All Things Equal: Liberty & justice for all society
On Saturday, along with colleagues from Sheffield, Barnsley and Doncaster I attended an anti-fascist demonstration in Rotherham, to combat the vile rhetoric of the English Defence League, so that they are not allowed to divide us along ethnic and faith lines.
As I stood in Rotherham, mobbed by countless police vans and respective police officers, I could not help but think how this neighbour of Sheffield, with such rich diversity had allowed itself to be infiltrated by 15 nationally organised hate marches, that takes away the very liberty of people to attend their own town centre, adversely impact on the local economy, and costs us all millions of pounds in taxes. More worrying is the fact relationships between institutions and some communities seem to be even more fractured. I fear that if we are not careful, this nationalist and extreme ideology of the EDL will have such an impact that some northern towns like Rotherham will sleepwalk into segregated communities, divided by class, ethnicity and faith.
Trying to understand why this is happening is incredibly difficult, though the child sexual exploitation scandal, media sensationalism, poverty, and the impotence of public sector institutions such as the Council or South Yorkshire Police have not helped. Couple this with the fact that the DNA of our communities has so fundamentally changed, and the strategies imposed from national and local government are having little or no impact is also disappointing. Add to this the failure of public institutions to adapt, developed cultural competence when designing, commissioning or delivering services, has simply left many areas with a void that is now being taken advantage by the far-right.
The fact that when Rotherham Council was taken into special measures by the Government, the intervention disproportionately focused on black and ethnic minority councillors with many of them losing their seats, whilst their white counterparts retained theirs, implying that the white councillors were not to blame for the failure to protect the 1400 victims yet the BME councillors were. Additionally allowing the Islamic faith to be used in profiling convicted pedophiles by the media is scandalous too, though we are yet to see another faith being used for profiling of pedophiles in the same way. Also, If the community of a Pakistani origin, as was stated in Rotherham, is disproportionately involved in the grooming children,why is it then in areas where there are large minorities, with a demographic in excess of 50% such as Brent, Tower Hamlets, areas in Leicester, Birmingham etc we do not see a similar picture, yet probability dictates we should. Why are certain ethnicities and faiths being profiled yet others aren't?. A simple search on google confirms this. All of this directly plays into the hands of the EDL and nationalists such as Farage and Donald Trump. It feels as though certain communities, with particular profiles, because of association of faith or ethnicity with pedophiles, have been allowed to be thrown under the bus.
With regards to Trump I am glad Downing Street has rejected calls to axe the state visit, particularly following widespread outrage over his unlawful travel ban on people from certain Muslim countries where he has no business interests. From my perspective, I want Trump to visit, so that we can quash his vile rhetoric, and not allow him to continue to fuel the extreme right wing global nationalists – similarly I want to take the EDL on too.
I still recall Mandela’s quote following twenty seven years in prison when he was about to take office – he said that his greatest challenge to achieve freedom “is to free oppressed people from their oppressed minds” – he was referring to the people that had taken away his freedom and liberty – yet he still believed in engagement and dialogue, rather than a ban. I believe we must do the same – if you don’t believe in liberty for those who threaten you, then you have no right to believe in liberty and justice for yourself – it is the cornerstone of our justice system, and our democracy.