Rushed through parliament by the government, little time had been allowed for the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill1 (nearly 300 pages long!) to be properly scrutinised. Regardless, many campaigners and community members have picked up on strikingly draconic aspects of the Bill, that increase already violent police powers to an extreme. Some examples include the risk of ‘annoyance’ or disruption that could allow police to shut protests down and jail protestors. Both dangerous and ridiculous in expecting a demonstration or protest not to disrupt (what is the purpose of a demonstration?!), the addition of ‘risk’ raises the questions of how and who will analyse what could be a disruption. Refusing protests to take place near the symbolic centre of power (parliament) is among other aspects highlighted in the Bill. Another is the increased sentences for defacing of statues (like that of slave trader Edward Colston) to 10 years in prison, with reference to the ‘emotional’ value that these statues hold.
These examples and the way this Bill has been rushed through parliament exemplify how this government has continued to erode our rights and legitimise the increase of powers that protect them and their interests. Legislation no longer even wrapped up with the language of rights, the government has been audacious enough to reveal their intentions.
We protest for the survival and life of our communities. Is the death of our communities not an ‘annoyance’? Do our communities, our youth, our elders not have emotions that deserve to be respected, or even just recognised, like that which the state and police forces are willing to give to statues of men that supported, upheld and profited from some of the most heinous acts?
These policing practices are not isolated to the UK – they have also been used to surveil, control and harm communities across the globe for centuries, from their very inception. Earlier in March, we saw the return of the annual Security & Policing fair2 hosted by the Home Office. At this event where delegates from across the world are invited, police techniques, equipment and technologies are shared and sold, whilst officials ‘network’. Beyond the sharing of policing tactics, and sales of police equipment or/and trainings offered to state institutions later to be used on populations (in sometimes lethal ways), the practice of policing also extends to and beyond borders. This is evident for example, through the continued legacies of colonialism (as explained in our #ENDSARS3 video), through the operation of arms corporations in policing European borders, or through paramilitaries and state actors that provide direct British global policing. Policing on borders, and of migrants which will no doubt be extended under Priti Patel’s most recent asylum plans4 are not to be sidelined in this conversation. Locally, massive investments in arms5 and fossil fuel6 companies by West Yorkshire councils (amongst the largest in the country) have funded and profited from the policing of communities7 at home and abroad, reminding us again that our struggles are inseparable.
Britain’s historical and ongoing role in policing the world, to accumulate wealth, crush dissent and surveil communities needs to be part of this conversation. A reckoning with this bloody and ongoing picture and a holistic understanding might help expose problems in attributing ‘violence’ to acts of protest. One of the most symbolic representations of this contradiction was evident in Boris Johnson’s condemnation of protests in Bristol and calls for protesting to be done ‘peacefully and legally’8 whilst he was visiting one of the world’s largest arms companies, BAE Systems, that has played a huge role in the war on Yemen, even throughout the pandemic9.
In our local communities, we continue to see money being poured into policing whilst our living and community services are underfunded. The leading mayoral candidate for West Yorkshire has pledged to prioritise and increase policing if elected. West Yorkshire police have announced10 the building of two new police stations in Kirklees. It was also announced that West Yorkshire police would be receiving £1.5million11 from the Home Office, and that there will be a surge in the deployment of police bikes in Calderdale12. This is not to mention the investment in policing (often racialised) communities beyond those in uniforms, through schemes like Prevent in schools, hospitals, workplaces. But where is the investment in education, housing, health, and leisure, that could radically better our communities and contribute massively to the prevention of problems the police claim to deal with?
A collaborative understanding of the ways in which gender-, border-, racist-, colonial- violences are inherent to police (violence), can allow us to continue the call and organising for a radical, collective resistance and movement in which we prioritise our communities and life rather than violence and death, leaving no-one behind.
The delay of the Bill, the pressure that changed the Labour Party’s abstaining stance into opposition, and most importantly the mobilisation of thousands in the last weeks are huge victories. With this, comes the opportunity to grow our movement collectively, fighting against institutions and practices that are killing our communities in different ways.
It is not enough to call for reforms or promises from institutions dedicated to the protection of institutions and bodies that kill and harm our communities, at home, on borders, and abroad. Instead, we must fight for an end to structural violence which these institutions are fundamental to, and invest our capacities in building our communities, looking out for and protecting one another, and investing in community resources, facilities and practices that foster a flourishing life.
RJN’s long read on the Policing Bill’s impact on West Yorkshire & beyond can be found at racialjusticenetwork.co.uk/2021/03/26/rjns-long-read-on-the-policing-bill-the-impact-on-west-yorkshire-and-beyond.
The Racial Justice Network
The Racial Justice Network is a West Yorkshire based group organising for holistic, societal, environmental, spiritual and cultural repairs to address legacies of colonialism and end racial injustice. racialjusticenetwork.co.uk // email@example.com // @RaceJustice // theracialjusticenetwork (instagram)
Eighteen Ideas for West Yorkshire
- West Yorkshire needs Free, Electric and Community Controlled buses now
- West Yorkshire's Low Carbon Freight Waterway
- Reform of Meanwhile Use: Arts & Culture On The High Street
- Planning and designing decent homes and liveable places for all in West Yorkshire
- How can people create the homes that their communities need, where the market and developers are failing?
- A warm, healthy and climate friendly home for everyone in West Yorkshire
- 20 Minute neighbourhoods
- Reimagining West Yorkshire town centres
- Seeing West Yorkshire as a bio-region
- An active welcome in West Yorkshire
- The Policing Bill’s Impact on West Yorkshire & Beyond
- Adult Education for a Citizen-Led West Yorkshire
- An education system that nurtures all our young people
- Arts and Health in West Yorkshire
- Co-operative Care Colne Valley
- Citizen-led Finance for West Yorkshire
- A West Yorkshire mayor means a mayor committed to rugby league
- Having No Alternative, but the Alternative
- Listening to West Yorkshire