Manchester against Police Pursuit

Ian Parker reports from an impressive public meeting organised by the Northern Police Monitoring Project.

 

The meeting took place on Tuesday 13 February on a cold drizzly Manchester evening; outside, with a candlelit vigil, and then inside the Friends Meeting House. Organised by the Northern Police Monitoring Project, the Upper Hall was full, and lively and grieving the deaths of young people killed by police, and angry. Around eighty percent of those attending, and the whole of the speaker platform were women, something significant here in the mobilisation of families to speak out and take action for their loved ones, most of whom were young men. The names of those who had been killed in police pursuit were read out at the vigil and we chanted “We will remember them” after each name, and then inside the building, after a warming drink, there was discussion of where to go next with the campaign.

Northern Police Monitoring Project meeting.
Northern Police Monitoring Project meeting

There has been a shocking rise in deaths at the hands of the police during pursuit in Manchester since the pandemic, one speaker suggesting that it was during that time, precisely when the streets were emptier and there was little to occupy the police, that they began to target young people, many black and all from working class communities. There was discussion during the meeting of the way that short coroner’s inquest meetings saw police mocking and scoffing and lazily reading from prepared scripts, with contempt for those who had died.

Demands

The #EndPolicePursuits Families Campaign demands are that they call for: immediate end to systematic over-policing of racially minoritised and working-class young people by road traffic officers; immediate prohibition of police initiating pursuits for non-violent offences and minor traffic violations; recording and transparent publication of traffic stop data; overhead motorway signs to be changed when police pursuit enters the motorway system; officers to carry out their duty of care and to prioritise the safety of the public; and state agencies and investigatory bodies to hold the police to account.

The scale of the problem was driven home to those who attended right at the beginning of the evening when a family was late to the vigil after they had, once again, been stopped by the police! The anger among the families that evening was evident, and the organisers took care to put support in place to handle the distress that was very evident. Red Clinic operatives had been invited to the meeting to provide emotional support, if it was needed, and there was an invited poet as well as contribution from a solicitor who has been involved in some of the cases, and there was time for break-out activities, for action.

Linking actions

At the vigil during our minute of silence we could hear, from over at the either side of Manchester Central public library, the sounds of chanting from the latest in the series of Palestine Solidarity demonstrations, and there was acknowledgement of this in speeches by organisers; the racism and class oppression experienced by the families present was, one speaker said, also to be seen in Gaza. The poet ended her time inside the meeting by reminding us of what was happening in Gaza, with a poem from a young Palestinian and then her own poem in response.

Northern Police Monitoring Project vigil
Northern Police Monitoring Project vigil

The NPMP magazine Reflections and Resistance, makes the links clear on the cover, with slogans from “Black Lives Matter” to “Kill the Bill” to “Defund the Police” to “Cops off Campus”, to “End Prevent”. This was very different from many left-group-dominated meetings in Manchester. It was a real mobilisation of people speaking out, working through their pain and hatred of authority, and doing something about it together.


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Ian Parker is a Manchester-based psychoanalyst and a member of Anti*Capitalist Resistance.

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