The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

From Up The Ra To Up The Rozzers

Policemen so cherish their status as keepers of the peace and protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat to death those citizens or groups who question that status - David Mamet


Anthony McIntyre • 22 October 2006

In Ballymurphy the other evening the PSNI made an arrest of a man in the immediate wake of an incident that resembled a punishment attack. The now rare hum of the once ubiquitous helicopter droned its way into our homes. Police land rovers roamed the area. PSNI members, batons pounding their shields and sides of their vehicles, stood menacingly, poised to aggressively confront anyone who might interfere with their business of the day.

I was not there so did not see it. But witnesses to this display of PSNI zero tolerance toward some forms of violent activity in West Belfast complained that those who once postured as defenders of the community against a British police force raiding nationalist homes 'skulked' away rather than give some leadership. There was no sign of the promised policing of the police. But what leadership could they have provided apart from leading the police into the homes to be searched? Things have been inverted so much that those who once called Pearse Jordan 'comrade', have no destination but that certain day when they shall address those who killed him barely half a mile away as 'colleague.'

Since February, there have been something like 700 related incidents of violence or intimidation in Ballymurphy, many of them life-threatening. Apart from the catalyst for this violence, the murder of Gerard Devlin, there have been few arrests and no record of anyone being apprehended in circumstances similar to the Ballymurphy arrest the other evening. A family who claim their home was targeted by a thirty strong gang yesterday evening allege that the PSNI told them not to ring for assistance if it happens again as the force was fed up responding to emergency calls from the estate. Not half as fed up as the people making them.

The Ballymurphy arrest demonstrates that the police acted because they considered the supposed punishment beating a subversive act that had to be politically policed. The quality of life of people in Ballymurphy has not improved one iota due to that arrest. The arrests that would make a difference have not been carried out because the police show little interest in tackling anti social crime. Actions that threaten to destabilise the political equilibrium, no matter how marginally, will be robustly dealt with whereas more serious actions that damage the wellbeing of a working class community will accumulate by the hundred with minimal police intrusion.

There is little doubt that anti-social activity and violence against the vulnerable has become a scourge in working class nationalist communities. People who once had the power to stand up to the armed repression of the British state now feel impotent in the face of hoods. Without the ultimate power to coerce their tormentors, they face a further depreciation in the quality of their lives. Those who claim to have a legitimate monopoly on the exercise of such coercion, the British state and its armed police, the PSNI, show little sign of using it unless it is to apprehend someone they might believe is engaged in violent republican activity.

Peter Hain has argued that by reversing its long standing policy on the RUC,
Sinn Fein would allow some badly needed succour to arrive in the communities they represent; crime and anti-social behaviour could be tackled. This underlines how policing remains a political loaded issue. Why individual citizens, including republicans who may wish to avail of it, should have their right to be defended from violent gangs contingent on Sinn Fein supporting the police, is not explained. Surely the democratic right of the weak to be defended against the strong is a stand alone justice issue not to be bartered over on grounds of political expediency.

Sinn Fein support for the police will increase the number of people willing to report their neighbour over minor disputes or tout on others doing the double. It will do nothing to end anti-social behaviour. The type of crime that stalks working class communities will not be affected by Sinn Fein supporting the police. The most salient effect of that support will be to legitimise British force in Ireland. That is why there is such an emphasis on securing it. It has nothing to do with Peter Hain wanting to curb the hoods of Belfast any more than he wants to put manners on the gangs of Cardiff. Why would the British police be successful in curbing anti social behaviour in Belfast but not in Liverpool, Glasgow or Birmingham? The failure of British policing in this respect is evidenced only today in a report from the Institute for Public Policy Research in Britain which showed that more than any other European society the British are afraid of teenage gangs.

The type of crime that plagues working class communities from Limerick to Liverpool, from Cork to Cardiff, from Belfast to Bolton, fuelling a generalised fear and immiserating numerous lives is largely impervious to the application of modern policing. Working class communities need a multi-agency approach which is supported by more resources rather than more rozzers.

In Britain such communities pragmatically acquiesce in policing. They do not normatively endorse the police. The police are those who arrest you and lie on oath in court to send you down. What a turnaround it would be for Britain's fortunes in Ireland if there are to be more people applauding a British police force in Ballymurphy than in Brixton.



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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
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Index: Current Articles

25 October 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

From Up the Ra to Up the Rozzers
Anthony McIntyre

Just Say No
Martin Galvin

Whither Irish Republicanism
Mick Hall

The Three Stooges
John Kennedy

Jockeying For Position
Dr John Coulter

An Irish Agreement
Liam O Comain

Up the Garden Path
John Kennedy

A Gaelic Experiement
Nathan Dowds

Preventing Prejudice
Anthony McIntyre

16 October 2006

Friday the 13th — The Most Terrifying Deal Ever Done!
Tom Luby

Black Friday
Anthony McIntyre

When No Means Yes
Dr John Coulter

Blowin' In The Wind
John Kennedy

Time to Conclude NI Process
David Adams

Once Bitten
Anthony McIntyre

Dysfunctional Family Values
Mick Hall

Racism: The Social Uniter?
Dr John Coulter

Nobody Home
John Kennedy

'The Revolution is the People'
Jane Horgan-Jones



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