- Created: Friday, 18 November 2016 15:58
- Written by Leeds correspondent and Olivia Adamson
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! No.2 - January/February 1980
Leeds: The Police, the Courts and Racist Attacks
Today, when we read in the British press of the activities of the racists in this country, the picture that we are being force-fed is that of a mob of ranting degenerates waving their Union Jack and National Front banners, of Willy Whitelaw or Enoch Powell delivering one of their speeches or even of a house-seller advertising his house for sale to whites only. But how much is this picture a true assessment of the increasing acts of racism blacks in Britain have to put up with. The truth is that British institutionalised racism affects black people day in and day out. It affects them in their employment of they are 'lucky' enough to be employed), it affects them in their education, it affects them on the housing market but most of all it affects them in their dealings with the law — British racist law.
As a black man living in a black community, I have witnessed the way that the police and courts are used against us and especially against the youth of our community. There are hundreds of racist acts by police every year. For example: I have witnessed the invasion of our community by 200 policemen on November 5 equipped with riot-shields and batons to face 15 and 16 year olds. There are the arrests of the youth on suspicion of having committed a crime they could not possibly have committed, and the subsequent hours of detention in the police cells for refusing to give a statement before seeing a solicitor. There is the constant stopping and questioning and searching, of the youth in the streets and of car-owners. The latter are frequently harassed for trivialities. There is the near-military invasion of black people's social gatherings whereby whole streets are blocked off by police vans and rows of police, while they invade premises, with dogs, batons and cameras, lifting people at will. There was of course the case of David Olewale, continuously hounded and finally murdered by the Leeds police, who subsequently walked free from the court.
Just recently, six youngsters, having just returned to Leeds from visiting a youth club in Bradford, were stopped by policemen and accused of stealing six polythene bags of fibreglass. The youngsters protested their innocence, which was backed up by a Scotsman who had seen the youngsters making their way home. For his trouble, this witness was told by police in no uncertain terms to keep out of the way. The six explained that they had just returned to Leeds and that they could not possibly have stolen the fibreglass. Nonetheless, under a barrage of racist insults, they were forced into the waiting police van and driven to the police station where they were kept for five hours. While there they were made to stand all the time, without their shoes and socks, and subjected to continual racist abuse. These youths have now been summonsed to appear before the courts on this charge.
Another example shows how the police and the courts collaborate against black youth. A sixteen year old youth, found beaten up, bruised and dazed, by a policeman and policewoman, was driven to the local hospital for treatment. The police waited for the youth to be treated and then offered to drive him home. This he accepted. Arriving at his street, the youth asked the officers to drop him off at the top of the street as he didn't want to alarm his mother. The youth left the police car and walked to the back of his house, as the back door was always left open for him. On opening the gate to his back garden, he suddenly saw a police car racing down the narrow backstreet towards him. The youth hurried into his garden to get out of the way. The police car screeched to a halt, and both occupants jumped out. It was then that the youth realised that it was in fact the same heavily built policewoman and policeman who had just given him a lift. The policeman started poking the youth in the chest and asking him where the Hell he thought he was going. The policeman produced a pair of handcuffs, at which point the youth resisted and then ended up on the ground with both officers on top of him. The youth's mother and sister, awakened by his screaming, came out to see what was happening. Asking the police what they were doing with her son, she was told abusively to get back inside and get some clothes on. The sister told the police to leave the boy alone, at which point she was called a 'black bastard' and told to get back inside before she was arrested as well. The mother was told that she could come to the police station and that she could find out there what he was being arrested for. At the police station she was initially allowed in with her son, but then she was asked to sit outside, while he was questioned in her absence. The mother was then told that out of the goodness of the police officers' hearts they had taken him to hospital. She was told that there would be no charges and that she and her son could go. However, three months later the mother received a summons to court, her son charged with causing actual bodily harm to a policewoman. Both mother and son were very shocked by this. The case went to court and there the policewoman made a statement saying how during the struggle in the boy's back garden, her finger had been bitten. The judge paid no attention to the circumstances under which the youth had been subjected to two unprovoked attacks in one night. The Judge said that he had no alternative but to believe what the policewoman said as he could see no reason why police officers would lie in court!!!!
Again in court a black car-owner was the victim of 'legal' racism when he was found guilty of crashing his car when he wasn't even in it. This man had parked his car in town. A white driver subsequently ran into the back of it. On being breathalysed this driver was found to have over the legal limit of alcohol in his blood, and yet in court the black driver, his car stationary, was the one who was penalised.
These examples are just a small part of the racist onslaught perpetrated on our and other black communities. The whole thing has reached such a pitch that many feel that collective action is needed, against not just the police but all the other agencies of institutionalised racism. It is generally the feeling that we as a community must do something to halt this beast. This now, or death at their hands (as in the case of David Olewale) later.
Defend The Earlington Family
Racist frame-ups, arrests and assaults are part of everyday life for black people in Britain. In Highbury and Islington, North London, police activity on this score is notorious. The Islington 18 only won their freedom from police trumped-up charges after a long campaign waged by the Defence Committee. Unabashed by this exposure of their racist activities during the case of the 18, local police have continued their harassment of black people in the area. Their racist activities have been highlighted this year by the arrest of five members of a single black family. In April 1979 a total of five members of the Earlington family were arrested by police. Where? In their own home. For what? because, allege the police, Mrs Earlington had been having an argument with a neighbour, it was necessary to arrest first her, then four more members of family in case a ‘breach of the peace' might occur.
Arrest of the Earlington Family
On the afternoon of April 9 1979, Mrs Earlington was at home on sick leave from work. She has been a ward orderly in the local hospital for the last eight years. Mrs Earlington's son, Trevor, on his return 'lame from work, was involved in a short argument with a neighbour's son over a bicycle wheel, which had been removed from his bicycle. Mrs Earlington and the mother of the boy next door joined in. Neighbours have since stated that at this time, no noise or disturbance could be heard.
Then there arrived two policemen (the first of many). They had been 'called', they said in court, but they 'did not know by whom'. And in fact, according to police evidence in court, everyone in the nearby flats refused to speak to them when they arrived. After trying one door, the police arrived at the Earlington's flat where Mrs Earlington was standing in the passage way inside the house. One of the policemen advanced towards Mrs Earlington and said: 'Did you phone for the police you black bastard. Any more noise from you and I'll have you nicked'. Mrs Earlington angered by this provocative racist abuse, protested that she was sick, that she was not doing anything and that the police had no right to be there. The policeman then grabbed hold of her. On hearing his mother calling out for a doctor and for help, Trevor came from upstairs where he had gone to watch TV. Seeing what was happening to his mother, he tried to prevent the policeman from manhandling her. Meanwhile, the second policeman had radioed for help to assist the two in the arrest of this sick woman. Audrey Earlington then arrived. She too was horrified by the scene.
Very quickly, an estimated 18 police in five cars and three meat wagons, arrived outside the flat. Having announced their arrival by knocking down the sitting room door, which was locked, they then proceeded to arrest the family. Mrs Earlington was hand-cuffed and dragged off down three flights of stone steps. It was at this point, neighbours state, that they first heard a disturbance and came out to look. That is, the peace of the neighbourhood was broken only by the activities of the police. Trevor was arrested and so was Audrey. Angela (14) who had just arrived home from school, protested at the sight of her handcuffed mother and tried to prevent her from being dragged off. For her trouble she was slapped on the face, handcuffed and dragged off too. Mr Earlington, who had been dozing in front of the TV, came downstairs and had hardly time to take in the scene before he was punched in the stomach and arrested.
At the police station, all the family were charged with numerous counts of assault etc. Mrs Earlington's thumb had been twisted to a degree where she was unable to work for several weeks. She was refused medical attention at the police station. The blow to Angela's face has since reactivated a childhood illness in her jaw and she is due shortly to go into hospital.
Two of the family, Mrs Earlington and Trevor, charged with both Actual Bodily Harm and assault of a police officer with intent to resist arrest, elected to be tried at Crown Court. However, their belief that this would lead to a 'fairer' trial than at Highbury Magistrates Court, notorious for its racism and the heavy sentences meted out to black people, was shaken. The question of precisely why 18 police had found it necessary to beat up and arrest five members of one family in their own home was never an issue during the trial. The judge's summing up was devoted almost entirely to police evidence. As a result Mrs Earlington and Trevor were found guilty by the jury who failed, however, to reach a unanimous verdict on the second charge. Trevor Earlington lost the job which he had only just managed to get, due to having to take time off for the case.
Defence Committee Formed
Mrs Earlington and Trevor have since decided to appeal against this racist injustice. The cases of Mr Earlington, Angela and Audrey are still to come up at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court. The Earlington Family Defence Committee has been formed by the Earlington Family, friends, Hackney branch of the PNP and supporters of FRFI, to fight the charges and to raise money and support for the Earlington Family. The Defence Committee is determined that police victimisation of black people, in this case the Earlingtons, cannot go unchallenged in this area where such things happen week in week out. The Defence Committee is leafletting the area, holding meetings and other events and collecting money in support of the Earlington Family. Money is urgently needed to pay the fines already incurred, to pay any additional legal costs and to pay for publicity to build up support for the family. Please send money and make cheques payable to the Earlington Family Defence Fund.