For most of us, Notting Hill Carnival represents the best of London life. It is a celebration of diversity, multiculturalism and culture attracting 1.5 million people from all around the world.
While the majority of us come to Carnival to enjoy taking part in Europe’s largest street party, the Metropolitan Police see Carnival is something to be controlled, curtailed and harassed.
This year’s Carnival will see 11,000 police officers on patrol. They will be enforcing a curfew from 6.30pm and ensuring that sound levels don’t pass the “agreed” 135 decibels. If the policing operation is anything like that of 2008, it will also see hundreds of mainly black youths being stopped, contained and searched indiscriminately as they make their way to the celebrations.
Most sinister of all, directing the policing operation will be Commander Bob Broadhurst. He was in charge of policing during April’s protests against the G20 in the City of London, which saw hundreds harassed, beaten and arrested by the police. This was also when we saw the death of Ian Tomlinson, who was struck by a police baton and died minutes later, despite the fact he was not even a protester but was simply making his way home. The fact that Commander Broadhurst is now directing this operation is a scandal.
This year we have already seen raids of “known troublemakers” prior to Carnival, and 150 letters hand-delivered by police to others commanding them not to attend. Can you imagine if this happened in the run up to London’s New Year’s Eve celebrations or the London Marathon?
The police seem to have a very different approach when the event involves the Afro-Caribbean community. While Carnival is a celebration of people coming together, it seems the police are more than willing to stoke racist divisions.
We believe that the Notting Hill Carnival should be a celebration – not a heavy-handed police operation.