When I read Taryn Nixon’s article “The reality of stop and search” on the Arts London News (ALN) website, I was moved. It was refreshing to read an article that highlighted a social topic that is constantly being underlined.
We’ve heard of stop and search – it’s as much a part of our communities as there is a rich and poor divide. But what is the reality of it? If you’re young, male and black, you are likely to have already been a target of the subjective use of police power, as British-Ghanaian Gospel rapper Guvna B experienced.
I spoke to the South African-born freelance journalist and 3rd year BA Journalism student at LCC, to find out why she chose to highlight a reality so far from her own, to be a voice to the voiceless.
“It’s a bit odd right? That I’m white South African. People don’t expect that, thinking; what do you know about minority issues? That’s just it! It’s not a colour thing, it’s a social one. Journalism should see no colour and take no sides. But first of all, I want to be a voice to the voiceless.” Taryn established within seconds of the record button being pressed for our informal interview. “That’s my way of giving back. I really like to represent people who are under-represented in society. I choose to write about stop and search because it is very current.”
In the recent Mark Duggan trial, the verdict was that he was lawfully killed, sparking the BME communities to question if the Law is for them, or against them? Taryn’s article highlights an ongoing issue that will continue to be relevant to society long after Mark Duggan’s trial verdict, unless a reform is put into place.
MOBO award winner Guvna B from East London shared with Taryn his shocking experience regarding the abuse of police power. When the Ghanaian-British rapper was filming his video for his hit song “Free” months after the May London riots of 2012, he experienced the humiliation of stop and search along with his production team. The police intervened with guns on the basis of ‘a call from a local resident’, the gifted young graduate and entrepreneur explains in Taryn’s article.
Taryn informed me; “The police can stop and search anyone that they think is suspicious. And it’s not evidence-lead. So for example, I could be a drug dealer, and the police have a lead that I’m dealing drugs. So they see a girl that’s short, petite, blond hair, fits the correct description of me; that is very evidence-lead so I could be rightly stopped and searched on the basis of committing an alleged criminal offence.
But the reality is that the police don’t need evidence. They can just stop a black male on impulse. And so a lot of ethnic minorities see this as racist stop and search, as they seem to be the target.
I was watching the BBC news and there was a man who was being interviewed who supports ethnic minority youths to stay off the streets.” Taryn recalls, “He explained that he had been stopped and searched for 45 minutes on his way to an interview. And he was a professional person – there was nothing wrong with his appearance. So it was very clear that he had been stopped simply because he was black.”
Hearing this testimony lead Taryn to research more on the topic by speaking to key members of society with in-depth knowledge of this subject such as NUS Black Students’ President Aaron Kiely who campaigns for better representation of *Black students, and Rebekah Delsol, from the Open Society Justice Initiative and member of Stopwatch, to better understand the implementations of stop and search.
“This is what I found out,” Taryn adds, “a lot of black young guys will be stopped and the police will say “You match the description of someone.” Well why? Just because they are a black male. It’s not good enough. It needs to be more descriptive: he’s wearing a blue hoodie and yellow trainers, and he’s 5’8, and he’s strong build and he wears an earring, you know – something more than just “you match the description. “
Know your rights
Across London, black people are stopped and searched 4 times the rate of white people, and Asian people are twice as likely than a white person so the numbers are actually higher.
“People don’t know about the statists, they don’t know their rights, so they get searched and think it’s totally fine. The other side is that some young people that get stopped and searched do know their rights; you don’t have to give your name, the police have to give a reason, and you are entitled to a copy of the search record. But there’s another Act called Section 60 designed to prevent ‘anticipated violence’, so there are exemptions that contradict the rights of the person being stopped. It’s really just unfair. But I’m hopeful spreading awareness will change things.”
You can read Taryn’s article The Reality of stop and search click here. Taryn is in her final year studying Journalism at London College of Communication. She is also a freelance journalist and writes about social development issues.
Check out Guvna B’s music video “Free” and follow him on twitter for his latest news.
You can take action and campaign in different ways with Stop-Watch.org click here.
Aaron Kiely and members of the NUS Black Students’ Campaign tirelessly campaign on issues which affect Black students. Find out more about their campaign click here.
*Black is a political term which is inclusive of African, Asian, Arab and Caribbean nationalities.
Have you enjoyed reading this article, have any contributions or suggestions? Please leave a comment below!