Today – the 22 April 2019 – marks the first National Stephen Lawrence Day. It provides us with an important opportunity to commemorate the life of Stephen. And it provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the work that still needs to be done to support local people, communities and campaigns in the face of police harassment, intimidation, violence and racism.
The Macpherson Inquiry into the police handling of the murder of Stephen in 1993 found the police to be ‘institutionally racist’. Twenty years since its publication, racism within policing continues to be a problem. We see this in racially disproportionate stop and search, deaths following police contact, and in the use of tasers.
We must recognise that racism remains embedded within the functioning of the police. As Ambalavaner Sivanandan argued, it continues to reside, both overtly and covertly, “in the policies, procedures, operations and culture of public or private institutions – reinforcing individual prejudices and being reinforced by them in turn.”
Today, in Stephen’s memory, we urge the public to demand a radical re-imagining of policing and criminal justice as we know it. The Northern Police Monitoring Project stands in solidarity with Black and Brown communities, whom in the last few years have witnessed an intensification in their mistreatment at the hands of the police. In particular, we stand in solidarity with the over-policed communities of Greater Manchester – communities that feel the effects of the racist ‘gang’ narrative that is imposed upon them by the police to justify their over-policing.