Thursday, December 06, 2007
Immeasurably Pissed-off Wednesday
Anyone had one of these lately, ever?
Twenty-five years ago, I left the then police state of Queensland Australia because of the total randomness of that state's interference in its citizens' private lives and because the music was better, obviously. For all this time, including living fairly precariously in squats and participating in decidedly fringe pursuits, I have evaded the attentions of HM Woodentops until now - one month before I officially resign my post as a council tax paying Londoner.
As a respectable middle-aged 'IC1 female', I was yesterday officially 'stopped' at Hackney Wick Station under 'Section 44 of the Counter Terrorism Act'. Admittedly, I was carrying a back pack. Our dozy little station serves about a dozen people an hour so why Hackney Police thought it was a reasonable use of police time to deploy ten officers to find some people to question about terrorism here is anyone's guess.
I was approached by a WPC who asked me if I'd be willing to answer some questions. Thinking this was a type of public consultation and since I'm currently harassing people for a crust under this very pretext, I truly thought it would be churlish of me to refuse. Next thing I know, Sister Sledgehammer has pulled out her fucking Stop and Searches book. Never mind the chummy, chummy approach. I had no right to refuse. Below is the net result of my encounter.
I've scratched out my personal details but it's hardly worth the bother since I know the police are keeping these on a database which was almost certainly hacked into by every under ten year old in the country before I'd bedded down last night.
The flimsy excuse under which I was 'stopped' was to ask me if I'd 'seen anything suspicious' on my way to work. I was tempted to offer that I'd noticed a Brazilian or two hastening to work but was wary of sparking a mass panic, if not slaughter. I thought the better and assured the WPC I'd nothing to report.
Before anyone gets steaming with me about the police needing to be seen to be vigilant when it comes to taking the threat of terrorism seriously, let me just say I'm very glad to have lived the last twenty-five years in a country where I am and feel free to protest. And I did. I told the WPC I found the method of approach invidious. Since the train still hadn't come and I liked the word so much, I harangued the Sergeant and demanded the name of the Borough Commander. I told the Jim Royle-alike Sergeant I'd write a letter of complaint. He looked so pleased I wondered if I'd inadvertently ticked another target box.
When I got to work with the Stop and Searches duplicate burning a hole in my hackles, railing for all I was worth, a black colleague quipped,
'You should try being black love.'
And rightly so. I have black friends whose kids could probably paper their bedroom walls with these things. I wouldn't expect to be treated any differently from my black friends' teenage sons in the same situation. But here's the weird thing. It seems to me my Stop and Searches experience was an exercise in collecting gratuitous but usefully comparative information. Put simply, they grabbed the opportunity to 'question' someone other than a young Asian male under Section 44 of the Counter Terrorism Act, because there was actually no one else around.
No one with a conscience wants the police to be constantly harassing young black and Asian men but, how is taking down the details of my attire going to avert terrorism exactly?
I snarled at the WPC,
'Well I certainly hope you meet your targets'.
'It's not just about numbers.'
Stupid fucking cow.
If you're the type of person who thinks that you've nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong, you might want to rethink. It's very scary but the police can't seem to find a better way of keeping us safe but to treat us all as a potential risk to safety.