On 17 February, Labour’s deputy leader Angela Rayner announced the party’s “hardline” approach to law and order. In a shocking statement, the deputy leader urged terror police to “shoot first” and “ask questions second”. People soon took to Twitter to express outrage at Rayner’s disgraceful comments.
Appearing on Matt Forde’s Political Party podcast, Rayner said:
On things like law and order I am quite hardline. I am like, shoot your terrorists and ask questions second.
Explaining her “hardline” approach to law and order, Rayner added:
I want you to beat down the door of the criminals and sort them out and antagonise them. That’s what I say to my local police … three o’clock in the morning and antagonise them.
Black Lives Matter?
The Black Lives Matter movement saw a resurgence in 2020 following the police killing of George Floyd in the US. Anti-racist campaigners in the UK highlighted the police’s disproportionate criminalisation and use of force against Black people in this country, particularly those with special educational needs and disabilities or experiencing mental health crises.
A central demand of the anti-racist movement remains a move away from punitive and draconian reactions to criminal justice issues, towards healing and community-centred solutions.
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Rayner was among the countless neoliberals to perform solidarity with the anti-racist movement at its peak. In 2020, she expressed solidarity by taking the knee in a bizarre photo opportunity with Labour leader Kier Starmer.
Pointing out Rayner’s bare-faced hypocrisy on the matter, independent media outlet Another Angry Voice shared:
She performatively took a knee for Black Lives Matter …
Then she chuckled away with her grotesque Blairite mate about instilling a "shoot first, think later" mentality in the police, without a single thought about what such a policy would mean for people of colour. pic.twitter.com/h70qZBeY1t
— Another Angry Voice (@Angry_Voice) February 17, 2022
And The Canary‘s former editor-at-large Kerry-Anne Mendoza said:
We cannot let Centrist Labour into power in Westminster.
A “Shoot first, ask questions later” police policy is a death sentence for countless people of colour, especially traumatised, disabled & mentally ill.
Didn’t they kill enough of us last time they were in government? Ffs
— Kerry-Anne Mendoza 🏳️🌈 (@TheMendozaWoman) February 17, 2022
Indeed, Rayner’s latest remarks echo Tony Blair’s ‘tough on crime’ approach to criminal justice issues. Blair’s punitive anti-crime policies and legislation created a boom in England and Wales’ prison population, and criminalised many people suffering from addiction and experiencing mental health issues.
Further, evidence demonstrates that such approaches fail to reduce crime.
The policy already exists
Others took to Twitter to highlight the fact that the UK’s terror police already enacts Rayner’s suggested ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ policy. Former chief prosecutor Nazir Afzal shared: Former chief prosecutor for North West England Nazir Afzal shared:
Some making out Angela Rayner’s comments about shoot first policy for terrorists is some new policy
It’s been operational anti-terror response to “marauding terrorist threats” for yrs
If faced with man wearing what purports to be “suicide vest” you disable to prevent greater harm
— nazir afzal (@nazirafzal) February 17, 2022
This is exemplified by the tragic case of Jean Charles de Menezes. In 2005, armed police mistook the Brazilian electrician for a suicide bomber, shooting him seven times at close range and killing him in Stockwell station.
Raising this point, Novara‘s co-founder James Butler tweeted:
The "shoot first" approach lauded by Rayner here led to the police murder of Jean Charles de Menezes in 2005. It would be good if Labour politicians engaged either their brain or their conscience before inane hardman electoral posturing in the press. https://t.co/Obeymfzg45
— James B (@piercepenniless) February 17, 2022
Sam Browse shared:
I walk past this everyday on the way to work. I do not think “shoot first” should be anyone’s approach to these issues. pic.twitter.com/qSPnxmDNXC
— Sam Browse 🇵🇸🇨🇺🏳️🌈🚩 (@SamBrowse) February 17, 2022
And there was this reminder on the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Derry:
On the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, 17 years after the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes, Angela Rayner is very keen for our brave security forces to gun down whichever British citizens they consider in that moment to be a "terrorist". https://t.co/K7s6c8vwea
— Nick (@Nickiquote) February 17, 2022
Another bad day for Labour
Research consultant and Hackney-based activist Heather Mendick set out the only logical response to Rayner’s heinous remarks:
Deselect Labour MPs who support extrajudicial killing, ask questions later.
— Heather Mendick (@helensclegel) February 17, 2022
All in all, this represents a new low for Starmer’s increasingly right-wing Labour Party.
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