Girl Q – victim of racism and sexism

Dave Kellaway reports on the mobilisations in Hackney.


Imagine as a parent your thirteen year child comes home from school. She is very upset indeed. Crying, she tells you how a teacher at school accused her of having marijuana because she ‘smelt’ of it. The police were called. Two female officers then took her into a room and carried out a full intimate strip search. A teacher stood outside the door.  At no time had you been informed of what was happening. Your daughter was on her period and the tampon was removed during the search.

If you are reading this as a white parent it is something that is mostly unimaginable, unthinkable even. But for Black parents this is the sort of incident that has been happening for years and is continuing today. 

Hackney police are clearly responsible for both institutional racism and sexism in this case and it follows the Sarah Everhart case and the racist and sexist behaviour of a group of police at Charing Cross Station. Recently Cressida Dick was forced to resign from her post as the London Met police chief because of her failure to prevent these and other incidents too numerous to mention.

The head, senior managers and the teacher directly involved also failed totally in their duty of care. I have some experience of headship. The failure to inform parents immediately and to allow a police search on school premises without a teacher even present ought to lead to some serious disciplinary sanction from your governors or the local authority. Heads lose their jobs like football managers if their school goes through a dip in attainment data but it seems authorising this sort of police intervention in your school is not deemed very serious.

The report criticising how the incident was handled came out last week which means this two year old incident has come  into the public domain. The name of the school – although fairly public knowledge in Hackney – is being kept secret to ‘protect’ (a bit late) the identity of the girl involved. She is now taking up a civil action against the police and the school. 

On Friday last week there was a good turnout of people to protest outside Stoke Newington police station. The traffic on the main road outside was blocked for some time. Today I attended a massive rally outside Hackney Town Hall. A comrade who was on the Friday action said the rally today was up to four times larger. It looked like between two and three thousand local people had turned up. Another activist said the last time the town hall square was so full was back in 1990 when the mass anti-Poll tax campaign was at its height.

The crowd was overwhelming black (85%) and mobilised largely through black community and activist organisations such as Sisters Uncut, Million Women rise, Black Lives matter and so on. The platform speakers also reflected this level of black community organisation. When mainstream politicians like Phil Glanville, the mayor, who is soft left or Meg Hillier, Hackney South MP (and anti-Corbyn) spoke they were interrupted with angry protesters demanding action not words and for ‘heads to go’. Women, both young and old, were the big majority of the audience and did most of the speaking from the platform. Again something you do not see at most left or campaign rallies.

From the scale of anger I saw today and the numbers who came out, this campaign will carry on and needs to demand bringing both the police and school managers to account. The most popular chant at the rally was ‘No Justice, No peace’. As many speakers said we must make sure there are procedures for this to never happen again. The National Union of Teachers (now NEU) in London did campaign against police presence in schools and this remains a key objective.

Labour has formally condemned Girl Q’s treatment but it sits uneasily with Starmer’s dog whistle policies on security. One of the speakers did reference Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner and her now notorious ‘shoot first and ask questions later’ position on law and order matters. Rayner either has little experience of the treatment the black community receives from the police or deliberately ignores it. For Black people it is the police who hold the guns and tasers and carry out intimate body searches on 13 year old girls.

Here is a short one minute video of the rally from my facebook page.

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Dave Kellaway is on the Editorial Board of Anti*Capitalist Resistance, a member of Socialist Resistance, and Hackney and Stoke Newington Labour Party, a contributor to International Viewpoint and Europe Solidaire Sans Frontieres.

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