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Black Lives Matter UK: Come what may

A COMING TOGETHER: Brixton Black Lives Matter UK supporters (photo credit: Getty)

IN APRIL and May, BLMUK organised a series of events in London called ‘Come What May’. People in our communities came together, and talked about what politics means to them. One thing that we could all agree on is that as Black people in this country, will not see a sudden change or spike in black liberation at the end of this election cycle. Some of our elders who attended have been there before, they know. But it’s true that we need change.

Change doesn’t happen when you tick a box every four years.

Change happens when you fight, when you push. When you create conversations that are denied. When you take the space that they won't give to you.

Change happens when communities come together to protect parents from being deported from their children.

Change happens when lawyers and campaigners meet to decide how best to challenge racist laws.

Change happens when we stand up, shut down and keep showing up.

Change happens when we come together to figure out how we want to move forward, together.

(Photo credit: The Independent)

We need to be able to hold all of these things in our mind. We need our politicians to do better. We need to do better.

A lot of this election campaign has relied on the same traditional, boring old notion that everything that’s wrong in this country is because of ‘others’. Immigration, lack of jobs, bad schools, failing NHS, terrorism, even traffic jams.

We know that the truth is that the real causes behind these issues are not us, or them, but our very own politicians and the way they make choices that knowingly sanction and hurt the most vulnerable in society whilst unapologetically rewarding and protecting the powerful.

The lack of jobs in the UK isn’t down to immigrants, it’s down to a lack of government investment, generation upon generation. If schools are failing and the NHS is seriously ill, it’s because not enough resources go into them, not because of the numbers of immigrants who use the services - the very same immigrants who take zero hour contracts, work long unsociable hours, and undertake menial jobs that keep our services working despite the Tory cuts to them.

At the end of the day politics is about choice, and so the biggest lie of them all is when politicians tell us we have none. No choice but to close the borders, no choice but to pursue austerity, no choice but to choose to address symptoms rather than the root causes of knife crime or terrorism.

One of the results of the harrowing events that happened in Manchester and London is we’ve seen all parties move towards a discourse of increased security, everyone trying to out-pledge the other with promises of more police in our communities, more armed police on the streets, and greater powers to "do whatever needs to be done", including obliterating the Human Rights Convention - a familiar Tory tale.

While we do need to talk about security of our streets and about the fast-changing context in which we live in, and while we do need to have conversations and indeed action for how to keep us all safe, let us not forget what happens when the policing of black, brown, immigrant communities is increased and when police are empowered to shoot-to-kill. 

Calling for more empowered armed police on our streets will give more powers to an unaccountable police force that has never seen an officer convicted for any of the 1600+ lives lost at the hands of the state. We must ask ourselves, whose security do they have in mind when politicians call for more police on the streets, and more armed police empowered to do whatever it takes to keep 'us' safe?

More policing in these times of fear and terror could also result in increased stop and search powers, which already disproportionately impact children from black, brown and immigrant communities. Many children in our communities feel that they are regularly hassled by the police because of their age, their race or ethnicity.

In a recent report and film created by, Matters of the Earth and members of Black Lives Matter UK (BLMUK), children believe the police have a negative attitude towards them, describing interactions where the police are rude, judgemental, demeaning, heavy-handed or ‘over the top’. It is the government's responsibility to be working with communities and grassroots organisers, rather than adding more police that threaten our communities with heavy handed, racist, sometimes deadly policing.

Policing alone is a pragmatic policy that ignores the deepening rift and rage between black and minority ethnic (BAME) communities and the police, especially youth - the same which gave us the 2011 riots.

The majority of police work is not crime solving, it's bureaucracy, "in a typical day, 18% of calls to police are about crime" and even if they do 'deal' with more crime, will they be tackling white collar crime, the crimes of big bankers, sexual and race related violent crimes? Not likely.

BLMUK are abolitionists. To us the solution to crime is never more police. We need more care, investment and resources that empower our communities.

We need a willingness to accept that there are deep structural issues in Britain today, and a willingness to see that the knowledge and expertise to address this issue comes from the margins, from grassroots communities, organisers and innovators.

It is absolutely possible to talk about terrorism in a way that isn’t a mere cop out about ‘being tough on terrorism’ and ‘shutting down the borders’, but rather engage in a much deeper and indeed necessary conversation about the structural causes of terrorism inside the UK. When Theresa May talks about ‘our country, our values, our way of life’ she relies on the old ‘us vs. them’ colonial fuelled trope.

But the truth is the ‘us’ of the victims encompasses the victims in Manchester, London and Paris as well as those in Baghdad, Pakistan and Mali. And the ‘them’, the forces that seek to “divide us” and profit from this heinous borderless war, are ISIS, of course, as well as all those, like the British state that profits from war and who do not care about black and brown lives here or abroad.

The biggest issue with this election and our nation's political rhetoric is that we are told over and over that there is no alternative and there is no money. The British government is owed billions of pounds in corporate taxes. There is money. Government makes choices all the time. When this Tory government chooses to cut corners by targeting the most vulnerable and preserving the fat cats, it’s making a choice, an ideological choice. It is a choice the Tory party have always made. They have never been and never will be a party who cares for society over profit and privatisation. Instead of creating compassion, they’re creating a culture of fear and pointing the finger of blame at the most vulnerable people in our society.

The work of dividing communities and the anti-immigration rhetoric that distracts people from the real issues - austerity, neo-liberalism, capitalism - has worked.

So if you voted for change, or if you didn’t vote but want change, you must get involved. Join BLMUK, join a union, set up your own groups and organise, organise, organise.
There are some amazing people who are out here everyday, making change happen in our communities, in Britain, and we will not stop, come what may.

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