Racism in London: the unsettling truth

Figures obtained from the Metropolitan Police show that racially aggravated crimes are as prevalent now as they were twenty years ago. Between January and December 2011 there were 6886 racially or religious aggravated crimes in the Metropolitan Police boroughs. This is an average of 19 incidents per day in the Greater London area alone. The figures show that the victims of racially aggravated crimes are diverse, however white people top the statistics of people charged with racially motivated assaults, harassment and public order offences. View full statistics here. Of the 3,946 victims of racially aggravated crimes that chose to disclose their ethnicity 79% described themselves as Asian, Black, Chinese or of mixed race. Comparatively, despite the population of London being 70% White, only 21% of the victims of racially aggravated crimes described themselves as White. From these figures it is clear that the vast majority of racially aggravated crimes are targeted at non-Whites, with Asian or Asian British and Black or Black British - African, as the highest proportions of victims. View full statistics here. Between January and December 2011, 2,379 people were proceeded against by the Metropolitan Police Service for racially aggravated crimes. As the above graph shows 67.18% of those proceeded against were White. It's no surprise with these figures that racism and racially aggravated crimes in particular have been in the spotlight in recent months. The issue is by no means limited to London. This week has seen two television programmes addressing the issue, both providing an insight into the state of race relations in the UK. On Monday Channel 4’s Proud and Prejudiced documentary showed how the issue of racism is much closer to the surface than we may think, or may like to think. The programme, which profiled the leaders of two of the most extreme groups in Britain - the English Defence League and a Luton based Muslim extremist group - clearly showed the often violent, aggressive and racist stance of many of its members and leadership. The most fundamental issue that the film brought up was the disruption to the fragile communities in which they operate. There is still some confusion as to what exactly constitutes a 'racially aggravated offence' and what constitutes 'freedom of expression'. The Crown Prosecution Service define racially aggravated offences as those that "at the time of committing the offence, or immediately before or after doing so, the offender demonstrates hostility towards the victim based on the victim's membership (or presumed membership) of a racial group or the offence is motivated (wholly or partly) by hostility towards members of a racial group based on their membership of that group. This year has already seen five demonstrations by far-right White groups in areas with high non-White populations, with Muslim groups often protesting in defence at the rallies. Following the alleged failure of the justice system to prosecute a group of Somali girls for an assault on a white girl in Leicester, the EDL organised a demonstration in the city of Saturday 4 February. It is estimated that around 500-700 EDL members gathered in the city for the march. Some local people told Blottr that they felt they could not go into the city centre that day, feeling threatened by the march. As well as the particularly large gathering in Leicester, several other events have taken place including marches in Hyde, and Rochdale, and a late night disturbance including violence in Heywood, all in Greater Manchester. The march which took place in Hyde on February 25 was a joint EDL and BNP demo in retaliation to the attack on 17-year-old Daniel Stringer-Prince by a gang of Asian youths. With racist attacks seemingly being met by demonstrations with racist undertones, tensions can only increase and divisions widen. It is not only marches and physically violent incidents that have been prevalent in recent months. We have also seen an increase in, or at least an increase in the attention given to, instances of verbal racist abuse towards members of the public. Late last year Emma West was caught on video racially abusing fellow passengers on a south London tram. Her subsequent arrest and ongoing trial has received significant media attention after the video was watched by over 11million people worldwide. Following the arrest of Ms West, several similar incidents came to light. A woman from Romford, Essex, was arrested after her racist rant on the Central Line was caught on camera. Similarly a 25-year-old man from South Norwood was arrested after he abused fellow passengers on a train from London Bridge. Attempts to tackle racism are not helped by influential people in the public eye also being implicated, for the example the ongoing alleged racist dispute between former England captain, John Terry, and fellow footballer Luis Suarez. This evening Channel 4 will show another programme addressing the issue of racism in this country. Make Bradford British is a documentary exploring the attitudes of people from Bradford, from all different races and backgrounds, towards each other. Bradford is a diverse town, and is seen by many as a hot bed of racial tension. Bradford was the scene of intense race riots in 2001, the disturbance lasted for two days and led to the injury of over 300 police officers. The figures obtained from the MPS reveal worrying information about the demographics of racist crimes. In a time when far-right groups appear to be uniting, and the challenging economic climate has the potential to make community relations fraught, it seems that attitudes towards race have not progressed as far as we may have thought.

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