BLAM UK condemns the behaviour of Shortlands Station staff

On December 5, 2022, at Shortlands station, two young Black school children were harassed by rail staff and British Transport Police (BTP) officers.

Anti-Blackness from rail staff 

When considering the adultification of Black children by the establishment, this is a prime example. At no point can it be justified to have this number of adults restraining a child, regardless of the alleged ‘crime’ that may have been committed.The ratio of adult to child was unacceptable. Subsequently, the two brothers have first-hand racial trauma at an early age stripping away elements of their childlike innocence. Despite it being prohibited for the police to use force in a manner which results in degrading treatment or punishment. Such force was used against these Black children in a situation initially involving a forgotten free travel pass.

Following on from this brutality, the elder brother who was en-route school to undertake his GCSE mock exams was then detained and taken to a police station. His responsible adult, in this case his mother, was never informed. When his mother contacted Bromley Police Station, she was lied to and told he wasn’t there. This young boy sat in the police station alone for hours.

At BLAM we continue to campaign for Black children. We believe that Black children should be allowed to just be children, free from trauma and brutality. We are happy to offer our services to this family providing access to our cohort of therapists who have expertise in racial trauma. 

We are calling for communities based on care. The care manifesto reminds us that we have been encouraged to feel and act like hyper-individualised, competitive subjects who primarily look out for ourselves. In order to really thrive we need caring communities. We need localised environments in which we can flourish: in which we can support each other and generate networks of belonging. We need conditions that enable us to act collaboratively to create communities that both support our abilities and nurture our interdependencies.

Excerpt From: The Care Collective. “The Care Manifesto”. Apple Books. 

We understand that the British Transport Police have referred themselves to The IOPC (The Independent Office for Police Conduct). BLAM has very little belief in the IOPC’s ability to effectively identify the root cause of this treatment. Whilst the surface issue was the belief that the boys had committed fare evasion, the underlying issue that led to this horrific treatment was racism and anti-Blackness.We recognise that the height of the child coupled with his skin colour led officers to exhibit extreme force, the kind that would be used on a grown adult male. The adultification of black boys, and the ways in which society sees them as men, means that they are often subject to quite harrowing experiences by law enforcement. The deep-rooted perceived maturity of Black children means that an independent review simply isn’t enough. 

The parents should have been the first point of contact, not the police. The rail staff should be equipped to deal with these situations without escalating it further to an institution that continues to show it has no regard for young Black lives. Regardless of the alleged crime, all of the adults involved had a duty of care to these underage boys. A duty the institution has fallen short of time and time again. 

Therefore, we are calling for the firing of all those involved in this incident and for the abolition of the BTP. We are also calling for a review of policies and practices around dealing with young people on public transport. Any protocol that provides for the calling of the police on children in these circumstances is unjust and excessive. 

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