CHALLENGING POLICE HARRASSMENT AND RACISM: THE NORTHERN POLICE MONITORING PROJECT
Stephen Lawrence, Surveillance of Communities, Deaths in Custody, Sean Rigg, Harassment and brutality, Agent Provocateurs, Christopher Alder, Delegitimising and Slandering Community Campaigns, Racial profiling, Murders, Hillsborough.
This is not, solely, an exercise of creativity to summon to mind a violent and merciless gang. They are the words uttered by many disenfranchised, disillusioned people to describe that immutable force, the police. They articulate the sense of powerlessness that ordinary people have every day, while on the receiving end of a pervasive and persistent harassment. The families of Anthony Grainger, Smiley Culture, Mark Duggan, Ian Tomlinson and Jordan Begley (who, just the other month, unarmed, was killed with a Taser) to name but a few, know only too well.
The police have come into fierce criticism from the public but still maintain their inviolable status. A quick look at some of the facts speaks volumes; according to the charity, Inquest, since 1993 around 752 people have died in police custody and not one officer has been held criminally liable. Despite verdicts of ‘unlawful killings’ in some cases, not a single officer has been held responsible. And whilst the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry (which has re-emerged in the news following allegations that the Greater Manchester Police tried to gather intelligence to smear the Lawrence family) highlighted systematic racism within the force, the likelihood of Black and Asian men being stopped and searched remains considerably higher than those of White males.
In Manchester, community activists, academics, lawyers, youth workers and others representing the cities diverse fabric, have come together to create a grassroots campaign with the aim of ‘empowering, organising and educating’ people about police and policing in their neighbourhoods. Named ‘The Northern Police Monitoring Project,’ it aims to, amongst other things, deliver workshops educating young adults on their legal rights, initiate campaigns to raise awareness and publicly discuss policing in communities as well provide advocacy for people who have suffered at the hands of police contact. Wherever there is an incident of the police abusing their power, NPMP aims to be there, asking tough questions, applying as much pressure as possible, to hold them to account. One such recent incident saw the police attempting to stop POC communities in Manchester organising for a recent counter demonstration to the EDL. NPMP, working with these communities, helped to escort people to the demonstration to avoid arrests by the police who were surveying the area. In addition, NPMP also prevented the police from attempting to evict people who had occupied a swimming baths facing closure in Levenshulme.
NPMP’s strength lies in its roots in the community and the mix of people involved. Although in its infancy, it offers a real force that challenges the police status quo of harassment and racism. In addition to working with and supporting other campaigns across the UK, NPMP aspires to be a self-determined community group that offers a substantial network of support for the many left vulnerable, intimidated and powerless by the Police.