Campaign group referring Greater Manchester Police to watchdogs over letters barring people from Carnival

The letters barring certain individuals from Carnival, due to the police perceiving them to have links to criminal activity or threats of violence, were greeted with angry accusations of racism.

A campaign group is referring Greater Manchester Police to watchdogs over letters it sent barring a number of people from the Manchester Caribbean Carnival.

The move to tell dozens of individuals they would not be permitted to enter the festivities in Alexandra Park on Saturday 13 August and Sunday 14 August over perceived links to threats of violence or criminal activity sparked fury and accusations of racism from organisations in the city.

Now Justice, which campaigns for human rights and legal reform, says it is passing on the matter to the authorities and demanding they look at the police’s actions.

The organisation has also asked Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham to speak out on the issue.

What is the nature of Justice’s intervention in the racism row?

The authorities have already been strongly criticised by groups in Manchester such as the Northern Police Monitoring Project (NPMP), who claimed the letters preventing people attending Carnival were racist.

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However, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) and Manchester City Council defended the move, saying it was something that has been used for a number of years and is a safety measure for the event.

Now, though, Justice is taking the matter further and wants the police’s use of the letters to be investigated.

The organisation said on Friday (12 August) that it is referring the issue to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) and HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire Services,

Justice said it also wanted Mr Burnham to hold the police to account for its actions.

Why is Justice doing this?

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Justice said it initially joined with 11 organisations at the end of July to demand the authorities retract the letters barring people from attending the Carnival.

It said it was “deeply disappointed” by a response from the police and council defending the use of the bans.

Justice says the letters have a discriminatory impact on Black, Brown and other minority communities and described the use of the term “gangs” to define who was being prevented from entering the Carnival site as “vague and undefined”.

It also questioned how the policy fits in with the authorities’ aims and objectives around racial equality as well as their legal obligations around human rights and equality.

Justice’s criminal justice lawyer, Tyrone Steele, said: “This policy demonstrates that Black, Brown and racialised children and young adults continue to suffer from criminalisation at the hands of the police.

“As well as being racist and discriminatory, the policy is plainly unlawful.

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“The response from Greater Manchester Police and Manchester City Council demonstrates that the force is not committed to earning the trust of marginalised communities. Everybody deserves to attend the Carnival free from discrimination.”

What have the authorities said?

ManchesterWorld has approached all the authorities identified by Justice for comment. The IOPC said that a complaint would first have to be made to GMP, which would then have to refer it on to the body overseeing police forces’ conduct if it met the criteria for doing so.

A spokesperson for the Equality and Human Rights Commission said: “The EHRC receives complaints each week about allegations of unlawful activity contrary to the Equality Act 2010. We consider each complaint carefully and take action where appropriate.”

Previously, the police and council said that since 2006 measures such as the letters have been used to ensure public safety at the Carnival.

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Police said that in the past there had been a number of incidents of violence at the festivities, and as a licensed event it was subject to conditions of entry to reduce harm and anti-social behaviour.

The police said the local authority, licensing and the area’s Independent Advisory Group all backed the approach.