Police racism
Statement made at the International Gathering of the Global Women's Strike, February 2009


I wanna talk about what it was like growing here in London in the 70s and the sort of experiences I had with the police...  I think I was about 13 when I first started having hassles with the police.  They’d start pulling you up… and just going through your pockets and searching you for no particular reason, they’d just have any old story to do it, being really aggressive about it.  I was 14, they used to have a law here called the ‘sus’ law.  This is a law that basically you could arrest somebody under suspicion of doing anything, so you could be standing at a bus stop, which could happen to be outside a shop, and they could arrest you on suspicion of trying to break into that shop.  They needed no evidence – nothing - and you could basically get convicted.

I was 14 when I was up by Oxford Street, sitting on the fence, when two police officers came up and arrested me.  Now I had been actually committing crime that day – I’d been shoplifting – but at the time I was just sitting on the fence doing nothing.  But these two officers said they’d arrested me and I thought, “Oh, no! I’ve been caught!”.   I thought they followed me from the shop and somehow sussed out on what I’d been doing.   They asked me if I knew what I’d been arrested for.   Being cocky and that, I said no.   They said for hand bagging, which is basically trying to steal handbags, which I hadn’t been doing at all.  They said I’d spent all afternoon in Oxford Street, around that area trying to rob people’s handbags.  So I was fuming, I hadn’t been doing anything like that at all, but there was nothing I could do, so I got arrested, taken down the station, charged with that, and eventually searched and they found the stuff that I had been nicking, and got charged with that as well. 

So I was taken to juvenile court and they went to the solicitors.  The first thing they said to me was that I should plead guilty to both charges to get a lighter sentence.  I said that I can hold my hands up to the stuff I’d stolen, but not for the handbag, which I hadn’t.  The solicitor said its better for you to do that, you’ll get a lighter sentence.  I said no – no way am I gonna do that.  I didn’t do it, I’m not gonna own up to something that I hadn’t done.  So basically, we ended up in court, and on the day he pretty much took my word against the police officer’s. 

I always remember that we both had to put our hands on the bible, swear on the bible to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth and all that - and basically I was the only one that happened to tell the truth.  The police just told a bullshit story, right from beginning to end, and I still got convicted – and I still have that on my record to this day, and it still… still hurts a bit to think about it, to tell the truth.

There was another story… in 1988.  I was out with my brother and another friend, we’d gone to a New Years’ Eve party.  My brother happened to be driving.  We had a couple of parties to go to, and we’d been to a couple of pubs.  Sometime during the night my brother got stopped by the police.  I knew my brother had been drinking, and I knew that he was pretty much gonna be arrested for it.  So, by the time they pulled us over, they took my brother out of the car, they breathalysed him, I pretty knew that he was gonna go to the police station.  We knew he’d been drinking, he took the chance and he got caught at that was pretty much it.  So, they breathalysed him, they arrested him, and nobody argued the point.  Me and my other friend Barry, who happens to be a white guy, was just figuring out which way we was gonna get home. 


It turned out we were only 100 yards from the police station, so the two police officers who’d pulled my brother up started to walk my brother down the road.  Now as I turned round, the two of them started scuffling with my brother, like they was trying to beat him up sort of thing in the middle of the road.  I looked round at them and I couldn’t believe what was happening, so I ran over and I grabbed the policeman, pulled him round and said to him, “Don’t f****in’ hit my brother!” He turned round pretty shocked.  What I didn’t know at the same time, was that a police van had gone past me from behind and they’d seen everything.  About 8-9 police officers come charging down the road, and I knew I was gonna get hit.  I remember covering up m’self against the fence like that and they just beat the crap out of me – they just kicked the hell out of me. 


They just dragged me off – I remember having my arm up my back, bent over like this and when we got to the police station, they had these glass swinging doors.  And as we come up the stairs, one of the officers had me bent over like this - almost breakin’ me arm like that, and he started to ease off, and I wondered why he was being so violent and then, all of a sudden, I realised that he was trying to smash my face into the door, and I managed to just turn and just hit my head and arm at the same time, and for some reason, that really infuriated me – during my time in the station, I was just effin an’ blindin’, just goin’ berserk in there, I just wanted to fight everybody, to tell ya the truth.  I was fumin’ in there.  But then, my friend that was with me – he was the only witness to the whole thing, he just stood there and did nothing, Barry the white guy – they arrested him as well, he hadn’t done nothing. 

So they arrested me, my brother and Barry, and they just… charged us all.  They charged me and my friend for obstructing the police, my brother got done for drink-driving, and the day in court was a bit of a joke, really, ‘cos my brother’d been in there for the drink-driving, so it wasn’t looking good and we were saying like the three of us up there.  Both of – me and Barry – had had previous arrests as well before, so we thought, we didn’t wanna sort of fight this, we had no witnesses to back us up, apart from us three that was there.  My brother had already been done for drink-driving, which he’d admitted to, so we thought we’d just cop it, own up to it and pay a lesser fine.  But as we’re standin’ in the court, someone read out the policeman’s statement. 


All I’d actually did was pull the policeman by the shoulder and swung ‘im round like that and said “don’t hit my brother”, but the police story was that I’d actually jumped on a policeman’s back and was trying to stub a cigarette out in his face and all this sort of stuff and I remember the judge just looking at me the whole time when this was being read out and he could see the shock on our faces when we heard all this – it was news to us to hear this.  We both got fined £50 for that – yeah, £50, which I thought was pretty cheap for that, really – stubbing a cigarette out in a policeman’s face, but all the same, it’s still a conviction, got a bad rap for it, though.  That’s all I have to say.  Thank you.