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‘PSNI double standards confirm inequality under law’, says North West Migrants Forum

Lilian Seenoi-Barr

Lilian Seenoi-Barr speaking at the weekend rally in Derry.

North West Migrants Forum in Derry has criticised the PSNI for what it views as inconsistent policing between Black Lives Matter rallies and ‘protect our statues’ protests.

Black Lives Matter (BLM) rallies were held in Derry and Belfast on June 6 following pressure to cancel them from police, political parties and the Unity of Purpose group.

At the BLM rally in Derry 57 fines were handed out by the PSNI, as well as 11 fines and three Community Resolution Notices (CRN) in Belfast for breaches of the current Coronavirus regulations.

Statues have been torn down during anti-racism protests sparked by the death of George Floyd in the US - most notably that of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.

On June 13 hundreds of people took part in ‘protect our statues’ protests across Northern Ireland, including one outside City Hall in Belfast. 

Police officers took no action against those protestors.

Lilian Seenoi-Barr, Director of Programmes at North West Migrants Forum said Saturday’s events confirmed ‘what the BAME community have known all along, there is no equality under the law.’

She commented: “The PSNI policing tactics on Saturday exposed the double standards in the enforcement of the Coronavirus regulations, whereby a far right gathering ‘protect our statues rally’ on the 13th of June 2020 in Belfast attended by a few hundred people with no masks, no hand sanitizers and without following the two metres rule of social distancing was treated differently from a socially distanced peaceful protest against institutional racism.

“That shopping in Ikea is treated differently than a peaceful protest organised by victims of racism.

“That the police will stand beside a far-right group protecting memorial statues that were not under any threat here in NI than to stand against racism.”

Mrs Seenoi-Barr added: “On the 6th of June 2020, the PSNI harassed and intimidated participants and issued fines to selective attendees for what they believed to be a breaching of public health regulations.

“But on Saturday the 13th they stood watching the far right break the same rules and did absolutely nothing about it. How on earth can you justify that the police were proportionate and fair to us BME?

“These are the kind of injustices that are causing mass protests across the world at the moment.  The PSNI’s actions undermined our trust and confidence in the police and they also revealed the degree of institutional racism that exists in our justice system.

“We have written to the policing board, the justice minister and the local PCSP to convey our anger and hurt. It is important that we all stand up for fairness, equality and justice.

“All we are asking is for racial equality, transparency, fair policing and a justice system that everyone in this country can trust in. At the moment there is zero trust.” 

NO FINES

The PSNI said no fines or CRNs were issued on June 13 and instead an ‘engage, explain and encourage’ approach was adopted.

Assistant Chief Constable Barbara Gray said: “On Saturday 13 June 2020 I was faced with a situation involving many different groups of people, at a wide variety of locations across Northern Ireland, demonstrating about a number of different causes. 

“The largest number of people gathered close to the City Hall in Belfast.  

“I understand that these are difficult times for many communities and my focus was very much on public safety.

“I was extremely mindful that this was the first weekend businesses were able to open across Northern Ireland and anticipated large numbers of shoppers and members of the public would be in the area.”

She continued: “Information we received indicated that people from a number of different groups would be present in the area.

“These challenges presented a very different environment to that of the protests last week.  To be consistent across such a range of issues yesterday we maintained our approach of engaging, explaining and encouraging.

“Enforcement will be considered following the substantial evidence gathering operation that was in place to record any potential offending.

“While no fines or Community Resolution Notices were issued yesterday at the City Hall (or in any other location), all evidence gathered will be reviewed to detect offences and we will work with our partners in the Public Prosecution Service to bring offenders to justice.”

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