Some key events in NMP’s long history
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Akhtar Ali Baig
Following the racist murder of Akhtar Ali Baig on East Ham High Street, 150 Asian and Afro-Caribbean youths marched to Forest Gate Police Station, but police refused to release any information, claiming it was a ‘mugging’. These youths formed the ‘Newham Youth Movement’ and called for mass demonstrations, which lead to several arrests. Racism could no longer be ignored, and at the trial of Baig’s suspected killers, the judge ruled the killing ‘was plainly motivated by racial hatred.’
Newham Monitoring Project was born later that year out of the need for an organisation representative of all local constituencies active on the issue of racial discrimination.
NMP set up an advice centre in Forest Gate.
Following the inaction of Little Ilford school over the abuse of Asian children, on 24 September a group of Asian youth attempted to escort the children home, attracting racial abuse from three white men. A fight broke out when the youths defended themselves. At the arrival of uniformed police officers it transpired that the three white men were plainclothes officers. More here
NMP supported a strike organised by 500 schoolchildren on the first day of the Newham 8 trial. At the six-week trial, the conspiracy charges against the youths were dropped, and four were found guilty of the lesser charge of affray.
The Police and Criminal Evidence (PACE) Bill was unveiled. In the Newham Campaign Against the Police Bill, NMP played an active part in opposing ‘a catalogue of unprecedented and dangerous extension of police powers’.
Following pressure by NMP, Newham council became the first local authority in England to evict a family for racial harassment.
Following a series of racist attacks in Newham, on 7 August local Asian youths confronted the racists in a pub in Upton Park. One of the youths was arrested straight away and charged under conspiracy laws, while three white youths were arrested but released without charge. More here
Justice for the Pryce Family Support Committee
On 29 November, 16-year old Eustace Pryce was killed by a member of a well-known racist gang from Canning Town – more here
dvice sessions and started to develop a comprehensive support service for people facing racist attack and police harassment. NMP was actively involved in forming a new organisation, Anti-Fascist Action (AFA), as well as the South Newham Anti Racist Anti Fascist Group (SNARF).
In May, the trial of the Newham 7 took place over seven weeks at the Old Bailey
The trial began in October of Martin Newhouse charged with the murder of Eustace Pryce
Newham Council agreed to fund NMP
NMP helped ensure publicity for the campaign to draw attention to the racist attack on Trevor Ferguson that blinded him in the left eye. The campaign included a picket of East Ham police station. Despite an identity parade in which Trevor pointed out his attacker, no arrests were made.
In early 1987, there was a systematic targeting campaign in which police continuously raided homes and held black youths for days before releasing them without charge.
Defend The Plaistow 4
On 5 June 1988, family and friends gathered to celebrate a christening in a flat in Plaistow. The police called at the flat to ask the family to turn down the music, which they did. The police returned in the late evening, insisted the party end immediately, and ordered everyone out of the flat. A group of officers forced themselves into the flat and grabbed one young man in a stranglehold, telling him he was under arrest; when his three friends objected, they too were arrested, and all were dragged to the lift, and subjected to racial abuse and serious physical assault.
NMP supported the Campaign to Defend the Plaistow 4 from police criminalisation. All four black men were acquitted of charges of assault and obstruction, and the magistrates concluded the police entry of the flat was premature and unjustifiable. The acquittal of the Plaistow 4 was celebrated by the community as a symbolic victory for black people fighting against racist policies.
In response to the rise of fascism and an upsurge in the level of violent physical attacks on black people in South Newham, an NMP-led campaign established a regular system of home visits with the aim of developing a more organised black presence in the area. Having formulated regular patrols to reassure families who had been racially harassed, NMP was urged by local families to force the various agencies into action.
One of the successes of the South Newham campaign was the establishment of a community base in the area with a network of local people monitoring the situation and referring new cases to NMP. It was an example of how NMP could act as a catalyst for community action and self-defence.
NMP mobilised against BNP invasion with a counter-demonstration outside a BNP meeting. As part of its anti-fascist work, NMP also held an anti-BNP meeting and initiated patrols at the request of black families in the area.
In celebration of its tenth anniversary, NMP organised an anti-racist festival in July that was attended by 15,000 people.
Defend the Altaf/Khan family campaign
Mohammed Altaf was acquitted at Snaresbrook Crown Court of grievous bodily harm after he defended himself and his sister’s family from a vicious racist attack by several neighbours in August 1989. After the attackers struck the family with a bicycle chain, an iron pipe, wood and a knife, kicked in the front door and punched and kicked a pregnant Mrs Khan, the police finally arrived. When Mr Altaf attempted to explain to them what had happened, he was told to ‘shut your bloody mouth’ and arrested, then remanded in custody on a charge of GBH.
NMP’s visit to the local housing office resulted in the allocation of a priority transfer status for the Khans. NMP also arranged legal representation for Mr Altaf, and three weeks after he was remanded, an appeal against his bail conditions resulted in his release. NMP publicised the case in the local press and circulated a petition that was signed by 5,000 people, as well as contributing to a lobby of the Police and Community Consultative Group (PCCG) meeting. The PCCG subsequently agreed to write to the CPS urging it to review its procedure on tackling racial harassment. The aim of the campaign was to expose the way in which the police collaborated with racist thugs and criminalised an innocent black man; after the trial the campaign continued under the banner of ‘Police Harassment is a Crime’.
Justice for the Govindan Family
Mr Govindan was the victim of a racist assault in his shop, where the police sided with the attackers and he was charged with actual bodily harm, despite the incident being captured on the shop’s security video.
Following a campaign by NMP, Mr Govindan was found not guilty and commenced a civil action against the police.
Panchadcharam Sahitharan Memorial Committee
Panchadcharam Sahitharan was the 28 year-old Tamil refugee who was attacked by racist thugs and died of his injuries.
From the outset, NMP and the Memorial Committee we helped to set up were concerned about the commitment of the police and the CPS to prepare the prosecution case with the thoroughness required to secure a conviction. The CPS refused to meet with the Memorial Committee and the prosecution was half-hearted and ill-prepared. The two men arrested and charged with murder and affray, Andrew Noble and Gary Hoskin, were granted bail. The case against Noble was dismissed, and the Hoskin was found not guilty of murder. The police closed the case.
Justice for the Dray Family
NMP was approached by the Dray family following the arrest and assault of bothers, Lee and Tony Dray. The Dray brothers were stopped with two others by officers that alleged Lee Dray refused to speak to them about a fight outside a college and that they subsequently assaulted the officers. The four were arrested and Tony, 15 years old, was punched in the face by the officers and had his head slammed against a car. Lee was then viciously attacked outside Plaistow police station by one of the officers.
The justice campaign was supported by many local people who had themselves experienced police harassment in Canning Town. What made the campaign unusual was that the Drays were a white working-class family whose campaign was supported by large numbers of both black and white people. A PCCG enquiry was held in June 1993 that concluded ‘Overall we have found that (the) approach to policing in an area of very high youth unemployment and extreme urban deprivation has criminalised a whole section of young people and has led to a breakdown of Police-community relations.’
At the trial of the Dray brothers and their two friends, police evidence was wildly contradictory, and after hearing six days of prosecution evidence, the judge threw the case out. Out of the Justice for the Dray Family Campaign a new group was formed: South Newham Action on Policing (SNAP).
Nine youths were arrested at the vigil outside the hospital where victim of racist attack, 17 year-old Quddus Ali, lay on a life support machine. NMP was asked to help run the campaign with the involvements of the defendants and the support of local youth. More here.
Shiji Lapite Memorial Committee
Oluwashiji Lapite (Shiji) was beaten to death whilst in the custody of police officers from Stoke Newington police station. He had been stopped for ‘acting suspiciously’. The family were not informed by the police and only found out when a friend saw news that a man had ‘collapsed and died’ in a police van in Clapton, and knowing Shiji had been in the area, he made enquiries. Police reports suggested Shiji had been fine when arrested then ‘suddenly went limp and died’ on a seat in the van. The police also failed to provide a consistent version of the events of that night, and the family suspected a cover-up.
Shiji’s family and friends came to NMP for advice and support and invited NMP to a public meeting on the death. The family, together with NMP, set up the Shiji Lapite Memorial Committee to direct the fight for justice. At the inquest in January 1995, the jury returned a unanimous verdict of unlawful killing. NMP subsequently played a central role in forcing the CPS to reconsider its decision not to prosecute.
Ibrahima Sey Memorial Campaign
NMP organised a protest march with the Sey family that 1000 local people joined. The jury at his inquest found he had been unlawfully killed. NMP and the Ibrahima Sey Memorial Campaign subsequently launched a national campaign to ban CS spray, endorsed by Liberty, INQUEST and several MPs, and called upon the CPS to prosecute the officers responsible for Ibrahima’s death.
As a result, in part, of NMP’s involvement in organising the Ibrahima Sey Memorial campaign, Newham council withdrew our funding and commissioned a white-led consultancy known as ‘Newham Alert’ (a profit-making company founded by former police officers) to monitor racist violence and harassment in the borough.
A fire at the 382 Centre in Katherine Road destroyed many of the NMPs resources and we were forced to move into new premises in Stratford.
An independent charity, the NMP Anti-Racist Trust, was incorporated to develop new projects and initiatives that grew out of the work of NMP.
The Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign
On 25 March, the public inquiry into the racist mirder of Stephen Lawrence opened at Hannibal House in the Elephant & Castle area of south London. NMP, alongside Southall Monitoring Project, played a central role during the inquiry in supporting the Lawrence family and mobilising public support and attendance.
NMP made a written submission to part 2 of the inquiry and on 15 October, we gave evidence at a regional hearing in Tower Hamlets, alongside Ami Sey (the widow of Ibrahima Sey)
NMP began to play an active part in supporting the campaign for the release of Satpal Ram, who was serving a life-sentence for defending himself against a racist attack. In June 2002, he was finally released
NMP relaunched its 24-hour emergency service, using a free phone number and appointing a dedicated Emergency Service worker. NMP also drew up publicity materials to actively promote the service to black communities and other advice agencies.
After a series of explosions of nail bombs in Soho, Brixton and Brick Lane, NMP distributed information to local people on taking extra care to check suspect bags and packages. David Copeland, a former member of the Newham branch of the British National Party, was eventually arrested, charged and was given six life sentences for the bombings.
Murder of Shiblu Rahman
Shiblu Rahman, a 34 year-old Bangladeshi man, was brutally murdered by four white men in Bow. The Shiblu family were supported by anti-racist organisations, including NMP: 3000 mourners attended the funeral prayers at Stepney Green Park before the procession to Forest Gate. NMP supported the family at the trial, as well as helping them in their efforts to be rehoused.
Death in custody of Michelle Allen
An inquest jury reached a verdict of accidental death contributed to by neglect. NMP supported Allen’s mother in pursuing a case against Securicor Custodial Services under Article 2 (the right to life) of the Human Rights Act.
Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign
The 27 year-old Jean Charles de Menezes was shot 7 times in the head by London Metropolitan police officers at Stockwell tube station as part of a pre-planned anti-terrorism operation. NMP played a central role in organising the ‘Justice4Jean’ family campaign.
Forest Gate ‘anti-terror’ raids
An ‘anti-terror’ raid on two homes in Lansdown Road led to the closure of streets, the shooting of an innocent Forest Gate resident and detention of brothers Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair. NMP supported the family, and wrote to Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, the senior officer who planned the bungled ‘anti-terror’ raid in Forest Gate, expressing some of the concerns raised by local people: that “the Metropolitan Police’s strategy of speaking only to councillors and selected ‘community leaders’, important those this is, has excluded those most affected by the raid – local people”.
Gilly Mundy, a member of NMP”s management committee and a former worker who had become senior caseworker for the campaigning charity INQUEST, died suddenly in March, aged only 36.
‘The Race Debate 2008: Racism and the State of Britain’ was held at SOAS in honour of Gilly Mundy. NMP brought together panellists, including the columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, Benjamin Zephaniah, INQUEST co-director Deborah Coles, the Independent Police Complaints Commission chair Nick Hardwick, the radical lawyer Gareth Peirce and former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg, for a discussion on institutional racism, community cohesion, culture, segregation, terrorism and Britishness.
The inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes returned an 8-2 majority narrative verdict, highlighting the inadequacies in the surveillance team’s operation, the communications between teams, and the accounts given by its officers.
NMP becomes a founder member of Netpol (the Network for Police Monitoring), a new coalition of civil rights, front line community and protest groups that works together to campaign against abuse of police powers. Other members included Green and Black Cross, CAMPACC, Legal Defence and Monitoring Group, Fitwatch and Aldermaston Womens Peace Camp.
Ian Tomlinson Family Campaign
At the G20 protests in London, Ian Tomlinson died from an abdominal haemorrhage after he was violently struck with a police baton and pushed to the ground by a Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group officer, PC Harwood. On the 6-month anniversary of his death, NMP supported the family as they held a vigil, and throughout their four-year campaign for truth, justice and police accountability. In 2010, the CPS announced that no charges would be brought in relation to the death of Ian Tomlinson, concluding that the conduct of PC ‘A’ (Harwood) ‘did not meet the high threshold required to constitute the offence of misconduct in public office.’ At the 2011 inquest, the jury returned an ‘unlawful killing’ verdict, but PC Harwood was acquitted of the criminal charge of manslaughter. It was not until 2013 that the Metropolitan Police issued an apology and admission that their officer unlawfully killed Ian.
Save Wanstead Flats
NMP was instrumental in mobilising huge numbers of local people in the campaign against plans by the Metropolitan Police to set up a deployment base for thousands of officers during the 2012 summer Olympics, on Wanstead Flats. NMP supported the campaign objecting to the Home Office plan to use a Legislative Reform Order (LRO) to overturn the protection given to Wanstead Flats by the Epping Forest Act.
On 21 November, campaigners organised an event called Take Back Wanstead Flats, which involved staking out the dimensions of the proposed site (using gardening canes and over a kilometre of ‘Police Do Not Cross’ tape) to show just how massive the Olympic operations base would actually be. The campaign took their fight against the base to the High Court, but were unable to prevent its construction.
Tottenham Defence Campaign
Mark Duggan was shot dead in Tottenham by a Metropolitan police officer on 4th August 2011. Over two years later, at the end of a three-month inquest into his death, the jury returned a lawful killing verdict, despite a majority deciding that he did not have a gun in his hand when he was shot, and disbelieving the evidence of the officer who shot him dead. NMP supported local people to establish the Tottenham Defence Campaign, and worked with local activist Stafford Scott to set up Tottenham Rights.
A 21 year-old Newham resident, Mauro Demetrio was stopped by the police for alleged erratic driving and then arrested for an unrelated incident, and racially abused in the back of the police van. Demetrio had set his phone to record audio of the incident. After the case was dismissed by the Crown Prosecution Service as insufficiently strong to bring a charge of racial abuse, Demetrio decided to speak publicly of his ordeal and released the audio to the media with the support of NMP. Following a public outcry, the CPS reversed their decision and the case came before the courts. The court case against PC MacFarlane was eventually dismissed, after two juries were unable to reach a unanimous decision. PC McFarlane was subsequently dismissed from the force for gross misconduct.
Community Legal Observers during the London 2012 Olympics
NMP monitored policing during the 2012 ‘Security Games’. NMP trained 100 volunteers to act as Community Legal Observers, deploying teams throughout the 6-week Olympic period. More here – the full report on the project is available here.