The Evening Standard, Thursday 20th January 2012.

There it was, sitting on the front page of the Evening Standard, and I wanted to read it and knew I had to pick one up.  It is a free paper these days, so that was not a problem to me, even with under £20 guaranteed me to live on for the next 7 days.

I noticed several people within a minute doing the same thing, and smiles on faces.  Quiet smiles, but undeniable happiness and joy, nevertheless.  A tangible relaxation and relief.

“Police Stop and Search Slashed”, it said.

I couldn’t understand why everyone was not shouting on the streets with joy.

That is the power of a headline for you.  The keyword was ‘slashed’.  It didn’t say ‘ended’.  It was about an hour later, after making a happy fool of myself and parading my newspaper down the streets and shouting out like an Old Testament prophet (for I felt that was the power of the spirit within me) that we should all be having parties in the street and organising a whole month of street parties to celebrate a victory for civil rights, that I realised we had not all been sprung out of prison after all.

Singing and dancing in the streets.  Expressing and perpetuating the happiness and relief that was obvious in the people around that newspaper stand.

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The whole and actual story is that the aim, at the moment, is to reduce the number of stop and search incidents and make the facility a more effective tool, perhaps concentrating on geographical areas of high crime.  The goal is that the ratio of searches to crimes detected should change, with the former coming down and the latter going up.

It is acknowledged in the article that there are many community leaders who still see stop and search as a valuable policing tool, without which violence and crime might increase.  Interesting, given the evident joy and relaxation on people’s faces.  That was how I saw and perceived it at the time.

We need to celebrate every small move in the right direction in the restoration of civil liberties.  I think organised street parties would not be a bad way to show that we are onside with this move and that we are happy about it.  Happiness does not produce violence, and from what I saw, we are happy.

When weak people resort to violence it is an expression of fear and outrage, in my opinion.  In physical powers for violence and the authority to allow certain officers to get away with abusing those powers, at least temporarily (some of them might hold the opinion that being brought to justice later for those abuses is a price worth paying for the ability to carry them out in the first place), the police are not the weak party.

The article also said something about the fact that the police should be calm and professional in carrying out searches.  This much should be obvious, and it should be obvious that any officer who is not able or willing to meet those standards should either not be working on that day, or should be relieved of their position permanently.  If it doesn’t happen already, I believe that a daily assessment should be made of an officer’s state of mind, maybe family circumstances etc, and their ability to operate those powers responsibly and respectfully with everyone they approach.

We, the people, need to allay the fears of our leaders, insofar as they are real fears, by showing appropriate joy at this development.  As far as the fears are hypocritical in themselves, we need to disarm the people who tout them dishonestly.  We will not resort to violence, we will show our approval and joy at this decision.  Our joy unbridled disarm people using this excuse hypocritically, and in some cases expose them, and that is necessary.

Personally I wonder how far the presentation of this decision as being intended to improve race relations is truthful and accurate.  I know this is not just a race issue.  This is a police and people issue.  All races suffer and have suffered from the employment of this power.

To bring the story back down to my sad, sole self again, as is my habit, twice this week, on two consecutive days, I was an object of unwelcome police attention.

The first time was Tuesday morning at Heathrow airport.  I was there the first day because I had tried to apply for a crisis loan at about 2.30 pm on Monday afternoon.  Without it I could not afford a roof over my head that night.

I had held the line for about 20 minutes waiting for the phone to be answered.  By the time I got through I told the person I thought it might be too late for the application to go through anyway.  She said her systems were down and it wasn’t possible to start an application and to call back in an hour.  I said that, by that time, the offices would have stopped making payments, and she told me that alternative arrangements would be made for paying out, since their systems were down.  I asked her if she knew that and what the arrangements would be, and eventually she withdrew that assurance, saying she had spoken to a supervisor who had told her that it was not possible to make alternative arrangements for paying a crisis loan for that day.

So with the little money that I had I looked on the internet for a cheap dormitory room.  The best I could come up with for the price was a mixed dorm, which I would rather not have if sharing a dorm is a necessity.

After paying the online deposit I realised that the hostel did not accept cards for payment of the balance.  That was a problem for me.  It was 6pm, I did not have any accounts with the minimum of £10 that would make it possible to take money from a cash point.

I checked the money in my pocket and realised I was 65 pence short of what I needed to pay the balance.  So I went to the Co-op nearby, where I knew I could get some bread labelled vegan and that I would enjoy eating, and bought some food with my card, which was the best and most practical thing it was good for at that point.

While I was in there I hatched the idea of asking someone if they would let me pay for one of their items with my card and them give me the cash, if they had been intending to pay by cash, but no one that I asked had been intending to pay by cash, so I gave up asking because I felt embarrassed.

Eventually I wondered into Charing Cross tube and rail station and walked up to a food outlet.  I saw a man getting money out to pay for his purchase, and asked him the same question, explaining my situation.  He just said he would give me the 65 pence, and actually gave me 70 pence.

Even then, I realised I did n’t have enough money for the key deposit, which is usually about £5 or £10 per stay, and I hoped that the proprietors would be sympathetic and understanding and allow me to stay anyway, given that I could pay for the room itself.

However, when I got there one of the first men I encountered was a staff member whp came up to the desk referring to someone being a ‘stupid, dumb cunt’.  When I told him a minute or two later that I had found it disturbing as my first encounter, he said someone had put an empty plate into the microwave and something about a fire or a fire hazard, and passed it off that way.

After he had gone I discussed my situation with the girl on reception, and she asked for ID or some sort of security.  I said they could look after my laptop, if they wanted to.  That was after I had suggested one of my account cards as identification.  She rejected both of those suggestions.

She said I needed government-issued photo identification, like a driving licence or a passport.  I pointed out that I was British and that this had not been necessary anywhere else I had been over the past 4 months, and that I didn’t drive and that I had lost my passport which, as a UK citizen, I am not obliged to possess anyway.  I told her I could pay for the room but not the key.

She said it was the rules that there had to be photo ID.  I didn’t remember seeing that on the listing and also said that they didn’t have the right to impose stricter rules than the law itself imposes on a UK citizen and that I thought they were acting illegally.  She had already told me that I couldn’t stay and checked it with her manager at my request who confirmed that, and I left with nowhere to go and not enough money to book something else.

So I headed for the airport, and I have already written about what was happening there in my last post but one.

(To be continued)

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