Tagged: Civil rights

Major civil rights exhibition launches a national tour in Newcastle

 

Dr Martin Luther King pictured with a group of students at Newcastle University in 1967
Dr Martin Luther King pictured with a group of students at Newcastle University in 1967

The visit by Martin Luther King to Newcastle in 1967 will link America’s fight for civil rights and battles waged on our own doorstep in a major exhibition making its national debut in the North next month.

Former US civil rights worker Marcia Heinemann Saunders will be over to cut the ribbon at the launch of Journey to Justice  on April 4 – the anniversary of King’s assassination – at Discovery Museum where it will run for a month ahead of a national tour.

And it’s set to get everyone talking with its fascinating mix of archive film, photographs, music, poetry, oral histories and high-profile speakers including former ANC freedom fighter Archie Sibeko, now settled in the region.

It’s the culmination of nearly three years’ hard work and fund-raising by former teacher Carrie Supple whose initial idea, inspired by a trip to the US, spiralled to include a huge range of local organisations and supporters as well as volunteers.

The London-based 56-year-old, whose mother was from Newcastle and who herself taught history in the region for 10 years, is delighted how it’s taken off.

“I’m very excited about it,” she said.

“I went to America in 2012 and visited the civil rights museums. I thought it would be great telling the story in the UK when I came back.”

Newcastle was a natural choice for it, with her own links, the visit from King when the civil rights leader received an honorary degree from Newcastle University, our own historic struggles and the scale of support she found here which includes some university funding.

Running until May 4, the focus of the exhibition will be on stories rarely heard.

Those of the American civil rights movement in the sixties include Marcia’s support in helping African Americans in Tennessee to register their vote; six-year-old Ruby Bridges who had to be escorted to school under armed guard because of the fury caused by allowing her entry to an all-white school, and the Greensboro sit-in where students were refused service at a “whites only” counter in a Woolworth store in North Carolina. The exhibition will recreate the counter where visitors can sit and learn about the story.

And the backdrop to it all will be the stirring church music of the civil rights era.

“Many said the music gave them the strength and the hope to get them through,” said Carrie.

Tyneside’s social justice story will feature The Jarrow March and fights for better health care, housing, mining conditions, pay and trade union rights, and local young people have played a part by recording memories of the older generation.

“There are people who recall being in the room with Martin Luther King in 1967,” said Carrie.

Source – Sunday Sun, 15 Mar 2015

‘Public at mercy of council pen-pushers’ says civil rights group

The number of council officials with the power to enter homes in South Tyneside is too high, say civil rights campaigners.

South Tyneside Council employs 61 officers who have powers of entry which enable them to barge into homes and businesses across the borough.

This covers regulatory roles such environmental health and trading standards officers.

However, campaigners at Big Brother Watch (BBW) – a civil liberties and privacy group which obtained the figures – believe the public has been left ‘at the mercy of pen-pushers who can enter our homes as they please’.

But council bosses say that it’s very rare for an officer to gain entry to a property by force, with the normal procedure being to notify occupiers first.

A South Tyneside Council spokesman said:

“Powers of entry are set out by Parliament when enacting legislation and are essential to enable councils to carry out their statutory functions.

“They are available to staff across our regulatory services, which cover things like seizing illicit goods from business premises and enforcing building regulations, to carrying out environmental health inspections and food safety checks where there is a risk to public health.

“It is rare that officers have to exercise this power as a right, as most property owners and businesses premises permit entry.

“The council has robust policies and procedures in place to ensure that these powers are only used where necessary and that they are used properly and in accordance with the law.

“Without these powers the council would not be able to provide the same level of reassurance and protection local people demand and deserve.”

South Tyneside Council has 11 building control officers with powers, 14 planning officials, 13 trading standards and licensing officers and 23 environmental health workers.

Newcastle City Council employes 107 officers with powers of entry.

North Tyneside Council told the BBW it has zero officers.

Northumberland County has 541.

Sunderland City Council refused to provide their figures due time and cost restraints.

Emma Carr, director of BBW, said:

“Few people would expect that public officials would have the power to enter your home or business, often without a warrant or police escort. The general public have been left high and dry, at the mercy of an army of pen-pushers who can enter our homes as they please.

“There have been a number of missed opportunities to rectify this, including the Protection of Freedoms Act and the Home Office’s review of the powers, yet both have failed to tackle the number of officials with these powers.”

Source – Shields Gazette,  16 Jan 2015

North East Police and councils have been granted more than 22,000 warrants allowing them to intercept communications, including tapping phones

Police have used controversial anti-terror powers to fight crime across the North.

Thousands of ‘RIPA’ undercover warrants – which grant the power to trawl through telephone records – were used by Durham, Northumbria, North Yorkshire, Cumbria and Cleveland police.

The warrants, issued under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), entitle public bodies to intercept communications in a bid to expose crime and have been used by North East councils and other public bodies as well as the police.

Figures released by the government show 22,154 RIPA warrants were issued to police forces in the North in 2013 – with Durham police leading the way with 6,218 warrants.

Northumbria Police was granted 6,211, North Yorkshire police made 4058 successful applications, Cleveland received 2957 and the Cumbria force was granted 2,710.

RIPA was introduced as a weapon against terrorism and economic crime but its use has been criticised – with some likening it to the encroachment of a police state.

It requires only that the request be approved by a police officer of Superintendent rank or above, giving forces the right to sign off their own warrants without having to go before a judge.

Civil rights group Liberty hit out after the figures were revealed, with legal director James Welch saying RiIPA was “massively overused”.

Councils routinely use RIPA warrants for issues involving rogue traders and underage sale of alcohol and tobacco as well as taxi cab regulation and checking out businesses employing minors.

Police forces use them for more in-depth issues including the investigation of drug and paedophile rings, human trafficking and other forms of serious crimes.

Ripa was used by Cleveland police to snare a drugs gang which was jailed in May for 177 years, collectively.

Detectives were able to seize drugs worth £824,686 and £127,966 cash.

Codenamed Operation Cobweb, it was Cleveland police’s biggest ever drugs bust.

RIPA warrants issued up to March 2013 allowed officers to snare the 22-strong gang, with Middlesbrough’s top judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC praising police for their use of RIPA legislation.

York City Council and Redcar and Cleveland Council led the way for local authorities in the North, using the powers with 80 and 69 warrants granted respectively.

Redcar and Cleveland is host to the anti-fraud organisation Scambusters which the council said contributes to its high numbers.

Newcastle City Council was absent from the list while Northumberland County Council had just three warrants issued.

In August last year in Northumberland, warrants were used to track down through social media accounts an illegal 16-year-old tattoo artist. She was banned and her equipment was seized.

Warrants were also used to bust a phone scam that conned 400 residents across the UK after a Redcar pensioner was tricked into buying unnecessary anti-virus software.

Operation Hognose was launched when the pensioner told council officials he had fallen victim to what is known globally as the ‘Microsoft scam.’

Scammer Mohammed Khalid Jamil, of Luton, Bedfordshire, was handed a suspended jail sentence and £5,000 fine during a March 29 hearing at York Crown Court, after Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council’s trading standards passed the case to the National Trading Standards e-Crime Centre.

The conman was ordered to pay £13,929 costs as well as £5,665 in compensation to 41 victims.

The council said it had not used RIPA warrants to tap phones.

The police forces said they used the powers “only when deemed necessary and in order to detect crime and keep people safe.”

James Welch, Legal Director of Liberty, hit criticised the figures and said the legislation is over used by forces across the UK.

He said:

“The police and other public bodies massively overuse their power to get information from our phone and internet service providers – over half a million times last year.

This overuse is hardly surprising when there’s no requirement for prior authorisation from a judge. You can work out a lot about a person from knowing who they phone or which internet sites they visit. People don’t realise how badly their privacy is compromised by this power.”

Home Secretary Theresa May has ordered a review into claims Ripa is being misused.

Police forces on RIPA powers

All of the police forces we contacted said they used RIPA powers only when necessary.

A spokeswoman for Northumbria police said they would be ‘unlikely’ to discuss their use of the measures.

Our ultimate aim is the safety of the public and this is one of many ways we can gather information to help deal with those people causing most harm in our communities.

“It’s important for the public to have confidence that such methods are appropriate and proportionate.

“The public can be reassured applications for RIPA authority are made only when deemed necessary and in order to detect crime and keep people safe,” she said.

“RIPA authority is not entered into lightly and rigorous processes are in place leading to it being granted.

“They have to be absolutely satisfied that it is necessary to prevent and detect crime and that its level of intrusion is proportionate with the nature of the enquiry being carried out.

“Northumbria Police is inspected each year by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office to ensure correct procedures and processes are being followed.

“The number of authorisations made is comparable with our neighbouring forces and is part of a package of tools available to officers.”

Temporary Superintendent Rob O’Connor, of Cumbria police, said:

Cumbria Constabulary where necessary for the purpose of preventing or detecting crime, or preventing disorder, will use the power given to them by the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (RIPA) to obtain and disclose communications data and conduct surveillance. Police use of RIPA is subject to guidance and strict codes of practice.

“RIPA is a very useful investigative tool in order to prevent crime and disorder. The intelligence and evidence obtained enables us to make the correct decisions in terms of public safety and the prosecution of criminals. It has been used on many occasions to great effect to bring offenders to justice.

“Cumbria Constabulary’s use of RIPA is subject of oversight and regular inspections by the Interception of Communications Commissioner’s Office and the Office of Surveillance Commissioner.”

Chief Superintendent Rob Coulson, of Durham Police, said:

“The powers RIPA provides are massively important to policing in our force area. RIPA is only used when absolutely necessary, how and when we use it is strictly governed.

“RIPA enables us to investigate serious crime and has played a key role in apprehending organised criminals and other serious offenders who have been making life miserable for the residents of County Durham and Darlington. There are many examples of this in the last year alone.

“Whilst Durham is generally a safe place to live we have to accept that these criminals exist and the powers provided through RIPA is a vital tool in the fight against them. We will continue to use the powers RIPA provides to follow, monitor, disrupt and capture offenders such as drug dealers, prolific thieves and sexual predators on a regular basis.

“In doing this can I reassure you that as a force we scrutinise our use of these powers and as with all Forces we are annually inspected by the Office of the Surveillance Commissioners, an independent body.”

A spokeswoman for Cleveland police said the force used RIPA powers to monitor serious organised crime and said the use of RIPA in Operation Cobweb was acknowledged by a judge as an excellent example of usage.

North Yorkshire Police did not comment.

Source –  Sunday Sun,  02 Nov 2014