By Starla Muhammad, Special to the NNPA from The Final Call –
(FinalCall.com) - Black youth are still being unfairly blamed and targeted in the aftermath of the civil unrest and rebellion that gripped the streets of London and other cities in early August, charge UK activists.
Despite media footage that clearly proves White, Asian and Black youth participating in the violence that erupted, Black youth have seemingly been subjected to increased racial profiling by police in light of Prime Minister David Cameron's vow to identify, prosecute and jail all those involved.
Increased racial profiling of Black youth stemming from the unrest is the result and is the biggest issue that needs to be discussed, says Hilary Muhammad, UK representative for the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“Not only are we having racial profiling here, we're also having dress profiling, we're also having age profiling and ethnicity profiling. So with this, if young brothers are walking around with hoodies on and with scarves around their necks then they're being stopped by four to six police officers at a time,” says Muhammad. It is systematic now, he adds.
“Wearing a hoodie is really just a draw to get stopped so they have become very heavy handed in their tactics and the laws that they are enforcing to really prevent young people from assembling more than three or four at a time,” says Muhammad.
Hughie Rose of the UK Chapter of the New Black Panther Party (NBPP) says not only are Black youth being pulled over or stopped but for those now facing charges for riot-related offenses, their right to fair and swift legal representation is being questioned.
“They're actually expediting our youth very quickly through the court system without any proper legal advice or anybody watching the case. They're doing 24 hour courts now and shutting off the courts to the public and doing the court cases in private,” Rose told The Final Call. Even though parents and probation officers can be in the courtroom, Mr. Rose is concerned that youth are treated fairly, Black youth in particular.
The NBPP have teamed up with local UK lawyers and other activist groups to formulate a defense campaign to monitor some of the court sessions in which Black youth are the defendants “to see exactly what they're doing with our youth,” says Rose.
When asked if groups of White youth were also being randomly stopped or pulled over by police since the uprising, Muhammad responded, “If they are it's nowhere near the proportion that Black people are being abused and ill-effected by these draconian laws. No, no, no! White people don't have to suffer these kinds of things. These things are reserved for us as a people” says Muhammad.
“What this says to me is that this was planned by government to introduce these types of draconian measures,” he adds.
“There have been increased policing laws. Arresting people right now for having a new pair of trainers (sneakers) on and if you don't have the receipt with it. They're just arresting you automatically … and since they've got the extra policing down here, 16,000 onto the scene they've gone buck wild in the community,” says Rose, also noting preliminary reports that 11 police officers pepper sprayed and assaulted another Black man, Jacob Michaels, resulting in his death Aug. 22 in a predominately White area near Manchester.
This would mark 16 Black men killed by police this year alone in the UK. Reports allege the officers repeatedly beat and kicked Michaels while he was handcuffed and on the ground.
The police shooting of Mark Duggan, another Black man, is what activists say sparked the latest round of unrest.
“If a young person is wearing a hooded top, the police have the right to pull them over, question, search. They have the right to ask you to remove any item of clothing they feel can cover your head or your face. Be it baseball caps, be it hats, be it hooded tops,” says community activist Trevor Hakim Muhammad.
Through how Black youth dress, Hakim Muhammad says, a more extreme level of racial profiling is imminent.
However the UK's grassroots Black activist movement is not taking this issue lightly and refuses to remain silent. The future of Britain's Black youth must be in the hands of parents and concerned and committed community citizens, not the government, says Hilary Muhammad.
Since the unrest, several groups have had town hall meetings and emergency forums to come up with solutions to problems facing Black youth.
Rose says Black organizations in South London, Tottenham and other areas are actively formulating campaigns and are coming together in an effort to join forces in a community-wide effort.
“It has galvanized the community to take a better organized action so that's one good thing that's come out of it,” says Rose.
Another broad coalition of Black leaders and organizations representing differing philosophies but harboring the same goal of taking ownership of their communities gathered recently at the Broadwater Farm Community Center in Tottenham, where Duggan was killed, to discuss problems but more importantly to enact solutions in response to the crisis gripping Black Britons.
Tottenham is significant to Black Brits because of the wave of civil unrest that occurred here 30 years ago, says Trevor Hakim Muhammad. “This was one of the places back in the mid-80s of the first level of civil unrest and uprisings that happened. When the Black community became frustrated … wanting a sense of empowerment to fight back against the establishment, mainly the police who were acting under stop and search laws where they could just stop a young Black person and totally racial profile and arrest you just because they felt they had a suspicion you were going to do something,” he explains.
Some of the most historic uprisings in the UK have taken place at Broadwater Farm, an area Hakim Muhammad describes as the U.S. equivalent of public housing developments or “the projects.”
“The nature of it (the meeting) is to discuss what happened, why it happened and what are we going to do going forward,” says Hilary Muhammad, one of many helping organize and coordinate the historic call to organization and action.
Hilary Muhammad hopes representatives from such groups as the Hebrew Israelite Nation, Pan-Africanists, local leaders, community activists, youth leaders and “every strata of representation in the community” will attend the gathering.
“What has happened has showed us that if leadership is divided then we can't speak to division among our youth who may enter into what's known as youth organizations, what's known as gangs and what-not. Our people are fighting each other over turf and different areas wherein we live and they are deriving such a warped perspective from those of us that are supposed to be in leadership who cannot agree on an agenda that will take our community forward,” he says.
“If the leadership is organized, regardless to language, regardless to faith, regardless to tradition then our young people can extract that example from us of unity. Regardless of dress or labels, then we can unify our youth but it starts with a unified message from the adults” says Hilary Muhammad.
“In order for us to evolve out from underneath the table of the enemy, we must now look toward the leader within ourselves and look toward as the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan taught us, God Almighty for the solution to our problem because our problem cannot be solved or resolved on the physical level. Our problem can only be solved and resolved on the spiritual level. The leadership must come together to thrash out ways and means to which we can resolve the problems of the times that we have entered into,” says the Nation of Islam student minister.
Speakers and presenters at the upcoming community meeting include, Student Minister Muhammad; Chairman of the West Indian Standing Conference Clarence Thompson; founding director of Nu-Beyond Ltd: Learning By Choice Dr. William “Lez” Henry; youth activist Mikel Ameen, Uni-Hood; activist Trevor Hakim Muhammad; social intervention specialist Twilight Bey; youth activist Ayeshah Muhammad; Chair of Queen Mother Moor School the Rev. Hewie Andrews; Student Protocol Director for the Nation of Islam Ishea Muhammad and many others who have voiced support of and solidarity with the event.