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The Uprising that they wish to forget August 1976 I had just turned 16 and was excited at the thought of attending my first Notting Hill carnival as an ‘adult’. I had been to the carnival the previous year but had gone on the ‘Family Sunday’ as a 15 year old school kid with some of my classmates. It had been fun, but this year I was going to Carnival with my brother and his friends on the biggest day of the 2-day event. This was going to be the real carnival that I’d seen on the black and white pictures in the press and on TV. Only this year I was going to be a part of it. I went expecting to see the colourful floats filled with happy smiling brothers and sisters adorned in their finest carnival outfits. I went expecting to hear the sound of the steel bands filling the air with the sunny Caribbean beats some of Calypso and SOCA. But most of all I had gone to hear the clash of the reggae sound systems. Carnival was the only place that you would have the chance to hear Jah Shaka, Coxsone, Sufferer and Tottenham’s finest Fatman Sound System all in the same place for FREE! On my way to the carnival I felt my excitement increasing with each stop that the tube made. For it seemed that this tube had been specifically reserved for young black carnival goers. At each stop more and more black youths got on. You could see groups from north, east, west and south London boarding the tube all with one destination in mind. There were lots of different groupings, many of them identifiable as such because they wore similar clothing to others in their group. Many had clearly put much time, thought and effort into their carnival outfits. Some had bought their ghetto blasters with them, as if, warming themselves, and everyone else in earshot, up for the carnival that was to come. The atmosphere on the train journey was electric, for this was 70’s England where there were few opportunities for the black community to gather together in remembrance and celebration of our culture. Back in those day the most that we had were parties in our living rooms, and underground blues dances which were always likely to be shut down or raided by the local police. But this was our day, for it was legal and outside in the basking sunshine of the famous 1976 heatwave, which was the hottest summer on record at the time. So its fair to say that I went to the carnival full of heightened expectations, knowing that I was going to have one of the best days of my young life so far. But instead it turned into something totally different. There was another backdrop to this years gathering that I had been unaware of at the time. It seems that 1976 was also the year that the Metropolian Police Service (MPS) decided that current legislation, as it was then, was simply not repressive enough when it came to policing the Black community. So they trawled old common law acts, that had been used and, most often, abandoned during Victorian times, and came up with an offence that no white person had been arrested for in this country in the past 100 years or more. The Suspicious Persons Act or the SUS law as it commonly known. The SUS law basically meant that police officers could, and did so in their thousands, arrest a person who they considered to be acting suspiciously and charge the said person with having committed the crime. The issue was that the officers did not need to have a victim of a crime or any witnesses to confirm that the arrested person, who nine times out of ten was black, was acting in a suspicious or criminal manner. This meant that in court it was the officers word against the word of young black kids. The black kids stood no chance, we knew this and of course the police knew it too. And, because the magistrates always believed the police, they used it only too well. The stats are available for all to see they used the sus laws to criminalise young black kids in much the same way that they use Joint Enterprise laws (also common law) to prosecute and persecute predominantly Black youths nowadays. SUS is often cited as similar to Stop and Search but the use of the SUS laws was much more pernicious and harmful than stop and search is; as it was an indictable offence that led to tens of thousands of young black youths receiving criminal records and custodial sentences. Well many of those who had been arrested under the SUS laws during the heatwave of 76 were also attending the carnival that year. We were all disappointed at the large numbers of police officers that we found there. This was meant to be our carnival. The ONE day of the year that we hoped we would be free to enjoy ourselves instead we were being shepherded into the narrow passages beneath the flyover by aggressive burly and very surly police officers with their rolled up shirt sleeves and black gloved hands which were surly unnecessary in the middle of a heatwave but provided us with a clear indication of what was to come Rumours were spreading throughout the day that SPG officers, Special Patrol Group, were apparently being held in reserve, and were sitting in their vans showing off their NF badges to the crowds of carnival goers as they passed by them. The SPG were infamous in our community as the police force’s ‘storm troopers’ they had earned a reputation amongst us as hard bastards who should be avoided at all costs. Looking back I guess it had the makings of the classic storm. In that there were hundreds of thousands of mainly black youths, who simply wanted to enjoy the one-day of the year that they felt was ‘their/our day’. Amongst them would have also been a number of youths who had been charged and imprisoned for a crime that they had not committed, SUS, and many would have been awaiting their day in court. This would have been a day in which they would have just wanted to forget the everyday pressures, of growing up Black in a white mans world, and truly ‘let off’ some steam on the one day that such behavior was tolerated. What unified both groups wasn’t simply the fact that we were all black. It was more the fact that neither grouping wanted the police in such close proximity on this day of all days. The year before there had been no real reported trouble at the carnival, so no one understood why it was that they were there in such numbers and with such attitudes. For some reason it appeared that the police decided that they would ignore the stewards and manage the crowds themselves. This created tensions and ultimately led to some skirmishes between the police and the carnival goers as the police kept trying to move people on. At some point there was a confrontation and a woman was allegedly hit in the stomach by a police officer wielding a truncheon. Whether it was true or not it was enough to turn an already tense situation into a roaring street battle. If you ever see photographs from that uprising you will see that the police were ill equipped for dealing with large-scale disorder. The short truncheons that they’d been using to prod people to encourage us to move in the direction they wanted, were now proving useless as the police were coming under fire from a barrage of missiles including bricks,bottles and paving slabs. In those photos you may also see police offices using dustbin lids to shelter from such attacks. But if you look really closely you will see the shock and fear in their eyes because they had never come under attack like this before. Soon after the fighting had begun I got separated from my brother and his friends but there was no way that I was going to leave and miss all the ‘fun’. I started to hang out with a group of youths who I had bumped into, literally, as we were being chased down the road by a couple of SPG vans. They decided to go into a supermarket, not to loot but to get cans and bottles that could be used as missiles against the police. As it sounded like a good idea I followed them in to the supermarket grabbing a trolley and filling it with big cans of corned beef , baked beans and Heinz soup. I was so engrossed in what I was doing that I didn’t notice the shop had become much quieter until I heard the unmistakable sound of the cops “Oi you little black bastards. Stop right there!” I stopped and ran to the back of the store trying to find another way out but to no avail. I hadn’t really done anything but I wasn’t going to try to reason with these cops. I could tell from their tone and the way they were approaching that I was in deep trouble. “I’m only a kid, I’m only 16”, I screamed as they started to towards me with truncheons drawn. “Kick his fucking bollocks in”. I heard one screaming over and over so I cupped mine and took the truncheon blows to my head and shoulders until I succumbed to the beating. I woke up in a police cell with about 7 other brothers. I had been dumped on the cell floor and woke up to find myself laying in a pool of blood that turned out not to be mine. There was blood everywhere on the walls the door and somehow some there were even blood splatters on the ceiling. I looked at the others in the cell and decided that I had probably been one of the luckier ones even though my forehead was cut and my face was caked with dry blood. I had a broken tooth and later discovered that I had 2 dislocated fingers. I also had a number of bumps on my head but my Tom (hat) and small afro probably saved me from worse injuries. My shirt had been all but torn off of my back and I had bruising on my shoulders and wrists where it appears they may have handcuffed me. But I guess that I was lucky as I had been knocked out from the first blows and really was none the wiser in terms of what they had done to me. All of the other brothers had their own stories to tell, two of them swore that they had been arrested and beaten up before they had even gotten to the carnival. One said he was trying to help a woman pack up her stall when the cops just rushed the two of them. He said that they had beaten her worse than they had beaten him. Everyone had their story but there was one surprising common thread amongst all of our stories was about the police officers going for our balls. One had had his balls squeezed the entire time that he was being transported to the station in a police van. One who was vomiting and spitting blood said they’d purposefully positioned him so that they could slam the panda car door into his nether regions. Then they kicked him several times before nicking him. In the next hour at least four more brothers were thrown into the cell. After another couple of hours a cop came in an asked if any of us were juveniles. We all were! So they took a decision to let us out without charge. Before they let me go they took me into a room where I was beaten by 2 cops and warned not to go back at the carnival as there would be worse to come if I were to be caught a second time. I didn’t make it back to Tottenham that night. I went straight back to Ladbroke Grove with a couple of the other juveniles who I had shared a cell with. I had initially gone to the carnival looking for fun but now I was looking for revenge. It wasn’t the last uprising that I have been present at! I think that the Metropolitan Police FORCE with all of its, institutionalized, collective memory has been looking for revenge on the Black community ever since. I loved that summer Peace