On Thursday 22nd January, it was announced by the London Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPAC) that a £200,000 budget was set aside for a new tough anti-gang initiative called “Operation Shield” which is being trialled in the London boroughs of Lambeth, Westminster and Haringey for the next 12 months.
Operation Shield, according to the London Evening Standard, will enable the Metropolitan Police Trident team and local authorities to bring civil or criminal sanction to “known gang members” if any supposed gang member carries out an assault, stabbing or other serious crime.
“The penalties will range from recall to prison, gang injunctions banning them from parts of the capital or mixing with their associates, mandatory employment training courses or ejection from social housing.
The offender who triggers action will be fast-tracked through the criminal justice system for swift sentencing.”
In other words if a crime or misdemeanour has been committed then the police will be able to assign guilt to anyone they identify as a “gang member”. This then could lead to an entire family being evicted from their home and/or innocent people serving long prison sentences. This is akin to collective punishment, people being punished for acts for which they neither participated nor in many cases had any awareness of.
The precedent for this can be described by many working class families who have had family members wrongly convicted through Joint Enterprise. A law which has enabled the Police and the Crown Prosecution Service to imprison people from as young as 13 years old on the pretext of association. The campaign group JENGbA, who spoke at our 2014 conference, describe cases of predominately black youth who had been imprisoned for joint enterprise murder despite being unconscious, physically not present and in one case partially blind, that is the case of a Warrington youth Jordan Cunliffe, who is serving 12 years even though it was recognised in court that he was not at all involved in the fatal attack.
Also Operation Shield is using the precedent of the “fast-track justice” that was seen during the uprisings of August 2011. Anyone being pushed through this scheme may face prejudice and stigma in the courts as a “serious gang member” and thus face exemplary long prison sentences.
The use of the word “gang” in policing and crime contexts, we believe is a racialised term to stigmatise groups of working class black youth and stereotype them as criminals by default. This trial project will form the basis of more mass stop and search, mass arrests and arbitrary evictions in places like Brixton, Tottenham and council housing in Pimilco and Victoria.
London Black Revolutionaries are organising leaflet drops around Lambeth this weekend and the other target area in the coming weeks. We will be supporting these efforts and organising our own leaflet drops, community meetings and actions in the coming months.
If you want to get involved with LBR’s efforts see below and with our activities please contact us directly.