Tuesday, 23 April 2013

20 years on we remember Stephen Lawrence and I’ll never forget Rolan Adams.

It was 20 years ago today 22nd April 1993: that was the day British society was to be fundamentally changed as Stephen Lawrence lay dying on the streets of London.

At the time, I was the national spokesperson for the National Black Caucus. We had been campaigning in Greenwich South East London, particularly in the local areas of Eltham and Thamesmead, since February 1991, a full 2 years before Stephens’s tragic murder.

Back then we had supported a family, who are little known today, compared to the Lawrence’s. Their son was one of the earliest victims of a spate of racist murders that would become an international scandal and lead to the biggest ever, mass moblisation of the anti racist community since the uprisings against police racism in 1986.

First though, it’s important to get a bit of background to understand the climate that existed at the time.

In 1989 I was Secretary of a local black local organisation. The organisation, Southwark Black Communities, had referred Southwark Council Housing Department to the Commission for Race Equality.

The Council had wanted to allocate an all new housing development on the north side of Old Kent Road, to an all white housing association. We opposed that and the CRE agreed and issued a legal Notice of Discrimination.
The result was that all UK local authorities had to stop allocating housing on the basis of race.

As a result of our campaigning, in addition to others, Black and Asian people, were now moving into traditionally white areas, at a time that coincided with rising unemployment and the onset of UK economy entering recession, an important fact to remember as we endure this austerity induced depression.

One incident in Southwark Park Rotherhithe, in the early 1990’s saw a school bus packed with Black and Asian kids, subject to a brutal racist attack by a gang of white youths.

We had organised a march to oppose the attack on our children, that was met with the vilest and overt, vicious racism, I’ve ever witnessed.

White people, young, old, entire communities, and even the disabled, lined the streets to hurl racist abuse at us.

I remember well, Simon Hughes MP opposed the march and stood on a Bridge overlooking us as we passed underneath, alongside racists who spat on us in such volume, it felt like it was raining. The scene was reminiscent of American Deep South in the1960’s. The atmosphere was one of deep-seated hatred and racism spat out like with poisonous venom.

When we reached the park, led there for our safety by the police, we were abandoned and left to fend for ourselves. Police officers simply withdrew from the demo and walked over and joined the swelling ranks of the racists, officers looked back at us and laughed. We were 500 whilst the racists were closer to 2000. The police stood with the racists.

We were confronted by the massed ranks of the BNP, Combat 18 and Millwall fans, plus local racist gangs that wanted to keep Bermondsy white.
They tried every which way, to attack the march. I remember a black woman looking at me and saying,

“Lee, today is a good day to die”

We stood our ground, although completely surrounded and I told a senior police officer that he better understand that we were prepared to die that day. It was clear he was unable or unwilling to control his officers He begged me to hold the demo in check, and to be honest we had no real option but to hold our ground, surrounded by a baying pack of racist thugs.

Once the police knew we were serious and prepared to die fighting, they called for and deployed riot troops and battered the assembled fascists into a bloody broken heap.

There were no arrests, despite the riotous carnage. A black couple that accidently drove into the area close to the mob, were momentarily trapped in as racists swarmed their vehicle. We had to move Black people out of their homes that night, for fear of reprisal attacks, but we never gave in, we never surrendered, even in the face of such vile racism. Racist attacks continued to escalate and we continued to fight back eventually, we won and the racists moved out and moved east.

This was a time, in London and in other parts of the country, when Black and Asian people, were literally fighting for our basic human rights to live, walk the streets and work anywhere we chose.

As many areas were becoming desegregated, reports were flooding in all over the country of rising incidence of racial attacks and so our organisations were already on high alert, because of a succession of racist murders in Greenwich that the Metropolitan Police refused to investigate properly.

Today I often go to London Rotherhide and Bermondsy, as I have family who live in the area. As I walk the streets and see the fantastic diversity that exists there now, I often smile and remind myself of the bitter violent struggle we fought to ensure black people could live safely in these areas.

Then in 1991 the murder of 15-year-old Rolan Adams made my blood run cold in my veins.
There were remarkable similarities between Rolan’s murder and that of Stephens.

He too had been waiting at a bus stop with his brother, some two miles away from where Stephen was to die two years later.

They were approached by a gang of 14 white youths, shouting racist abuse, they were confronted and chased. Rolan was stabbed from behind and his brother escaped, only to return to find Rolan had been fatally stabbed.

His parents, Audrey and Richard Adams understood well the nature of racism in Britain. The police tried to suggest that his murder was nothing more than “a territorial gang fight”.

We knew well he had been killed for no other reason than the colour of his skin. The Adams family was forthright and demanding in their calls for justice, yet they were largely ignored by the white mainstream media, but loved by the black community.

Their battle for justice was strident and uncompromising. While we marched for justice with Rev Al Shaprton whilst the wretched BNP, had held a counter demo calling the killers of Rolan Adams “Heroes of the White Race”,

I felt a real connection with the Adams family. I saw first hand, how they suffered the indignity of a racist and callous police force and a bigoted indifferent media. They had become cast as the “undeserving victims” by the media.

A gang of racists slaughtered Rolan and yet in the end, only one person, Mark Thornburrow was convicted then only for manslaughter, instead of murder, whilst the rest of this vicious mob received a range of light community sentences.

My relationship with the Adams family endured and remains to this day. Had their call for justice had been heeded, and our calls for the police to do their job been heard, lives could have been saved, including that of Stephen.

I believe that, this family’s role in changing the course of British history has been purposely overlooked, because in some people’s eyes they were just “too black and too strong”.

There are no honours for them, no gushing support from white liberals, no monuments, book’s or reams of articles recording their tragic history, just a gutful of pain and profound marginalisation. Dr Richard Stone deserves a special mention here; in later years his compassion, empathy and support for the family was exceptional.

In May 1991, following Roland’s murder, we witnessed the racist murder of Orville Blair, falsely suspected being a burglar he was confronted and killed. Orville’s murderer was eventually arrested and convicted of the lesser charge of manslaughter.

Greenwich had become the racist murder capital of Britain. The area was notorious to such an extent that black people literally feared to walk the streets in those areas at night.  The BNP had opened a ‘ bookshop’ on Well Hall Road and was spreading their philosophy of violent race hatred. This poison seeped into the estates and schools leading to bloodshed on the streets.

Following the killing of Orville and in the same year, Lee Pearson was stabbed outside a Kebab shop near Well Hall Road, the now infamous scene of Stephens’s death.  Lee was so terrified of his attackers who included the Acourts, he refused to testify for fear of reprisal.

But the community knew what was going on, the truth was that local white youth had declared the area a “nigger free zone”

In July 1992, Rohit Duggal was stabbed to death outside the same shop as Lee Pearson. Peter Thompson was found guilty of murder but yet again the police failed to understand that a culture of violent racism was the prime-motivating factor in these killings.

In October 1992 Sher Singh Sagoo was murdered in Deptford Market again his attacker was charged with manslaughter, but the case was later abandoned because of ‘insufficient evidence”

In 1993 Kevin London was lucky to escape with his life, after being confronted by a racist gang including the Acourt brothers.

Then in March that year a gang, including the Acourts, stabbed two more men on Eltham High Street.

Gurdeep Bhangal confronted the Acourt gang outside his father’s Wimpy franchise. He was stabbed with a kitchen knife and barely survived, no one was charged. 

That same month, Fiaz Mirza a mini cab driver was abducted beaten and his body thrown in the Thames.

Eventually brothers Mark and Ricky Lee were both given life for murder.

Neil Acourt. the following week, stabbed Stacey Benefield in the company of David Norris.

This reign of racist terrorism promoted by the BNP and enforced by a group of racist thugs left the nation is shock and forever impacted on British society.

So Stephen’s death was important and in response I helped lead 5,000 black youths from across London on a march to Eltham on march of 60,000 to oppose the racist violence spurred on by Nick Griffins BNP bookshop.

I was an avid anti apartheid activist at the time, and had made good contacts with the ANC exiled activists in London. When Mandela walked free, I was able to arrange for him to meet the Lawrence family when he came to London. He issued a statement saying that he thought that “Black lives were cheap” in the UK. From then on the campaign achieved an international profile.

We campaigned for a public inquiry but John Major and his Tory Government point blank refused to engage supporting the police line that racism was incidental to these cases.

We had good contacts with the Labour Party, who were in opposition at the time, and we used all our influences to persuade them to agree to a Public Inquiry should they win the 1997 general election. Jack Straw announced their intent at an Operation Black Vote press conference held at the 1990 Trust offices at SouthBank Technopark that I chaired.

We were also able to strongly lobby for Dr Richard Stone to be on the panel once Blair won the election. We had worked together at the Mangrove Community Association, All Saints Road Notting Hill, throughout the 1980’s.

He was the only doctor we could get to come out at any time night or day to check on black men who were beaten during arrest by the police and supported our efforts to free Frank Crichlow from false arrest, but that’s a whole other story.

I gave evidence to the Lawrence Inquiry as Director of the 1990 Trust and coined the phrase that black people:

We are underpoliced as victims of crime and overpoliced as law abiding citizens”.

Once in the Mayors Office under Ken Livingstone office, I was able to support the Lawrence’s by ensuring the London Development Agency prioritised the funding of the Stephen Lawrence Centre something that gave me immense personal and professional pleasure as I attended the opening.

So yes I remember Stephen’s murder and in doing so I remember all other victims who preceded him and indeed followed him.

This current Government has squandered the political legacy of Stephen’s death by abolishing all of the various policy forums designed to monitor race inequality. Race is no longer on the Government agenda for now. It will return, as racism in the context of this recession has become amplified by austerity. As welfare benefit reforms ethnically cleanse London, forcing Black and Asian families to live in low rent areas where unemployment is on the increase, I can see the potential for increase community tensions rising again.

Racism always rises during a recession fanned on by sections of the media and government seeking to scapegoat minorities for the ills of the nation.

In a YouGov poll for LBC 97.3 Radio and ITV London published today, confirms my long held view that the problem of institutionalised racism in the police remains a huge problem. Nearly 60% of black people say the police remains racist in their behavior, attitude and in terms of their operational methods.

As for the Adams family whatever happens, they need to be accorded their rightful place in history and as long as I breathe I will strive to make sure that their bravery, courage and leadership is acknowledged and respected.

I say let us remember Stephen but let us not forget Audrey and Richard Adams and their family. Raise them up, for if we don’t, no one else will.

Lee Jasper

Thursday, 4 April 2013

‘UK govt. on mission to afflict poverty’ - Press TV

Originally published at: http://www.presstv.ir

Press TV has conducted an interview with Lee Jasper, with the Black Activists Rising Against Cuts from London to shed more light on the topic of the program.

‘UK govt. on mission to afflict poverty’
This government is on an ideological mission to restructure Britain into a low wage poverty economy that ensures that the rich remain rich and the poor are driven further down into poverty.”
An analyst tells Press TV that the Tory-led government of the United Kingdom is on an ideological mission to restructure the country into a “low-wage poverty economy” to guarantee the interest of the rich castes of the society.

A coalition of leading churches has accused the British government of pursuing a program of “unjust” cuts in welfare payments targeting the most vulnerable in the society. The "bedroom tax," which is due to be introduced in April, refers to a cut in housing benefit for claimants whose home has a spare room. On Sunday, thousands of people took to the streets across more than 50 towns and cities in Britain to call on the Tory-led government to axe cuts in housing benefit for those with spare bedrooms.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Lee Jasper, with the Black Activists Rising Against Cuts from London to shed more light on the topic of the program. He is joined by Gabriel Talmain, professor at the Glasgow University from Glasgow. What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview.

Press TV: Mr. Jasper the UK’s austerity program initiated, we know, in 2012 and a lot of people are saying that it has had few tangible results and it has, rather, led to more debt and mounting public complaints.

So why are we seeing this policy adopted again even to a more strengthened level and extreme level, is that going to help tackle the debt?

Jasper: Well, the deficit and the debt have been used as a flag of convenience and the reality is that the Tories are seeking to use it as an excuse to make also sort of an ideological attacks on the very poorest in our community.

And so we are seeing the bedroom tax which is essentially an attempt to reconfigure the inner cities where there is huge Muslim, where there are huge black and minority communities that resolutely refuse to vote for Tory.

They are seeking to socially reengineer those areas; releasing housing to more wealthy individuals in order to gerrymander the general election and to improve their chances of securing electoral success but all throughout the country we are seeing expenditure on ... nuclear submarines, we are financing wars with our army in places where we have no business like Iraq and Afghanistan; we are looking at corporate tax evaders who are getting away with paying less tax proportionately than some of our poorest people in work.

This government is on an ideological mission to restructure Britain into a low wage poverty economy that ensures that the rich remain rich and the poor are driven further down into poverty.

Press TV: Mr. Jasper, would you agree with what Mr. Gabriel Talmain said?

Jasper: No I just think that is Neoliberal tripe. At the end of the day the reality is that the government is making political decisions where it chooses to raise the money to reduce the deficit.

The fact is if we brought our troops home from Afghanistan and Iraq, if we canceled nuclear submarine...., I mean the guest said raising taxes from the rich is pie in the sky; well it cannot be morally justified that Starbucks and Amazon pay zero tax on multibillion Pound profits just because a clever legal arrangement we [have] managed to procure through high expensive lawyers allows them to escape their duties in this country.

The whole argument about any government would have to do this, is absolute nonsense.

Just up to the war, we had a higher percentage of debt in terms of ratio to GDP than we have ever had; far in excess of what we have now and when we dragged ourselves out of that Postwar depression, we did it by building schools, hospitals, building roads, infrastructure, the NHS, the education system and social housing.

So to suggest that the fourth richest economy in the world cannot simply restructure itself in order to have a more equitable tax system that can cut the deficit is in itself a lie of monumental proportions and there is a bear scrutiny when you compare it to the facts.

Press TV: Mr. Jasper what do you say to these kinds of comments? To those who are saying that there are unnecessary expenses here and that it’s the time for people to sacrifice at these difficult conditions?

Jasper: The reality is that today the Tory government has given 13,000 millionaires, a 40,000 Pound tax cut; that is an additional 40,000 Pound to people who are millionaires in this country, who do not need the money.

So far from getting more money from the rich, this government is giving money to the rich.

And let us deal with the issue of the bedroom tax. The bedroom tax is paid to..., the majority of that money, is paid to working people; people already in work, who are getting assistance from the government to pay for rents in cities like London and elsewhere where the rents are absolutely stratospheric. No reasonable person can afford anything more than a doghouse in a capital like London; such is the level of rent.

So this notion that these are lazy people is completely fallacious. They are working people to the factor of 85 percent of those bedroom tax are for working people and the notion that the rich cannot pay any more, is fundamentally undermined by the reality that this government is giving tax cuts to the very rich rather than seeking to use that money to offset some of these drastic cuts that we are seeing.

And in relation to the army, this notion that this little country that is now on the down slope of the empire building project of the last 80, 90 years that has been forced to confront its minor relative scale; should have an army the size that we have, is ludicrous.

We should be a small player in a world which is now dominated by other powers and we should reconcile ourselves to that and cut the budget accordingly. Bring the troops home from Iraq and Afghnistan and we save billions of Pounds each year.

Press TV: Mr. Jasper if you could quickly tell us why do you think that it is realistic to get money out of the rich? Our guest there was saying that it is, actually, not possible.

Jasper: We are the fourth richest nation in the world. There is plenty pf money amongst the rich and the wealthy and the corporate multinational companies to be able to balance the books and have a more equitable and just society. This is the Tory Poll Tax, it is the equivalent of Margaret Thatcher’s Poll Tax .

Your commentator was absolutely right, it is fundamentally unjust and so what if the rich have to leave? We would rather be a poorer country with more equitable justice rather than be a richer country where inequality and [in]justice reign.

Let us live with less and have more equality rather than have more money and greater levels of inequality. That is a fundamental question confronting the Western economies ... as they are on the downside of a global economy where power is shifting to the East, increasingly they will have to get used to.


Davey D interview with Lee Jasper on racism and austerity in the UK

Originally published at:

Black Folks Are Catching Racist Hell Throughout the UK & Europe as Austerity Kicks In

This week on our daily show, Hard Knock Radio we talked with long time political activist and former senior advisor to the Mayor of London Lee Jasper.. He alerted us to some disturbing news about the plight of Black folks living in the UK and throughout much of Europe as so-called austerity measures kick in..

For many it should not come as a surprise,  but Black folks are catching major hell as they are being scapegoated for the economic hardships many are experiencing.. For example in places like Greece, Black folks are literally being chased out of the country by uniformed goon squads.. White supremacist, Neo-Nazi hate groups and far right reactionary political parties are on the rise with Blacks and other immigrants as primary targets

We are now seeing the fallout of misguided foreign policy which has complicated this situation. Ongoing conflicts in Mali and in Libya which has resulted in thousands of Black folks fleeing Africa to various ports in Europe only to be turned away. The irony here is that its NATO/ and Western foreign policy that has led to this mass displacement..

During our conversation Jasper went into great detail about the types of policy measures taken to keep Black folks disenfranchised and in economic peril. He also noted the widespread police brutality many are experiencing. He noted whats been going on in France with many Blacks and the out of step perception put forth by popular artists like Jay-Z and Kanye when they did their song N–as in Paris and how that contrasted with the reality that Black folks in this fabled city who are treated like ‘N–gas in the worse possible way..Jasper noted

Lee also updated us to whats been going on since we saw the massive uprising in the UK two years ago and in Paris 6 years ago..

Lee has a wealth of information and will update us again in the near future. In the meantime.. Peep the insightful Hard Knock Radio interview by clicking the link below..

You can also read an indepth report of what’s going on in Greece as Black folks are being attacked.. Go to the link below

Here’s Lee Jasper speaking at a recent political rally giving folks the lay of the land