Tag Archives: police

Brixton cleaning up after the looting

Kaye Wiggins reports on the clean-up efforts in Brixton last night

As I left work last night, I quickly checked Twitter for the latest on Brixton. For the first time since Sunday’s violence, the page did not fill up with rumours of riots and stories of trouble. Instead, there was talk about volunteers getting together to clean up the damage. I went along to help out – and to find out why it was happening.
Outside the Ritzy there was a group of around 30 or 40 people brandishing binbags, gloves and brooms. They chattered enthusiastically, sharing stories about where they lived and how shocked they were by the riots across the city and beyond. They grinned and cheered for the press photographer. Before long, I found myself with a glove and a binbag in my hands.
As we set about getting to work, we received some odd looks from passers-by and even police officers. Some teenage girls shouted “well done” to us, but when we said they should join us they giggled and said, “I wouldn’t go that far.”
We soon realised much of the damage had already been cleared up and there was little for the volunteers to do. We settled on clearing some broken glass from the doorway of the Vodafone shop. This rankled a little, since the volunteers weren’t in it to help capitalist giants save money. But we reminded ourselves that removing broken glass was, in any case, a good thing for Brixton.
Once the Vodafone glass was cleared, we scouted around for more work to do. Trouble was, there wasn’t much. We swept some scattered shards of glass from the pavement outside the station, and we tidied the pavement outside KFC. Then we retreated to Windrush Square for a quick gathering before wandering to the Effra Tavern to get to know our new-found neighbours.
Some Twitter users have already observed that this was largely (but by no means exclusively) a young, white, middle class affair. As @lascasartoris points out, we must give huge credit to the local businesses that reopened despite everything, the residents that went to a Monday afternoon meeting to discuss what should be done, and to the council and police for cleaning things up so that there was little for the volunteers to do.
Still, the clean-up tells us something. Plenty of residents, including those that work outside the area and cannot play a part in its everyday life, feel strongly about Brixton. They are willing to give up their evening to do a fairly unglamorous chore because they want to make that point. Well done, folk. 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Sunday 7 August –

A festival by day and a riot by night. Brixton experienced two very different community events on Sunday and in the early hours of Monday morning. Coldharbour Lane and Atlantic Rd were lined with soundsystems from 12pm until 7pm for Brixton Splash, an annual street festival with a theme this year of ‘Community Champions’. And a good community mood prevailed, with crowds of people dancing, drinking and partying through the rain.

But at midnight, long after the Splash had ended, looting sparked by the riots in Tottenham began on Brixton Rd. McDonalds, H&M and Morleys were all attacked and their windows smashed. Footlocker was heavily looted before being set on fire. It is now a mere shell of a building. The crowd – reportedly about 300 people – then moved up the hill to Currys, stealing widescreen TVs, computers and vacuum cleaners.

Many onlookers have reported a  slow response from the police in Brixton. Emma Reynolds, interviewed by the BBC, said: “There were riot police near Brixton station, but there was no police presence in Effra Rd for at least 40 minutes.”

See here for a map of the London riots as they unfold.

Below is a selection of photos from both Brixton Splash and the riot later. Although the two aren’t connected, I felt it important not to forget the positive community atmosphere at Splash before the looting started during the night.

Brixton Splash:

(Photo: Kaye Wiggins)

(Photo: Kaye Wiggins)


(Photo: Melissa Constantinou)

(Photo: Melissa Constantinou)

And, from midnight, the rioting:

Morleys boarded up, Monday:


Ritzy ‘open as usual’:

 (Photo: Tom Leighton)

And not so usual – Kači Peringer describes her photo: “Huge stack of Metros still outside the station at 8pm shows what a ghost town Brixton was today after the riots. Normally all gone by 8am!”

(Photo: Kači Peringer)



Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Tonight: Community Police Consultative Group meeting

In the light of the recent spike in shootings in Lambeth, some of you might be interested in attending the monthly meeting of the Community Police Consultative Group (CPCG) for Lambeth tonight. It’s taking place from 6pm at the Karibu Education Centre, 7 Gresham Rd.

The CPCG was set up after the 1981 Brixton Uprising and facilitates communication between the community and the police. Monthly meetings include a report from the Borough Commander and themed sessions on topics of concern, such as gun crime or stop and search.

You can find out more about the meeting and agenda here.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Interview: Linton Kwesi Johnson

Eminent dub-poet, scholar and political-activist, Linton Kwesi Johnson was born in rural Jamaica and moved to the UK as a youth to join his parents. They were part of the “Windrush Generation” – people invited over to the UK to aid the rebuilding of the UK post-WWII

Debi Ghose, presenter of the Brixton Allstars radio-show, spoke to him 30 years after the Brixton Riots.

When you first moved to London, what did you think of the British culture and how you were accepted into the UK?

Well, those of us who came from the Caribbean were coming from a British colony, so the British way of life was not alien to us. We spoke the English language, we were socialising to the cultural institutions familiar to Britain, we studied English literature and knew more about English history than we knew about our own history! The actual culture was not difficult, what was difficult was the racial hostility that we met when we came here.

When did you join the Black Panthers?

I joined the Black Panther movement in the late 1960s. I became interested as a schoolboy – I think I saw one of the newspapers that they used to sell on a Saturday, then started to attend meetings and joined the organisation’s youth section. Around that time, there was a Black Power movement in the USA, which had been preceded by a Civil Rights movement by Martin Luther King and the Southern Leadership Conference, so there was a wave of consciousness of Black Awakening for young people on both sides of the Atlantic. Our generation felt that we could no longer tolerate the things that our parents had tolerated and we wanted to change the society, so we got involved with those organisations that we thought were more effective in bringing about racial equality and social justice.

What did being part of the Black Panthers give you?

Being a Panther was a life changing experience for me, because for the first time I discovered Black history; I learnt about African culture, I discovered Black literature in terms of creative writing, novels, poetry and so on. It opened up a whole new world for me and was a profound influence. It was in the Panthers that I learned about the rudiments of organisation – how one goes about mobilising support and building a movement for change.

Was it at that point that you started writing poetry?

I came to poetry through politics, as a consequence to my involvement with the Black Panther movement and discovering Black literature. I was inspired to articulate in verse how I felt, and how the generation of Black youth to which I belonged felt about growing up in a racialised society.

Can you explain what the Brixton Riots were retaliating against?

What was happening, for want of a better term, was racial oppression. People were being discriminated against and victimised. We were constantly harassed, intimidated, beaten, and a significant section of us were criminalised – some people even died in police custody. It was very difficult to get justice in the courts, especially magistrates courts where it was your word against a police officer’s. You stood a better chance of getting justice with a jury, but all that was poisoned by politicians exploiting race, like Mrs Thatcher who talked about Britain being swamped by an alien culture; at that time, it created an atmosphere which made it very difficult for a black person or any ethnic minority person to get a not-guilty verdict in a court of law. There was discrimination in the place of work, people were racially abused, in school we were relegated to a third class education, and so on.

How did you feel when the situation culminated in the riots?

It was a feeling of sheer exhilaration that we’d had the chance to fight back and to give the police a bit of their own medicine which we had been taking for the longest time. It was a feeling of power. It was a feeling that things would never be the same again, and that sense of power came from what had happened 6 weeks before that – black people had marched through the streets of London to protest the death of 13 young blacks in a racist arson attack in a fire in New Cross on the 18th of January. That big march was called the Black People’s Day of Action and happened on the 2nd of March, and 6 weeks later the Brixton Riots happened. So that sense of power that we had felt from seeing 20,000 people marching through London – you can’t imagine it. That gave us a sense that we could change our situation and help London to become a better place, and rid it of the extremes of racial injustice.

How long was it after the riots that you felt changes?

The changes didn’t come until the end of the ‘80s, beginning of the ‘90s – and those changes came largely because of the British State sitting up and taking note of the fact that Black people had some power. Not just because of what was happening in Brixton, because there were subsequent riots here again in 1985 and also in Tottenham, but these were national events because we had uprisings in nearly every major inner city area of the country; Toxteth in Liverpool, Moseyed in Manchester, Handsworth in Birmingham, St Paul’s in Bristol. The government’s response eventually was to put in place policies to speed up the emergence of a black middle class, and to take down some of the barriers. This happened under the watch of Michael Hesseltine, who was the Minister of the Environment, and they put in place “inner city urban renewal” policies, and that’s when the changes began to happen. I think the decisive event was the Black People’s Day of Action, because riots are spontaneous, but when you see a set of people who have been down-trodden, have the ability to mobilise nationally and put 20,000 people on the streets – that is an expression of power.

In this time of financial crisis, does it remind you at all of the situation in the ‘80s?

No, not at all. In the ‘80s, this country was far more polarised. A class war was being waged by the Tories against organised labour. Mrs Thatcher’s government wanted to claw back all the gains that the working class had won for themselves in the post-WW2 settlement. It was a period of heightened racial tension, you had groups like the National Front on the rise with their paramilitary wing – Column 88. It was a period when racist attacks were rampant, there was of course the New Cross fire when 13 young Blacks died – but we’ve moved on from that situation. There is no idealogical warfare going on in this country now. Once the Labour Party used to represent organised Labour, now all the political parties in this country represent corporate interest – they all represent business. The situation has changed, the context has changed, and in many respects things have changed for the better. Blacks have been instrumental in helping these changes, and in helping to change Britain, we’ve changed ourselves too.


Filed under Uncategorized

Lambeth Council Scrutiny Committee

Kaye Wiggins reports from last night’s Overview and Scrutiny Committee at Lambeth Council – councillors, parent governors and church representatives meet to publicly hold Lambeth’s decision-makers to account

Lambeth’s policing, schools, housing, care services and back-to-work programmes will be protected from the council’s £79m in spending cuts, council leader Steve Reed told councillors last night.

At a meeting of the council’s scrutiny committee, Reed said the council must save £79m over the next three years because of cuts in its funding from central government. It would announce its final plans for doing this on 23 February, he said.

Reed said he had identified the five areas as priorities that needed to be sheltered from spending cuts.

In practice, he said, this meant the council would make sure there were 100 extra police officers on the beat in 2011/12. It would retain its funding for police community support officers, targeted youth services and support for victims of domestic violence, he said.

Reed also said the council would not change its eligibility criteria for care services and would protect funding for schools, housing and employment services.

“We have saved £24m through efficiency savings,” he said. “To do this we have hollowed out our back office so much that there must be a risk about our ability to deliver frontline services.”

“We can’t protect all vulnerable people, but we’ve chosen to protect the most vulnerable people.”

Reed confirmed that the council would not cut the pay, sick leave and holiday entitlements of council staff. “It is not worth being aggressive with our staff when they are already going through immense pain,” he said.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Cllr Peter Robbins: The Impact of the Cuts

Lambeth Labour Councillor Peter Robbins gives us his verdict on the coalition cuts and how they’ll affect us

Last week, the Coalition Government released their spending plans for the next four years. Plenty of attention has been paid to the Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) in the media, but it’s not always easy to see exactly how it will affect your area, your neighbours, and the public services you rely on. So I suggested I write this article for Brixton Blog readers to try to do just that – work out how the CSR is likely to impact on Lambeth.

I’m a Labour councillor in Lambeth, so will inevitably attract comments claiming I’m biased (and I am). But I’ll try my best just to stick to the facts. Likewise, this is not the place to rehearse the arguments for or against the decision to cut spending so deeply, or who will be most affected – that’s been done plenty of times elsewhere.

The CSR covers every pound of taxpayers’ money to be spent by the Government, either nationally or locally, over the next three years. I’m going to ignore the ‘national’ decisions on defence, international development, transport etc – and focus on what the CSR means for your streets, home, schools, and safety.

So let’s start with the three major announcements made in social housing – an issue of huge importance to Lambeth. Firstly, the cap in housing benefit –  this will impact on about 5,400 households in Lambeth (mostly in private rented accommodation). It is worth noting that only 20% of people who receive HB are on Jobseekers Allowance – the disabled, workers on low incomes, and the elderly will be affected most (two thirds of the 30,000 Lambeth council tenants receive some level of HB). Lambeth’s Cllr Lib Peck last week gave evidence to a House of Commons committee on this subject on behalf of London Councils (watch it here).

Secondly, the CSR saw huge cuts to housing capital – including cutting Decent Homes funding by about a third (about £80m less for Lambeth). Only 40,000 new council homes a year will be built nationally – despite a waiting list of 500,000 in London alone.

Thirdly, and perhaps most significantly given that 30,000 households in Lambeth are in social housing, George Osborne announced that new social housing tenants would have to pay 80% of market rents – that could see social housing rents in North Lambeth rise from £80 a week to £250 a week.

It’s a pretty bleak picture for residents in Lambeth – and the Government has already admitted there are likely to be increased levels of homelessness, overcrowding, and sub-standard housing.

In education, the headline ‘good news’ of the CSR was that schools budgets would be protected, and a new ‘pupil premium’ would be introduced. Unfortunately this is already unravelling, and it is likely that many Lambeth schools could see their funding cut. Hopefully this will become clearer over the coming weeks, but whatever happens local schools will also be affected by a likely reduction in services provided by the council (social care, pupil places, special needs support etc) as a result of the local government cuts.

In higher education,  the swingeing cuts of 40% in favour of student contributions and the removal of the tuition fee cap will make a UK degree one of the most expensive in the world – and mean university is simply not an option for young people from low income families. Further education has also been hit, and the Education Maintenance Allowance, relied upon by thousands of young people to fund travel costs to college, will also be scrapped.

In terms of school buildings, Lambeth had over £200m cut from its secondary school building programme in July, though some was restored after the threat of legal action. The CSR saw a further 60% cut from educational capital budgets, despite a growing shortage of primary school places (expected to hit 28,000 in London by 2014) that is particularly acute in south Lambeth. If anything is giving Michael Gove sleepless nights it is surely this.

Crime and community safety continues to be the number one priority for Lambeth residents. The CSR saw local police budgets cut by 20% – but it is unclear what this means for uniformed police officers and the highly valued Safer Neighbourhood Teams, and it is fair to say that this will be a political football for some time, until each local force has set out their plans to deal with the cuts. However it is likely that Lambeth will again be hit much harder than other areas.

And what of Lambeth Council itself, responsible for delivering a huge number of local services? About 90% of the council’s funding comes from central government (only 10% of Lambeth’s funding derives from council tax) so the council is hugely dependent on the decisions made by the government. The very breadth of responsibility held by councils mean that cuts made elsewhere also impact directly on the council. For instance, Lambeth will have to pick up the pieces of benefit changes by providing temporary accommodation for people made homelessness, and any cuts to police activity could see more antisocial behaviour. Increased poverty will see more demand placed on key services provided for vulnerable people.

Overall, it’s fair to say the cuts were as bad as anyone had expected, and are much greater than those being borne by any national government department. Instead of the 25% cuts that the council was predicting, councils will now face cuts of 28.4% on average over four years.  Lambeth is also a ‘floor authority’ which means your council will be even harder hit than other authorities (such as Wandsworth). That means about £90m out of a total of £310m will be cut from the budget.

The really bad news only slipped out later – instead of the cuts being spread in equal instalments over the four years as the Chancellor announced in his statement, the cuts are actually being frontloaded.  For Lambeth that will mean having to make cuts of £40m next year instead of the £20m we were expecting. Independent commentators have described councils as having been ‘singled out’ for attention – so that the coalition can spread the blame when the cuts start to be felt.

Of course, one person’s ‘cuts’ are another’s ‘savings’, and every pound that can be ‘saved’ means a pound less in cuts. In Lambeth £35m of savings were made in the last four years without affecting frontline services, but the more waste that is eliminated the harder it is to identify further savings. The council is actively pursuing opportunities to save back office costs by sharing services with neighbouring boroughs Southwark and Lewisham, and other public sector bodies such as the NHS. There is a great deal of national interest in Lambeth’s Cooperative Council Commission due to report in December – which should generate proposals to transform the way some services are run by engaging communities and service users more closely, generating cost efficiencies and enabling Lambeth to do more with less.

But the bottom line is that government cuts of almost 30% cannot realistically be absorbed without affecting frontline council services. With £90m less to spend, councillors now have the difficult task of deciding where and how those cuts will fall.



Filed under Uncategorized

Whose Shout?

The 'Whose Shout?' report from Lambeth CPCG

Lambeth Community Police Consultative Group have just released a report called ‘Whose Shout?’ examining the relationship between Lambeth’s residents and the police, investigating whose voices are not heard in the community when it comes to crime. ‘Crime’. That’s one big topic and imbued with political debate, from how many police we should have on the streets to how people should be punished.  But don’t be put off – this is an important document and it’s here for you to read.

So what comes out of the report? First, it is clear that crime in the borough really has fallen – over 30% since 2002. But, conversely, fear of crime has gone up and, says the report, “Lambeth remains a high crime area, with the third most recorded offenses of all London boroughs in 2008-9”. Only 23% of residents feel consulted on crime and only 25% feel that the police and local groups are succesfully dealing with it.

In April 2009, a new statutary ‘duty to involve’ was imposed upon councils – so policing departments now have to listen to and actively involve the community they serve. But how to do that? There are already lots of different crime-based community groups in Lambeth – from Safer Neighbourhood Panels, which are split up per ward and provide residents with the opportunity to talk to their local Safer Neighbourhood Teams, to Neighbourhood Watch Groups and the Lambeth-wide CPCG. The CPCG was established after the Scarman Report in 1981 and has always been relatively innovative in its approach. It is a monthly meeting open to any Lambeth resident; a place for a lot of grandstanding, but it’s also one of the few forums in which people can have their say about policing in Lambeth.

But not everyone wants to get up and speak at a public meeting and clearly not enough people in Lambeth feel involved in decisions about crime. Catriona Robertson, the author of the report, has talked to all kinds of people through many different means to see what they think of the current situation – video vox pops on social housing estates, a focus group in Angell Town and online surveys. And, because naturally we do not all speak as one, there are a wide variety of local concerns – some feel uncomfortable walking past drug sellers outside KFC, others want more CCTV cameras and a Youth Parliament was even suggested so that more young people can have a say than in the current Youth Council.

‘Whose Shout?’ is open-minded in its suggestions for improvement in police-community relations. There should be “different methods of engagement” [what a terrible, jargony word ‘engagement’ is]. One suggestion is to involve young people by getting them to text Stop-and-Search experiences to the CPCG Monitoring Group and be texted back with action points. More knowledge and information needs to be accessible to a wider group of people and that means diversifying the means by which it is disseminated, from online forums and radio stations to pamphlets and public meetings with different formats.

Most importantly, people need to feel like something actually happens to their comments and complaints once they have been filed – they need feedback or the whole process feels futile. This report is a fascinating read…or a skim-through if you don’t have time to wade through 91 pages. Here’s hoping its recommendations don’t fall by the wayside.

The next CPCG meeting is at the Town Hall on July 6 at 6pm and there is a meeting of the Brixton Hill Safer Neighbourhood Panel tonight.


Filed under Uncategorized