News and Other Busyness
Police Violence After Islamic Festival
Squall 13, Summer 1996, pg. 7.
A YOUNG ASIAN STUDENT lost an eye whilst in the custody of a Tactical Aid Group squad in February.
Amer Rafiq, 21, a part-time student, was arrested at the end of the Muslim festival of Eid on February 21st at around 2.30am after an altercation with police over parking.
He was taken to Platt Lane police station, around a mile away from the site of the arrest. However, the van transporting him appears to have taken about twenty minutes to cover the distance. After arriving at the police station, he was taken to hospital where he was found to be suffering from a fractured eye socket and a number of other injuries. Surgeons had to remove his right eye, and it was also thought he might lose his sight in the other. Amer’s family say the police did not even notify them that he was injured or had been taken to hospital.
The police have admitted the incident took place in police custody and have referred the matter to the Police Complaints Authority. Nevertheless, the incident has provoked outrage in the Asian community.
Many young Asians believe the alleged beating was in fact an incident waiting to happen. They say that police harassment of the Eid festival is commonplace. Baljit Badesha, of the South Manchester Law Centre says they have an increase in complaints of police harassment every time Eid comes round.
Because the Eid celebrations are Muslim, they are largely alcohol free. Despite this, Asian people complain their festivities are treated very differently to the English festivals such as Christmas or New Y ear.
The use of horses, riot vans, dogs and police helicopters is regarded as excessive. “It’s a religious celebration. It’s not a drunken rowdy mob. It’s women, children, families coming for meals to celebrate the end of Eid,” says Baljit. Although the police admit they had 200 officers present for 2,000 participants on February 21st they describe the celebrations as: “peaceful and good-natured”.
The policing of the Eid festival can be seen in the context of a history of policing problems in areas of South Manchester with high ethnic minority populations. In neighbouring Moss Side, distrust of the police is even higher.
The editor of a local newspaper based in Moss Side/Rusholme says they often have people coming to their office alleging police harassment, but few are ever prepared to register a formal complaint.
In 1994 three complaints were upheld against police officers in the area after a retiring police officer, Michael Reid, submitted a dossier of incidents to the Police Complaints Authority. However, the incident with Amer Rafiq is the worst for a long time. Community leaders admit it came very close to sparking a riot. On March 9th, around 1,500 people marched in protest past both Platt Lane police station and the place where Amer was arrested. There has also been a picket of police headquarters. A campaigning group has been set up, calling for an independent inquiry, the suspension of the officers involved, and compensation for Amer. So far, no action has been taken against the officers involved.
Contact: Amer Rafiq Defence Campaign, Dept 107, 1 Newton St, Manchester M1 1HW