Reports we have received confirm that throughout the day up to three thousand people participated in the mass protest with a smattering of support from both Asian and Europeans who live in the area. The BBC West Midlands website which has consistently downplayed the protests and until now ignored the alleged incident have reported that the police say ‘almost 200 people attended’. The West Midlands Police who have also issued a statement state that “The alleged crime is being professionally investigated and has, to date, included forensic testing, house-to-house enquiries, a witness appeal involving a press conference and thousands of leaflets being distributed to the local community”.
The campaign set up by Birmingham community leaders is the result of a national media whitewash following the alleged sexual assault of a fourteen year old in an Asian hair shop, Birmingham, Perry Barr. The shop thought to be part of a chain called ‘Beauty Queens’ was one of many which were closed down in anticipation of the peaceful mass protest.
The campaign was designed to raise awareness of the issue and expose the tendency of national media institutions to marginalise or ignore crimes perpetrated against the African British community. At one point many advocated boycotting all Asian businesses to place pressure on the community into breaking the wall of silence it had erected when asked for any information to confirm or denounce the allegations.
As a result of the successful strategy several members of the Asian businesses have come forward and expressed their condolences for all victims of violent crime and issued a statement “calling on all our members of the [Asian Business] community to assist the police in providing any information regarding, the alleged sexual assault”. Calls for the boycott have now been limited to Asian hair shops where the alleged incident took place. A simultaneous national ‘For Us, Buy Us’ campaign encouraging African communities to support African British enterprises with an initial focus on Saturdays has also been launched.
campaign designed to raise awareness of issues
In London peaceful demonstrators were confronted by Police officers who sought to disperse protesters and discourage the use of amplified P.A equipment. Nonetheless the protest was successfully distributed over two thousand campaign leaflets with the help of campaigners and volunteer members of the public without incident.
At the Birmingham protest the Police engaged with local community leaders to repeat their statement that they had confirmed that a criminal investigation would take precedence over immigration concerns. Delegates at the meeting expressed discontent and distrust and suggested that unless there was written and guaranteed immunity from deportation for the victim and family that it was unlikely they would come forward.
New unsubstantiated information about the allegations from a trusted source reported to Ligali that ‘there’s no allegation… the incident definitely took place’, the perpetrators are said to number between eight and nine and it is possible that the girl may have gone to a hospital for treatment following the assault. All these statements remain unconfirmed but are cited as a slow but positive move towards ascertaining the truth of the incident.
A senior Police officer who was present at the protest stated “they couldn’t proceed with the investigation until the victim came forward with details of the alleged assault”, he confirmed that they had arrested people for questioning but following the murder of a young African man it has it been reported by the BBC that Birmingham Assistant Chief Constable David Shaw has said there is "not a shred of evidence" to support the allegations.
The campaign which ended without violent incident was thought to be a great success and increased media awareness of the alleged incident. Organisers in both Birmingham and London have repeatedly stressed that this is not about stoking the fires of a ‘race war’ between African and Asian communities. The principle focus of the Campaign is to acertain the truth behind the allegations and seek justice. However there is an additional focus on cultivating enough national support regardless of ethnicity, gender and social status to encourage the child and family to feel confident enough to come forward and make an official complaint without fear of facing an aggressive unsympathetic tabloid media.
Following the peaceful campaign launches there are now confirmed reports that African and Asian youths engaging in violent confrontations. Several eyewitnesses claim that the clashes began when groups of young Asians wearing balaclavas were said to be antagonising the African British community whilst targeting lone and vulnerable African people on streets. The African youth who was murdered was stabbed by unknown assailants whilst several Asian business stores are rumoured to have been attacked in retaliation.
Ligali - Where we stand on alleged assaultCampaign launched to support silent victims
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