Over the last couple of years more and more official Metropolitan Police twitter accounts have popped up. These are part of the Met’s wider media operation, although the individual accounts are often controlled much further down the ranks – hence the ability not to spell “beggars” correctly. And yesterday, these two tweets (pictured above) were posted by a Met sergeant working in Edgware – and I should reiterate that this is part of the police force’s media operation .
14 years after the Macpherson Report (on institutional racism in the police) one could assume that no police officer would so easily get away with a tweet talking about groups of Jewish beggars, or black beggars, so why is the case with Romanians any different?
It seems clear that the sole purpose of these tweets is to stir up racist anti-Romanian sentiment, which may well result in violent racist attacks against those begging on the streets. But this also comes at a time when attitude towards Romanians is something of a political hot potato: in January next year Romanians will be allowed for the first time to work across all EU states. This has meant the Right in the UK have already spent time whipping up anti-immigrant sentiments through racist propaganda and, today, British racism against Romanians seems to be at an all-time high.
But this also comes at a time in which many many more people are being made homeless – and already it is obvious to people who live in London that there are many more people sleeping rough than there were a few years ago before the crisis. It is a strange thing that being homeless and sleeping rough is still a crime in the UK (Vagrancy Act 1824). The law was introduced at a time when there was a massive influx of working class people to urban centres – both through immigration and soldiers returning from war – but not enough paid work. The Vagrancy Act could force those sleeping rough to work for a month without a wage in a prison. So much for the idea that slavery was abolished by the Slave Trade Act (1807) and the Slavery Abolition Act (1833), the Vagrancy Act stayed on the books, allowing for the homeless to be forced to labour without wage throughout the 19th century. Although today begging is punishable by fine (up to £1000 – which apparently is to be conjured out of nowhere) or community service (more unpaid labour) it is pertinent that this week Justice Minister Chris Grayling announced that those who don’t work while in prison (current minimum wage for prison work, £4 per week) can expect not even to receive “standard” prison conditions, but will be reduced to living in “basic” conditions.
I have tweeted at the officer involved, telling him that I find such racist attitudes entirely unsurprising coming from a police officer. I would encourage others to tweet at him here and to make complaints to the police about him.
Originally published on Prolapsarian
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