An overview of racial violence and convictions over the last three months.
The stabbing to death of delivery van driver Mohammed Saleem Khan last month, in an attack that police believe to be racially motivated, indicates the brutal reality of violent racism in the UK. Mr Khan had been delivering shower products in the quiet town of Easingwold, North Yorkshire, a few hours before he was found slumped behind a wheel of his vehicle, having been stabbed once in the neck. It was an attack that was to prove fatal, and Khan died later in hospital.
By coincidence, his death came only a week or so before 27-year-old Daniel Rogers appeared in court, charged with the murder of a 61-year-old man, Mehar Dhariwal. Dhariwal, a taxi-driver in Bedford, was racially abused, beaten and kicked to the floor by Rogers, his passenger, simply for following company policy and asking him to pay his fare in advance. When paramedics arrived at the scene they found the taxi-driver covered in blood and with an enormous lump on the side of his head. Yet after taking him to hospital, no CT scan was carried out, and tests did not pick up the fact that he had been beaten with such ferocity that one of his ribs had been broken. Mr Dhariwal later told his family that he had been involved in a car accident, preferring not to let them know about the racist attack. A few days later he collapsed, never regaining consciousness.
Where is the outcry? Where is the rage over the fact that year after year, people continue to lose their lives in vicious racist attacks? Where is the uproar over the routine racial violence which takes place up and down the UK on a daily basis? Attacks, over the last few months alone, which have included a man being stabbed in the neck after challenging a woman about racist remarks he believed she had made, a homeless Polish man being set upon and thrown in a fountain by a group of youths, and a woman who was left concussed, with retina damage and about a quarter of her hair ripped from her head, after being beaten by a mother and her teenage daughter.
What follows is just a tiny selection of the cases of racist attacks and convictions which have taken place in the UK between July and September 2012. These indicate the ongoing risks faced by workers in the night-time economy, such as taxi-drivers, who face a threat of alcohol-related racial violence. They show how people are harassed in their homes, abused and intimidated until, in some cases, they leave an area. They show how people need to be hospitalised following completely unprovoked racist attacks which take place as they walk down the street.
These cases also show how clear it is that social media are increasingly being utilised as a conduit for racist abuse. The haranguing of footballers on Twitter, given the nature of their profession, often makes headlines. But less attention is given to the way the far Right use social media to stir up fear and make threats. In September, for example, the North West Infidels (an EDL splinter group) posted a video on Facebook, appearing to show a man tied and gagged in the boot of a car and threatened with a machete. That same month, an ex-soldier and EDL supporter, Kenneth Holden, pleaded guilty to posting offensive messages on Facebook about Muslims, for which he was later given a 12-month community order. He is not the only soldier (or former soldier) involved in racist attacks or abuse over the last few months. Cavan Langfield for example, an 18-year-old soldier, was sentenced in September along with eight of his friends, for attacking people attending an anti-racist gig in Leeds last year during which they shouted support for the EDL and smashed someone’s tooth out. Langfield avoided a custodial sentence, but was discharged from his regiment prior to sentencing.
Worryingly, in several of the attacks (not specifically those involving soldiers), the criminal justice system appears unwilling to recognise the racial motivation and, for example, an attack on the home of an asylum seeking family in Barnsley was initially explained away by police as the antics of drunken teenagers.
A selection of racist attacks and convictions that have taken place over the last three months are highlighted below.
- 28 September 2012: Nurrel Wright, 16, was walking to a garage in Birmingham with his stepfather when they were set upon by group of white men shouting racist abuse. The teenager was left with a fractured eye socket. The attack took place close to where Nurrel Wright’s friend, Kyle Sheehan, also a teenager, had been stabbed a week previously, and occurred on the same night that Kyle died from his injuries. The two incidents were not related. But according to local anti-racist campaigners, the fatal stabbing was also racially motivated. (See Birmingham Mail, 2 October 2012 for information on the attack on Nurrel Wright; for information on the stabbing of Kyle Sheehan, see Birmingham Unite Against Racist Attacks)
- 23 September 2012: A 27-year-old man in Birmingham nearly died after being stabbed and slashed repeatedly in his chest, face and neck by an unprovoked attacker thought to be using a screwdriver. As the victim collapsed, another man joined in, kicking and punching him whilst he was prone on the ground. The attackers then fled. (Birmingham Mail, 27 September 2012)
- 7 September 2012: Duke Crosswaite was sentenced to five years in a young offenders’ institution for an unprovoked attack on two Asian teenagers in May 2011. Crosswaite, who was with two friends when the attack took place in Rochdale, beat the teenagers with metre-long sticks, and the attack was of such ferocity that their arms were broken as they tried to protect themselves. (Rochdale Online, 10 September 2012)
- 3 September 2012: A group of youths hugged and congratulated each other as a homeless Polish man they had set upon writhed on the ground in agony. The incident, which police described as a ‘totally unprovoked assault’, took place in Birmingham city centre. The attackers went on to throw the homeless man into a fountain and chased him as he tried to flee. (Birmingham Mail, 6 September 2012)
- 26 August 2012: A woman in Belfast stabbed a man in the neck after he challenged her over racist comments she had made about a black passer-by. Prosecutors in court later explained that the three inch stab wound was only two millimetres away from a main artery. (Belfast Telegraph, 18 September 2012)
- 20 August 2012: A group of white men racially abused an Asian woman, her mother and her 4-year-old daughter in Eastbourne before throwing a brick at their car. (Sussex Argus, 5 September 2012)
- 7 August 2012: Hannah Bance, a 26-year-old ‘mixed race’ woman, was savagely beaten by a mother and her teenage daughter in an unprovoked attack in Essex. Bance was left with a black eye, a broken rib, bruises on her head, concussion, an inflamed retina and had a quarter of her hair ripped from her head as a result of the attack, which took place as she was walking to a shop to buy baby wipes for her son. One of her attackers told her to ‘go back home’ and get ‘out of her area’, and another, who arrived at the scene, prevented the victim’s friend from helping her. The attack was of such severity that Bance was later too afraid to return to her home. (Essex Chronicle, 9 August 2012)
- July 2012: A group of white youths began throwing large stones at some international students on the Herne Bay seafront. A restaurant window was smashed and the police were called, but according to the restaurant owner they initially played down the seriousness of the incident. (Herne Bay Times, 27 July 2012)
- 30 July 2012: Ashley Dacosta, a 20-year-old soldier, was jailed for six years in a young offenders’ institution for attacking teenager Mohammed ‘Mo’ Bourner. Mo was left with 90 per cent brain damage as a result of the attack, which took place in Bexhill in 2011. Dacosta’s sentence included eighteen months for perverting the course of justice and he was jailed along with his friend, James Carrick, who was sentenced for witness intimidation. (Sussex Argus, 30 July 2012. Read an IRR News story: ‘Soldier jailed for ‘senseless’ racist attack’)
Attacks on people in their homes
- 11 September 2012: 45-year-old Wu Youzhong, a doctor in Coleraine, was viciously beaten in his home after he heard the glass in his front door being smashed and went to investigate. Four men and a woman racially abused him, before kicking and punching him to the floor in an attack which left him hospitalised for days. His wife heard him screaming as the attack took place and later said that she and her husband were considering leaving the property. (Irish News, 13 September 2012)
- August 2012: Days after a couple received the keys for their new home in Huddersfield, the house was pelted with eggs and had offensive graffiti daubed on its walls, including the letters ‘EDL’ and a swastika. (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 28 August 2012)
- 12 August 2012: An eastern Mediterranean family in Plymouth awoke to find a downstairs carpet burning as a result of lit fireworks being pushed through their letterbox. The father managed to douse the flames, but when he opened his front door he was confronted by three men who shouted racist abuse and threw another firework into the house. As they left, one of the men threw a brick at his car. (Plymouth Herald, 16 August 2012)
- July 2012: A family of Pakistani asylum seekers had to be moved from their accommodation in Barnsley for their own safety, just six weeks after moving there. Stones were thrown through the window of the property, traumatising a 3-year-old child and resulting in her pregnant mother being showered in glass and needing hospital attention. The police claimed that the attack was merely the antics of drunken teenagers, but this explanation was put in doubt when a family of Sri Lankan asylum seekers were also attacked in their home that same night. (Barnsley Star, 11 July 2012)
- 17 July 2012: A 40-year-old female police officer appeared in court in Scotland, charged with an alleged attack on a woman in her home two days earlier, said to be ‘aggravated by racial prejudice’. It was claimed that the police officer, off-duty at the time of the incident, entered the woman’s home and punched and slapped her repeatedly around her head. She denied the assault charges. (STV, 17 July 2012)
Violence against workers
- September 2012: A 40-year-old shop assistant was set upon by three white teenage boys after he left work in Hertfordshire. The teenagers racially abused him and beat him to the floor, leaving him shaking in fear, with a swollen face and blood pouring from his knees. (Asian Image, 23 September 2012)
- September 2012: A former soldier was sentenced in York Crown Court for racially abusing a cafe worker and then attacking a member of the British Transport Police, injuring his hand to the extent that he could not resume full duties for fourteen weeks. The attack took place in October 2011. (York Press, 17 September 2012)
- 22 September 2012: Delivery driver Mohammed Saleem Khan was found slumped behind a wheel of his vehicle in Easingwold with a single stab wound to the neck. He later died from his injuries and police said they were investigating whether the murder was a racist attack. (Northern Echo, 26 September 2012)
- 18 September 2012: A jury was told how Mehar Dhariwal, a taxi driver in Bedford, had been racially abused and fiercely beaten by 27-year-old Daniel Rogers after asking him to pay a cab fare upfront in the early hours of 22 January 2012. Dhariwal died a few days after the attack as a result of his injuries. Rogers was later given a life sentence for murder, and ordered to serve a minimum of 25 years. (BBC News, 4 October 2012)
- 7 September 2012: Darren Simpson, 47, was convicted of racially aggravated assault after attacking Jack Alexandrovic, a Polish taxi driver, in Cirencester in May 2011. Alexandrovic had picked up a man and a woman on the evening of the assault who later told him they could not cover the fare and asked him to drop them off at another address. Simpson was outside this address when they arrived and he attacked the taxi driver, calling him a ‘foreign f****r’. (Gloucestershire Echo, 7 September 2012)
- 13 August 2012: Gavin Massop, 27, was jailed for nine months after a ‘revenge attack’ on staff at a Turkish takeaway in Cardiff. He had threatened to burn the shop down and cut people because his girlfriend had been one of a gang of people who had been jailed earlier this year for attacking the same takeaway. The initial attack came after the gang went out celebrating former soldier Andrew Ryan’s release from prison for burning a copy of the Qu’ran in the city centre. After getting drunk, they went on to racially abuse and threaten staff in the takeaway. (Cardiff News & Star, 14 August 2012)
The use and abuse of social media
- September 2012: After plans were submitted to use a building as a Muslim community centre in Hereford, a deluge of racist comments were posted via social networking sites. The Hereford Masjid Fundraising Campaign’s Facebook page was shut down after threats were made to contaminate any land identified as a potential site and the group was referred to as ‘vermin’. (Hereford Times, 20 September 2012)
- September 2012: An EDL supporter was arrested after posting a message on Facebook claiming to have planted a bomb at a mosque in Birmingham. (EDL Review, 12 September 2012)
- 29 September 2012: Former Stoke-on-Trent BNP councillor Michael Coleman was given a suspended sentence for racially–aggravated harassment as a result of postings he had put on his blog in 2011. His postings included claims that the city was being ‘flooded with Muslims and blacks’ and that the council was overseeing a ‘complete population replacement programme – darkies in, whites out’. Patrick Thompson, mitigating in court for Coleman, said that a harsh punishment would turn Coleman into a ‘martyr’. (Stoke Sentinel, 29 September 2012)
- 26 September 2012: A video was posted by the North West Infidels appearing to show the kidnap of a man tied up in a car boot and threatened with a machete. Two men were arrested. (HOPE not hate, 28 September 2012)
- 20 September 2012: Chelsea FC midfielder Mikel John Obi deleted his Twitter profile after being racially abused on the social networking site. (Guardian, 20 September 2012)
- 19 September 2012: After discussions with the CPS, police closed an investigation into five men, two of whom were thought to be members of the North East Infidels, who had been ‘arrested on suspicion of publishing or distributing written material which may stir up racial hatred’. A spokesman for the North-East Counter Terrorism Unit said, ‘Following liaison with the CPS, we were advised that no further action should be taken.’ (Northern Echo, 20 September 2012)
- 26 August 2012: A man was arrested on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence in relation to racist tweets sent to West Ham FC striker Carlton Cole. (BBC News, 26 August 2012)
- 14 August 2012: After the Sunderland FC defender Titus Bramble tweeted a request for people to join his fantasy football league, someone responded with ‘what’s the league called ‘rapists unite’ dirty f**kin ape’. (Sunderland Mad, 14 August 2012)
- July 2012: The Ministry of Defence (MoD) was contacted after the singer Lily Allen reported that a man claiming to be a soldier told her, via Twitter, ‘just seen you bought s**t I meant adopted a child from Africa’. The man later apologised. (Independent, 13 July 2012)
Far-right violence and anti-Muslim attacks
- 14 September 2012: A group of men linked to the EDL were fined for chanting racially aggravated abuse after a football match in Middlesbrough. The incident happened last year. (Northern Echo, 15 September 2012)
- 8 September 2012: Sunderland student Usman Chaudhry woke up at about 5.30am to see his car on fire outside his house. In the next street, firefighters were dealing with another arson attack on another car owned by a Muslim. The men feared they were targeted because of their faith, and the attacks came in the aftermath of far-right protests against the granting of planning permission to build a mosque in the city. Police said there was no evidence of the attacks being ‘specifically targeted’. (Sunderland Echo, 19 October 2012)
- 5 September 2012: Nine supporters of the EDL, aged between 14 and 31, were convicted for a violent attack in Leeds. The attack took place in 2011, when the gang descended on an anti-racism concert, shouting their support for the EDL before attacking en masse, knocking one person’s tooth out. Soldier Cavan Langfield, one of the attackers, was discharged from his regiment prior to sentencing. (Huddersfield Daily Examiner, 5 September 2012)
- August 2012: Two men were each given jail sentences for threatening and harassing an Asian family. The family, who own a newsagent in Bulwell, were unloading stock in April this year when the men, one of whom was brandishing a knife, began threatening them. One of the attackers, Kelvin Barratt, proclaimed he was part of the EDL, and they later returned to the shop and threatened the family again. Upon being sentenced, Barratt retracted his support for the far-right group. (Nottingham Post, 24 August 2012)
- 30 August 2012: Simon Parkes, a 45-year-old former soldier, was jailed for four months for tying a severed pigs head to the gates of a mosque in Cheltenham and daubing the building with offensive graffiti in 2010. Parkes served in the Falklands and Northern Ireland before leaving the military in the early 1990s, and was said to be haunted by images of children killed on his tours of duty. He was caught by police after he posted a photo of himself on Facebook, outside the mosque after the attack, with a caption reading ‘revenge of the Infidel’. (Guardian, 30 August 2012)
- 14 August 2012: A 32-year-old man, Jonathan Russell, threatened two men who were on their way to prayers outside a mosque in central London, throwing a knife at one and snarling ‘Where’s Allah to protect you know?’ In court, a judge condemned the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for not classing the crime as racially motivated. The CPS said that Russell had been ‘commenting generally’. (Searchlight, 15 October 2012)
- 5 August 2012: An Islamic centre in Surrey was vandalised, with eggs and alcohol thrown on the building and graffiti sprayed on the front door. (Redhill and Reigate Life, 8 August 2012)
Read an IRR News story: ‘Spotlight on racial violence: January – June 2012’
Read an IRR News story: ‘Soldier jailed for ‘senseless’ racist attack’
Read an IRR News story: ’96 murders since Stephen Lawrence’s’
Read a press release for an IRR Report: The new geographies of racism: Peterborough
Read a press release for an IRR Report: The new geographies of racism: Stoke-on-Trent
Read a press release for an IRR Report: The new geographies of racism: Plymouth