Spotlight on racial violence: July – December 2013

December 12, 2013 — Comment

Written by Jon Burnett

A selection of attacks with a racial element and convictions over the last six months.

A few weeks ago, 24-year-old Lee James was told he will serve at last eighteen years in prison for killing Iranian refugee Bijan Ebrahimi in Bristol. Mr Ebrahimi was harassed persistently by local residents prior to his death. He was abused consistently because he was disabled; he was called a ‘P**i’ and a ‘foreign cockroach’. Over a period of several years he had been forced to relocate at least three times, having been beaten with a baseball bat and doused in boiling water in a series of attacks which left him so terrified that at one point he broke both of his legs as he tried to flee. In a desperate attempt to prove his harassment, he took photos of youngsters as they vandalised his flowerbeds (he was a devoted gardener) in July. But after this, a false rumour was spread that he was a paedophile and he was subsequently arrested and led away as his neighbours cheered. A few days later, he was beaten to death. His body was doused in white spirit and set on fire.

As the judge at James’ trial remarked, Mr Ebrahimi’s killing was an act of ‘murderous injustice’. Yet this was an injustice compounded by the actions of the police, who did little to protect him from his torment. According to a local reporter, at one point officers ignored him as he banged on the door of a police station desperate for protection. And another time, an officer allegedly neglected to visit him because he was eating. He didn’t want his food to go cold.

It has become clear, over the last six months, that too often the response to racial violence has been undermined by the actions or inactions of the police. In October, Ukranian student Pavlo Lapshyn was given a life sentence and ordered to serve at least forty years in prison for murdering 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem and attempting to bomb several mosques in Birmingham. Lapshyn, a far-right sympathiser, stabbed the elderly man to death in April as he walked home from a mosque. But for the first ten weeks of their investigation, the police focused their inquiries on the man’s son.

What follows includes threats, assaults, the petrol-bombing of mosques and the targeting of those who oppose the far Right. Several incidents were carried out by people who said they supported the English Defence League (EDL).

Most of the attacks were not reported beyond the areas in which they took place. Rarely are they seen as anything more than local interest stories. And so the culmination of the trial of a man who set fire to an eastern European family’s home in Plymouth, for example, terrorising them to such an extent that they said they would leave the country, did not make headlines. Nor, for example, did the stabbing of a Libyan man in Brighton in an unprovoked attack that police treated as racially motivated.

A selection of attacks and convictions that have taken place over the last six months is presented below:

Anti-Muslim attacks and far-right violence

  • 29 November 2013: Daniel Cressey, a 25-year-old man, was found guilty of aiding and abetting two men (both former soldiers) who firebombed an Islamic cultural centre in Grimsby after the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby. Sentencing was adjourned until the end of December. (iENGAGE, 29 November 2013)
  • 23 November 2013: A bishop speaking at an event opposing the EDL in Wakefield was accosted and harassed by an EDL supporter. (International Business Times, 25 November 2013)
  • 13 November 2013: Wayne Lord, 20, and Declan Clayton, 19, two of a gang of white people who had assaulted several Asian men in Burnley, were given custodial sentences. The incident took place on 15 September, and the attackers shouted ‘EDL’ as they charged at them, carrying bricks and sticks. One of the people spurring on the attack was a 16-year-old boy, who received a twelve-month community rehabilitation order. (Lancashire Telegraph, 13 November 2013)
  • November 2013: Members of the North East Miners’ Association say that they received threatening phone calls from the EDL after opposing them at a march in Durham. The EDL had marched to protest against plans to turn a former pub into a Muslim education centre. (Journal, 20 November 2013)
  • 4 October 2013: Tracy Davies, 46, a woman who shouted racist abuse at a Somali woman in south London and punched her in the face in the aftermath of the death of Lee Rigby, was fined £355. The victim was targeted because she was wearing a burka. (BBC News, 4 October 2013)
  • 2 October 2013: A teenage EDL supporter appeared in court having been accused of plotting a series of mass violent attacks. He had allegedly stockpiled home-made bombs, terrorist manuals and an array of weapons as he planned the attacks. His targets reportedly included his school and a local mosque. (Loughborough Echo, 2 October 2013)
  • 21 September 2013: An 18-year-old man was sentenced to 33 months in jail and his 20-year-old friend received a 23-month suspended sentence after a spree of attacks on Islamic centres in Plymouth and the south-West of England. They plotted a nationwide campaign against Muslims and branded each other with hot irons to initiate themselves in Anders Breivik’s Order of the Knights Templar. (Plymouth Herald, 21 September 2013)
  • 21 September 2013: John Claydon, an EDL supporter who assaulted an anti-fascist protester at a demonstration in Hull, was given a community order and 100 hours unpaid work. CCTV footage showed the man punching the protester in the face repeatedly. (Hull Daily Mail, 21 September 2013)
  • 14 September 2013: A man appeared in court in Wales, accused of vandalising a mosque and assaulting a couple who challenged him. The man allegedly headbutted the woman and stamped on her after she fell. (Wales Online, 14 September 2013)
  • 1 September 2013: Three Muslim men walking in Kent were assaulted by a group of men in an unprovoked attack. The attackers drove up to them, jumped out of their car, racially abused them (shouting at them to ‘get back to [your] own country’) and set upon them. One assailant had an iron bar, and the victims were told they would be killed if they called the police. (Kent Online, 6 September 2013)
  • August 2013: Arsonists attempted to burn down a mosque in Essex by setting fire to insulation foam beneath its shutters. The attack only caused minor damage, and the mosque was able to open a few hours later. (Independent, 26 August 2013) 
  • 15 July 2013: Former EDL activist Adam Rogers was given a suspended prison sentence for posting Facebook messages calling on people to burn down a mosque in Hastings following the murder of Lee Rigby in May. (Hastings Observer, 19 July 2013)

Street attacks

  • 30 November 2013: A 26-year-old man was racially abused and set upon by a group of men outside a takeaway in Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside. His jaw was broken in the attack. (St Helens Star, 9 December 2013)
  • 29 November 2013: Three Asian men were hospitalised after being racially abused and assaulted by a group of eight or nine white men in Glasgow. One of the people attacked needed plastic surgery. (STV, 30 November 2013)
  • 3 November 2013: A man was approached by a white man in Tamworth, racially abused and beaten with a baseball bat in an unprovoked attack. (Tamworth Herald, 22 November 2013)
  • 29 October 2013: A 19-year-old woman was ordered to pay £75 and carry out community work for racially abusing and assaulting a Chinese student in retaliation for the murder of Lee Rigby. The student later reported that she did not like to go out at night as a result of the attack. (Exeter Express & Echo, 29 October 2013)
  • 25 October 2013: A man was given a prison sentence for a string of offences including forcing entry to the home of two men with learning difficulties and attacking them. Nathan Taylor, 20, was on bail at the time for threatening a group of language students, terrifying one of the students to such an extent that he left the country. (Exeter Express & Echo, 25 October 2013)
  • 2 October 2013: A Libyan international student in Brighton was stabbed in the face as he waited at a bus stop by two white men. The police said they were treating the incident as a racist attack. (Argus, 6 October 2013)
  • 1 October 2013: A teenager with his girlfriend on a bench in St. Helens was approached by a group of people, racially abused and assaulted. His nose was broken after being headbutted. (St Helens Star, 18 October 2013)
  • 9 August 2013: A 25-year-old white man, was jailed for four years after stabbing a Polish man in the back in Dover. When arrested, he racially abused the man who he had already stabbed. (Kent Online, 9 August 2013)
  • 4 August 2013: A man was assaulted in Kempston, with his attacker racially abusing him, punching him and dragging him out of his car. (Bedfordshire on Sunday, 13 August 2013)
  • 22 July 2013: 25-year-old Kayleigh Hall racially abused a man in Sunderland and headbutted him because he parked his car on double yellow lines whilst collecting a takeaway. When questioned by the police about what had happened, she said ‘Obviously I headbutted him. I can’t help it – I’m racist.’ (Sunderland Echo, 5 September 2013)

Attacks on people in their homes

  • 20 October 2013: Joele Leotta, a 20-year-old Italian waiter who had only been in the UK about ten days, was killed in his flat in Maidstone, allegedly by a group of Lithuanian men shouting ‘you steal our jobs’ as they beat him to death. The police quickly denied that the attack was racially motivated. (International Business Times, 23 October 2013)
  • October 2013: Gypsies in Thurrock facing eviction from their homes said that they had been the target of persistent harassment and abuse by local residents. At one point residents reportedly attempted to obstruct a water company visiting the area so as to deny the families access to water. (IRR News, 31 October 2013)
  • September 2013: An Asian man helping his brother move into a new house in Manchester was racially abused and assaulted. The attacker shouted ‘You need to get permission from me before your brother moves in’, and tried to take his keys and wallet from him. His friends joined in with the assault. (Manchester Evening News, 16 September 2013)
  • 20 August 2013: A 45-year-old man, Ian Rimmer, was evicted from his residence in Islington by Salix Homes after ‘a campaign of racial harassment and intimidation’. (24 Dash, 20 August 2013)
  • August 2013: A family in Bedford was posted racist material, the latest such incident in a long-standing campaign of harassment which included having KKK and Nazi literature and DVDs sent to them. (Bedfordshire on Sunday, 6 August 2013)
  • 10 July 2013: 24-year-old Daniel Lawson was given a prison sentence of three years and eleven months for his part in an arson attack on an eastern European family’s home in Plymouth. Lit fireworks were put through the letterbox of the house which set the building on fire. When the family put this blaze out, more lit fireworks were thrown at them. When he was arrested, the attacker said ‘English Pride, Nation Wide’. The family eventually made the decision to leave the country as a result of the attack. (Plymouth Herald, 10 July 2013)

Concerns over policing and criminal justice

  • November 2013: Victims of a vicious racist attack in Chigwell launched a complaint against the Metropolitan Police, stating that the police had never called them over the incident, that they had been unable to make a statement and that they were not visited when in hospital. The victims, all Indian, were racially abused and set upon by between ten and fifteen people whilst on a night out. Three of the group were hospitalised and one person knocked unconscious. (Asian Image, 13 November 2013)
  • November 2013: Measuring Anti-Muslim Attacks (Tell MAMA) announced that of 1,432 anti-Muslim incidents it had reported to the police over the last 22 months, only seventy had received a response. (BBC News, 24 November 2013)
  • 25 October 2013: Ukrainian student Pavlo Lapshyn was given a 40 year prison sentence for murdering 82-year-old Muslim Mohammed Saleem and bombing several mosques in the Midlands. He murdered Mr Saleem in April 2013, but the police spent the first ten weeks of their investigation focusing their inquiry on the deceased’s own son; the family described it as a  ‘wild goose chase’.  (BBC News, 25 October 2013)    
  • 2 October 2013: Black anti-racist activist Maxi Hayles found two knives plunged into his car, parked outside his house, and a swastika daubed on the dashboard. According to supporters, the police did not treat the incident as racially motivated, and after a forensics team initially visited the scene Mr Hayles heard nothing more from the police. (Voice, 22 November 2013)
  • 8 August 2013: The family of Kamlesh Ruparelia, a 55-year-old man from Uganda, called for a review of the Crown Prosecution Service’s decision to halt the case against a man who had punched and killed him after racially abusing him. Mr Ruparelia was killed in Sheffield in 2010. (BBC News, 8 August 2013)
  • July 2013: Police in Glasgow were accused of ‘failing to investigate’ a racist attack, during which a taxi driver was attacked by three white men and called a ‘P**i’. Among other concerns, it reportedly took the police three weeks to source CCTV footage of the attack. (Glasgow Evening Times, 7 July 2013)
  • July 2013: A protest was held outside Wembley police station after CCTV footage of a brutal attack was lost by the police. A Moroccan man had been assaulted by five white men, and it took external pressure to make the police log the attack as racially motivated. The police waited nearly a week to contact the victim. (IRR News, 4 July 2013)

Attacks in the night-time economy

  • 20 November 2013: Wendy Hunter, a woman in Sunderland, pleaded guilty to causing criminal damage and causing racially-aggravated fear, provocation or violence, having vandalised a shop owned by an Indian man, and racially abusing him whilst brandishing a hammer. (Sunderland Echo, 20 November)
  • 1 September 2013: A customer racially abused and spat at staff in a Chester takeaway before assaulting a female customer who tried to intervene, punching her in the face repeatedly and then attacking her husband. (Click Liverpool, 17 September 2013)
  • 21 August 2013: A woman in Daventry was released on bail, accused of racially abusing and attacking a grocer, stealing items from his shop and setting fire to some of the produce. (Northampton Chronicle, 21 August 2013)
  • 21 August 2013: Ian Ovens, 53, was jailed for twelve months after racially abusing the Asian owner of a petrol station in Leicester and threatening to burn it down. (Leicester Mercury, 21 August 2013)
  • 1 August 2013: 19-year-old Scott Blackburn was jailed for fourteen weeks for racially abusing and threatening a shopkeeper in South Shields, and smashing the shop’s door. (Shields Gazette, 1 August 2013)
  • 23 July 2013: CCTV footage of a Sri-Lankan shopkeeper in Liverpool being racially abused and set on fire was released by the police. The incident took place in June 2013. (Liverpool Echo, 23 July 2013)
  • July 2013: An Indian family in Castleford, Leeds, had panic alarms fitted in their shop after suffering racist abuse ‘almost every day’ for six months, including threats to burn their shop down. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 1 August 2013)
  • July 2013: Police in Scotland resorted to issuing shopkeepers in Edinburgh with hidden CCTV cameras, to be worn on the body, as a result of ongoing racist attacks. (Scotsman, 30 July 2013)

RELATED LINKS

Read an IRR report: ‘Racial violence: facing reality

Read an IRR News story: ‘Spotlight on far-right violence

Read an IRR News story: ‘Spotlight on racial violence: May – June 2013

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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