I had the privilege of being a speaker at the launch event of the Liberation Movement which has sprung from the Grassroots Black Left (GBL) initiative in conjunction with other groups. I was there primarily because I’m known a little within the black community for my work on policing, but I also wanted to discuss the growing understanding that environmental justice and social justice go hand in hand.
The Liberation Movement has been formed in reaction to the rise in racism nationally, with people of colour being not only marginalised but actively targeted as part of the government’s ‘hostile environment’.
I pointed out that the discussions at COP26 are not just a question of saving the planet, they are also about justice and fairness. For example, in our towns and cities, lower paid, more vulnerable groups are often living in low rent properties on busy main roads, with the worst levels of air pollution. This affects their health and wellbeing. The death of Ella Kissi-Debrah was linked to the excessive pollution on the south circular road which she and her family lived close to. Her mother, Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, has since won a huge fight simply to get recognition of that link on Ella's death certificate. Rosamund fought the government in the courts and stood as a Green Party candidate in order to seek justice.
Many people are forced to become campaigners and to challenge the system because of life circumstances, yet they have for decades become the focus of attention by the Special Branch and the police.
Doreen Lawrence battled for justice after the death of her son Stephen Lawrence. Her campaign was spied upon by undercover police - wasting police time that could have been spent looking for his murderers. Among others spied on by the police were the campaigns over the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian electrician shot repeatedly in the head in 2005 by police after being mistaken for a suicide bomber, and Cherry Groce, whose shooting by police two decades earlier, in 1985, sparked the Brixton riots.
The same police unit that spied on these campaigners for justice was also spying on environmental campaigners and trade unionists. The information from police spies led to people being sacked for kicking up a fuss about health and safety issues, with those workers losing their livelihoods and some having to move abroad to work. And although it didn't hamper my political work, I was labelled a 'domestic extremist' and put on a database with thousands of others who had committed no crime, and my activities logged.
These are dangerous times. We have a rise in stop and search, which inevitably hits the black community harder. We have escalating taser use. The hostile environment led directly to the Windrush scandal and the notorious deportation flights. In order to enforce these racist policies, the authorities attempted to use anti-terrorism legislation against the campaigners who blocked one of the airplanes.
In response to these scandals being exposed we have had even more draconian policies, rather than reform. We've had legislation passed that allows over 500 senior police officers to authorise the deployment of undercover police or spies to target any campaign. Plus those undercover police and informers now have legal immunity. We have the Police and Sentencing Bill coming up that muffles the right to protest. We have the idea of voter ID and voter exclusion being imported from the deep south of the USA. We have corruption cover ups and a loss of democracy.
The need for unity and reaching out has never been greater. We need a united front in favour of democratic rights to deal with a corrupt system, with Proportional Representation as the lead demand. That is the only way we are going to shift this corrupt government out of office.
The consequences of losing that struggle for a fairer, more equal future is that corporate greed destroys the planet and takes us with it.
The Green cause and the Liberation cause are international causes because the solutions all require the world to take action. We know that the poorest people around the world will be hit hardest and hit soonest, whether it is flooding or drought. Just like the people living on the poorest side of town, those living in the most fragile environments globally will suffer most.
That is why environmental justice and social justice go hand in hand if everyone is to have a future worth living.