Letters From Kenmure Street

Glasgow’s politicians have united in a letter to the Home Office voicing concerns about the use of home office raids and detention centres. The letter was signed by MSPs from SNP, Scottish labour and Scottish Greens, as well as Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken. The letter outlines their concerns over UK Home Office immigration policy.

Amid the celebrations about the protest and the spirit of those who took part we can often forget that this was an attack on a community who fear what could have happened on the day and any other day when the protests are not there. In that spirit Bella Caledonia publish the letter below, on the fears of the community and the actions of Police Scotland, from a resident of Kenmure Street who wishes to remain anonymous.

Dear Nicola Sturgeon,

I hope you’re well. Congratulations on your re-election. I stay at Flat —, — Kenmure st, opposite the flat from which my neighbours were grabbed by the home office the other day. I was really concerned by the behaviour of Police Scotland and would like you to take action on it.

I was present when police first arrived at 10am and was there throughout the day. It is inarguable that the police tried everything they could to assist in the detention, and to claim they had any other objective is risible. At every opportunity they escalated the situation, and their repeated use of violent force against a crowd that included my elderly neighbours and my infant daughter was despicable. I was personally shoved to the ground by officers with no warning and no communication.

Why were there more than 30 police vehicles? Why a helicopter? Why horses? Why riot gear? Why violent arrests all to attend a situation at which no crime had been committed.

Policing in Pollokshields is a sensitive issue and over the decade i have lived here I have often seen situations where provocative public order policing has created dangerous situations — from facilitating fascist marches through our community to nightlong stand offs against children with fireworks. Is this normal in a residential area? We know there is only one thing that marks Pollokshields out from other glasgow neighbourhoods and that is it’s brilliant and vibrant multiculturalism. Is this the reason we see policing like this?

Which brings me to a further concern. Among the handful of officers who arrived on the scene first, two were wearing a political symbol sewn onto their uniforms — a black Union Jack with a blue line through it. Later more officers arrived with the same flag or with black saltires. This has come to be a known fascist symbol that represents opposition to the Black Lives Matter movement. When we went to find a senior officer to ask why officers had been allowed to politically customise their uniforms at a racially sensitive police stand off on Eid in Scotland’s largest Muslim community, we were told that the badges represent a charity for police well-being. Curious that this charity has become so popular just as its symbol has come to represent reactionary and racist views. Curious that police are allowed to add a charity’s logo to their uniform. Any internet search for the badge leads in the first instance to white supremacist sites. That police Scotland officers are wearing this symbol should be immediately condemned and questions need to be asked of senior officers permitting the practice. I’d really appreciate your help in raising this. It was great to see you stand up to fascists in the election, and I hope you can continue to hold that line here.

Our whole community is so happy and proud that this time we were able to stop the home office from kidnapping our neighbours. But if migrants are to be able to feel safe in Glasgow then the Scottish police need to be told to stand down and stop facilitating this barbaric practice. The policy may come from Westminster but the power to deliver it came from Holyrood.

Many thanks,

A resident, Kenmure Street, Pollokshields

NB: the symbols below are the US “blue lives matter” flag used by far right opposition to the BLM movement (and banned by many police departments) and it’s UK equivalent “thin blue line” flag worn by many police officers during the stand-off on Kenmure Street.


Comments (19)

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  1. Tom Ultuous says:

    Disturbing about police but not in the least bit surprising.

    1. Iain MacLean says:

      I do find it surprising!

      If as the author suggests the police used violence this must be investigated and internal police discipline enacted if there has been police violence! I do have a high opinion of police in Scotland, but policing must be based on community consent!

      The police were set up by the home office, the deportations were scheduled on a sensitive day in the hope that a negative headline resulted. This belief fits the people in the home office operating the hostile environment, Patel would have been informed and signed off. That positive headlines resulted, must have infuriated Patel, good!

      As for the badges, perhaps naively I always assumed these were standard issue with no additional meaning. Police officers should not customise their uniforms nor wear any insignia that denotes any political view point!

  2. Colin Robinson says:

    I hope the resident sent evidence of the unacceptable conduct s/he witnessed to the First Minister, along with her/his letter of complaint.

    Police Scotland is planning to get its workers to wear body cams so that they can (among other things) monitor their performance more effectively. This initiative is part of the digital transformation programme that the Scottish government is currently pursuing.

    The workers themselves are resistant to the initiative – they see such surveillance as intrusive – and are actively opposing it through their union. Meanwhile, the Scottish government remains reliant on citizen surveillance for the effective monitoring of its police workers’ performance.

    So, if anyone has any hard evidence of the unacceptable conduct described in the letter, I’d encourage them to forward it to their MSP, the Scottish government, and/or the media. I picked up my own unobtrusive wee police cam with night vision for £35.

  3. Jim Ferguson says:

    Very good piece Jim. Informative and useful. Well done!

  4. Wul says:

    So, “Blue Lives Matter” do they ?

    I think we are all pretty much aware of that fact and that the punishment for deliberately ending a police officer’s life would be very severe indeed. Why the need to state the obvious?

    I’d assumed those monochrome flags were a symbol of some kind of observer status…a kind of “greyed out” police officer.

    The “Black Lives Matter” name stems from the fact that, sadly, one could be forgiven for thinking that the lives of black people do not matter, or are worth less than those of white people. From the fact that, in the USA in particular, the lives of black people can be ended unlawfully by police officers without any commensurate punishment.

    The BLM movement is a response to institutions and societies which behave at times as if black lives do not matter. There is no equivalence to police officers’ safety in the UK.
    The fact that Scottish Police officers feel comfortable customising their uniforms to show allegiance to a “charity” or political viewpoint suggests the tacit approval from their seniors and is deeply troubling. These badges are worn to project power, convey a silent threat and indicate that the wearer is no longer under control as an agent of public safety.

  5. MBC says:

    Shocking. But worse that they advertise their racism and think they can get away with it.
    In America the KKK joined the police so that they could legally kill blacks.
    Thanks for telling us about this.

  6. Ray Connelly says:

    Well written and informative
    Hope NS sees fit to take some action

  7. Fay Kennedy says:

    This is despicable and very worrying. Same here in Australia. I wonder how they can move far less act with all the paraphernalia they have on their already bulky bodies and unfortunately the female officers much the same. Nothing new of course when it comes to the powerhouse of governments wherever they be.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Quite right, Faye. Nicola’s Staatspolizei is no different. It’s been mired in scandal since Big Alec nationalised it.

      Question is: is Police Scotland any more racist than Scotland’s other quasi-national institutions (we recently celebrated the tokenism of having six ‘minority ethnic’ candidates elected to the Scottish parliament)? And is the racism alleged in those national institutions a manifestation or reflection of the society whose values they institute?

  8. Mouse says:

    Meanwhile, Sheku Bayoh is still dead. Cause of death: the cops – in a very similar manner to that of Mr Floyd. Place of death: Kirkaldy, Scotland. Mass protests: zero.

    No two ways about it: People are more concerned about someone being put in a van.

    I think the Daily Record showed more outrage than the local ‘BLM’ movement (if there is such a thing), or any left-wing blog.

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Of course, Mouse! What’s being celebrated here is virtue (The good people of Pollockshields… Wha’s like us, eh?) and the rites of protest. The death of Sheku Bayoh is far less edifying, as is the eventual fate of the two unlicensed migrants, who will no doubt be quietly detained once the political theatre moves on.

      Culturally, the important thing about such events is that the righteous get to feel good about themselves and reaffirm their communion as the righteous. That’s good old Scottish protestantism for you.

      1. Tom Ultuous says:

        I must admit I suffer from the same cynicism when I see people futilely banging on the sides of prison vans when someone is taken from court to start a life sentence. If you take your cynicism to its logical conclusion though the only valid form of protest would be anonymous suicide bombing. Are vegans posers or are they allowed to be angry about the treatment of animals? What would you say to the protestors in Gaza? The guy who lay in front of the van for 8 hours wasn’t to know hundreds were coming at his back and chose not to have his name and photo plastered all over the papers. You stay nearby Colin. Why didn’t you go down with a megaphone and call out “What about Sheku Bayoh?”. Was it fear of being cast as a poser yourself? Does your above post not put you there anyway? Or are you just angry at people not accepting the rules as set out by their “betters”.

        1. Colin Robinson says:

          Tom, what went down on Kenmure Street was a perfectly valid form of protest in the Scottish protestant tradition. It gave the righteous an opportunity to profess their faith and affirm their communion as the righteous.

          I stay nowhere near Kenmure Street. I live far from the madding crowd in the recusant Southlands.

          I didn’t go down with a megaphone because I wasn’t there as a righteous protester but as a mere sightseer; for the anthropology rather than the good of my soul.

          1. Tom Ultuous says:

            Sorry Colin, it was your son stayed nearby. Had the thin blue line decided to make mass arrests I’m sure your explanation would’ve been accepted without question.

          2. Colin Robinson says:

            I never felt unsafe, Tom. There were lots of bodies coming and going, having a look-see, just like myself. In fact, I didn’t see any arrests being made while I was there; though, I did later hear that there had been three over the course of the day, none of them of bystanders.

            In any case, mass arrests don’t seem to be a thing in Scotland. From a purely practical point of view, the Scottish government has nowhere it could detain large numbers of arrestees, and the paperwork would be horrendous. I just don’t think mass arrests would be administratively possible. The Justice Secretary would need to institute concentration camps and employ a much larger bureaucracy before he could go down that road. Until then, they must remain the stuff of the political fantasists’ wet dreams.

  9. Colin Kirkwood says:

    I am concerned by the wider implications of recent events in Pollockshields and elsewhere, including attempts by Priti Patel and others to crucify the BBC and specifically Martin Bashir. There is something ominous about the atmosphere and implicit threat of coercion. The dawn raid in Pollockshields is just one instance of a very nasty and dangerous strategy. For years I have argued that in order to achieve full self-government in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and also England, we must use means and develop policies and responses which embody, which show forth, the kind of society we want to create. Violent reaction to state violence is always counter-productive. I admire the way the people of Pollockshields conducted themselves recently.

    Boris’s secret state is, I suspect, trying to taunt and tempt people down the path of violence. They are hoping to achieve a repetition of the horrors of the Irish experience over the past 100 years. We should resist that temptation with every ounce of our wisdom and our decency. We should follow the examples of Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King. Nicola Sturgeon and the Glasgow authors of the recent letter are choosing the wiser and better route.. I applaud them wholeheartedly.

    Colin Kirkwood

    1. Colin Robinson says:

      Sorry, Colin, but surely the only way to achieve full self-government in any nation is to smash the state and its monopoly on violence, and it’s not intuitively obvious that the use of violence is counter-productive to that end.

      Indeed, since I can’t see the ‘establishment’ (i.e. the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised) giving up its monopoly on coercive power voluntarily, I don’t see how it could be induced to do so without coercion.

      The question is redundant, however, since very few people in Scotland want self-government. About half the population want to be governed by a state that’s independent of the UK, while the other half want to be governed by one that isn’t.

  10. Colin Robinson says:

    Sorry, Colin, but surely the only way to achieve full self-government in any nation is to smash the state and its monopoly on violence, and it’s not intuitively obvious that the use of violence is counter-productive to that end.

    Indeed, since I can’t see the ‘establishment’ (i.e. the whole matrix of official and social relations within which power is exercised) giving up its monopoly on coercive power voluntarily, I don’t see how it could be induced to do so without coercion.

    The question is redundant, however, since very few people in Scotland want self-government. About half the population want to be governed by a state that’s independent of the UK, while the other half want to be governed by one that isn’t.

  11. florian albert says:

    In the letter quoted, it is stated that ‘no crime had been committed.’ The evidence available suggests that this is inaccurate. Two men were in the UK illegally. States have the right to control who comes into and remains in their country. Some do so more aggressively than others. The USA, under President Obama, deported some 2,500,000 people were deported, though this is widely regarded as a massive undercount. (It can be said, with reasonable certainty, that the overwhelming majority of these people would have – if permitted to remain – been peaceful, law-abiding citizens.)

    As I have written here previously, the rule of law is precious and it protects the weak, much more than its absence would. Increasingly, political groups and others who follow their misguided example have been undermining the rule of law. This is not something to be celebrated and it is likely to backfire on those who do.

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