On 9th of January, Mohamud Mohammed Hassan was murdered by the South Wales Police in Cardiff. Communities across the city soon rallied to oppose this blatant, horrible act of racism, with a fundraiser for Mohamud’s family reaching its goal of £30,000 within two days, and the hashtag ‘#Justice4Mohamud’ quickly spreading like wildfire throughout social media. The most overt response was, however, a series of large protests outside the Cardiff Bay police station from the 12th until the 16th of January. The response of the police and the media to both Mohamud’s death and to the protests provide a damning exposure of the role of both of these institutions in, and their allegiance to, a racist, colonialist system.
The police, as expected, explicitly denied any role in Mohamud’s death, even going so far as to lie and state that there was no evidence that Mohamud being physically injured in any manner; this lie was later exposed by a later report from an independent investigation. The media assisted the police in this lie, and continues to downplay the severity of this event, by refusing to state that Mohamud was murdered by the police, instead stating only that he ‘died after being held in police custody’ in a poorly veiled attempt to distance the police from Mohamud’s death; some may attempt to justify this phrasing as no more than an attempt to maintain neutrality, but, in situations of evident and extreme oppression like this, neutrality can be nothing more but allegiance to the oppressors.
The protests were large, vocal and unrelenting in their criticisms of not only South Wales police, but of policing as an institution. They, acting in accordance with the wishes of Mohamud’s family, remained entirely non-violent, yet, due to the challenge that they posed to the police, they were treated in a disproportionate and aggressive manner, with around 250 police officers being present at the protest on the 16th; this number of officers is completely unprecedented in recent history, and I have personally seen far, far larger demonstrations of thousands of people in Cardiff being policed by no more than a dozen officers. The police deliberately targeted black people, walking past white protesters, in order to threaten them with fines for breaching the restrictions on mass gatherings that have been placed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic; this threatening behaviour continued outside of the protest, with protesters being intimidated, followed and fined as they walked home, and one organiser, Bianca Ali, had her home invaded by two van-loads of police officers in riot gear in an obvious act of state repression and authoritarianism. Bianca received a fine of £500, which was later doubled to £1000, but, thankfully, community solidarity resulted in this money being raised within a few days. The surveillance of protesters was also obvious, with police liaison officers attempting, with a false, friendly guise, to gather information about the protests, and with cameras being constantly used to record the protests. Even beyond this frankly horrifying repression, the behaviour of the police at the protest was atrocious and disrespectful; officers were recorded laughing at and mocking the protesters, and one officer even jokingly confessed to murdering Mohamud.
The media did nothing to expose or report on the police’s atrocities and did everything in their power to portray the protests as violent riots, playing on the racist stereotype of black people as aggressive thugs or criminals in an attempt to delegitimise the protests; Wales Online used a deliberately provocative picture to misrepresent the protests, and the headline from the Daily Express read “Furious protests erupt in Cardiff as angry crowds hurl smoke bombs at police”. The use of smoke bombs was a brief, harmless event which posed no threat to anyone, and, whilst it is undeniable that many of the protesters were angry (and rightfully so!), ‘furious’ is hardly a suitable word to apply to a controlled, relatively peaceful event. In fact, the majority of the major media outlets reported on the use of smoke-bombs, whilst very few of them reported on the speeches, arguments and demands of the protests.
These disgusting behaviours displayed by both the police and the media are a direct result of their vested interest in preserving racism. The police in the UK was formed in order to maintain oppressive class relations by attacking organising working-class people and violently enforcing private property relations, and they were soon modelled after their Amerikan counterparts, who were the direct institutional descendants of slave patrols; as a result, the police is fundamentally racist and classist, and will always serve to intimidate, attack and oppress those marginalised in society in order to coerce their subservience to the unjust system that exploits them every day for the benefit of the rich and powerful. Major media outlets in a capitalist system are necessarily owned by rich and powerful people, the same people who benefit from this exploitative system and, therefore, have a vested interest in combatting the anti-racist efforts that would necessarily challenge this system. Any honest reporting of the protests would undermine the ideology that upholds the current neoliberal system and would expose many people to its horrors, so instead dishonest reporting is used to undermine support for the protests and, by extension, the struggle against racism; despite the best efforts by some to keep the protest’s respectable, there simply never was a chance of the corporate media reporting positively on the protests.
Mohamud was only 24 years old, he had a family and his whole life ahead of him. That was robbed from him by a racist institution that has been operating for centuries, claiming thousands upon thousands of innocent lives. His death was, and remains, a tragedy, and we must do everything in our power to ensure that Mohamud is the last person killed through the brutality of the police. As these events have proven, this can only be achieved through the abolition of the police, who are irredeemably racist and beyond any hope of ‘reform’. As these events have also proven, we cannot expect any help in this struggle from corporate media, which has a vested interest in ensuring the continued existence of systemic racism. However, these events have proven that we can expect help from our communities, those who we struggle and fight alongside on a day-to-day basis. Together, we can fight for, and we can win, a better world!
If you can afford to, please do consider donating money to Mohamud’s family.
This text was first published by Organise! Magazine.