Friday, June 28, 2013

Race attack could have been worse

 QUESTIONING whether police doing job, and what happened to CCTV footage of attack

A SMALL demonstration called at short notice outside Wembley police station early this evening had the twofold aim of alerting people to the danger of racist attacks, and demanding answers from police about their mishandling of an investigation, at its very start.

It was 5.20am on Sunday, June 9, when a large black car pulled up on Willesden High Road, near the bus garage. Out got five white men, and set about attacking two young men of African descent who  had just got off a bus from central London.

One of their victims managed to avoid being punched in the face, but was separated from the other man, who was punched to the ground and kicked repeatedly.

The attackers might not have expected to be seen by many people, let alone interrupted, at that time on a Sunday morning. Fortunately they were. Three witnesses across the road shouted out and ran across to the African man's defence. The attackers got back into their car and drove off, still shouting.

Their victim was taken by the police to hospital with bruises under his eyes and later had a broken tooth removed. One of the witnesses, Robin Sivapalan, a local trade unionist met him later at Northwick Park hospital and brought him to his house to recover.

This attack in the London Borough of Brent came only days after the firebombing of an Islamic cultural centre in Muswell Hill, north London,as supposed "retaliation" for the killing of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich on Wednesday, May 22. Brent, with its diverse population usd to facing economic adversity together is not good territory for racists and bigots.  But that does not prevent them targetting it - not for votes but for hatred. 

 In 2009 the British National Party produced a video supposedly showing how the borough was being taken over by Muslims.. Could it be that in 2013, feeling their time has come after Woolwich, yet frustrated by their humiliation in Whitehall, a group of thugs got into their car and set off to drive into the area looking for anyone whom they thought might be a Muslim, or failing that, any black person?

Whatever their precise motive, this was plainly no random attack or altercation gone wrong. And had they not been interrupted....we might be looking at something more than GBH, bad as that was..

Checking with police at Wembley on Wednesday, the witness Robin was told that the case had not yet been allocated to an investigating officer, nor had it been logged as a racist attack. He stressed to the police officer that the assault could well have been far more damaging had there not been an intervention from the public, that the attackers posed a threat to all Black people - not just the particular victim in this case - and that this was possible backlash to the Woolwich incident. (Police say they have been busy keeoping an eye on mosques, but surely watching out for attacks on persons should be part of the same remit?)

Robin and the victim went to a local business where they were shown the CCTV footage which caught the entire attack, with the car, from two cameras and they informed the police that the evidence was available.

It took till the Thursday for the police to call the victim, and the investigating officer failed to reply to any of the messages left by Robin. By the following Thursday the CCTV footage had been lost. The police had been told that they were welcome to collect the recording equipment themselves while the footage was still retrievable.

The police attended the business on Wednesday 19th and discovered one set of footage had been deleted. They only collected the recording equipment and called in witnesses after DS Williams had been informed by Robin that the second set of footage had also been lost and that he would take the matter further. 

Concerned  residents in Brent held a picket at Wembley Police Station on Thursday June,27., and sent in a deputation  calling for meeting with the Borough Commander that will provide accountability for this failure to act. They have also contacted local councillors. 

Coming in a week when it was revealed that the Metropolitan police who for so long failed the Lawrence family sent an agent into their circles to try and smear and discredit them, this case has once again got people talking about "institutional racism".

It must also alert minorities - in Brent that's a majority - and the labour movement to give thought to community self-defence and security.


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