Letter: Brixton: the part played by police in a protest-turned- riot
Monday 18 December 1995
Sir: One can see from the tenor of discussions following Wednesday's tragic protest-turned-riot that peace will not be forthcoming.
Attention remains focused on members of the black community, who are held fully responsible for the riot. However, criminalising black anger is not a good way to begin a constructive dialogue.
Authorities seeking a rationale for the anger that sparked the riot should stop pointing fingers. For instance, why isn't the death in custody of Wayne Douglas included as an incitement? In the aftermath of that tragic death, a more reasonable authority might have suggested a lower police profile on Wednesday.
Deploying large numbers of police in full riot gear is definitely an incitement. Isn't that a sign that the police are itching for a confrontation? Your timeline ("Angry words that ignited the tinder-box", 15 December) shows that trouble erupted after police in full riot gear tried to block protesters from disrupting traffic. Unfortunately, someone decided that a sit-down demonstration was too much to tolerate. That decision ended with a full-scale riot.
Sir Paul Condon's remarks about a "criminal element" don't play too well, as he is on record as viewing the whole black community as inclined towards crime. Why hasn't he resigned?
Focus remains on the strong words of Rudy Narayan as the key to the riots. He offers an obvious target. However, the actions that followed his strong words were a march and a sit-down demo. It took police action to turn the situation into something bigger. What harm would have come from letting the protesters express their anger, even if that meant several hours of noisy chanting and blocking traffic? With no resistance from police, the marchers would have gradually grown tired and dispersed.
Peace will come to communities like Brixton only when the grievances of the black community are given serious attention. Everything about the handling of Wednesday night's demo shows that we have a long way to go in this regard.
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