Content warning: the video below contains footage some readers may find distressing
On 20 September, footage emerged of Metropolitan Police officers allegedly brutalising 13-year-old Benjamin Olajive during a stop and search in Streatham, south London. This is the latest in a number of incidents in September which have intensified calls from campaigners to scrap the practice, which police continue to use disproportionately and excessively against Black people.
Nothing but an afro comb
On 20 September, a mob of Metropolitan Police officers stopped 13-year-old Olajive while searching for a Black person carrying a knife. Olajive, who has ADHD and PTSD, was wearing his school uniform at the time. In distressing footage, he can be heard crying out: “my hands, my hands” as officers forcefully handcuff him. Members of the local community soon rushed to support Olajive, and demand that officers answer for their actions.
Sharing some footage of the incident, one person tweeted:
— Jay Kast (@kast_jay) September 21, 2021
Read on...Support us and go ad-free
After a 45 minute search, the ‘offensive’ item officers found turned out to be an afro comb. Criminal defence lawyer Aamer Anwar shared:
13yr old black schoolboy with ADHD & PTSD was allegedly choked by @metpoliceuk during a stop-and-search in London. On his way to McDonalds he was swarmed by police responding to a report of a black person with a knife – he had an Afro comb https://t.co/2xPvH7Rymv
— Aamer Anwar🎗✊🏽#BlackLivesMatter (@AamerAnwar) September 22, 2021
Questioning officers’ decision to take the boy to the police station having found nothing but an afro comb, barrister Michael Etienne shared:
He was taken to the police station after being arrested on suspicion of criminal damage. On what basis, I hear you ask?
"[The Met] claim he ‘kicked a police car a number of times, causing dents’"
"Kicking" and "Dents"
A 13-year old boy.#PolicingByConsent
— Michael Etienne (@Metienne12) September 22, 2021
Olajive’s mother Zeyna Kada has accused the Metropolitan Police of using excessive force against her son. She states that officers “manhandled”, “strangled” and “scratched” him, and failed to take his ADHD and PTSD into account. Photos allegedly show blood on the sleeves of Olajive’s school shirt from where officers handcuffed the boy.
Another photo shows the 13-year-old with a swollen eye following the incident. Kada maintains that her son is traumatised as a result of his distressing encounter with police. According to the Metropolitan Police, the complaint regarding the incident is under investigation.
Expressing her dismay at the incident, Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy shared:
Really appalled to hear that 13 year old boy who goes to school in my constituency came away from a recent stop & search with a swollen eye and bleeding wrists.
His crime? Carrying an afro comb.
A review of stop & search is long overdue.https://t.co/F9WSFbzJ0Y
— Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (@BellRibeiroAddy) September 21, 2021
Highlighting the historic criminalisation of afro combs in Britain, Black and Asian Lawyers for Justice shared:
How long have we been subject to arrest for possessing an Afro Comb? Back in the day, the police used to say they were offensive weapons. Afro hair was always offensive to some largely because it was usually attached to black bodies. #Streatham #StopAndSearch pic.twitter.com/v5HzqjsTm5
— Black and Asian Lawyers For Justice (@BameFor) September 22, 2021
Calling on the Met to provide Olajive with compensation and mental health support following the traumatic ordeal, children and young people’s mental health lead at the Centre for Mental Health Kadra Abdinasir said:
13 y/o Black boy walking in Streatham choked by police because they believed his Afro comb was a knife
Benjamin, who has ADHD & PTSD, was handcuffed by 5 police officers…no words!
— Kadra Abdinasir (@Kadra_A_) September 21, 2021
Time to scrap stop and search
The incident came just two weeks after footage emerged of a school-based police officer assaulting an autistic 10-year-old pupil. And on 13 September, a Metropolitan Police officer injured a 70-year-old Black man during a stop and search in Bromley, south east London.
Meanwhile, an Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) report published in September found that police racially profiled school support worker Dwayne Francis in a stop and search. These incidents reflect the reality that police continue to use stop and search powers disproportionately against Black people, with most searches not leading to an arrest.
Highlighting the police’s excessive and disproportionate use of stop and search powers against Black people, Black Lives Matter UK shared:
Stop and search disproportionately affects Black people. We are 9 times more likely to be stopped by the police.
Stop and search is a racist practice that is violent and ineffective. The intention is not to curb crime but to terrorise black communities.#abolishthepolice
— #BlackLivesMatterUK (@ukblm) September 22, 2021
Explaining the harmful impact that state violence has on Black children, psychologist Guilaine Kinouani said:
I think it’s social engineering. Deprive people of the conditions to thrive as children & you significantly reduce their capacity to resist as adults.
— Guilaine Kinouani (@KGuilaine) September 21, 2021
Calling for an end to harmful stop and search practices once and for all, Manchester-based campaigner Deej Malik-Johnson tweeted:
A young boy with ADHD and PTSD bloodied, cuffed, assaulted, choked, traumatised and humiliated his crime? Carrying an Afro comb on his way to McDonald’s. Some are saying stop and search needs to be reviewed, it doesn’t, it needs to be scrapped. https://t.co/guiy7hsJ6Y
— Deej Malik-Johnson BLM (@DeejMJohnson) September 22, 2021
Citing the incident as further evidence of the harm that investing the police with more powers could cause (as set out in the government’s proposed draconian Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill) John O’Connell said:
This is why we fight excessive police force and brutality. This is why they don’t need MORE powers.
This. Is. Why. pic.twitter.com/k4EYwGDZXz
— John O'Connell (@jdpoc) September 22, 2021
Decades of evidence point to the fact that stop and search practices don’t work to curb crime, and only serve to control and traumatise marginalised people and communities. It’s time to scrap the harmful practice once and for all.
Featured image via Metro – Screengrab
Do your bit for independent journalism
Did you know that less than 1.5% of our readers contribute financially to The Canary? Imagine what we could do if just a few more people joined our movement to achieve a shared vision of a free and fair society where we nurture people and planet.
We need you to help out, if you can.
When you give a monthly amount to fund our work, you are supporting truly independent journalism. We hold power to account and have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence the counterpoint to the mainstream.
You can count on us for rigorous journalism and fearless opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right wing mainstream media.
In return you get:
- Advert free reading experience
- Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
- 20% discount from our shop