For anybody who may be unaware, the famous Notting Hill Carnival in London has taken place annually, every August, since 1966, and is intended as a celebration of the Caribbean community in the city. As is evident from its name, the celebrations are held in the Notting Hill area of the London Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. The celebrations attract over two million people every year and has been recorded as one of the largest street festivals in the world. Supporters of the Carnival enjoy the celebrations for its outwardly colourful and vibrant atmosphere, lively music and very socially liberal atmosphere, where the majority of attendees – who are young people between their late teens and early 30s – often turn up also for the opportunity to drink, take recreational drugs and meet potential sexual partners. However, critics of the Carnival – of which there are many – have pointed out that the popularity of the festivities have little to do with actually celebrating Caribbean cultures, but rather have more to do with the aforementioned opportunities – drink, drugs and sex. As expected, such a combination also inevitably leads to an excess of crime, which is one of the main things that the Carnival is (in)famous for. Notting Hill Carnival 2023 was no different. If anything, it was the worst year for the Carnival in terms of crime rate.
While I myself have never attended a single Notting Hill Carnival in my life, I have known many people who have, and they have often told me the same old stories after every single celebration – armies of police officers all along the roads, massive crowds of people getting progressively unruly and violent as the day wears on, and the inevitable sounds of police sirens and screaming as yet more people get stabbed or hacked at by members of local street gangs wielding knives and machetes.
308 arrests were made following the end of the Carnival – 71 for possession of weapons, 57 for the assault of police officers and the other 180 for crimes ranging from sexual assault to various other forms of violence. Eight people were stabbed, one was slashed and another is still in critical condition in hospital.
The violence at this year’s Carnival was so high, photos of attendees and local gang members brandishing knives and machetes, slashing at each other and chasing each other down in the middle of the streets, surrounded by shocked and terrified onlookers, subsequently became the most prominent public images of the Carnival this year. The stark reality is that this is the case with Carnival every single year. Very rarely does a Notting Hill Carnival go by without some form of violent crime taking place at the celebrations.
As many other commentators have stated, if such high levels of violent crime were reported at any other public event, the news would make headlines and there would be frequent reports surrounding the levels of violence and other forms of crime plaguing such an event. However, with Notting Hill Carnival, while these crimes are indeed noticed and taken into consideration by the general public, it is rare that many major news outlets will cover such high levels of crime at the Carnival, due to the nature of the celebration itself – a celebration of Caribbean cultures.
As is always the case with the British Police of today, the maintaining of so-called race relations will always be more important than actually tackling the root of these crimes, which are the individuals and groups from such communities who contribute to some of the highest levels of crime seen in London over the past decade. The same is the case with the British media – “good” race relations first, actually addressing the root causes of crime second.
Conservative Party Member of the London Assembly, Susan Hall, stated the following during a session of the Police & Crime Committee:
Problems with crime within the black community is something I have brought up constantly because we need to assist those communities. The problem is [that] the minute we do, we are accused of being racist, or as near as damn being racist.
Ironically, Hall was subsequently accused of being racist with these comments by members of the centre-left Labour Party, who demanded that she revokes her words and apologises for her statement. It is also quite telling that the Labour Party members who criticised Hall for her comments were also totally silent regarding the high levels of crime and violence which took place at the Notting Hill Carnival this year and every other previous year that it had taken place. Once again, so-called “good” race relations seem to be more important than actually addressing the root causes of violent crime at the Carnival.
Police officers who were deployed at the Carnival this year reported countless cases of violence directed at them personally. Due to the high levels of violence directed at police officers, many members of the Police Force feel genuinely fearful of having to be deployed to attend the Carnival, knowing the very high risks involved. It should be pointed out as well that Notting Hill Carnival is the single most expensive one-day policing operation in the UK, costing almost £10 million per year.
According to former British Army officer Ben Obese-Jecty, writing for The Telegraph newspaper:
Yes, the Carnival is a celebration of Caribbean culture, but that isn’t what is being criticised. Criticism of an event that is marred by serious violence every single year isn’t a contentious point. Suggesting that eight people being stabbed in one small area on a single day is unacceptable isn’t racist.
According to many Labour Party MPs, left-wingers and liberals, apparently, it is quite racist indeed.
ETN Board Member (Serbia)
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