“You’ll Never Walk Alone”



It’s incredibly tense in the English Premier League at the moment, with three teams fighting for the title. With Manchester United disintegrating and lucky to secure European football, the much anticipated Spurs title challenge fizzing out and Arsenal struggling to even reach their customary fourth place and access to the Champions League, it’s up to Chelsea, Manchester City and Liverpool FC. The latter two met last Sunday in an emotional, stressfull match which saw Liverpool win 3-2, setting a giant step forwards to winning the title. For Liverpool fans and many neutrals it would be wonderful for Liverpool to win it now, because it’s been twentyfour years since their last one, because of Steve Gerrard who, a single childhood slipup aside, has always been loyal to Liverpool and won everything but the title with them, but mostly because it’s been exactly twentyfive years since the Hillsborough Disaster and just weeks after a new inquest into the disaster and the coverup has started.



It all started as a normal FA Cup between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest, but after only six minutes the game was abandoned as the Liverpool fans in the away end climbed over the crush barrier onto the fields. At first it was thought to be just another example of fans misbehaving but it soon became clear something monstrous was happening, as shown in BBC’s Match of the Day that night.



Ninetysix people died that day and the disaster hit the city of Liverpool hard, not just because of the deaths, but also because of the coverup by the police that followed the disaster, as recounted in a BBC Panorama investigation from last year. Though initial reports into the disaster had laid the blame for it on the shoulders of the South Yorkshire police for inadequacies in handling the crowd that day, much of the particulars of what exactly had happened remained unknown, while the police and the media started blaming the Liverpool supporters themselves for what happened, most notably in the Sun, still being boycotted in Liverpool to this day.



Football supporters in the late eighties were largely seen as scum, hooligans and criminals and the Heysel disaster — in which Liverpool supporters had attacked Juventus fans during the 1985 Europa Cup Final, resulting in the death of thirtynine supporters when a wall collapsed — was fresh in people’s memories. The narrative therefore that Hillsborough was another Heysel was easy to believe. Yet in Liverpool and amongst the survivors and relatives of those that had died in Hillsborough there was a need for justice that never abated, organising to both keep the memory of those who had died alive and to seek justice for their deaths.




It all came to a head at the 20th anniversary of the disaster, as the speech of the then Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, MP Andy Burnham was interrupted by shouts of justice for the 96; four days later the government decided to open up police files about the disaster, leading to the setting up of the Hillsborough Independent Panel reinvestigating the disaster and its aftermath, two years ago reaching the conclusion that there was indeed a coverup.



Now, twentyfive years after the disaster a new, proper inquest has started at the same time as both of the city’s football clubs are doing the best in the League they’ve done for years, Everton in the race for fourth place, Liverpool chasing their first title in twentyfour years. Is it any wonder both fans and players, Steve Gerrard especially, who lost a cousin at Hillsborough, get a little emotional?



What being privileged is like

One fine evening, journalist Jamelle Bouie decides to sell his old tv to a friend and sets out to bring it over to them there and then, when considers what this would look like:

As I was getting ready to go, it occurred to me that this would be a terrible idea. Not because I would have been carrying a TV at 10pm down a quiet city street—I actually feel pretty safe doing that. But because I would have been a black dude—in a hoodie, no less!—carrying a nice-looking TV down a quiet city street at 10pm.

Had he been white, would he have thought about this? Jamelle himself thinks not, and I think he’s right. For myself, while I do occassionally wonder when doing something that could look dodgy, I’ve never been in a situation where I’ve been stopped by police because what I was doing looked suspicious. In fact, police officers here and abroad have always been respectful and polite to me, whenever I had to interact with them. The same really goes for any sort of interaction with authority; I’ve always been treated respectfully even when in the wrong, have more often than not been believed on my word when there was no real reason to do so, always gotten the benefit of the doubt when I needed it. In short, I’ve never had to worry about people judging me negatively just of how I look.

That’s something that’s incredibly powerful, in which I’m very lucky as I’ve done nothing to earn this respect, but which from the inside feels like the normal way the world should work; it doesn’t feel like I’m priviledged. This dichotomy, where it’s easier for those without these privileges to see how privileged those with them truly are, is I think responsible for much of the heat around internet debates about privilege.

On the one hand, people like me who enjoy these privileges need to make an effort to see them for what they are, while on the other hand they have never or rarely experienced the sort of harassement people without them encounter regularly. It makes it hard for us to believe them, even when everybody is arguing in good faith and it’s even harder to transform this intellectual understanding in an emotional one, to understand what it is really like to live without this privilege we take for granted.

That’s why simple, to the point and most importantly, unjudgmental post like Jamelle Bouie’s one here are so important, as they provide a way in which we can understand something of how other people live.

We Can Stop It



What I like about Scottish anti-rape campaign is that it approaches it in the way a drunk driving campaign would. So whereas with traditional campaigns the mephasis is always on rape prevention by the victim, this campaign is talking directly to potential perpetrators, using the same sort of techniques that helped make drink driving from something you bragged about to something you do furtively, if at all.

Not that rape is anywhere near as accepted as drunk driving once was of course, but rather that the way most of us, especially blokes, think about rape is about the stereotypical man in a dark alley physically overpowering a random woman. What this campaign instead is saying that actually, there are quite a few situations in which no physical force is used that are still rape or sexual assault, that consent is always required with sex and that decent, normal men know when it can and cannot be given.

What it does in short is to denormalise all these situations in which you can fool yourself that you’re not actually doing wrong in forcing somebody to have sex with you, by explicitely stating that no, having sex with a woman too drunk to stand up of her own accord is wrong. And it does it largely without putting the hackles up of its target audience, young men, who can get very defensive when talking about rape, for obvious reasons.

Ian Tomlinson killer walks off scotch free, has previous form



It took two years to to even get him before a judge, so it’s no great surprise that Ian Tomlinson’s killer has been acquited:

A policeman has been acquitted of killing Ian Tomlinson during G20 protests in London by striking the 47-year-old bystander with a baton and pushing him to the ground as he walked away from police lines.

The jury at Southwark crown court on Thursday cleared PC Simon Harwood, 45, a member of the Metropolitan police’s elite public order unit, the Territorial Support Group, of manslaughter following one of the most high-profile cases of alleged police misconduct in recent years.

Harwood told the court that while in retrospect he “got it wrong” in seeing Tomlinson as a potentially threatening obstruction as police cleared a pedestrian passageway in the City on the evening of 1 April 2009, his actions were justifiable within the context of the widespread disorder of that day.

Speaking outside the court, the Tomlinson family said: “It’s not the end, we are not giving up for justice for Ian.” They said they would now pursue a civil case.

It remains hard to convict a copper of anything, especially things done “in the line of duty”, even when said copper has previous form:

The jury at Southwark crown court, who took four days to clear PC Simon Harwood of manslaughter on a majority verdict, was not told that the officer had been investigated a number of other times for alleged violence and misconduct.

Harwood quit the Metropolitan police on health grounds in 2001, shortly before a planned disciplinary hearing into claims that while off-duty he illegally tried to arrest a man in a road rage incident, altering notes retrospectively to justify his actions.

He was nonetheless able to join another force, Surrey, returning to the Met in 2005. In a string of other alleged incidents Harwood was accused of having punched, throttled, kneed or threatened other suspects while in uniform, although only one complaint was upheld.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission described the chain of events around Harwood’s rejoining his old force before becoming part of its elite Territorial Support Group as “simply staggering”.

Emphasis mine. You wonder if the verdict had been the same if the jury had known Harwood had been investigated for assault previously, and was allowed to escape prosecution for it. But of course they were not allowed to know this:

The Metropolitan police attempted to keep the disciplinary record of PC Simon Harwood secret from the family of Ian Tomlinson, the newspaper seller he struck with a baton and pushed to the ground at G20 protests, it can now be reported.

Lawyers for the force tried and failed to argue that disclosing the litany of complaints about Harwood’s conduct would have breached his privacy, saying the officer’s disciplinary history did not have “any relevance” to Tomlinson’s death.

Harwood, 45, who was found not guilty of Tomlinson’s manslaughter on Thursday, had repeatedly been accused of using excessive force during his career, including claims he punched, throttled, kneed and unlawfully arrested people.

The jury in the trial were not told about the history of complaints, despite a submission from the Crown Prosecution Service, which argued that in two of the disciplinary matters he was accused of using heavy-handed tactics against the public “when they presented no threat”.

The application was rejected by the judge, Mr Justice Fulford, who said: “The jury, in effect, would have to conduct three trials.”

The establishment takes care of its own. If this had been an ordinary murder and the suspect had previous form, wouldn’t that have been admitted to court as relevant information? You would think so. Then again, a civilian who had been accused of assault and abuse would not have been allowed to escape prosecution in the first place…

Dutch police use minors to spy for them

According to an article in De Pers, Dutch police intelligence services attempt to recruit minors to serve as informers. In at least some cases, this was even done without their parents knowing. A lawyer quoted in the article spoke of “stasi-like methods”, which sounds about right to me.

In the Netherlands only the socalled CIE or Criminal Intelligence Unit is allowed to use informers, with information gathered through their use not legal to use in criminal prosecutions, though some lawyers do complain that such information does end up in public prosecutor files and is hard to check up on. Rules about the use of minors are non-existent, so the situation seems rife for abuse. Certainly any such approach of a minor should be done with the permission of their parents. Sneaking around behind their backs is just wrong.

One more reason why I’ll never ever visit America



Don’t watch this video because it will only upset you. It shows the deliberate torture of a homeless man by California police officers for “resisting arrest”. Not content with tasering him a half dozen times, they then beat them up so bad he needed to be put on life support in hospital where he died a few days later. From the Gawker report:

Thomas—who suffered from schizophrenia, and was homeless—caught the attention of the police after someone reported that a burglar was breaking into cars parked near a Fullerton bus station. When officers approached Thomas in the depot parking lot and tried to arrest him, he resisted. What happened after that is a topic the Fullerton Police Department doesn’t seem too enthusiastic to discuss—but the sound of Thomas’s voice certainly speaks on their behalf. And as this gruesome photo shows, the six officers involved in the altercation beat Thomas beyond recognition; after several days on life support, Thomas was taken off the machines and died. (To be fair, two cops suffered broken bones.) Update: According to this report, a police sergeant stated on July 20 that, contrary to several news reports, no officers suffered from broken bones as a result of the Thomas incident—only “soft tissue damage.”

Did Thomas actually resist arrest? Mark Turgeon, who witnessed the beating, says no:

“They kept beating him and Tasering him. I could hear zapping, and he wasn’t even moving,” said Turgeon. “He had one arm in front of him like this, he wasn’t resisting. And they kept telling him, ‘He’s resisting, quit resisting,’ and he wasn’t resisting.”

The picture they refer too is gruesome and like the video should not be viewed because it will only upset you. But perhaps we need upsetting, to see the reality of what “the thin blue line” is up to. What hit me about this story is that the poor guy was beaten up while he cried for his dad, an ex-cop himself, and was only thirtyseven when he died, the same age as I’ll be next week. That could’ve been me, if I had been less lucky.

Dutch cops aren’t always squeeky clean either and I’m smart enough to know they don’t always have to be my friend, but I feel a hell of a lot more comfortable approaching them in public, or have them approach me, then I would be in the United States. Dutch cops aren’t convinced of their own superiority and obsessed by respect and authority the way American coppers are.

Respect ma authoritah

Everything in this story about the sentencing of a young autistic Black man sentenced for “assaulting” a police officer annoyed me, starting with the way in which the Washington Post buried the lede. Here are the last three paragraphs:

On the morning of the incident, Latson, who received an Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis in the eighth grade, slipped out of the house early to go to the library but found it closed. What followed was a call to police about a suspicious black male seen outside the library, wearing a hoodie and possibly carrying a gun.

Deputy Thomas Calverley, 56, spotted Latson, searched him for a gun, found none and repeatedly asked him his name. When Latson refused to give it, Calverley grabbed him in an attempt to put him under arrest. A scuffle ensued, leaving Calverley with injuries that forced him to retire early.

In court Tuesday, Latson turned to Calverley and, in a barely audible voice, apologized.

He shouldn’t have had to apologise, to it speaks well for him that he did. This poor bloke has gotten his life ruined because some busybody flipped out seeing a Black man in a hoodie near a library, some dick with a gun decided to harass him and pushed him around just that little bit too much. Had the officer used some common sense and not wanted to assert his authoritah nobody would’ve gotten hurt. But of course that’s too much to ask.

The Ian Tomlinson verdict: will it change anything?

Probably not, thinks septicisle:

As wearingly familiar as this sad tale of changing stories, incompetence and abuses of power is, the real outrage is that the overall cause remains the same. Just as the officers on the morning of the 22nd of July 2005 were briefed that those they were after were “up for it” and ready to commit acts of mass murder, giving the impression that lethal force was permissible even when it hadn’t been authorised, so the police prior to the G20 had made clear just how determined they were to crack down hard on those who were out to smash up the City. We duly saw police medics brandishing batons, those without the first idea how to “safely” use a truncheon flinging it around, and of course, the storming of the entirely peaceful Climate Camp, since found to have been illegal. Ian Tomlinson died both as he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and because he was vulnerable to just such an injury as he received; dozens of others got cracked heads or worse just for daring to take part in a demonstration. It would be nice to think that following such regrettable incidents that future policing would have been rethought, but no, as the example of Alfie Meadows so pungently demonstrates.

I agree. The deaths of Ian Tomlinson and Jean Charles de Menezes before him were the result of a deliberate policy to make the Metropolitian Police more ‘ard and confrontational. In de Menezes case it was the whole anti-terrorism mentality that was to blame, wherein any terrorism suspect is incredibly dangerous and needs to be “taken out” or London would disappear in a mushroom cloud; combine that with the fuckups that happened while de Menezes was under suspicion and you get why he was shot in the head in the metro. From that point of view the fact that he was innocent doesn’t matter; what does is that his exxecution send the message that the Met is serious about terrorism.

With Tomlinson’s death a similar sort of attitude is to blame, one that’s perhaps even more pernicious as this time it wasn’t about keeping London safe from terrorism, but about showing who’s boss in the city: the police or the demonstrators. The Met was and is incredibly aggressive in its policing of political demonstrations because it and its political masters want to discourage them; Tomlinson’s death is a side effect of this.

Without a change in attitude, de Menezes and Tomlinson won’t be the last victims of the Metropolitian Police, but the likelyhood of this change is small.