Marginalised and excluded

Artwork and street sign next to the Olympic site

Artwork and street sign next to the Olympic site

“The estate, given its reputation, doesn’t seem intimidating. Everything is modern – the buildings are a mixture of new houses and a central courtyard which is flanked by new blocks of flats, freshly painted in bright colours. In another part of the city, it would be positively luxurious. But this is what you notice about Gangland the more time you spend there. These days, the estates are rarely dilapidated. Money has been invested in regeneration: with a few exceptions it is brand new, or in the process of being built. It’s the same all over London – ambitious schemes to rebuild the homes of the poor, in the hope that doing so will rebuild their lives. On the one hand, it has undoubtedly improved living standards. But on the other, the movement of established residents has damaged the sense of community, while in the midst of all this newness, the same problems remain. The brand new buildings do not stop the tenants suffering from low incomes or unemployment. The relocation of residents to low-rise accommodation can make life harder for any families who are involved in the gangs – a flat in a tower block is far harder to shoot at.”
John Heale, One Blood, Inside Britain’s New Gang Culture, p18, (2009)

A bullet hole in the metal shutter of a Hackney Marsh sports centre. 2010

A bullet hole in the metal shutter of a Hackney Marsh sports centre. 2010

The riots in Tottenham, Hackney and elsewhere in August 2011, after the shooting by Police in suspicious circumstances of Mark Duggan, took a lot of people by surprise for their scale, ferocity and focus on looting for brands desired by the young and poor. For those of us aware of the growing inequality between the executive and professional classes and the most marginalised and excluded in society it came as no surprise. Young people who were, during the deepening recession, rapidly losing purchasing power over the commodities which confirmed for them their status in society, were the most vulnerable to the destructive rage of despair.

In 2004, Dominic White from Southampton Institute was already suggesting: ‘It seems that the “journey into the spectacle and carnival of crime” in relation to the street gangs in the UK has begun in earnest, with the media and the police arguably leading in the race of description. Such descriptions do not show how complex the gangs’ relationship with their community can be. The relationships vary wildly, from fear to complicity, and it follows that the best placed people to deal with them are not always the police.
John Heale, One Blood, Inside Britain’s New Gang Culture, p119, (2009)

Young man arrested Stratford Station 2009

Young man arrested Stratford Station 2009

“Black communities have always suffered the brunt of police stop and search powers from the days of the hated Sus laws – widely condemned for being used to racially profile – to the barely shifting statistic, highlighted recently by Doreen Lawrence on the 10 year anniversary of the Lawrence Inquiry Report: “There has been no long term drop in stop and search within the black community – today black people are seven times more likely to be searched – this is not progress.” The cost of this is permanent tension between black communities and the police, with generations growing up accustomed to being the target of criminalisation and poor treatment.” Estelle du Boulay

Stolen car in River Lee Hackney Marsh 2008

Stolen car in River Lee Hackney Marsh 2008

When the Olympics arrives in your city it brings with it a militarised security zone. This includes a raft of special legislation which aims to keep the surrounding area free of ‘citizens under suspicion’.

“Powers under the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 to move on groups of people congregating in the zone began on 27 April, exactly three months before the Olympics opening ceremony. The police rather coyly add that at the end of the current period, they will “review the intelligence gathered and will consider making application to Newham Council for a three month extension”, but it is pretty obvious that an extension will happen automatically. Coupled with confirmation that “local residents and businesses will also notice a marked increase in police patrols” supported by the Met’s specialist public order unit CO20 (the Territorial Support Group) and Newham council enforcement officers, this is clearly a clean-up operation in advance of the summer’s Games.” Kevin Blowe