The Metropolitan Police chief in charge of policing the Notting Hill Carnival has said that he doesn’t care what he arrests people for. His statement comes as police confirm that 656 people have been arrested ahead of the event. And his statement has serious implications for anyone who cares about civil liberties in the UK.
‘I don’t care’
Dave Musker, the Met’s gold commander, stated:
I don’t really care what we arrest them for, I’ll be [as] lawfully audacious as I can to get them off the streets.
So whether they’ve got heroin or they’ve got other class A drugs, [are] drug dealing, [or] serious violence takes place at carnival, we will try to target them and get them off the streets.
According to The Guardian, many people have been released on pre-charge bail. This means the police have yet to decide whether there is enough evidence to charge them with any offence. But it does mean they can impose bail conditions. And many have been banned from the area where the carnival takes place.
As The Canary previously reported, the police are already facing accusations of racism for the way they’ve been conducting their policing operation. And as a spokesperson for the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) told The Canary:
Carnival receives this treatment precisely because it is the UK’s largest celebration of Caribbean culture. It helps the police to justify the continued targeting of black communities for the disproportionate use of stop and search powers in London. It reinforces the deeply racist idea that these communities are somehow intrinsically – and uniquely – linked to violence and drug use.
The Met is also facing criticism for its use of facial recognition software at the carnival. Musker claimed about the software:
It’s not loaded, it’s loaded with people who we know are involved with criminality, who are wanted. It’s not a speculative search tool.
that what we are doing is proportionate, legal and effective.
Goodbye civil liberties
But it is not “proportionate” to arrest 656 people when the person in charge of the policing operation doesn’t care what they’re arrested for. It is not “proportionate” to scan whole crowds to see if they match an image. Whether it is “legal” or not is something that will be decided in the future. And “effective” is at best unknown, and only relevant if we don’t give a shit about our civil liberties.
Using pre-charge bail conditions to keep people away from events is nothing new. It is a tactic that the police have often used against protesters. And it has faced much criticism. But this is on a massive scale, and from a Met commander who appears to be utterly blasé about what he’s doing.
This policing operation should worry us all. From pre-emptive arrests to facial scanning, this is not the sort of society any of us should want to live in. And it’s down to all of us to continually challenge and oppose this. Alternatively, we could be waving goodbye to our civil liberties for good.
– Support Netpol.
– Know your rights if you’re stopped and searched.
– If you haven’t been charged with an offence, but have bail conditions, you may want to read this guide from the Green and Black Cross.
Featured image via author