Letters: Race, mob rule and holding police to account

These letters were published in the January 10th edition of the Independent

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Like the riots that followed his shooting, this week’s Mark Duggan verdict has exposed Britain’s deep racial fault lines. While many white people find the level of black fury startling, many in the black population find this incomprehension still more infuriating.

The crux of the Duggan inquest focused on legalistic definitions of “lawful killing” but the anger felt on the streets of Tottenham and beyond flows from a deep sense of injustice fuelled by black Britons’ experience of discrimination.

Stefan Simanowitz, London NW3

Mob rule is never a pleasant sight. It was not pleasant when we saw it on our TV screens in the summer of 2011 and I guess it wasn’t very agreeable for the court staff in the Duggan case .

Anarchy in any society lies just below the surface. All that protects the ordinary citizen are the forces of law and order. These of course include the police and the courts. 

For this reason everyone can and should be expected to co-operate with them and offer proper respect. If misdemeanours by these bodies are suspected, they should be properly investigated. Clearly in this case they were, and that, subject to any proper appeal, should be the end of the matter.

Andrew McLuskey, Staines, Middlesex

The Mayor of London has said: “Londoners should feel assured that the police do an incredible job keeping this city safe.”

If one’s safety is dependent on the law sanctioning extra-judicial killings, then how safe are Londoners in reality? How safe were the people of Berlin while being policed by the Gestapo or the Stasi? I would suggest that one’s safety in all those cases is a secondary concern, outweighed by the right not to be killed in cold blood by an unaccountable arm of the state.

Paul Tyler, Canvey Island, Essex

A way to beat climate change

Let’s hope that your article on climate (8 January) doesn’t condemn geo-engineering in principle. Putting reflective particles into the atmosphere is just one idea; there are many others, as described in the Royal Society’s 2009 publication Geo-engineering the Climate.

Probably the best idea is to extract carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere, just as trees and other green plants, do naturally. The fundamental cause of global warming (which in turn is increasing the incidence of violent weather) is the steady accumulation of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, caused primarily by burning fossil fuels. But if carbon dioxide can be extracted from the atmosphere faster than it is put it, then the quantity in the atmosphere reduces. This will then stabilise the climate.

Developing the technologies for “artificial trees”, and then deploying the results on the required scale, presents a prodigious scientific and engineering challenge. But not an impossible one. It’s just a matter of resourcing and organisation. Do we need even more devastating floods to put this at the top of the Government’s scientific agenda?

Dennis Sherwood, Exton, Rutland

Your report that the Government and shale gas firms are considering increasing payments to communities living near fracking sites (9 January) indicates that the industry is losing the battle at the local level.

People are rightly concerned about the impacts of fracking, while the benefits of shale gas have been greatly exaggerated and experts warn that it won’t lead to cheaper UK fuel bills.

With the urgent need to decarbonise the UK economy, ministers should be investing in clean power and energy efficiency, not dangling financial sweeteners in front of communities to persuade them to accept a risky technology that will keep the nation hooked on climate-changing fossil fuels.

Tony Bosworth, Energy Campaigner, Friends of the Earth, London N1

French day of glory in 1918

Nigel Farage considers that it was the British, led by Field Marshal Douglas Haig, “that defeated the Germans in 1918”, in contrast to the French, who “showed little innovation and made repeated and costly mistakes” (6 January). The supreme allied commander, Generalissimo Ferdinand Foch, is not even deemed worthy of mention. Farage might have been acquitted of chauvinism for this, if it accorded with the facts; but it does not.

The tide of the First World War turned in the second half of July 1918, when hundreds of Renault light tanks, with futuristic swivel turrets, spearheaded a counter attack against the last German offensive near Soissons, at their recently taken Marne bridgehead. The tanks were supported by infantry divisions from Yorkshire, the Scottish Highlands, and the US, who had been seconded to French command, to make good the appalling French losses. Before the battle, it looked like the Germans were about to drive a wedge between the British and French armies and advance on Paris. Afterwards, they never had a victorious day.

David Hamilton, Leith, Edinburgh

Michael Gove should look again at the propaganda posters which appeared everywhere in the early days of the First World War, attempting to shame men into volunteering, and which led to men who were not in uniform being vilified. 

Maybe it was the poster “Women of Britain say -GO” which led my young, uneducated, apparently flirtatious, working-class aunt to go up to a man in the street and give him that symbol of cowardice, a white feather. When I asked her years afterwards why she had done it she said that they didn’t know what they were sending men to. After her oldest brother, “Our Jim”, was killed, she certainly did.

And how many children by the end of the  war were unable  to ask the question posed by the little girl in the poster sitting on her father’s knee: “Daddy what did YOU do in the Great War?”

Gillian Spencer, Bolton, Greater Manchester

I’ve no great love for Michael Gove, but views expressed by some of your readers (and Robert Fisk) don’t deserve much respect either. Long on rant and condemnation and very short on what the writers would have done if they’d found themselves in one of the hot seats at the time.

All I can infer from them is that in 1914 they’d have urged the Belgians and French just to hand over their countries promptly to Germany to save all the bother. It would have saved a lot of lives, but do they stand by the consequences?

How easy to jeer and be wise 100 years after the event.

John Tippler, Spalding, Lincolnshire

Having read lots of articles, comments and letters, I’m afraid I still don’t quite understand why Britain so determinedly wants to celebrate the beginning of a world war, and not the end of this particular occasion of death, misery and destruction.

Sonja Karl, Bangor, Gwynedd

Flood of misused language

Why do rivers “burst their banks”? 

According to the Oxford Dictionary, the main meaning of the verb “to burst” is “to break suddenly, snap, crack, under violent pressure, strain, or concussion. Chiefly said of things possessing considerable capacity for resistance and breaking with loud noise.” This in no sense describes what happens when a river floods its banks, which is in my view a far better description than “burst”.

If rivers had been bursting at the rate claimed over the past few weeks, surely there would be mud, debris, rubble and the remains of many sheep and cattle splattered all over the West Country towns close to the Severn.

Chris Sexton, Crowthorne, Berkshire

Parts of the Close in Salisbury are flooded, so the Conservative candidate in today’s ward by-election left a pile of his leaflets in the Portaloos.

Ron Johnston, Salisbury

Siren voice from the left

As a Tory voter, I am becoming increasingly alarmed at my constant agreement with the views of Owen Jones. This time it was his criticism of the TV programme Benefits Street. Before that it was Uruguay’s drugs policy. And so on.

Can’t you find a right-wing columnist as articulate as Mr Jones who can persuade me not to question my voting habits? Just, you know, for balance.

Mike Park, London SE9

Cameron crazy about Mandarin

David Cameron comes out with a crackpot idea, children to learn Mandarin (which at the time was politically adroit), and you embellish it (“Pupils set the pace with a love for Mandarin”, 27 December). Are our streets not filled with scores of English-speaking Chinese? And as for denigrating French and German, their literature is far more interesting for the western mind.

Dr E Nigel Wardle, Oxford

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