Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Veil or victim? Asian woman forced to leave Wapping by street thugs

By on August 8, 2016 in News, Opinion

A Wapping resident has been forced to leave her home because of persistent abuse caused by her wearing Western clothing.

LW will not be revealing the identity of the woman for obvious reasons. However ‘Miss W’ has agreed that we can pass on her contact details to our local councillors and our MP Jim Fitzpatrick.

Here is Miss W’s story in her own words.

“Two weeks ago I tweeted that a gang of local youths were verbally offensive to me in Wapping on two consecutive days.

The boys were probably between 13–15 in age and are Asians.

I feel that I was picked on because I am an Asian woman and was not covered up like the women in their families.

I reported the incidents to the police who have now spoken to me but their view is that these aren’t ‘reportable incidents’ and that I should walk away from any such incidents and not engage with them but to call the police if I feel intimidated.

The incidents left me feeling so sore that I will be moving out of Wapping soon.

These two incidents may seem isolated but I am also uncomfortable about walking from Tower Bridge tube to our flat in Wapping via Wapping High Street.

You will know that gangs congregate outside Hermitage Gardens on a daily basis and are an intimidating bunch after sunset.

Now I have stopped going out for anything that will result in a late return home and don’t wish to curb my life in this way.

I used to live in Wapping in 2004 and 2005 and it was very different then.  This time I have lived here for 20 months.”

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Elaine Bagshaw, Liberal Democrats

We asked Elaine Bagshaw, Parliamentary spokesperson for Poplar and Limehouse Liberal Democrats for her reaction to this incident.

“It’s awful that someone has felt they need to move away because of this. The police’s refusal to act is shocking. No-one should feel intimidated in their home or local area, ” said Elaine.

“The police should be dealing with this as a serious incident and we need to look at what is happening in our youth services, schools and communities for these young men to think that this is acceptable behaviour.”

After our initial email exchange LW asked Miss W some further questions.

Q. Can I ask if you could tell me what the boys specifically said to you?

A. First day, I was walking in the opposite direction to them on the same street on Stockholm Way. They stretched their hands out as they came towards me, intimating that they wanted to touch me. I swerved to avoid them and their hands. It made me angry and I wanted to say something to them but decided to let it go.

On the second day, they shouted profanities at me, demanding that I see their private parts. This was on Vaughan Way / Canal junction. I walked away from them as fast as I could towards Trade Union bar on Thomas More Square.

This time, I felt harassed and angry and called the police. On neither day did I engage with them with any conversation.”

Q: What would stop you moving out of Wapping? Anything?

A: Speed cameras and CCTV cameras on Wapping High Street. Better security on Wapping High Street. More residents and local businesses writing to the local councillors about the ASB issues and taking an interest in what is going on in their local neighbourhood.

Q: Would you consider this to be racial abuse or religious abuse or a mixture of the two?

A: I wouldn’t class it either way. But I would say that this is predominately misogyny but one that is also prompted by a woman of Asian appearance dressed in Western summer clothes.

Q: How were the boys dressed?

A: Jeans, t-shirts and shorts.  The gangs that congregate outside Hermitage Park are always only boys. Since the last incident, I have not seen them around.

LW Comment

That anyone should be forced to leave their home because of bigotry is totally unacceptable.

No if, no buts, no justifications. It is just plain wrong.

That it should happen in the middle of London, a world capital, is almost beyond belief. But it is true.

Miss W should know that the overwhelming majority of people in our community and borough stand with her.

She should not be forced to choose between wearing a hijab or being a victim.

These evil little thugs who think they can abuse a woman in the street because she wears Western dress in E1W need to be identified, tracked down and dealt with by the law.

Then they need to be educated to the fact that in a Western society you can dress how you like.

If an Asian woman chooses to wear Western clothes that is her right.

If an Asian woman chooses to wear a hijab that is also her right.

It’s that democracy thing again

Come to think of it anyone can wear pretty much what they want. It’s something that goes hand in hand with democracy, the freedom to vote without intimidation, free speech and a lot of other things we tend to take for granted.

These children are between 13 and 15 years of age. What sort of education and upbringing have they had which makes them think it is acceptable for them to abuse a woman because of how she dresses?

In the opinion of LW this sort of morally repugnant behaviour is as dangerous a cancer to our society as right wing fascism, left wing extremism or fundamentalist Islam.

It has no place in our society and has to be stopped.

As to the police claiming that what Miss W has suffered are ‘not reportable incidents’ – what is the point of having a police force if they are this useless? What is the point of Miss W calling the police when she is being intimidated in this way when the perpetrators know that nothing will happen to them?

“Lions led by donkeys”

The Metropolitan Police might like to consider the not uncommon view in this borough that there is a significant problem with its Tower Hamlets Division.

Police officers on the ground that LW meets are outstanding professionals. But what of those that lead them from on high? The phrase describing the predicament of soldiers in the trenches during World War One comes to mind, that they were ‘lions led by donkeys’.

Those who spend their time trying to get police action on issues such as electoral fraud are used to a lack of police interest or ability by the Met to tackle this sort of crime.

When the rest of Tower Hamlets realises that they cannot dress as they wish the Met might well have reason to expect a distinct lack of support for their work. And they can only police by consent.

After incidents such as the recent stabbing in Russell Square or the ISIS attacks in France the local police ring round certain community leaders to ask if there has been ‘any rise in community tension’ as a result of the incidents.

The answer is always “No”.

Trouble is that it seems every day in little Wapping E1W there are people who consider themselves immune from the law of the land who have such a warped view of life that they consider they can abuse a woman like Miss W for not dressing how they think she should dress.

This is the sort of everyday behaviour that leads to community tension – not ISIS attacks in France or a lunatic knifeman in central London.

This is not just a problem for the Met to deal with, it also must involve the council and the local mosques. These children are easily identified.

Coppers with the right attitude

Londoners have more armed officers on their streets to prevent terrorism.

How about some coppers armed with nothing more than the right attitude to go and kick some arse and take some names at the point where intolerance starts? Here in E1W.

Residents, neighbours, business owners, police officers and politicians can no longer tolerate this form of abuse or pretend it simply does not happen. If we tolerate it we condone it and we are all guilty.

(Update) Community Safety Plan?

Tower Hamlets residents may be interested in this Consultation for Community Safety Plan by the Tower Hamlets Community Safety Partnership which is “a multi-agency strategic group with a duty to reduce crime, disorder, anti-social behaviour, substance misuse and reoffending.”

Sounds impressive. Apparently of no use whatsoever.

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