At only 24 hours’ notice following the news about the outrageous police strip search of Child Q in her school, Hackney Cop Watch called a protest outside Stoke Newington police station which was attended by almost a thousand people over four hours. The crowd blocked the road outside the station responsible for the entire time, chanting ‘Under attack, we fight back’. At the same time, Manchester’s Northern Police Monitoring Project, Kids of Colour and Manchester Kill the Bill held a protest that attracted over 100 people to protest the policing of our schools. The crowd – young and diverse – chanted ‘No Police In Schools’ and ‘Kill the Bill’, linking the repressive new laws in Priti Patel’s Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill to the over-policing of young people of colour and working class children.
Speakers from various groups spoke passionately at both protests about the way services that were previously caring or semi-caring roles, such as teaching, social work and youth work, are sites of struggle threatened with takeover by surveillance and policing initiatives. Widely prevalent anti-Black racism and years of increasing interventions by an institutionally racist police force in schools, coupled with things like the prevent legislation, leaves the scope for abuse of racialised school students very wide. Prevent legislation encourages teachers, doctors and counsellors to label isolated young people, especially Muslims, as potential terrorists rather than giving them the caring support they need.
In Manchester the crowd heard about the brilliant work of Kids of Colour and Northern Police Monitoring Project in opposing policing in schools, and of the Chorley community groups that prevented a new megaprison being built in their town. Attendees were encouraged to join NPMP and other monitoring projects where they are to oppose the culture of policing spreading into so many areas of our society.
A teacher speaking repeated an important message:
‘Child Q is not the first black young person who has been treated disproportionately, aggressively, illegally and traumatically at the hands of the police, who are supposed to serve and protect. Unfortunately, she will not be the last under this current system of policing.
Child Q is not the first black girl who has been subjected to inhuman treatment at the hands of the education system, which is meant to safeguard all young people, but let’s make sure she is the last.’
In London, the large and angry crowd heard many speeches from local residents, students, and anti-racist activists. As numbers swelled beyond the pavement, protestors moved to block the road shortly after 4pm, and it remained blocked for around four hours.
Local residents and people from all over London continued streaming in as the work day ended. The energy was high until well after sunset, with loud chanting in between the speeches. We chanted ‘Black lives matter’, ‘unity!’, ‘shame on you’, and we chanted for abolition. While there, the crowd heard that students at a school in Hackney staged a walk-out in protest demanding the replacement of the entire school safeguarding team, and for the police officers responsible to be fired. They intend to continue protesting regularly until their demand is met.
At one point in the protest the borough commander, DCS Marcus Barnett, tried to speak to the crowd but was drowned out immediately by booing and chants of ‘resign!’
This was not protest for the sake of protest: it was a raw and powerful expression of community anger. It was also a place to discuss the fightback against police racism, policing of children, and policing in general. Speakers in London announced the protest on Sunday (tomorrow) outside the same police station in Stoke Newington. Hackney Cop Watch called on people to get involved in their local work against police racism and on those outside Hackney to join local Cop Watch groups or start their own.
Protests like the ones in London and Manchester are the heartbeat of a long struggle against racist policing. They are a place where the struggles against racism, against policing, and against sexual violence are coming together in a powerful way. Yesterday’s protests follow on from a Sisters Uncut protest on 12 March where 1000 rape alarms were set off outside Clapham police station on the anniversary of last year’s infamous Clapham Common vigil. More broadly, they are the latest in a series of protests in against policing from Black Lives Matter to the Kill the Bill movement. Yesterday, the loud united voice of the crowd chanting ‘no justice, no peace, abolish the police’ showed that people are increasingly clear in agreement that the abolition of racist policing means the abolition of all policing.
Click here to view a google form where you can join or register interest in starting your own local Cop Watch group. Attend or organise local protests. If you are in London, you can join the protest on Sunday at 1pm outside Stoke Newington police station.