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HOME SECRETARY Priti Patel was accused of encouraging police violence against Black Lives Matter (BLM) today as a new report found that policing of the demonstrations was institutionally racist.
The report by the Network for Police Monitoring (NetPol), investigated police violence and behaviour across two months of protests based on evidence from more than 100 witnesses, including protesters, legal observers and volunteers who helped arrestees.
More than 250 protests in towns, cities and villages across Britain backed worldwide protests following the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd in May after a police officer knelt on his throat for nearly nine minutes.
The report finds that police “used excessive force and disproportionately targeted black protesters,” neglected BLM supporters experiencing violence from far-right counter-demonstrators and “kettled” protesters, including children, for eight hours with no access to water or toilets.
Report author Dr Adam Elliott-Cooper said: “There is a bitter irony in the fact that protests against racism in policing were themselves sites of disproportionate use of force and discriminatory practices.
“When taken case-by-case, the evidence in this report suggests racially discriminatory policing, but when viewed collectively, there can be little doubt that policing in Britain still has a serious problem with institutional racism.”
He called for policing of demonstrations to be removed from police responsibility and given to “non-police organisations” to manage protests in future.
“This would better ensure the safety of all those who take to the streets to call for change and challenge injustices, and uphold this essential right of a democratic society,” he said.
In June, during the peak of the protests, Ms Patel issued a statement describing BLM protesters as “thugs and criminals.”
She said the police had “our full support in tackling any violence, vandalism or disorderly behaviour” and that “any large gatherings of people are unlawful” due to coronavirus restrictions.
Ms Patel was accused by chief constables of “absolutely disgraceful” interference in police handling of the protests, with one saying that her intervention amounted to a “chilling abuse of power.”
Stand Up to Racism co-convenor Weyman Bennett said: “Even police chief constables have accused Priti Patel of ‘absolutely disgraceful’ interference in the BLM protests.
“The impact of her interference was to encourage violence against the demonstrations. The people that bore the brunt of it were just trying to call for basic human rights.”
Unison leadership candidate Roger McKenzie, an assistant general secretary at the union, said: “The BLM movement has forced a global reckoning with the racism that our political system is steeped in.
“It is a grotesque injustice that those protesters were then subject to racist injustice from our police.
“Institutional racism is about systems and cultures that start from the top. When the Home Secretary calls BLM protesters ‘thugs’ she provides encouragement to every single officer out there who is disproportionately stopping black youth and every single magistrate who goes for harsher sentences when it comes to black people.”
The Home Office was approached for comment.
In Scotland, an independent review found that Police Scotland also had problems with racism, sexism and homophobia and requires a “fundamental” review of its culture.
Report author Dame Elish Angiolini said a significant increase in powers for watchdog the Police Investigations and Review Commissioner is needed, describing a “racist, misogynistic or emotionally damaging environment” within the force, recommending an independent review into equality in Police Scotland.
Aamer Anwar, solicitor for the family of Sheku Bayoh, who died while being restrained by officers, said the review is a “devastating and damning indictment of a police complaint system not fit for purpose in a modern and democratic Scotland.”
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