I, like many other Londoners have often enjoyed the vibrant, energetic festivities that are the Notting Hill carnival. In recent years however (and as the media is increasingly laying its focus on) this time of year in west London has become more and more troublesome.
I recall one particular year when I was in attendance with some friends of mine, following the crowd that snaked its way along the packed streets with the colour and fanfare of one of the floats. There were police everywhere, behind barriers, lining the footpaths edges, making sure that no-one interfered with the parade. At one stage, when the crowd’s steps were forced into a shuffle by a bottle-neck in the path, an officer lashed out at me with his stanchion, shoving his hands in our backs and yelling orders to “Keep moving!” and saying “You can’t stop here!” Clearly, I hadn’t stopped, and had I not been carried away by the surge of the crowd, I surely would have had a word with this decidedly overzealous cop.
This is the problem – fearful, ill-prepared, ill-advised and even bigoted police officers, with a pre-conceived idea of how things will pan out at this event – from negative press and the hype of the possibility of violence – are too numerous and all too prominent. They react with hostility to situations that are clearly not hostile, and become catalysts to the very violence that they are trying to quell and control. Considering the situation I was in, had the officer I was referring to simply just let me pass, I wouldn’t have had the urge to retaliate to his aggression. And like I said, it’s lucky the crowd’s current whisked me away from this potentially volatile situation.
If all that is on the mind of those who are policing these events is violence and clashes and riots and gang wars (one wonders how often such incidences of “gang wars” are unfairly considered due to the predominant race of the people at this event?) this is what they will get. Let’s focus on the positives, or risk creating an over-hyped, magnified atmosphere of fear and confrontation. Surely the vast majority of the public who are planning to attend are there for nothing but good music, good food, wild atmosphere and some drinks with friends, old and new.