After the appalling police assault on Child Q, protesters in Hackney confront the racism and sexism of the state, reports Elly Badcock
Students, teachers, youth workers, and community members gathered in their hundreds outside Stoke Newington Police Station to protest the appalling, racist sexual assault committed by the Metropolitan Police on ‘Child Q’ in a Hackney school.
Speakers recounted how teachers who they trusted to protect their children phoned the police after smelling cannabis on a 15-year-old girl, and the brutal treatment she endured at the hands of the police.
Made to strip naked whilst on her period, Child Q was forced to spread her buttocks and cough in front of two police officers, with no appropriate adult present. She was instructed to put her dirty sanitary towel back on and return to her exam with no support for the traumatic assault she had just experienced.
Children from Child Q’s school bravely took to the microphone with one child addressing Child Q directly: “It’s not right what they did to you. The whole school is here for you. We are going to find some way to hold the teachers to account.”
Child after child shared their fear, their outrage, their disgust; not only at the police who perpetrated this assault, but also the school staff who stood by and let it happen. “We felt like our rights had been taken away from us. We wanted an apology from the head of the year and the safeguarding team, but they said they weren’t responsible for what happened,” another child shared.
The students also shared stories of resistance; on the day of the protest, the entirety of Year 11 staged an in-school protest demanding the replacement of the entire safeguarding team. They announced their plan to carry on protesting every Monday until their demands are met, to huge cheers from the crowds of local residents.
Educators stood shoulder-to-shoulder with students; whilst appalled, many teachers were unsurprised that an assault like this had occurred. One ex-teacher, Zara, explained, “I haven’t been in the classroom for three years, because I refused any longer to be an agent of state violence.” In a harrowing and moving account of her time spent teaching in a Pupil Referral Unit, and the systemic racism that pushed young black children out of education, she lamented: “When I became a teacher I thought I would be going to my students’ weddings, not to visit them in prison. Not to funerals.”
A fellow educator berated the system for peddling the myth that ‘inner-city’ schools are dangerous, and the children need to be ‘disciplined’. As she explained, “The problem is not just with this school, it is institutional and it is systemic. We don’t need cops, we need properly funded mental health services, we need funding for youth groups.”
This negation of black children’s childhoods has been termed ‘adultification’ – where black children are treated as grown-ups whilst their white counterparts are allowed to claim childhood innocence. A former Police officer-turned-Black Lives Matter activist from Liverpool, who did not give her name, argued that the term whitewashes over the reality of state violence: “We need to call this out for what it is - child abuse. This is not ‘adultification’, this is state-sanctioned rape.”
Throughout the protest, there was a sense of shared outrage, but also a deep feeling of shared resignation. Speaker after speaker lamented that this felt all too familiar; they recalled protesting in the same streets, against the same police, after the murders of Mark Duggan, Smiley Culture, and Sean Rigg. Their parents shared the same stories, in the same streets, after Cherry Groce, Cynthia Jarret, and Joy Gardner.
Nelson, a community activist, reflected “I asked my Dad if things had changed since the 'bad old days' in the 80s. He told me things hadn’t changed at all, and that’s because this was never a case of a few bad apples. You can’t reform the police. Like Malcolm X said, you can’t have capitalism without racism.”
Terry from 4front, an anti-policing organisation, agreed: “Policing is inherently, violently racist. This work [against policing] is decades, hundreds of years old and I can’t believe we are still doing it”.
Protest leaders asked the entire crowd to face the Police station, fists raised in the air in defiance, and chant ‘We stand united against your oppression’. The people of Hackney have spoken loud and clear; police are not welcome in our schools or in our society, and we won’t stop fighting until black children can learn in peace, free from racism, and free from state-sanctioned sexual assault.
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