How do we stop the racist offensive?

By Sabby Dhalu

More than two years on from the 2020 Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, the police shooting of Chris Kaba has once again shone a spotlight on the level of institutional racism in the police force.

That such horrific shootings continue should unfortunately be of no surprise.

Since 2020, despite the huge BLM protests, there has been zero pressure from the government on the police to take any measures to eradicate institutional racism.

Instead, the government’s response has been the opposite. First, it is attempting to clamp down on protest movements like BLM — part of the motivation behind the draconian Police Bill was to impair the ability of BLM, as well climate change and other protesters and trade unions to take to the streets in a meaningful way and organise picket lines during strike action.

This grotesque attack on our fundamental human rights is being imposed in the context of a deeply unpopular government hell-bent on making the 99 per cent suffer immense financial hardship so the 1 per cent can continue to rake in unprecedented levels of profit to the tune of billions of pounds, and its desire to crack down on dissent and opposition to this agenda.

Second, earlier this year, then-home secretary Priti Patel eased the conditions on the use of stop and search under section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act. This is likely to mean more stop and search, more disproportionate use of it and more brutality on black communities.

Third, the government has waged a propaganda campaign denying the existence of institutional racism in the form of the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, also known as the Sewell report.

However, its messaging has been less than convincing and widely criticised. The government was even forced to backtrack and condemn institutional racism in cricket following Azeem Rafiq’s harrowing and devastating account of racism.

There is only one way to achieve some semblance of justice for Kaba, and that is to charge the police officer who shot him — and others if necessary.

In Britain, no police officer has ever been charged, let alone convicted, for killing a black person in custody or after police contact.

In the US police officers have been convicted for killing George Floyd, Laquan McDonald and Justine Damond. This was largely due to the birth of BLM a decade ago, its deep impact on US society forcing change. This also illustrates the importance of social movements.

The diligent and articulate campaigning of Kaba’s family coupled with the support of black communities and anti-racists, has led to the suspension of the police officer who fired the shot, and a homicide investigation by the Independent Office for Police Conduct. However, this is not enough.

All of us on the anti-racist, trade union and wider labour movement, must get behind the Kaba family’s demands on the police to interview — under caution — the police officer who fired the shot and bring charges against him.

The police shooting of Kaba also underlines why it’s crucial to build the anti-racist movement. In addition to heavy-handed and at times brutal policing, the government will be unleashing more racism.

This will be designed to wrongly scapegoat refugees, immigrants, Muslims, black and other BAME communities and to distract the population for its failure to support the majority of the population while cutting taxes for those earning more than £150,000 a year.

This is the purpose of the policy deporting and detaining asylum-seekers in Rwanda. The court hearing to determine the lawfulness of the plans to forcibly deport to Rwanda asylum-seekers who arrive in Britain by crossing the English Channel, is ongoing.

Recently the High Court heard that a Foreign Office official raised concerns about plans to send asylum-seekers to Rwanda, citing concerns about state surveillance, arbitrary detention, torture and killings by the Rwandan government.

This followed concerns raised by the British high commissioner to Rwanda who said that Britain should not do a deal with Rwanda because it had been accused of recruiting refugees to conduct armed operations in other countries and has a poor human rights record.

The fight against racism and the cost-of-living crisis go hand in hand because of the government’s attempt to stir up racism to distract from its failure and to wrongly blame immigrants and BAME communities. Also due to institutional racism BAME communities are disproportionately affected by the cost-of-living crisis.

All these issues will be discussed at the forthcoming Stand Up to Racism conference on Saturday October 15.

Sabby Dhalu is Stand up to Racism co-convener. To register for the conference visit here.

The above article was initially published here by the Morning Star.