Investigating Policing of #BlackLivesMatter protests in Britain

By Netpol

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Policing #BlackLivesMatter protests

Police forces in Britain insist they are listening to the concerns of the global Black Lives Matter movement, since the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota in the US on 25 May.

However, it has been young Black people who are more likely to face arrest at large, spontaneous multi-ethnic demonstrations in towns and cities around the country.

These protests have been tolerated despite the emergency coronavirus health regulations introduced in March that restrict public gatherings. However, from the beginning demonstrators have experienced the use of police tactics that are disproportionate and unlawful.

In particular, Black protesters are more likely to find themselves kettled for longer, to have their faces filmed, to have excessive force used against them and to face further racial profiling when they leave.

Netpol (the Network for Police Monitoring) and the legal support groups that make up our coalition, continue to gather extensive evidence of the way police tactics have been used to disrupt and deter Black Lives Matter campaigners.

Now Netpol wants to compile this information, with context and analysis, into a comprehensive report that can support the Black Lives Matter campaigners to defend their right to protest.

What do we need?

To produce this report we need three things:

  • We need to raise £5,000 to cover the costs of writing and publishing this report. This includes employing an experienced activist and academic with many years’ experience to work over the summer to bring this report together. 

  •  We need your evidence. If you have experienced unfair, disproportionate, violent or oppressive policing at Black Lives Matter protests around the country, we want to hear your evidence and testimony. Find out how to write a statement and to contact us in strictest confidence.

  • We need you to spread the word. People to share this callout. If you know anyone that suffered at the hands of the police: please make sure they contact us. 

Why is this so important?

We have increasingly witnessed the stereotypical portrayal of mainly young protesters of colour as inherently violent. We need to challenge this racist narrative with the evidence presented in a form which the police and policymakers cannot easily ignore.

The Police Federation, which represents frontline officers, is calling for the Home Secretary to give a green light to use emergency coronavirus powers to stop all further protests taking place. While we do not underestimate the threat of the coronavirus, we do not believe concerns about public health are the real motivating factor when police are currently using tactics such as kettling in the middle of the pandemic. 

Why have weeks of Black Lives Matter campaigners suddenly been depicted as posing as much of an alleged threat as one weekend of violent disorder by far-right counter-demonstrators?

It is important to remember that Britain's police unions are politically opposed to renewed demands for fundamental change. The way they present policing as a "thin blue line" between civilisation and chaos has always been a way to resist accountability.

To counter this deliberately negative portrayal of Black Lives Matter campaigners and their demands, it is important to document and publicise how protests have been disrupted and how the human rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly have been denied when they are in opposition to racist policing.

Why Netpol?

For over ten years – and with incredibly limited resources – Netpol has worked alongside a wide range of different campaigners who trust us to offer them support. We do this expertly, honestly and diligently. For example last year we produced an extensive report on the policing of Extinction Rebellion protests in London, which was highly critical of the Metropolitan Police’s tactics.

We have been able to:

  • raise people’s understanding of their rights on the streets, both at protests and in our local communities
  • help people to know what they can expect from the police
  • offer solidarity and support the bereaved families of people who have died in police custody
  • significantly improve coordination between defence lawyers.
  • oppose unwarranted police intelligence-gathering
  • campaign against oppressive laws.
  • and, when necessary, bring legal challenges ourselves.

None of this is easy to fund: campaigning and alliance-building in support of rights to protest, police accountability and the promotion of civil liberties are overtly political. There are very few funding avenues available to us.

This is why we are asking you to donate whatever you can afford.

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Team Members

Kevin Blowe

Hannah Eiseman-Renyard

Lorraine Inglis

Sam Walton