Yesterday, vandals left a trail of destruction at a memorial centre built to commemorate the life of Stephen Lawrence, a young black man who was murdered by vicious racists. Damage to the tune of £120,000 was caused to the centre. In particular, eight windows by the artist Chris Ofili were smashed.
Scotland Yard’s hate crime unit began to investigate the offence. Ken Livingstone described the attack as an “outrageous act of racism”.
It was certainly plausible that any attack on the Centre could have been racially motivated. Both Stephen Lawrence’s grave, and a memorial plaque have previously been vandalised. As Karin Woodley, the chief executive of the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust put it:
“They are treating it as a racially-motivated incident because first of all we have had a number of racist attacks, secondly it is exactly a week since we officially opened the building and thirdly it is the anniversary of the result of the inquest into Stephen Lawrence’s murder.”
An act of vandalism may well be racially motivated, in theory, even if racist messages are not scrawled over the vandalised property. However, apart from the choice of target, none of the factors cited spoke unequivocally of a racially motivated attack.
It now appears that the designation of the attack as racially motivated may have been premature
The Times has reported that the police are looking for three suspects in connection with the vandalism. Two are white. One is black.
What I find quite perplexing is the determination of the police to continue regarding this as a racial hate-crime despite the CCTV evidence before their eyes. According to The Times:
“Officers, who have studied CCTV footage, said three suspects were seen approaching the £10 million building from a footbridge over the Dockland’s Light Railway before fleeing the scene after the attack. Two of the suspects are described as white… The third is described as a light-skinned black man…
Police said the damage was continuing to be treated as racially motivated in part because there were so many incidents during the construction of the building, which was built in honour of Mr Lawrence.”
Can anyone explain this apparent insanity? If there is CCTV evidence that one of the vandals was black, and there were no other indicators of a racial motive, what is the point of clinging to this regardless?