Newham Unites against Police Terror
Read the full article on the Radical Activist Network website
The Radical Activist Network, which Radical Activist Newham is a supporter of, has organised an important conference on Latin America that features Oscar Olivera, spokesperson for Bolivia's Coalition in Defense of Water and Life, ('La Coordinadora'), which was at the forefront of a popular uprising in Cochabamba in 2000 against US multinational Bechtel who had taken over their water systems as an IMF-imposed condition for Bolivian debt relief.
Oscar will be joined by a group of speakers who both write on and organise in solidarity with Latin American social movements including:
Hilary Wainwright, Red Pepper
Andy Higginbottom, Frontline Latin America
Sue Branford, Latin America Bureau and War on Want
Nick Buxton, trade activist based in La Paz, Bolivia
Paul Chatterton, Kiptik (Zapatista solidarity network)
Lies Craeynest, War on Want
Sessions and workshops will include:
Entry by donation (£2 suggested).
Senait Mehari was a child soldier in the Eritrean Liberation Front. She escaped to Germany and was living on the streets by the time she was 15. Today she's a pop singer in Germany and a best-selling author. Her book, Heart of Fire, is the powerful memoir of a lost childhood.
‘This is a powerful book of truth; it made my heart stop, race, skip and weep’
Heart of Fire sold over 150,000 copies in Germany and has been translated into eight languages. A film of Heart of Fire is in production (in German) and is due for release in 2007.
Tickets cost £3 and can be reserved by calling Newham Bookshop on 020 8552 9993 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Senait is visiting the UK with the support of English PEN’s Writers in Translation
Meanwhile, Stop Political Terror announced a demonstration this Sunday from Forest Gate Police Station, backed by the Muslim Association of Britain and Respect (see the latter's press release). However, there seems to be some confusion as to whether this protest will take place this weekend or be pushed back, after local activists pointed out that without the support of the two families caught up in the raids, proper stewarding and the participation of local mosques and community organisations, the demonstration could be either a damp squib or kick off and lead to arrests.
Meanwhile, Newham Monitoring Project has been busy helping the family that lived next door to the main focus of the raid, whose home was also raided and who are traumatised by the experience, to receive medical attention, overcome problems relating to absence from work and find somewhere new to live. NMP will also be conducting a door-to-door witness search next week and bring together residents from the six streets that have been cordoned off since 2nd June to discuss their concerns and experiences. One resident of Lansdown Rd, who complained about having to give his address and have an escort to his door every time he wanted to get back to his house, was seized and handcuffed. Five days on from the raid, residents in three streets still have to have permission from the police to return to their homes. And no-one, least of all the individual officers on duty, seems to know what legal basis they have for imposing this.
This lack of information has led to some fairly wild speculation all day – there was one rumour that there had been a shooting outside Forest Gate train station – but it is not just local people who have been adding their own theories to the mix of conjecture and assumptions about the raid and its significance. Sections of the press have been busy too and they have none of the understandable scepticism about the competence of the intelligence services that most of us have post the Iraq ‘weapons of mass destruction’ fiasco, or the shooting of an innocent Brazilian in Stockwell.
The Sun managed to find a resident to tell them that he was always suspicious of the "bearded brothers" and “they [sic] were a lot of comings and goings at that house, those boys had radical views." Just in case readers had failed to realise the men who were shot and arrested are Muslim, the paper helpfully said that they “worshipped at a mosque and prayer room located just around the corner from their door.” Sun journalists also quoted a neighbour, Dimple Hirani, saying that "it is creepy there are people like this living on your doorstep," although what she really said in an interview on Channel 4 News was that “it is shocking this can happen on your doorstep.” Moreover, she also told news agencies that the two men “were really nice lads and really nice people… I never thought anything of it [their religious beliefs]. Lots of young Muslims these days are getting more religious, especially after 9/11. It's nothing to be suspicious about."
She’s right of course, but we can all see where this is heading. The men arrested in the raid were religious, they had beards, they attended a mosque, so they must be guilty if the intelligence services are interested in them. Once again, millions of newspaper readers who have no idea what Forest Gate is like will be reminded of the imperative of suspicion towards Asian Muslims and the need for armed officers to use potentially lethal force.
But the lack of information also tells us a great deal too. You can bet that if there were firearms in the house that was raided, we would have been told within hours. Was the man who was shot armed, or was this incident another example of trigger-happy officers, an issue that remains unresolved in the investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes? Is there a ‘bomb factory’, as has been speculated? When the raid last year on the Leeds home of the 7 July bombers found explosives, residents were evacuated, but all my neighbours and I have had to endure is an escort to our homes through the police cordons – the novelty of which has quickly worn off. One officer told me that the only reason the roads were closed off was to keep back the press. The decision to impose an air exclusion zone around the scene of the raid but not evacuate local people begins to look more and more like another media stunt to emphasis the seriousness of the incident, a tactic that the Metropolitan police have been notorious for in the past.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke told the media this evening that the raid was to prove or disprove intelligence they had received. That sounds as though his intelligence assessment was rather less than emphatic and yet it has led to another shooting. That is why people I have spoken to today are anxious. A combination of the press speculating on the ‘guilt’ of Muslims and potentially speculative raids by the police using draconian anti-terror laws seems like a leap backwards to the immediate aftermath of the 7 July bombings.
Report by Kevin Blowe, Radical Activist Network