by Sacha Ismail
Toni Comer, the 19 year old woman whose beating by Sheffield police was captured on CCTV, says she remembers nothing about the night of the incident. But the cameras show her being hit, held down by four people, hit five more times and then pinned down with a foot on her body. Other officers arrived, with a police dog, and then she was dragged to their van with her trousers around her ankles.
Comer admits that she had been drinking and became aggressive in a club, whose cameras recorded what happened, and that she was vandalising a car when the police encountered her. But how can anyone not intoxicated with the vile “law-and-order” authoritarianism that Blairism has promoted think that those were the real crimes committed that night?
What happened to Comer is just another example of the violent, out-of-control brutality of Britain’s police. PC Anthony Mulhall’s claim that he acted only in self-defence and after “extreme provocation” is factually ludicrous. Comer is five foot six and weighs nine stone. In any case, we have absolutely no reason to trust the police when it comes to matters like this.
Why should members of the force used to smash the miners’ strike, which regularly defends fascist demonstrations, whose colleagues didn’t hesitate to gun down Jean Charles de Menezes and then try to fabricate the evidence, hesitate to smack a young working-class woman about a few times?
No doubt Mulhall was further encouraged by that Comer is black (in fact, mixed race). She and her family have in fact, perfectly understandably, tried to play down this element, with Comer commenting “I don’t think this was a racial attack. I think it is just a case of the police going over the top.” But as has been made clear again and again, when the police “go over the top”, black people are their favoured targets. Although black men are the primary victims of a racist criminal justice system, black women lose out too — 26% of the female prison population is black, against less than 4% of the female population.
What happened to Toni Comer is further evidence, on a small scale, of the dangers posed by the growing power and brutality of the state under New Labour. Socialists must argue for the labour movement to do everything it can to curb and weaken the ability of the police to carry out such acts of brutality.