Picture credit: @sebbarros
By Sara Chitseko:
This week, there has been increasing attention on block parties - majority Black events, which usually take place on estates in big cities. Media reporting on these parties has essentially served as PR for the police. The overall focus has been on how police have been injured. This narrative legitimises the over-policing of Black people and Black community events, while the tens of thousands of people who flocked to Britain’s beaches are free to do so without question. Police have attended block parties clad in riot gear and armed with weapons. How can they speak of building trust with Black communities when this is how they treat us?
Media reports have conflated the number of police injured at block parties, with those injured at recent protests. Black Lives Matter protests have been largely peaceful - it is white nationalist protests which turned violent and in which the most police officers were injured. Conflating police injuries at block parties with protests insinuates that it was mainly at BLM protests that police were injured. This perpetuates the racist notion that Black people are inherently violent and aggressive, distorts who has participated in violence and undermines our calls for justice.
Media focus on police injury also negates the extreme harm that policing inflicts on Black communities without accountability. This week, we've learnt that a 13-year-old Black boy on a charity cycle ride was aggressively detained by police. We've learnt that officers from the Met took selfies with the bodies of sisters, Nicole Smallman and Bibaa Henry at their murder scene. And we've heard calls for justice from Jordan Walker-Brown, a Black man who has been left paralysed after being tasered by police in Haringey. These are the stories which reached the news - police inflict harm on Black communities every day.
Taken together, these incidents demonstrate why calls to defund the police are so important. Police are inherently violent and inherently racist. How are they supposed to provide protection and care to our communities when they inflict such violence and harm? They are fundamentally incapable.
Our fight for justice, peace and freedom is made even more difficult where decision makers are against us. Labour party leader, Keir Starmer described calls to defund the police as "nonsense" and described the Black Lives Matter Movement as "a moment." The fight for Black lives is not "a moment." The movement for Black rights is not "a moment." The struggle to be treated as human is not "a moment." Black communities have been fighting these battles for hundreds of years. Who is Keir Starmer to tell us what we're "really" campaigning for? Our humanity is not up for debate.
Past movements for liberation have often been hindered and disrupted by fractures from within, compounded by oppressive state institutions such as policing and others within the criminal "justice" system - all of which our communities have fought against. Movements for social change generally have a life cycle, where public interest peeks and then dips. As we work to ensure that our movement for justice remains a consistent public priority, we must also ensure that we foster kindness and care for ourselves and one another. Creating strong models of community care is how we will generate the trust, inclusivity and capacity to organise as the most effective in these challenging times.