Thursday, 23 July 2009

No plaque

The BBC is in full investigative journalism mode, and no-one is going to stop them getting to the truth.

Menezes family call for memorial

It is the fourth anniversary of the electrician's death

Relatives of Jean Charles de Menezes have called for a permanent memorial to be placed outside the south London Tube station where he was killed by police.

An image of the planned mosaic was unveiled at Stockwell station, where he was shot on 22 July 2005 after being mistaken for a suicide bomber.

Here are the monumental cock-up details of how armed police came to shoot down a perfectly innocent illegal resident of London. Clearly the police operation that day was woefully disorganized and a disgrace to the many brave officers who serve or have served in the Met. The contradictory and dishonest–seeming testimony of some officers and witnesses does no-one any credit, and an open verdict means it’s well dodgy, but we haven’t got nearly enough to convict someone. But as we still have the rule of law – approximately – here in the UK, the officers concerned are at least at liberty and still employed. Nobody even tortured them for a confession, which is kind of nice, and I’m sure all those Muslim non-terrorists released ‘without charge’ and therefore held to be ‘innocent victims of Islamaphobia’ are grateful to a system that doesn’t allow them to be tortured either. I wonder how rigorously the police of Brasilia or Rio de Janeiro would have been investigated after any shooting they were responsible for?

You’d need a heart of stone not to sympathise with the bereaved of any death. It’s only natural to mourn your dead and there isn’t, or shouldn’t be, anything political about that.

Political, of course, it will turn out to be.

Unveiling the picture, the 27-year-old Brazilian's cousin Vivian Figueirdo said it would be a "fitting tribute".

I’d have thought a monument in a family plot or favoured local public cemetery back in Brazil would be better, but this isn’t about loss alone – it’s about living history. You know about living history, don’t you? It’s the kind of history that gets people killed.

Tribute is a weasel word or worse these days. Once it meant the protection payments that a conqueror extorted in lieu of rape and pillage, or bribes which a still intact buy city which was unwilling to fight on offered to a would-be destroyers in order to survive unharmed. Later on, we’ll see how apt tribute is. Today of course, via show business, tribute means praise; valedictory or otherwise for a person’s character, virtues, and achievements and I suppose that managing to make a living off the books even in Gordon Brown’s housing-bubble Britain and avoiding the notice of the tax man and the National Insurance people an achievement. I can’t help thinking that a compulsory and universal system of electronic identity cards containing biometric data and issued to citizens and visitors might have enabled the police to eliminate de Menezes from their enquiries - had the poor lad registered with them or some central register for Council Tax, Income Tax and immigration status purposes, say - or at least they might have been able to move him to a place of safety if they had ever decided to move in on the house and its supposedly terrorist occupants. A good place of safety might have been Brazil.

Transport for London says it is talking to relatives to find a suitable site.

Ten out of ten for sensitivity from TFL there, though quite why they have taken it upon themselves to uphold the idea of Menezes being a martyr and to dedicate public funds to the innocent victim of a fouled-up police operation I don’t know. I’d not be inclined to site it anywhere near the scenes of the actual bombings of 7/7 that started the whole tragic process off, though. That would feel wrong.

Does anybody out there feel that it wouldn’t be wrong to compare those 52 commuters who were murdered and the many wounded in premeditated acts of deliberate and well-planned political violence with the inadvertent killing of someone the police thought might very likely be a terrorist travelling to do something similar a few days later?

There is already a temporary memorial outside the station which features a picture of the electrician, as well as candles, flowers and tributes.

The electrician who died under the guns of lawfully-empowered officers on the very next day after the second suicide bombing plot in a fortnight and who shouldn’t even have been in the country is still dead, and no doubt is bitterly missed by his family - but what did he actually achieve?

He wasn’t the first victim in a series of remorseless police executions as they flailed around to find someone to kill and therefore he did not became a symbol and inspiration of a great movement that reformed the evil, blood-thirsty police because no such shooting spree occurred. Nor was he the first to stand up in a time of tension and made a stand against…something or other.

He was just an unlucky man in the wrong place in the wrong country at the wrong time and he paid beyond his comparatively small misdemeanours’ worth for being there. Had his death led, say, to a national convention that encouraged the easy identification of illegal UK residents that enabled armed police not to mistake them for terrorists, then some kind of public monument might indeed be appropriate. However much it’s tragic for him and his relatives; Rosa Parks or the Suffragettes he was not.

Ms Figueirdo wants a handmade mosaic, by local artist Mary Edwards, to replace the improvised shrine.

Ms Figueirdo, who lived with Mr de Menezes, said: "The shrine has been here for four years as well but we think there should be something permanent because it has to be cared for."

Relatives have appealed to people to register their support for a permanent memorial through an online petition, Never Forget.

Never forget what? That bureaucracies and their employees can make terrible mistakes? That in so doing they can ruin lives; especially when they are under massive time pressure and under the constant threat of more innocent deaths? We know that already. And what about the slow tragedies: the ones that take years and decades to ruin or destroy lives; the ones that aren’t made under any kind of time pressure but which create needless harm and which are achieved by inter-generational stupidity and willful ignorance, well we already have daily and weekly memorials to them. They have names like Grange Hill and Yesterday in Parliament.

Two more of Mr de Menezes' cousins, Patricia da Silva Armani and Alex Pereira, were also present to mark the fourth anniversary of his death.

Family campaign member Asad Rehman (and your typical man on the Clapham Omnibus – at least if it hasn’t recently been blown into bloody shards of metal mixed with agonized flesh, obviously, and well done to the jolly old Beeb for getting his number!) said supporters were hoping to meet London mayor Boris Johnson.

It's a memorial not only to the memory of Jean but a testament to the struggle of an ordinary family in London

Now the BBC’s playing hardball.

After four years the BBC still hasn’t discovered that he shouldn’t have been in Britain - let alone under fire from the Met - but hey, what kind of background research and fact-checking can you expect for a measly £3,000,000,000 per year? And if you want to see what snow-blindness is like without all that frostbite and howling timber wolves nonsense, try looking at a Google search page which contains the terms Menezes family+condemn+terrorism.

So what was this ‘ordinary family’ doing in London?

On 16 August 2005, the Jean Charles de Menezes Family Campaign, also known as "Justice4Jean", began calling for a public inquiry into the shooting. In 2005, the Justice4Jean campaign stated its aims as being to:

* find out the truth about Jean’s unlawful killing

Love that first line. Anyone else think maybe there’s just a tad or pre-judgment there?


* bring those responsible for his death to justice

Oddly, they never even mentioned Islamist terrorists as far as I know, except to say that Jean Charles wasn’t one of them.

* end the ‘Shoot to Kill’ policy and so prevent a similar tragedy happening again

Because it’s just not cricket (or at least it’s just not supernaturally talented football) to prevent some guy named Mo from at least trying to reach for The Button, now is it? I mean, where’s the warmth and cheerful spirit of carnival that should be in even a cold Germanic country like Britain that insists on ending the fun before it’s even started? I guess we’ve got to let our hair down once in a while so shoot to kill has to go from the start. I can see their logic.

I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?

A fourth objective, "to campaign against the rising tide of racism and the attack on civil liberties in the UK", was removed from the site in a subsequent site redesign, but was present at the site's inception and in early press releases.

How ordinary can you get? Every immigrant’s family seeking justice and collecting his body will go straight for the big meta-ethical questions straight away. They’ll not be too obsessed with the tiny details alone, but straight off the plane they’re just going to want to change what they suppose to be a foreign country’s politics and defence arrangements.

(Actually, history is full of occasions when immigrants arrived intending to change a foreign country’s politics and defence arrangements. They’re called ‘invaders.’ If they promise not to hurt the defenceless locals too much their payment is called tribute.)

But the police hadn’t been cruelly gunning down dark-coloured people in herds before this tragedy occurred and they didn’t go on to do any more of it afterwards. It was a one-off screwed-up-from-the-beginning mess.

So sorry, no permanent memorial to this sad mess if it intimidates and demoralizes armed police from doing their duty.

This country - (and I declare and interest here because this is where people are planning to kill my wife and daughter if they can) - this country needs police who are prepared and confident enough to go down in the tube station at midday and shoot to kill to save a larger number of innocent lives.

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