Stop and search is a common experience
Socialist Voice interviewed Anne Traynor, Volunteer Worker in the Canning community
SV: What is the background to the youth clashes with the police in August?
SD: It started because of oppression by the police against Black communities. Some people say it is not the same as 1981, things are different but the only thing that has changed is you are not allowed to say the N word any more, it is against the law, but you have to prove that they said it.
If the police dislike a particular group of young lads or they have it in for someone then stop and search is a common occurrence. When the lads go out of the house there is tension all the time because they could be stopped and searched. It is highly offensive especially for the older guys.
You have some rights under these laws but if you ask questions about why you are being stopped the police just say, “you’ve got attitude”. The police never apologise and they talk to you like you’re two years old. It may be someone from the Black community or maybe a white youth but afterwards they’ll go home angry.
The police target certain people. When I lived in Kensington I put in a complaint and then I was stopped 13 times over 2 years.
SV: What other forms of discrimination exist?
When I look around Liverpool you don’t see Black fireman or Black bus drivers. You don’t see Black people working in the shops unless they own them. Discrimination is obvious.
In one place I worked one white guy was racist to a Black guy all the time. They ended in a fight and they both got sacked. What people said is that the Black guy should have made a compliant but a grown Black man is not going to go to his boss and complain about the N word. He has to deal with it himself.
Our area is very close to the university and the students appear to have everything. No doubt they have high levels of debt but they do not get arrested for throwing paper onto the streets or flicking their used cigarettes onto the street. Recently a man with mental health problems was fined £85 for doing just that and he is obviously mental ill.
SV: What are local services like in the area?
We have no youth workers, young lads in the middle of the day have nowhere to go, they want to do physical activities and you can see them getting angrier and angrier. Just like other people in this area are getting angrier and angrier. We are not being consulted in anyway, public buildings are being sold off. Buildings are being given over to private landlords, all their buddies. For example the Toxteth Community College is closed down and is perfectly placed for the community. It could be used to serve this community with advice, serve as a centre for people on their own and help break down isolation, we could help those with mental health problems. Since April we have enquired about the building but I was told nothing would happen until autumn! Then we find the council are on the verge of selling it off to Blackburne House (women’s education and training centre) and that does not serve the whole community. I have evoked the Freedom of Information Act to find out how they proceeded.
Another complaint is that houses have been left derelict or if knocked down there is extensive wasteland and nothing is happening. This is another thing that the community is very angry about because the council is doing nothing about that. The council is just about money.
I made a complaint about Tesco, it was not about the fact that half of the people hired were local but because we want more than till jobs. Tesco did not use any local people for their builds. Tesco have set up ten supermarkets within a mile and the head of Tesco was on the board of Liverpool 2020 who are property developers for the city. None of the contracts for building came to Liverpool.
I do not mean just the Black community are hard hit, but also the poorer white workers who live here. The community is very unbalanced because of these things and the youth see and feel it.
SV: What now?
Talk on the street is that if no one listens to us what they have seen is just a prelude, what will happen will be a 100 times worse, what have we got to lose. We need funding for the youth, we need properly trained youth workers. I understand the lack of respect from the youth, from the top down from Murdoch, politicians to the police? Who is going to be their judge? They are all it together, Murdoch and his cronies will get off. How can you respect anyone who can get away with defrauding the country because they have money or position. These are not decent or clever people, they just have money.
In this area there is 40% ethnic diversity, but that is not reflected in employment and the dole stop people’s money at the drop of a hat.
I grew up in Liverpool and I have been called every name. Racism has more forms now and that comes from hundreds of years of ruling the rest of the world. I was born in England but it is no better elsewhere so my attitude is stay and fight.
Stirrings of political awareness are becoming visible
Interview with the Darrin Rawlins. Chair of the Grovelands Tenants Association and a member of SORD
– Survivors of Racial Discrimination
SV: What are the reasons for the actions the youth took?
There was sympathy across the country over the killing of a Black man in London. Amongst the youth in other cities the same problems exist, pockets of the same unemployment, the same police harassment and people who are dying in police custody and therefore there exists a kindred spirit. There is a great deal of frustration because our kids are getting picked on. Now there is the emergence of the same thing happening to kids in poor white areas and they are also fighting with the police, only white youth rioting has to a large extent been played down.
The police feel at the moment that they have community support for their tactics. The fights were not as severe as in 1981 in Liverpool, but the situation will lead to more confrontations with the youth. There have been severe cuts to youth schemes leaving youths with nothing to do with their time.
Look at the dilapidated areas where people are living in Liverpool 8. We are supposed to have had a Capital of Culture with hundreds of millions of pounds being spent in the city.
This development has taken place to celebrate the city’s diverse cultures and yet the only place in this city that is truly representative of the many different cultures in this city, that is Liverpool 8 and parts of Liverpool 7, has had very little investment or development within them. But you can bet your bottom dollar that these same investment companies lied, when obtaining grants and funding, that their respective developments would create jobs within the local communities. These companies will use these run down communities when bidding for this funding or contracts but have no intention of doing what they claim regarding these communities.
Now the community feel they are being encroached upon by development aimed at overseas students that is now encroaching upon our community and along with this encroachment the community feel it is the same old story of investment in infrastructure, but no investment in the communities that reside where this infrastructure is being developed.
Look at the economic climate and the austerity measures. We are heading into a desperate situation. The middle classes do not understand yet that the attacks that have hit the poor are going to hit the middle class as well.
Inflation is above 4% and as there is a wage freeze many people are suffering wage cuts.
The rich have been attacking the poor for a long time, look at the U.S. and Europe, and look at Ireland that allowed the IMF in. Greece is having a fire sale! A small percentage are acquiring the wealth of the world. The whole thing is going to collapse.
At the bottom are the youth who have no understanding of what these austerity measures are about or how they occurred. They have no political understanding of how this situation comes about. They see politicians as being liars who are out to look after themselves, and the older generation as being the people responsible for what is occurring within the world today. You cannot blame them for this, as they were not responsible for what has happened and yet they have been saddled with a debt of £18000 pounds and their children have been sold into ‘economic slavery’. This is akin to what happened in America in 1938, with the introduction of the Social Security Act, 20 years after the Federal Reserve (private finance group) took control of the issuing of currency, America was declared bankrupt and the Federal Reserve loaned the American government money and Social Security was used as collateral against that loan. In short people and their dependents were sold into economic slavery as the debt was never paid back and could never be, as the Federal Reserve controls the interest rates on the outstanding debt and adjusts it accordingly so the debt is ongoing.
SV: What is your experience of job discrimination?
Many youths who come from a poverty stricken background to a large extent will be criminalised before they reach an age where they need to find work as a result of these stop and searches.
The same thing happened to me at or around their age. There will come a time when you are in an interview and you have to answer the question “have you got a criminal record?” and you say, “I was stopped a long time ago.” The employer has two options, the first is under the Right to Rehabilitation Act an employer can examine your previous actions and make a decision as to whether to employ you or not.
You hear comments against Polish workers who are working here, but that is the small minded and xenophobic. British people go abroad and want to be accepted but here they moan about people coming.
The question needs to be asked when these people are calling for British jobs for British workers, do they mean white British people?
I never heard any calls for jobs for British born racial minorities, nor was there any calls taking place over the last 30 years when we never had jobs.
Through SORD we defend people, such as a person who changed his name because he changed his religion. He was working for about 5 years and was asked by his employer to apply for a more senior post. He did apply in his newly adopted name. He stated his other name in his CRB check which revealed he had been arrested when he was 17 years old. He did not mention this to his employer and when the employer found out there was an investigation and he was dismissed. This individual had turned his life around and was doing well enough in the job for his employer to recommend that he applied for a higher post, but it is the employers who are left to make these decisions and in most if not all cases, this will be the outcome.
Within the Human Resources department of the university racism exists, the same with the council. We have represented several Black people who have been discriminated against when applying for jobs at the university’s HR Department but the latest case was a case we felt sure we should win, and that this would be the case that enabled the community to expose what we have known for decades. It operates institutionally racist practices that have enabled it to exclude the local community from its employment. These figures are hidden by the amalgamation of the figures relating to the hospital as there are a number of racial minorities working within the hospital environment. The figures from the university HR Department portray a true representation of their reluctance to employ minorities from the local community.
In SORD we tell people that the chances of winning a case for racial discrimination in Liverpool, is almost zero. In London Appeal Tribunals, it can be different than that in Liverpool. Experience of the Liverpool Employment Tribunal Service, reveals that there are certain judges with their sidekick rightwing members looking for any reason to throw the case out.
SV: How do we defend the youth?
It is important for the youth to know the laws that are being used against them. The Liverpool 8 Defence Committee supported the youth after 1981 and also they picketed outside the courts and prisons where people were held.
The youth do not have the political awareness they need, but hopefully they will develop a political understanding and forget about looting. The youth need to become aware that there is a much larger prize to be had. The youth need to realize that internationally, there are youth like them attempting to bring down those they see as responsible for their predicament. These youth need to organize in order to bring the rich to book, those bankers, and multinational companies who think they are entitled to more of this planet’s wealth than anyone else.
The unions and the Labour movement need to fight to redress the situation. An effort has to be made to obtain jobs proper training and apprenticeships for our youth, and to also bring an end to this requirement for students having to pay to be educated.
Education should be free to all at the point of delivery. Unions need to fight for real equality and in Liverpool 8 that means jobs.
The unions should arrange meetings with the youth, discuss these issues with them, show them that you intend on calling on the government to provide this to them. The youth need to develop their demands and present them in an articulate way as to inform those people in authority clearly what it is that is moving them. They say the kids were looting but if the looting was examined in detail the stirrings of political awareness was becoming visible. I live on Grove Street, said to be the scene of the worst of the rioting and yet not one house or car on our estate was touched. These youths left our property but damaged the property of students and others that had moved in to the area as a part of the gentrification of the area. These youths then went on to attack Tesco’s and student accommodation, but they left local shops alone. Not one of these facts were reported on any of the local newspapers or news items that covered events in Liverpool and the piece that did cover Grove Street only dealt with the gentrified part of Grove Street and cars damaged there were mostly if not all student.