Barnet Post

Barnet Post

Vandalism after Euro finals see community mobilise against racism

Barnet Stand Up to Racism stage protest in solidarity with Community café Allotments N11 who demand council take action against hate.

Hero for Vandalism after Euro finals see community mobilise against racism
After Barnet Stand Up to Racism’s One Love Walk the group came together at the café.
By Bella Saltiel 10 August 2021

A community café in Friern Barnet was vandalised with racist graffiti following the recent Euro 2020 finals. Now, Barnet residents are saying enough hate and taking a stand against racism.

After England’s loss to Italy on penalties “people of colour immediately knew what was coming” a spokesperson for Barnet Stand Up to Racism said. Sure enough, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka faced racial abuse on social media from England fans after missing penalty shots.

However, the abuse was not only directed at the players. Allotmentz N11 is a community café that has created jobs for 25 disadvantaged local young people, providing them with skills and further training. The café began as a foodbank, feeding some 20,000 people a month at the start of the pandemic. It is now a place for the community to come together, enjoy Caribbean food and encourage young people to thrive.

After the finals, the café manager says he arrived to work, slightly tired from the night before, to find graffiti “not even worth repeating the slurs they used” sprawled across posters promoting the film Summer Of Soul.

When café owner Nigeal Andall saw the graffiti he was furious calling it a “disgrace”. He was also disappointed that their efforts to change lives in their community would be disrespected. Hate, he emphasised, is the antithesis to Allotmentz ethos, ‘one love, one community’. Nigeal and his business partner Wandile Moyo emphasise the work they have done to support people from all backgrounds.

In the last few years, racist incidents have been on the rise. Met Police data of Barnet reveals a spike in recordings of racist and religious hate crimes. May 2021 saw the highest number of reported hate crimes in Barnet – 137 – since publicly available Met Police records began in 2010. Hate crimes in the borough have been increasing year-on-year, with a rise of nearly 10% in the last twelve months, during which period only six other London boroughs recorded more than Barnet’s 866 offences.

Barnet residents feel more needs to be done to raise awareness of racism. On 18th July, Barnet Stand Up to Racism staged a protest walk which expressed solidarity with the English footballers and the café. After taking the knee on the green outside the Spires shopping centre they walked four miles to Friern Barnet holding signs reading ‘show racism the red card’.

Local resident Catherine Loveday attended the protests.

She recalls: “a positive and lively procession with walkers handing out flowers to those they passed, and chanting the Allotmentz N11 slogan, “One Love, One People, One Community!” The lively sounds of drums, tambourines, maracas, whistles and bells drew onlookers out of shops and houses to cheer, and many passing cars beeped their horns in support.”

A spokesperson for Barnet Stand Up To Racism said: “We hope that our day of action will remind the local community that racism is not just something that happens somewhere else.” 

Moving forward, Nigeal and Wandile are mobilising their community into action. Awareness of racism should be raised and they are also demanding the local authority takes action. They noted an acute silence from the council in the wake of this incident making them feel sidelined.

In response, A Barnet Council spokesperson said:

“The council strongly condemned the racism following the Euros final, issuing a public statement from Leader of the Council to show solidarity with and support for people in our community affected by the abuse. The council also reiterated its commitment to work with the Metropolitan Police to investigate and hold to account those responsible for the vile and cowardly incidents of racial abuse targeting some members of our communities.

“The targeting of Allotmentz was an appalling criminal case of racial abuse, and we will, where possible, assist the police to catch those responsible so they feel the full force of the law.

"The council takes a clear anti-racist stance, advancing equality, tackling discrimination and ensuring diversity and inclusion are integral to everything the council does.

"Allotmentz is a fantastic social enterprise and community project and the council will continue to work with the team to promote harmony and diversity and face down those who try to divide our communities.”

Nigeal said Barnet Council should base the Equalities, Diversity and Inclusion policy on the lived experiences of BME people.

Nigeal said: “racism is a social issue, which is a symptom of a broken a community, we could combat that by taking these steps from our own experiences as black minorities...and that has to be combined with our white allies and everybody coming together.”

“Together, we aspire, together we achieve.”

Nigeal and Wandile have a “clear and concise agenda” hoping to gather 7000 signatures for a petition to ask the council to “go and do something proactive around our communities that is community lead.” They also want the council to create an “emergency discretionary fund” for “one year of planned activities around local community spaces where we could promote diversity and promote awareness around hate crime”.

Looking even further they hope to ask local MPs to support the creation of a hate crime offenders list where “anybody who is a persistent offender” has to make themselves known before an event they hope to attend. By giving more power to authorities to monitor those responsible for hate crimes, they hope that the perpetrators will no longer think they can act with impunity.

As local people mobilise they send a clear message that there is no tolerance for hate. Now, they say, it is up to the local authority to put their demands into action.