senior white officer privately wrote he believed some of the racism allegations. The internal police hearing heard, and Saeed claims in his employment tribunal hearing, that:

• Saeed was framed after complaining about racist behaviour by two white colleagues.
• One white officer made “threats of violence against other ethnic colleagues”.
• His complaints were ignored by senior officers, who turned a blind eye to the “apartheid culture”.
• White officers refused to allow black officers in their van.
• White officers refused to send a van out to pick up ethnic minority colleagues.
• Officers gambled inside the station’s common room for “large sums of cash”.
• Some white officers wrote up false stop-and-search forms “using east European names” they had made up.
• One officer sold “counterfeit merchandise inside [the police station]”.
• Handwritten notes from the disciplinary hearing that first dismissed the Muslim officer from the force were “inadvertently … mislaid”.

In his claim, Saeed says police bosses withheld from him CCTV evidence from the alleged assault that led to his dismissal. When he obtained it, he says, it showed he had not attacked anyone. Furthermore, one of his white colleagues who claimed to have witnessed the assault was not in the restaurant.
Saeed’s claims are all the more embarrassing because they were made public on the same day that new Met chief Sir Paul Stephenson was making a public speech to mark the 10th anniversary of the McPherson report, and was claiming that the Met was no longer institutionally racist.

Doreen Lawrence accuses police

TEN YEARS after the landmark inquiry into the appalling and way that local police responded to the racist murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence, his mother Doreen says that police are still failing black Britons and delivering them a second class service.
She was speaking to the Guardian to mark the approaching anniversary of the McPherson report into the murder of her son which found that police “professional incompetence, institutional racism and a failure of leadership” lead to blunders that have allowed the killers to escape justice.
Doreen Lawrence said there have been positive changes in Britain but the mothers of other victims of racist murder have sought her advice because they too felt the police had let them down.
“Some mothers say they don’t feel as if they’ve been treated the same way as white victims’ families. Families out there are still feeling the same way I did when Stephen was killed.”
The McPherson report was scathing on the insensitivity of the police towards the bereaved Lawrence family and found that they were treated unsympathetically, had information withheld from them and the police would not accept that the murder was racist.
Doreen Lawrence says mothers are still contacting her with the same complaints.
Last week Stephen Otter, the Association of Chief Police Officer’s race and diversity spokesperson, claimed: “So much has changed over the past 10 years that I don’t thing it is right to label us institutionally racist.”
But Doreen Lawrence complains that after initial improvements, mainly at the higher levels, the police have lost interest in combating racist violence and new “anti-terror” laws mean that once again, Asian and black young people are being stopped and searched in large numbers.
“It comes down to racism again. Because of the colour of your skin, automatically if you are a black person, you must be into criminality,” said Lawrence.
She criticised the downgrading of the Commission for Racial Equality when it was merged with gender and disability equal rights groups to form the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
“Ten years on I think a lot of people have become complacent. They feel ‘we’ve done that, got the T-shirt; let’s move on’. The reality is we haven’t.
“Race is just wiped out of all the vocabulary, they use the word diversity, they seem to be more comfortable with it. I would not say they have given up caring about race. I just feel they believe they have addressed it.”
Her words echo the experiences of Dev Barrah of the Greenwich Council for Racial Equality, who has been combating racist violence in the London Borough of Greenwich for more than two decades now.
He reported that after the McPherson report, senior police were eager to improve and to work with him, learning how to respond to the needs of the local mixed, low-income community.
But those officers have moved on; new ones arrive and the process of education goes back to square one. Many officers see dealing with racism and community issues as a box to be ticked as they rise through the ranks; once they’ve done it they can forget it and move on with their careers.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Remembering Stella

Friends and comrades of Stella Moutafis braved the harsh weather last Saturday to pay their last respects to the wonderful woman who died so sadly last December. But the memorial meeting at the Party Centre was a tribute to her life and dedication to the communist cause that began when she joined the NCP in 1990 and continued right up until her last days.
NCP leader Andy Brooks said Stella was modest to a fault but her determination to overcome illness to take part in the struggle for peace and socialism was shown in her eagerness to help build the Party and the New Worker in every way she could. She was always there – despatching the paper on Thursdays; leafleting or selling the New Worker on demonstrations; representing the Party at events and writing entertaining reviews for our journals. NCP President Eric Trevett spoke of her courage, sense of humour and her ideological strength – which was echoed in the tributes from Michael Chant from the RCPB (ML), Daphne Liddle and many others who had worked with her over the years.
Written tributes from Stefan Eggerdinger from the Workers’ League for the Restoration of the Communist Party of Germany and Korean friendship activist Dermot Hudson were read out by Party Chair Alex Kempshall who also spoke of Stella’s regular financial contribution to the fighting fund. Earlier in the day the Politburo of the NCP had decided to launch a New Worker £10,000 Special Appeal to meet the increased costs of colour production. He called on comrades to remember Stella in the way she would have wanted by kicking off the appeal with a bounce – and they did to the tune of £1,826.50!
Stella Moutafis was an outstanding comrade. She is sorely missed but she will never be forgotten.
photo: Stella with NCP leader Andy Brooks

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Defying the Gaza aid bans

MEMBERS and supporters of the Stop the War Coalition in Bristol and Lewisham last weekend challenged bans on raising humanitarian aid for the people of Gaza.
Last Friday protesters forced the Bristol Lloyds-TSB Bank to close amid scenes of chaos on Corn Street, as police and security guards failed to hold back a surge of chanting demonstrators reaching the doors of the bank. It hurriedly closed its doors and remained shut for the rest of the afternoon.
A crowd of over 60 Gaza campaigners assembled on Corn Street in the afternoon and sent a message into the bank to ask to see the manager. They wanted to discuss the “Early Day Motion” which is being circulated in Parliament accusing Lloyds Bank of blocking charity money reaching Gaza.
When no reply was received they laid out boxes of dolls wrapped in blood-stained shrouds on the steps of the Bank. These represented the extra deaths which will have occurred in Gaza due to Lloyds-TSB action.
Lloyds TSB recently ordered the Islamic Bank of Britain which it owns, to close the accounts of Interpal, a highly respected international humanitarian relief charity – working in Occupied Palestine
Interpal is a respected UK charity which helps alleviate the agony of Gaza. It has been thoroughly investigated by the Charities Commission (following malicious complaints by US Government) and had been given the all clear!
By doing this, Lloyds TSB is on the verge of ending humanitarian aid for up to five million Palestinian refugees in desperate need. It will only serve to escalate the horrific suffering of innocent people.
At first Lloyds TSB denied any hand in the affair however it has now transpired that Lloyds TSB (acting as a clearing bank) to Islamic Bank of Britain (with whom Interpal bank), wrote to the IBB on 8th October 2008 stating: “We are writing to you to give you notice that…we do not wish you to transfer, receive, process or in any way deal with any funds, or in any way whatsoever (acting either as banker or agent on behalf of the Customer) be involved with any type of banking arrangements for Interpal”
Even for a Goliath like Lloyds TSB, which has itself recently received billions of pounds in bailout funds from the British taxpayer, this is indeed uncharacteristic behaviour. Why would the bank take such a callous action? Remarkably no official reason has been given.
The Muslim community in Bristol were also supporting this event.
Imam Assad Ali Shah, Imam of St Marks Road Mosque said “The people of Gaza are suffering now – women, children, and the elderly. They have shortages of food, medicine, and all the basic necessities of life. The people of the world, for humanitarian reasons, are reaching out to help them. How can it be, that charities working on the ground like Interpal, have their work obstructed by Lloyds-TSB closing their accounts? This is a moral crime. This extra suffering far the people in Gaza will be on the shoulders of those who made these callous decisions.”
In Lewisham Norma and Mukhtar Rana, members of the local Palestine Solidarity Campaign and New Worker Supporters’ Group, horrified at the death and destruction inflicted on Gaza, wanted to raise some money to help the victims.
They applied to the administrators of the shopping mall – owned jointly by the London Borough of Lewisham and Grosvenor Estates (the Duke of Westminster) – to collect money for the registered charity, Medical Aid for Palestine, but were rejected on the grounds that it was “too political”.
So members of Lewisham Stop the War last Saturday entered the mall, armed with nothing but leaflets and collecting buckets for the Disasters Emergency Committee Appeal for Gaza.
Almost immediately they were challenged by security staff, followed by a discussion. The collectors were forced to leave when the security guards called the police – but not before they had collected £186 for the people of Gaza.
The Stop the War comrades then proceeded to picket the local Lloyds TSB Bank, echoing the tactics of their Bristol colleagues the day before, carrying dolls swathes in “bloodstained” bandages and getting the message across to shoppers of the role that the bank was playing in preventing vital humanitarian aid reaching the people of Gaza.
photo: demonstrators in Lewisham

London debut for Shanghai treasures

The British Museum has celebrated the launch of Shanghai Week in London with the opening of Treasures from Shanghai, a spectacular collection of 60 ancient Chinese jade and bronze masterpieces on show in Europe for the first time.
"This exhibition brings to London pieces of superlative quality rarely seen outside China itself," said the exhibition's guest curator Jessica Rawson.
"The Neolithic jades on display are astonishing, particularly those that feature fine designs of strange human-like figures, birds and monsters with large teeth."
She added: "The Shanghai Museum houses one of the world's greatest collections of Chinese art."
Chen Kelun, deputy director general of the Shanghai Museum, said the exhibition would provide "insights into the time-honoured urban civilization and etiquette of China" and identify themselves with the theme of the World Expo to be held in Shanghai next year.
The month-long exhibition is another example of the British Museum's collaboration with China after the exhibition First Emperor: China's Terracotta Army in 2007.
Shanghai Week is designed to commemorate the increasingly close relationship between Britain and China, and showcase the heritage and culture of Shanghai as it prepares for the World Expo.
Other highlights include a seminar at the Victoria and Albert Museum entitled "From London to Shanghai: Inheritance and innovation - wisdom in urban development" and a photographic exhibition at City Hall – Shanghai and Shanghai Exposition.
Shanghai Mayor Han Zheng and Boris Johnson, his London counterpart, sent congratulatory messages to Shanghai Week organizers.
Meanwhile, Sarah Brightman, who sang at the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony, has been named Shanghai 2010 World Expo Promotion Ambassador in Britain.

Shanghai Daily

The Treasures from Shanghai exhibition of jades and bronzes runs until the 27th March. It’s in Room Two at the British Museum, Great Russell Street, London. Galleries open from 10.00 to 17.30 (20.30 Thursdays and Fridays) and the admission is free.