Diary entry: Yesterday on a bus trip through New Cross I witnessed police officers explain, in escalating tones, that the demand to know why the bus was being delayed was misplaced because officers were ‘assaulted every day by people without tickets’. This seems perverse and twisted. Travelling in a uniformed strength-in-numbers group of twenty, some of whom were armed, suggests that the excess enthusiasm of the transport police for ‘ticket inspection’ will soon again result in further deaths like that which was visited upon Brazilian tube traveller Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell in 2005. Such a repeat scenario seems especially likely where commanders readily deploy disproportionate aggression if challenged by an impatient commuter. She was young, white, articulate, and had the sense to back down when the ‘pig nation’ flunky in charge raised his voice and muscled up to her. No need to guess that any other appellant might have not got off the bus so freely. We applauded her courage, but somewhat meekly.
Context: On the 11th of May 2007, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) cleared 11 officers of any ‘wrong doing’ in the shooting of Brazilian tube passenger Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell in 2005. The IPCC left four senior officers, including shoot-to-kill Commander Cressida Dick, to await a separate report into issues of ‘health and safety’. Menezes was gunned down on Commander’s orders in the wake of the fear and paranoia the possessed the capitol after the tube bombings of July 7, 2005. An unarmed man slaughtered on his daily commute.
Let me try to address the ‘health and safety’ issues directly. Are we living in a healthy place when the police – indeed armed gangs – aggressively patrol our everyday lives (to serve and protect??). I think of the other nodes of travel which have become over-determined sites in the ‘war on terror’. Of course airports have long been strategic, and the vision of tanks lined up outside Heathrow is always not far off (they were stationed there on high alert in February 2003).
Such is the danger to the health and safety of tube travellers, and other denizens of the city, that by the middle of 2006 the ‘Kratos’ shoot-to-kill policy that targets suspected terrorists had been called upon 250 times, with close use in seven instances (and this is according to Scotland Yard Chief Ian Blair, then also under fire in relation to the bungled Forest Gate raid BBC 3 October 2006).
The ancient figure of Kratos was son of a Titan and said to be the personification of force – that itself is revealing, as an outdated old mythological name is resurrected at a meeting of the political police and MI5 in 2003 (“Panorama” 8 March 2006) to stand in for yet more unregulated police powers (M15 and Kratos are ‘secret’), to be recklessly deployed on public transport. We are the enemy. On the tube, on the buses. And not safe on bikes (see picture, then this).
What shall we do about the explosion of fear and hyperbole that turns the police and their controllers, commanders and apologists into a paranoid armed band of killers?
I do not know her name, but on the bus in New Cross yesterday we were shown the way.
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