Letter: A cycle of retaliatory violence

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The Independent Online
Sir: The parents, relatives and friends of Richard Everitt have the sincerest condolences of the Camden Racial Equality Council ('Race motive suspected in murder of white boy', 15 August). He was clearly a generous, good- natured person who was entitled to expect a long and happy life.

It is tragic that the life of one so young should end in such a sudden, pointless and unjust way. (Richard Everitt was stabbed to death as he walked near his home in north London.) We strongly endorse the calls of the police for any witnesses with relevant information to come forward, for calm in the area, and for there to be no 'reprisals'.

As you report this morning ('Fear and loathing after 'racial' murder', 16 August), there is considerable tension in Somers Town. By failing to set this tragic incident in the context of the history of the area, the press coverage of the last few days has tended to inflame the atmosphere.

The well-established Bengali community has faced high levels of racial harassment for many years. Thas has included verbal racial abuse, violent assaults and arson, principally targeted at the most vulnerable: the elderly, mothers with young children and those isolated by ill health or language barriers. That harassment continues today and the vast majority of racial incidents reported to the police fit that pattern.

However, in the last few years a new pattern has emerged as the first generation of Bengalis born in this country reached their mid- teens. Their experience of growing up in British schools has left its mark. They respond to violence in the same way as their white contemporaries, rather than as their parents. When Bengali young people are attacked, they are no longer prepared to be passive recipients of violence.

Rightly or wrongly, their perception is that they are unlikely to receive justice at the hands of the local police. They believe that the police do not pursue the perpetrators of attacks on their community with any real commitment and that they themselves are the victims of police racism.

Consequently, they see no alternative to responding to racist attacks directly, with the objective of 'defending their community'. That may mean retaliatory attacks on white young people. The result has been a continuing cycle of confrontation. It happens to have been a white youth who died last week; it could as easily have been a Bengali, and next week it might be.

A cycle of violence has now culminated in murder. Nothing can bring Richard back or compensate his family for their loss, but it would be a worthy tribute to his memory if local people, both Asian and white, were sufficiently shocked to put an end to the cycle of attack and retaliation that culminated in Richard's death.

Yours faithfully,

JONATHAN S. STANLEY

Director

Camden Racial Equality Council

London, NW1

16 August

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