Tottenham Rights – 6 months on

Tottenham Rights Advice & Campaign surgeries were launched on Monday 8 October last year. In the short space of time, the weekly sessions are proving to be a vital resource for individuals and local groups attempting to fight poverty, injustice, racism and neglect. The report summarises the context of the launch and the impact Tottenham Rightshas made so far.

The Context: Tottenham, as a town, has gained a reputation. This is not surprising given how the reporting of its Black and minority communities, crime levels, relationship with the police, and local accountability has not really altered much ever since the racist stereotypes started in the tabloid press in the 1970’s.  Even now, nearly 30 years after the deaths of Cynthia Jarrett and the Broadwater Farm public disturbances, the reporting of local events has not altered. How its political leadership failed to turn this around is just one of the many tales of failure people tell.

Recession hit Tottenham does have some astounding statistics. Haringey is the 13th most deprived borough in the country, and the 4th most deprived borough in London.  Over 50 % of the community is amongst the 20% of the most deprived in the UK. It has one of the largest people of working age and one of the largest unemployed populations in the UK. Unemployment has grown by 1,400 over the past year and it is the younger community who are hit hardest. MP David Lammy recently commented in the Tottenham and Wood Green Journal,

Amongst young people, the picture is even bleaker. Since the riots last year, the number out of work for more than six months has increased by 50% and the number unemployed for a year has more than tripled.” (17 September 2012)

The reports and Inquires into the latest public disturbances, triggered by the killing of Mark Duggan in August 2011, obviously, mention some of this hard data, but they also raise a series of both serious and soft observations, including the unwillingness of the political class to listen to its community, particularly its young people. Another has been its inability to tackle the shabbiness of the town coupled with dire absence of new local facilities including the most basic technology such as street lighting.  The poorer sections of Haringey are not only just that but they must also be viewed as such.

In response, the local political leadership decided to tackle these complex issues with a huge ‘We love Tottenham’campaign. The obvious aim of the campaign was to enthuse support for the town ripped apart by the violent public disturbances but they missed a fundamental point. No one was rebelling against the town as physical space or its vibrant multiculturalism but against economic, social and cultural neglect and lack of political power. As Floyd Jarrett, (son of Cynthia Jarrett) reminded everyone at the launch of the Tottenham Rights last year,

“Broadwater Farm was all community, Irish, Black, Chinese, Indian, we all came together and that’s what we loved and gained our strength from”.

Another speaker, Imran Khan, the solicitor for Doreen Lawrence reminded everyone that there is often a direct link between running advice surgeries, developing campaigns and changing public opinion and public policy. He said,

“my involvement with the family of Stephen Lawrence came directly from my role as a advisor at a similar advice surgery in Southall, in 1993, and may of my initial responses to the police were based on strategies learned during that period”.

Our Aims: One of our central aims has been to provide consistent weekly & professional legal advice surgeries on the following areas: Criminal Law; Actions against the Police; Employment, Family, Housing, and Welfare Law. We also provide advice, assistance and campaigning expertise on issues such as bullying & exclusions at schools, racial violence and harassment, suspicious deaths & murders and public law.

We also wish to empower local communities, through a rights-led framework so that acts of discrimination, marginalization and racism can be tackled effectively

At the moment, our aims are being achieved by a combination of the following factors:

a)    the involvement of well known human rights lawyers from solicitors firms as Imran Khan & Partners, Christian Khan, Bindmans and Birnbergs Peirce

b)    the active involvement of the local Turkish & Kurdish community Association, their volunteers and space for the sessions

c)    the distribution of promotional publicity via pirate radios, and locally  trusted and credible community groups and  key  individuals living in the locality

d)    the availability of in-house knowledge and unrivaled expertise in the areas of our advice and operation

 The impact of our work so far: To date, from October 15 2012 to February 18 2013, we have seen 131 individuals and opened 112 case or one/off files. We have also met and provided advice to 3 community groups facing closure or eviction due to Local Authority decisions.

Some of our clients may suffer from multiple problems. The tables below indicates the areas in which we have offered advice or assistance and the ethnic origin/nationality of our clients:

Advice areas:

Area of advice Number of people
Action against Police 18
Community Campaigns 3
Commercial 2
Consumer 4
Council Tax 2
Disability discrimination 1
Education (exclusions) 2
Employment (race/sex/internal disciplinary actions/low pay) 14
Family (child proceedings or divorce) 23
Housing (disrepair and evictions) 26
Immigration 8
Racial harassment 12
Serious Crime (Murder) 3
Welfare benefits 24

 

Ethnic origin or nationality:

Ethnic origin or nationality %
Black Caribbean 68
Turkish (Kurdish) 15
African 10
European 2
Chinese 2
Others 3

 

Public Interest Cases:

Eve & her son: a specialist unit of the police raided Eve’s house on 4 May 2011 who used Tasers and shields on the son without provocation.  The son collapsed and Mrs. E thought he had died. She tried to go to her son but was “jumped upon” and fell to the ground where she was restrained. Eventually Eve and her were charged for assaulting a police officer but found not guilty of the offence in November 2011. The son is too scared to go out and suffers from post-traumatic stress, and Eve suffered a broken toe.

Although Eve is now taking readdress action against the police, her son has lost confidence and self-esteem.

The murder of TP: Teon, a 28 year-old black young man, was murdered in a knife crime in October last year. To date no one has been identified or arrested for the crime. Teon’s mother came to the surgery desperate for help. She believes none of her concerns have been addressed by the police and is not updated properly by the police investigation team. Her perception is that the police have stereotyped her as a single black mother with mental health problems and her son for being a member of a “gang” without any substantial evidence.

Teon’s mother is now being provided with legal and emotional support.

The case of BM: BM entered the UK legally in 1972 when he was only 18. He is a father of five children. But he has never been out of the UK because he has no passport or documents to prove that he has been here continuously since that period. His mother lost all the documents when he was only 20. BM has seen many lawyers and has been tried to get his current union to help but his efforts have been in vain. He lives on his own.

BM’s case has been referred to a specialist lawyer and his union has been contacted to provide more support for him.

Mark Duggan Family campaign: Mark Duggan killing triggered the summer 2011 “riots”. His family has now requested Tottenham Rights to develop a strategy to re-lunch a national campaign to ensure that an Inquest into his death in not delayed further (set for September this year) and that a public Inquiry takes place to examine into the causes of the Summer disturbances. We are hoping to launch the campaign in April this year.

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