Manchester Caribbean Carnival: racism row erupts over police letters barring young people from the festival

Community groups have slammed the police preventing some young people from Black and ethnic minority communities attending the event, but the authorities have defended their actions on safety grounds.

Manchester Caribbean Carnival is at the centre of a racism row after community groups slammed the police and authorities for sending out letters barring some young people from the event.

Activists say around 50 people have received correspondence from Greater Manchester Police (GMP) telling them they will not be allowed into the weekend of festivities in Alexandra Park in August.

The community groups claim this is based on racist perceptions about young Black and ethnic minority people being involved in violence and gang activity.

However, the authorities have defended their actions, saying similar measures have been taken for some years to ensure safety at the carnival.

What has happened?

Manchester Caribbean Carnival 2022 marks half a century of festivities in the city on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August and there will be two days of family-friendly activities, celebrations and music in the Moss Side green space.

However, GMP has sent out a number of letters which were subsequently posted on social media.

The letters tell the recipients that they are perceived to be involved in a “street gang” or some other form of criminal activity, and on that basis they “will not be permitted entry to the carnival as per the wishes of the organisers and the community.”

What have those opposed to the measures said?

The letters have provoked a furious response from community groups and activists who say the grounds on which the letters’ recipients have been excluded from the carnival is racist.

The Northern Police Monitoring Project (NPMP) also hit out at the increasing involvement of the authorities such as GMP in an event like Carnival.

A spokesperson for the NPMP said: “It is with rage that we hear roughly 50 young people in our communities have received letters from GMP’s Xcalibre Task Force, preventing them from attending this year’s Manchester Caribbean Carnival.

“A ‘gang’ (something GMP have no definition for) is a deeply racist construct which finds young people – disproportionately black boys – labelled due to their friendships, interests or cultures. Letters such as these are one of the many tactics at play in assigning the ‘gang’ label.

“The journey of carnival from being a community event to a corporate spectacle will continue to play a significant part in its policing becoming even more harmful. Our anger sits not only with GMP for this approach, but with the event organisers who are actively complicit, providing legitimacy for the policing of carnival.

“We want a safe Carnival too, and that includes safety from policing. As part of a wider anti-racist movement, NPMP remains committed to building effective non-policing solutions that keep us all safe.”

The NPMP also questioned the claim in the letters that the exclusions represented the community’s wishes, and suggested many people in Manchester will be uncomfortable with the police’s tactics.

What have the authorities said?

The authorities have defended their actions in barring individuals from Carnival, saying this is not the first time this has been done and suggesting it would help to ensure the event goes ahead safely.

The commander of GMP’s city of Manchester district, Chief Superintendent Rob Cousen, said: “Caribbean Carnival is a long-established and well-attended celebration. Every year, Greater Manchester Police works with partner agencies, including organisers, and members of the public to keep people as safe as possible.

“Sadly, in years gone by, there have been a number of incidents of serious violence which have posed a high risk of harm to those in attendance.

“Caribbean Carnival is a licenced event and is therefore subject to conditions of entry, agreed by all relevant parties, to prevent and reduce crime; harm; and anti-social behaviour.

“Since 2006, letters which outline these conditions have been sent to individuals about whom we have intelligence to suggest they may threaten the safety of the event. The recipients are wide-ranging in terms of age, gender and ethnic background and are considered on a case by case basis.

“It is worth noting that this strategy is supported by both Manchester City Council, as the licencing authority, and the locality’s Independent Advisory Group (IAG).

“The group is made up of members of the public representing our diverse communities, who regularly feedback to GMP to ensure the force provides an outstanding service whilst serving its fundamental purposes.”

A spokesperson for Manchester City Council said: “The council is committed to working with its partners to ensure the Caribbean Carnival can be a safe and happy celebration of the significant role the Caribbean community has had in the history of Manchester.

“As a result Greater Manchester Police and partner agencies have taken targeted steps to ensure this ambition can be realised. This course of action is not new and has taken place since 2006 to ensure a safe carnival celebration for all.

“This year’s carnival, celebrating its 50th anniversary, should be a time to celebrate and the council is certain that this year’s outing will live up to such an important legacy.”

ManchesterWorld also tried to contact the carnival organisers but have not had a response.