Stand up

Morning all. It’s good as always to catch up once again, training this week has as always been good and although at points it’s tough I feel that I’m learning and like most things in life it’s not always an easy process. At the moment I keep incredibly busy with volunteering as well as focusing on my working life and as such I’m doing a lot of public speaking, workshops, and events for Bristol Copwatch.

I wrote a while back about taking legal action against Avon and Somerset Police for a 2018 DPA breach. I’m pleased to say the case and claim have taken shape and the police have until the 4th of June to admit liability. I am of course represented by the formidable Bindmans LLP actions against the police team.

The police of course have not taken things at all well. But when it comes to the general public taking a stand over misconduct and malpractice they very rarely do. I’m still pretty much convinced what has happened has been solely vindictive in its nature just like the original wrongful and malicious prosecution of 2018.

In terms of that, I’m pleased to say that the Criminal Cases Review Commission is assessing the case and conviction to see if it can be taken back to the court of appeal. I’ll know more in the next couple of months. It was also good news to see the Information Commissioners Office uphold my complaint against Avon and Somerset Police.

They said “We have considered the issues you have raised with us. Based on this information, it is our view that ASP has not complied with their data protection obligations.” The ICO will by now have written to the police about the breach and their information rights practices.

We have told them they should now take steps to ensure that:

  • rectification requests are appropriately responded to within 1 calendar month; and 
  • subject access requests are responded to within 1 calendar month;

We have also asked that ASP review your request to have your PNC record amended to reflect the findings of the court, and to provide you with a response to this.

Of course, we know that my PNC information in its current state is inaccurate, unfair, and unlawful so it’s going to be very interesting to see what the police’s response is to both the letter of claim and ICO decision in a couple of months. I am of course still funding raising via CrowdJustice.

Police harassment

I’ve been on the sharp end of police harassment for some time due to my ongoing fight to clear my name, something Avon and Somerset Police have consistently denied but from my work, as a volunteer caseworker for Bristol Copwatch I see the same patterns of harassment emerging with other POC who take a stand against police wrongdoing.

Whenever people, in general, take a stand against the police or the state whether it be through community monitoring groups, public speaking, or just doing your bit by going on a march we will always get the police’s attention, but it seems that Avon and Somerset Police are particularly malicious and vindictive in their treatment of black and brown people more so when we decide to fight for our rights.

Yesterday Bristol Copwatch held a small event at the Malcolm X Community Centre in St Pauls with Co-POWeR a University research project that is investigating the impact of emergency power policing on black and brown communities during the lockdown. We also held a stop and search workshop.

Although the event was fairly quiet (we are still getting to know St Pauls and understand the long and volatile relationship the community has had with the police here so kind of expected it) we were generally surprised to see area police turn up to check out what it was exactly we were doing. The police not only walked directly into our space for the afternoon but decided to park up outside the venue keeping a watchful eye on the entrance until finally driving off.

The monitoring group I am a founding member of respects all views on policing but we maintain a healthy distance from direct relationships with the police as it erodes trust in the communities we support. I personally have supported POC who have been through hell and back due to racist cops. It’s really hard for me to want to have any kind of engagement with the police when they consistently treat us so very badly. I know others in our core organising team feel very much the same.

What’s interesting is that after our event we headed to an anti-repression talk not far from the community centre and were monitored through our journey by local area police. Why is it that in white communities in Bristol this sort of attention to any event just does not happen? do the police feel so utterly threatened by a community event in St Pauls happening that they have to attempt to harass the organisers and intimidate the public from even walking through the door?

We had no more than 8 people in the Malcolm X Community Centre yesterday afternoon and yet still the police put pressure on us. When I was in Oxford two weeks ago the workshop myself and a fellow Copwatcher presented was busy and also monitored by the police. We’ve noted in Oxford that the police are keen on shutting down community organising if they can.

From my point of view as an organization, they feel threatened by anything they cannot have control over. This is an autocratic and authoritarian policing strategy and we need to resist it. It’s clear that if grassroots organising happens in areas they deem to be a problem (black and brown communities) we by default become “a person of interest.”

When we headed to the event held by anti-repression groups such as Bristol Defendant Solidarity and ABC we were made to feel very welcome, but then we were made to feel very welcome by the lovely staff at the Malcolm X Community Centre too. Today I’m very angry that the police attempted to create the perception that Bristol Copwatch must of either a) been up to no good. or b) was working with the police yesterday afternoon.

Co-POWeR we know felt very much the same about attempted police engagement and understand how important trust relationships are with communities like St Pauls. I respect the fact that some feel to monitor the police effectively you must build relationships with them (I strongly disagree and feel that this affects a monitoring group’s ability to critically analyze them as an organisation )but I also feel that had the organisers of yesterday’s event at MX all been white we wouldn’t have received the extensive attention we did.

I have been on the sharp end of racist policing a lot of my adult life and know what it looks like in action. I’m hoping that in the next couple of months I see a few things start to be put right. In the meantime, of course, I’ll keep campaigning. Next month I’m on the Bristol Radical History Group’s speaker panel at “Set the people free” talking about mobile fingerprinting and PACE stop and search. Following that, I’m with fellow Copwatchers at the awesome Bristol Transformed festival hosting a workshop on dealing with the police.

I’m a firm believer in taking a stand when it comes to injustice. In the cold light of day, I see the police for what they are and I know that I’m doing the right thing. The last bit of training for the week is going to be a welcome stressbuster this afternoon. I still hope that you can see me. Just remember to stand up and just like the last time… I’ll see you on that road.

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