PRESS RELEASE: KENMURE STREET RESIDENTS CHALLENGE HOME SECRETARY TO VISIT POLLOKSHIELDS AND ANSWER QUESTIONS ON THE 13 MAY DAWN RAID

EMBARGO: 00:01 FRIDAY 13 AUGUST 2021

Friday 13th August marks three months since the community protest in Kenmure Street, Pollokshields, Glasgow, which made national and international headlines. After a peaceful protest lasting over eight hours, our neighbours Lakhvir and Sumit were released from an Immigration Enforcement van.

The spontaneous protest by the community took place in response to an Home Office “Dawn Raid” in the heart of a community celebrating Eid al-Fitr, and a day after Scotland’s First Minister and local MSP, Nicola Sturgeon, warned of an upsurge of COVID cases in the area.

The response of the Home Office was to call the protesters a “mob”. We were not a mob, just a concerned community. We immediately asked the Home Secretary to retract her spokesperson’s statement. She has not. We have established #NotAMob as a community group to campaign on issues raised by the raid and support our neighbours and existing organisations.

Commenting, #NotAMob member and Kenmure Street resident, David Millar, said:

“After three months, there has been no meaningful response from the Home Secretary. We are appalled by the lack of engagement with our community on issues of public safety and the right to peaceful protest, as well as the broader issues of immigration policy.

“We now challenge the Home Secretary to visit our community and meet residents, members of local organisations and elected representatives and respond to the many concerns that have been raised by the Home Office’s enforcement action.”

Soon after the Kenmure Street raid, elected representatives, local residents and third sector organisations directed many questions to the Home Secretary on the planning and execution of the raid, as well as questioning the “Hostile Environment” policy. Key questions remain unanswered. Communications included:

  1. Joint letter from Glasgow MPs, MSPs and Councillors
  1. Letter from Scottish Government’s Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson MSP
  1. Sample letter from Kenmure Street resident (representing #NotAMob community group) pasted below

Commenting further, David Millar said:

“If the Home Secretary does not respond positively, we may have to use the opportunity of the COP26 Climate Change Conference – taking place 1.5 miles from the site of the Kenmure Street protest – to raise these issues more directly. We know that many, many of our fellow citizens are keen to make their views known.

“We ask that the Home Secretary releases a statement addressing our key concerns and announcing her intention to engage with our community and key stakeholders.

“We are not a mob – just a community.”

ENDS.

Contact

kenmurestreetnotamob@gmail.com

About #NotAMob

#NotAMob is a new community group created after the Kenmure Street protest to try to create long-term positives and to support existing organisations and our neighbours. Please join us. See www.NotAMob.com

SAMPLE LETTER TO HOME SECRETARY 17/05/2021 FROM KENMURE STREET RESIDENT

17 May 2021

Dear Home Secretary,

Concerns Regarding the Conduct of Immigration Enforcement Action in Kenmure Street, Glasgow & Home Office Media Statements Relating to the Community Protest

I live immediately beside the site of the community protest around a Home Office Immigration Enforcement vehicle in Kenmure Street, Glasgow on 13 May 2021.

I would like to provide feedback on the incident to someone with executive authority for the planning and conduct of this immigration enforcement. I would be grateful if you could provide the most appropriate contact within your department.

I wish to raise several serious issues that relate to the personal safety and wellbeing of members of my community.

My main areas of concern include the timing and conduct of your team’s enforcement action, together with the lack of communication from any Home Office officials to concerned locals at the scene. The fact that this was allowed to happen in a COVID hot-spot is unbelievable. I presume planning and risk assessments are conducted before any action? I would be grateful for access to documentation for this operation to understand how it was conceived and what knowledge of the local community was considered before authority was given for the action to go ahead.

More immediately, I am greatly concerned by the apparent comment of a Home Office spokesperson on a peaceful protest, characterising it as a “mob”.

Among other journalists, Lewis Goodall, BBC Newsnight’s Policy Editor, reported via Twitter:

” Home Office source: “It is completely unacceptable for a mob to stop the lawful removal of people living in our country illegally. We 100% back the frontline in removing those with no right to be here.” “

You will be aware that the action of local people was peaceful and has been supported by our MP, MSP and First Minister of Scotland, and the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

In these circumstances, I wish to understand how an official of the Home Office could characterise a peaceful protest as a “mob”. Please can you help me understand:

  1. Do you stand by the comment of your official? Will you, on consideration, retract the statement?
  2. Who made the statement and what approval processes and codes of conduct are they bound to follow? Do you consider these were followed in this case?
  3. On what information did your spokesperson base her/his assessment of mob behaviour?
  4. I believe “mob” is a word with legal significance. Are you concerned that an inaccurate comment from your spokesperson could be seen as sanction from the Home Office for action by the police or third parties?
  5. Do you support peaceful protest? How should a citizen oppose an apparent injustice in front of their eyes?

These are important issues that relate to the right to protest in a free society.

Although peaceful, the Kenmure Street protest became more and more tense over the course of the day, as numbers grew. It was described as a “powderkeg situation” by Mr Aamer Anwar, the local lawyer who, together with Alison Thewliss MP, negotiated the resolution. There appears to have been extremely poor communication between the Home Office, the Scottish Government and Police Scotland which created a situation that could have ended in tragedy. By the end of the day, a huge number of police personnel, equipment and police horses had gathered in and around a quiet residential street, creating an intimidating atmosphere and the potential for a bloodbath. Will you commit to conducting and publishing a review of this incident and look at your procedures to ensure this situation cannot arise again anywhere in the UK?

Finally, I spoke to a young Muslim boy in our local park yesterday and asked him if he had enjoyed his Eid celebrations, despite the protest. He told me it was frightening praying in his house with all the noise and police activity outside. What effort has the Home Office made to assess the impact of your enforcement activity on our community? Do you intend any ameliorative action? Do you have an established process to do this? I would very much hope you can coordinate with your fellow politicians – UK and Scottish – to identify those who, like that young boy, may have been affected by the incident.

There are many issues relating to policy that I could also explore. For now, I will focus on these concerns and hope that you will recognise a community of good neighbours looking to protest against injustice.

I look forward to your earliest response.

Yours sincerely

David Millar (Kenmure Street Resident)

Cc Rt Hon Nicola Sturgeon MSP, Glasgow Southside; Alison Thewliss MP, Glasgow Central

Notes on this letter

  • David chased the Home Office for a reply on 29/07/21. No response to date.
  • The letter was also forwarded to the Home Secretary by David’s MP, Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central). Her office had received no reply by 30/07/21.

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