This is a topic that I have to admit, I have had many fears about touching upon. But people have a right to share their views on matters, regardless of their ethnicity. I’ve seen people innocently share their views online via Twitter (in a completely inoffensive fashion) and have been subject to some pretty scathing responses. But it is a subject that is relevant, a subject that is currently at the forefront of news reporting and needs discussing in order to resolve the issues that many perceive as present in our communities.
Firstly, I want to offer my sincere, heartfelt condolences to the family of Rashan Charles. Regardless of the circumstances (of which none of us are fully aware), they have lost a member of their family and I’m sure that everybody can empathise with the sadness and loss that they will be feeling at this time.
I, along I’m sure with many others, stand shoulder to shoulder with the family of Rashan Charles, but also shoulder to shoulder with the police, in awaiting news of what actually happened during the incident which led to his death. It is important that everybody, allows the IPCC to fully complete it’s investigation into the incident before jumping to conclusions. CCTV footage was released, but what none of us know is what happened before that. Why was he running from police? What did he appear to place in his mouth? Was it this that killed him? Did police try to save him? Why was the level of force used during his arrest deemed necessary? Were the police under the impression that he was armed? – all of these questions are those that we, as members of the public, simply cannot answer. We ALL need to remember this, and allow the full investigation to be completed without finger pointing and assumptions.
Throughout this tragic episode, Mr Charles’ family have shown great strength and urged people to demonstrate peacefully in his name not to allow violence to break out. Disappointingly, after the peaceful protest passed without incident, many did not listen and decided to riot in Dalston late into the night.
I have no doubt that those involved in Friday’s riot were not ‘protesting’ or looking for ‘#justice4rash’. I suspect that the family of Rashan Charles, and all of those who did protest in a peaceful manner alongside, in solidarity with them; were equally as disgusted at the behaviour of those who decided to hijack his name to justify their own agenda of destruction and pure thuggery as the rest of us.
On Twitter, I saw a post from somebody supporting the riot, asking “what about our civil rights?”, when people had criticised the actions of the rioters. I try not to get involved in such discussions, but I made an exception with this one.
I replied with “People have the right to walk/drive down a street without having thugs with their faces covered throwing bottles and bricks around. They have the right to not have their vehicles and property damaged…..you’re right, people do have the right to peaceful protest. But with criminal damage/assaults/bottle throwing, it is no longer peaceful.”. Needless to say, no reply came.
I’m not trying to take sides here, I’m asking that people take a step back and reflect. If you want to protest, then do so. But please, keep it peaceful. Everybody has the right to a peaceful life and to feel safe where they live and work. Walking/riding around in balaclavas, or with scarves covering your face intimidates innocent people within your community. Damaging property, throwing bricks and building illegal road blocks and setting fire to them achieves nothing other than ruining your own neighbourhood; which then costs a fortune to clean up – money which could be far better spent improving facilities and services in your community and improving the life chances of people within the area in the long term.
I’d just urge people to think, reach out to community workers and engage with police in a positive, proactive way to address the concerns that you have. Allow them to understand your cause and work with you to fix the issues you see. Scenes like those below, will do nothing to fix this.