The Community Police Consultative Group (CPCG) are holding a special meeting to examine the police’s actions in April 2007 during Lambeth councils malicious campaign to malign and evict the Rastafarian community from their temple in St Agnes Place, Kennington.
In an operation costing thousands of pounds and based on flawed information and poor intelligence over 250 police officers including over 100 armed officers complete with stun grenades raided the temple. During the raid elders such as Ras Malaki were forced to stand for up to eight hours. The Guardian newspaper declared “Police smash huge drugs centre in raid on Rasta temple” alongside reports from the tabloid press. The current Chief Superintendent Martin Bridger stated that he had "never seen that level of drug dealing" in his 30 years' experience. He went on to claim "We have had 600 people per day going to these premises on a regular basis believed to be... buying drugs. Of the people that were stopped by police 80% had drugs with them… There were 32 rooms and these were split according to what drugs you were selling. You went to one room, you got cannabis, you went to another room, you got crack. Some of these people were people of particular violence and there was intelligence that they had the protection of firearms." At the time of the raid, a Scotland Yard spokesman said "We do not know if this is Britain's biggest drugs raid, but it is a significant operation”.
Three weeks after the raid which saw Elders in their seventies and people with disabilities arrested, it has emerged that the Temple was not the “crack den” that the police had initially suspected and the media had reported. Of the 23 people arrested, three were charged with conspiracy to supply Class C drugs. The initial raid on the Temple was headline news when the story first broke last month. The subsequent ruling by Camberwell Green Magistrates which stated that there was not enough evidence to suggest the Temple was a “drug den” has been markedly less prominent in the national media, ensuring that any damage and misinformation that was instigated by the initial story remains unchallenged and the associated denigratory stereotypes of African people continues to be perpetuated to the British public.
The motivations behind the raid and the historical targeting of the Temple have been described by Derick Clarke who has been visiting the Temple for decades as a cynical attempt to evict the Rasta community from the terraced houses that form a focal point for the community. He said; "The council has been after these houses for years. They're looking for an excuse to close us down and move us on." Shango Baku, editor of Rastafari Speaks, went on to echo the sentiments of many within the African community when he said “Class A drugs and guns? That's not the Rasta way."
Excessive force used by the police
Rastafarian squatters based in the building have since moved out and the Temple is now under Lambeth council control. Ex-Labour member David Pritchard Jones resigned his post partly in protest to the corruption he witnessed from the council on this matter. Urging concerned community members to attend the special CPCG meeting he said”; “This is the meeting at which I propose to present the case regarding the excessive force used by the police in their raid on the Headquarters of the Ethiopian World Federation and Rastafarian World International during the raid on their premises at St. Agnes Place and the lies which have been told by Lambeth councillors, council management and police relating to the involvement of that community in the sale of Class A drugs and arms and ammunition, and the effect that these actions will have upon the whole population of Lambeth if this matter is not addressed. There must be a full, independent and transparent inquiry into this matter. The present administration, which has countenanced this atrocity and continues to assert the criminality of this community, must act now, if further rioting in the borough is to be avoided.”
The meeting is taking place at 6.00p.m. on Tuesday 26 June 2007 at Karibu Education Centre, 7 Gresham Road, Brixton SW9 7PH
External LinksDemolition of a Community - St Agnes Place, London
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Why has Lambeth council and the national media failed to adequately address their role in this atrocity and instead continued to assert the existence of innate criminality within the Rastafarian community.
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