A Middlesbrough man is one of 50 behind bars after violence flared at a huge EDL rally.
Kenneth Graham, aged 20, of Ottawa Road, Longlands, Middlesbrough was ordered to spend 26 months behind bars for violent disorder, after the mass protest in Birmingham City Centre on July 20, 2013.
Over the past five weeks, 50 people have appeared at Birmingham Crown Court – and were sentenced for a combined 75 years on Friday.
Most of the violence took part in Birmingham’s Centenary Square, and sparked a massive inquiry from detectives from West Midlands Police criminal investigation department to track down those who brought violence to the streets.
Operations were conducted across the Midlands and further afield to arrest those believed to be involved in the disorder.
Those sentenced came from across England.
Others from the North East include Thomas Milner, 21, of Herbert Street, Darlington, who was jailed for 16 months for violent disorder.
Sentencing for Michael Wilson, aged 20, of Arkley Crescent in Hartlepool was adjourned until 30 January.
Detective Chief Inspector Simon Wallis, who led the nationwide hunt to bring the rioters to justice, said:
“Many lives have been affected by the actions of the rioters on that day. The people who took part in the riots in Birmingham have had their lives turned upside down and so have their families.
“These men now have to spend a period of time in custody away from their families paying the price for their actions. Some family members never even knew their loved ones had been arrested and were facing time in prison.
“These people travelled to Birmingham on July 20 2013 intent on causing violence in the heart of the city. The sentences given of more than 75 years in total sends out a clear message to people intent on causing trouble.”
Around 20 arrests were made in total on the day, with supporters of both factions detained for public order offences.
An appeal on BBC’s Crimewatch in January 2014 led to people identifying themselves to police, while members of the public also contacted officers to give information on the culprits.
Smoke bombs, cobble stones, bottles and coins were hurled at police as the English Defence League and their opponents descended on Birmingham city centre for simultaneous demonstrations.
One policeman suffered concussion during scuffles with protesters while other demonstrators were left bloodied by missiles and clashes with police.
An estimated 2,000 EDL supporters turned up, chanting hate-filled, anti-Islam slogans.
About 300 people – some wearing balaclavas – from Unite Against Fascism and other groups turned out for their counter-demonstration.
More than 1,000 police officers from the West Midlands and other forces had been drafted in to keep the groups apart.
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 12 Jan 2015
Tenants in privately rented accommodation across Darlington are being urged to avoid using loan sharks as part of a new campaign.
The England Illegal Money Lending Team, which works in partnership with Darlington Borough Council trading standards, has launched a month-long campaign highlighting the alternatives to using a loan shark.
The scheme aims to help tenants who may be in debt after struggling to pay deposits or keep up with rent payments.
During the campaign, the team will also be working with landlords to help them provide support and advice to any tenants who have got into financial difficulty with loan sharks before taking on a tenancy.
Toby Harris, chair of the National Trading Standards Board, said: “The process of moving home can be expensive and loan sharks take advantage of this, striking just when people feel under real financial pressure.
“It is crucial that people know that, even if they’re renting privately, there is help available to them if they get into financial difficulty.
“Loan sharks are illegal, predatory and should never be considered as an option.”
Officials warn that loan sharks can initially appear friendly but their behaviour can quickly change, with some resorting to threats, violence and intimidation to enforce their debts.
Councillor Chris McEwan, Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet member for economy and regeneration said: “Illegal money lenders can cause no end of misery and suffering to unsuspecting people who believe these people are there to help them.
“They loan money to make more money and do not seem to care who gets hurt in the process.
“I welcome this campaign and look forward to working with The England Illegal Money Lending Team to tackle this problem in Darlington.”
During the campaign, which begins later this month, a number of events will be held to raise awareness of loan sharks and flyers will be sent out to people living in privately rented accommodation.
Training sessions will also be held for staff who support tenants living in privately rented accommodation.
Anyone who has been a victim of a loan shark or knows of someone who had can contact the England Illegal Money Lending Team in confidence on 0300-555-2222.
Alternatively, email firstname.lastname@example.org or send a private message on facebook.com/stoploansharksproject
Source – Northern Echo, 17 July 2014
Socially, the dual strategies of exalting consumerism and increasing control have been central to the neoliberal project. Consumerism and control can be viewed as opposite sides of the same coin. People are encouraged to aspire to ever greater levels of conspicuous consumption, modelled after the lifestyles of a celebrity elite that is plastered all over the media and broadcast into everyone’s living room. Shopping, which was once a means to an end, has been transformed into the UK’s favourite leisure pursuit. At the same time, however, more and more people are excluded from the workforce (sometimes forever) by the movement of industry to areas of cheaper labour, and many others are stuck in low paid work with no prospect of advancement. Large portions of the population are only able to achieve the widely advertised ‘ideal’ lifestyle through illegal means. A highly unequal, consumer-oriented society entices people to break the law, which was illustrated dramatically by the riots in London and other English cities over the summer of 2011
Neoliberalism requires expanded mechanisms of social control to police the lawlessness and social fragmentation that its policies produce. Levels of imprisonment have been rising in many western countries, reaching staggering proportions in the United States in particular.
In 2011, 0.7% of the US population were in prison, with 2.9% in prison, on probation or parole. Among African Americans, almost 7% of adult men were in prison, and one in three African American men can expect to go to prison during their lifetime. ‘In the US’, comments David Harvey, ‘incarceration became a key state strategy to deal with the problems arising among discarded workers and marginalised populations’. Rates of imprisonment in the United Kingdom have also been rising, almost doubling since the early 1990s.
The dual drive to increase consumption and control the casualties of wealth redistribution is bolstered by modern, individualistic notions of mental wellbeing and mental abnormality. Even before the age of ‘neurobabble,’ ideas like ‘mental illness’ located problems with behaviour and emotions within the individual, usually in a defective brain, but sometimes in subconscious mechanisms or defective cognitive structure.
In this way the complex nature of how people relate to each other and to their environment was dislocated from its social context. In recent years, almost all human activity has been claimed to be explained by neuroscience – from economics to the appreciation of literature. These ideas sit well with neoliberal thinking, with its emphasis on the individual and its distaste for ‘society’.
The concept of mental illness is useful partly because it provides a conveniently elastic justification for control and confinement to complement the criminal justice system. Once someone is labelled as sick and needing treatment, almost anything can be justified. As soon as the bizarre, disturbing and occasionally disruptive behaviour we call mental illness is attributed to a brain disease, its origins and meanings no longer have to be understood. It simply has to be corrected, with drugs or Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) or whatever else it takes. Normal considerations of the autonomy of the individual can be dispensed with. ‘Health’ trumps freedom in mental health law.
Neoliberal policies breed communities that no longer have the resources or the motivation to accommodate difference. As people are increasingly displaced from family and friends, as social support networks collapse and as work becomes casualised, the social integration that helped some people withstand emotional pressures in the past is often no longer available. Psychiatric facilities are in demand to manage the consequences, and the language of mental illness enables this to be done without revealing the social breakdown at its root.
In England, over 50,000 people were forcibly detained in a psychiatric institution during the year leading up to April 2013, which was 4% higher than the figure for 2010-2011 and represents an increase of 14% since April 2007. This is despite strong financial and political incentives to reduce the use of hospital beds.
The idea that mental disturbance is a disease that is easily amenable to treatment has also enabled the extension of control out of the hospital and into the community. In 2008, a ‘Community Treatment Order’ (CTO) was introduced in England and Wales that allows patients to be treated against their will while they are living outside hospital, even if they have no ‘symptoms’ at all. The orders do not require that people have a history of violence or suicidal tendencies. A CTO can be made simply on the basis that, without treatment, the person presents a risk to their own ‘health’.
When they were introduced, it was estimated that approximately 450 CTOs would be applied per year. In fact, over 6000 were made in a year and a half to April 2010. The use of these orders continues to rise, with a 10% increase during the year between April 2012 and April 2013. Community Treatment Orders almost always stipulate that the individual has to receive drug treatment that they do not want and do not like. Potentially, someone can be forced to receive these mind-altering chemicals for the rest of their life, even if they have full capacity to make decisions about their treatment.
As well as helping the prison system to deal with the fallout of neoliberal policies on individual stability and community cohesion, the more mundane medicalisation of unhappiness has also bolstered the neoliberal project. The promotion of the idea that depression is a common medical condition caused by an imbalance of brain chemicals has helped displace responsibility for suffering and distress away from the social and economic arena onto the individual and their brain. The mass prescription of antidepressants reinforces the idea that it is individuals who need fixing, but psychological solutions, such as CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), can also perpetuate this way of thinking.
Some of the reasons so many people are currently identified as depressed likely stem from the same factors that have led to the rising prison population – that we are encouraged to want what we cannot easily get.
Sociologist Zygmunt Bauman talks of how consumerism is driven by producing and maintaining feelings of inadequacy and anxiety. People cannot be allowed to feel satisfied. There must always be a lingering discontent to drive people to consume more, coupled with the fear of becoming a ‘failed consumer’. Yet, for many, work has become increasingly pressurised, insecure and unrewarding and as demands for increased productivity and efficiency increase, more people are excluded from the workforce through sickness, disability or choice
Debt, as well as crime, is used to fill the gap between aspiration and income. But with debt comes stress, anxiety and feelings of vulnerability and loss of control. There are so many opportunities to fail, and ‘success’ is ever more improbable.
The proliferation and expansion of mental disorders creates myriad possibilities for failure. As varying moods, inadequate attention and excessive shyness are pathologised, more and more people are encouraged to believe they need to get themselves ‘fixed.’
Just as cosmetic surgery promotes the impossible ideal of eternal youth, so mental health promotion increasingly suggests there is a perfect state of mental health to which we all need to aspire, and which we need to work on ourselves to achieve. People are encouraged to exist in a perpetual state of frustration and disappointment with themselves, looking ever inward so they do not think to challenge the nature of the society they inhabit.
Ideas about the nature of mental health and mental abnormality are intrinsically linked to the social and economic conditions in which they emerge. Neoliberalism and its ‘no such thing as society’ champions have helped to produce a biological monster that subsumes all areas of human activity within a neuroscience paradigm and, by doing so, banishes the philosophical tradition that acknowledges human experience as irreducibly social. We can only begin to challenge this impoverished view of humanity when we understand its political functions and the ends it serves.
The psychological is political!
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Content warning: metaphorical depiction of bodily violence
Austerity is a horrible yet captivating story. As a narrative it’s cohesive, has strong emotional images and an active message – elements which clearly resonate with the public and lend legitimacy to government cuts.
The left’s response, for all its logical and ethical weight, remains fragmentary, dry and largely reactive. We are, in the words of Mark Fisher, merely firefighting the effects of government cuts, always left on the back foot. To create a stronger alternative, we need to build a vibrant, cohesive narrative to carry those logical and ethical arguments.
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