YCL Brighton & East Sussex Branch expose the longstanding and institutional racism, sexism and brutality of Sussex Police.
On Saturday 13th March YCL members attended the Sarah Everard vigil along with 150 other people held at Valley Gardens. Mirroring the events at the vigil held in Clapham Common the same day, multiple police vans pulled up and officers began trying to disperse the crowd. Shocking footage was posted on social media showing police harassing and threatening members of the public. Despite the event proceeding safely and peacefully prior to the police intervention, eight people were fined and one was arrested.
With police violence in the UK rightly being brought to the fore in response to recent events, it is important to recognise the ongoing problem here in Brighton and Sussex. As with everywhere else in Britain, Sussex police have too seen institutional racism and sexism, and have consistently acted against working class people for the interests of profit.
Just two weeks later, disturbing footage was posted on social media showing a police officer violently slamming a young woman against the side of a police car at the University of Sussex campus. This prompted the Vice Chancellor Adam Tickell to write an email to all students expressing his concern of the “potentially extreme incidents involving the police on campus”.
This incident seems to have confirmed the concerns of students and staff who had expressed concerns over the increased presence of police on campus. In November the UCU released a statement condemning the invitation Adam Tickell himself had extended to the police, the same Vice Chancellor who now expresses his concern over incidents involving the police. According to that UCU statement many student representatives had already referred to stories of bad experiences with Sussex Police and would have preferred an increase in University security staff instead. This includes stories of police bursting into students’ rooms in campus accommodation.
Sussex police have also had a long record of racism. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, black Sussex residents were disproportionately targeted for lockdown fines, with fines issued at 17 times the rate of white people. This is the greatest racial disparity in lockdown fines in the country, according to the Government Statistical Service.
The issue of institutional racism in Sussex police does not stop at lockdown fines. Figures published by Sussex police show that while black people make up one percent of the population of Sussex, they accounted for a shocking 10% of stop and searches.
These facts directly contradict the claim by the 264 page report, commissioned by Downing Street to investigate racial disparities in the UK, which claims “we no longer see a Britain where the system is deliberately rigged against ethnic minorities”.
Recent events have also demonstrated how Sussex police serve the interests of landlords against those of working-class people. Throughout the pandemic Sussex police have been facilitating evictions. These include no-fault section 21 evictions, which is the biggest driver of homelessness in the UK. While this is inexcusable and horrific under normal circumstances, evictions during a pandemic put people and the wider public at increased risk.
The night before the second lockdown in November, a 47-year-old former carer was evicted from his house through section 21. Despite ACORN staging a 27-person resistance, in which special care was taken to ensure the action was COVID-safe, police threatened them with arrest and cited draconian anti-union laws to get the activists to disperse. The evicted individual was forced to sleep in his work van on the coldest night of the year.
Brighton and East Sussex Branch, Young Communist League