The neo-liberal Games; Newham teenagers banned from central Stratford


Thanks to the Newham Monitoring Project for circulating the news that the police have applied for, and obtained, a dispersal notice, banning groups of people from congregating in “Stratford Town Centre, including the Magistrates’ Court, the main transport hubs in Stratford and the areas along West Ham Lane commonly known as the West Quadrant”.

In a previous life (well, 6 months, actually) as a criminal barrister, I had frustratingly extensive experience of how dispersal notices were used elsewhere in London by the Met – which is, is the name suggests , to”disperse” any groups (i.e. 2 or more people) of teenage children, doing anything. Inevitably, the children who lived in the vicinity of the dispersal notice, would be stopped again and again from such terrible anti-social behaviour as – walking down the streets, going into shops, riding bicycles, etc.

As dispersal became a habit, there would be friction between the children and the PCSOs (who, being cheaper to hire than ordinary police officers, seem to have the actual job of implementing the dispersal zone). PCSOs would go into secondary schools, to get the names of the children. And in double quick time, full ASBOs would be sought against them. Within a month, say, of the original dispersal order,  there would be application to the Magistrates Courts for ASBOs containing curfew orders (banning named children from leaving their homes after say 5pm), exclusion orders (banning them from any part of the estate on which they lived), etc, etc. Within 3 months, there would breaches, and the children would be in detention.

Dispersal orders are not intended to stop protesters or demonstrators (this is done under distinct powers found in the Public Order Act), nor indeed adults, perhaps because the police officers and the Magistrates recognise that an off-duty police officer or Magistrate might not be distinguishable from any other member of the community. This is rather all about banning teenage children from the streets.

And we can be more specific still: no-one is seriously suggesting that tourists should be banned from taking their children to Statford tube station, the Westfield shopping centre, or the Olympic stadium. Nor are there any calls to ban the teenage children of Seb Coe, or any of the other Olympic administrators, whose rights to shop at Prada and Jimmy Choo are a central priority of the Olympic organisers and of the police.

Rather, this is about turning central Stratford into a “Green Zone”, where children will be allowed so long as they are nicely-scrubbed, properly dressed, and identifiably middle-class. Should they look like the children of the poor, multiracial borough that is Newham; they can confidently expect a PCSO to move them on.

This is the message of Seb Coe and the London Organisers to the people of Newham: your sort aren’t welcome here.

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