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Rotheram Defence Campaign on the anti-racism march in London, 2016

Rotheram Defence Campaign on the anti-racism march in London, 2016

The Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign shows how media sensationalism and dangerous political rhetoric can lead to injustice

If, after reading the headline, you for one reason or another presumed this had something to do with child sexual exploitation (CSE) because of the mere mention of a group of Pakistani men from Rotherham, then you have learnt lesson number one in structural racism. The presumption of guilt based on a stereotype of a race.

These 12 Pakistani men, what later became known as part of the “Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign”, were all charged with violent disorder and not CSE – and that’s why you’ve probably never heard about them. The Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign highlights how media sensationalism and dangerous political rhetoric leads to injustice, and makes justice a political act – not a legal one. 

The Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign had its final two members on trial this week at Sheffield Crown Court, where the case against them collapsed. That is 12 Pakistani men whose homes were raided in the early hours of the morning in September 2015 by dozens of police officers – as if they were a threat to national security.

So what did these men do to deserve a dawn raid and serious criminal charges? On 5 September 2015, they attended an anti-fascism march after the racist murder of 81-year-old Mushin Ahmed in their town. On the same day Britain First also staged a protest, and hundreds of police were deployed to keep the marches separate.

When the police channelled the anti-fascist march down a road that had a pub on it frequented by far-right protesters, a clash between the two groups occurred after racist abuse was hurled. This followed months of the community feeling besieged and afraid to leave their homes due to incessant far-right marches in the city. Only one punch was thrown, yet all 12 were arrested, charged and put on trial.

During the trial, the prosecution made clear that the “other side” had started the clash – but that the actions of the 12 men could not be justified as self-defence. This was rubbished in court, and all of the men have now been acquitted after three years of hell.

So why are you only just finding out about this horrendous situation now? Let me say it for what it is: the rise of Islamophobia in Rotherham. The people of Rotherham have been subjected to vile verbal abuse on streets, in schools and in the town centre. Bomb threats to mosques; 14 far-right demonstrations within a year radicalising a local community; innocent taxi drivers forced into intensive care units; the murder of an 81-year-old grandfather who was walking to the mosque; and the wrongful arrest of these 12 men.

You never heard about them because it wasn’t “newsworthy”. The attitude of some was effectively that this is the least this community deserved after the grooming scandal – now all of them must pay the price.

Call it extreme, but that’s how it feels when all of the above have been neglected by the politicians and almost all of the mainstream media. As one of the founding members of the Rotherham 12 Defence Campaign, I can attest that apart from the likes of Hillsborough Justice Campaign, Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign, Stand Up To Racism, Unite Against Fascism and a few other groups, these innocent Pakistani men from Rotherham were viewed as not worth standing up for.

Also, we all remember why child sexual exploitation was so prevalent in Rotherham. It was because the police were too scared to make arrests due to political correctness, wasn’t it? I’m sorry, but this is far from the truth. Even the current top cop in South Yorkshire is on record as saying that political correctness played no part in their past failures. Nevertheless, to deflect from their own incompetence South Yorkshire Police had to now show everyone that they were getting “tough” on the Pakistani community, to make up for their previous shortcoming.

At least that’s how it feels when – after 14 far-right violent demonstrations and scuffles with the police, as well as attacking local businesses, mosques and other property – not a single violent disorder charge was brought forward, and then the one time the local Pakistani community comes out in defiance to attend the vigil of murdered 81-year-old Mushin Ahmed, they are attacked by the far right and 12 of them are charged.

This clearly demonstrates the double standards that were applied.

All in all, the facts speak for themselves: 12 Pakistani men claimed they defended themselves, and none are found guilty. Seven white far-right protesters are charged – and four are eventually sentenced for violent disorder.

Many institutional leaders, including the local MP, agreed with calls for a public inquiry once all the trials were over. They are now over, and we’re calling for an inquiry – but the question remains: will those institutional leaders raise their voices now?

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