By Loreen McKellar Caribbean Voice
The future of London's Notting Hill
Carnival, Europe's largest carnival, is in doubt after two men
were murdered and 19 stabbing incidents were reported to the
Greg Watson 21 of Northolt, West London died from a single stab
wound after challenging a youth who had approached his 14 year
old female cousin. Abdul Bhatti, a 28 year old salesman from
Hounslow, West London died from head injuries after being attacked
by a gang who had robbed his friends. This latter incident is
being treated by police as a racially-motivated crime. Police
officers had filmed a group of 50 youths rampaging through the
carnival before Bhattia was killed. The gang were involved in
"steaming", a form of robbery which involves large numbers of
The Notting Hill Carnival Trust has offered its sympathy to
all the victims of violence at this year's event and said it
would work closely with the police to ensure that the perpetrators
of the violence were brought to justice.
"The Carnival has always embodied peace and harmony and will
not tolerate violence in any form or for any reason," a statement
A Scotland Yard spokesman said a witness had described how the
gang of mainly black males began targeting Asian stall holders
with missiles before battering and kicking Mr Bhatti.
The popular two-day festival held over the August public holiday
weekend attracted a crowd of 1.5 million people from all over
the world. However, television footage of two youths openingly
brandishing knives in a crowded area of the festival shown on
national television added weight to fears that the two day event
had grown too large for the Metropolitan Police to monitor effectively.
Official statistics recorded an 84 per cent increase in arrests
mainly for possession of drugs, thefts and assaults. There were
276 other recorded crimes at the annual event, However, the
London Metropolitan Police were accused of "massaging" crime
figures for "political reasons".
Glen Smyth, Chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation told
the BBC "...the level of reported crime is far below that which
really happens...There is a significant criminal minority who
exploit the Carnival in full knowledge that the police will
Ian Johnston, Assistant Commissioner, Metropolitan Police, criticised
police tactics at the Carnival which meant officers were encouraged
to ignore non violent crimes. Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home
Secretary called for a review of police handling of the event.
She said there was a difference between "ignoring petty crimes
such as dropping litter and serious crimes such as drug offences
After meeting with The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, The
Metropolitan Police have agreed to produce a report on the policing
of this year's carnival.
Mr Livingstone conceded that there were serious issues to resolve
if the annual event was to continue. "...the real problems caused
by a tiny criminal majority and, even more importantly, issues
of public safety must be addressed."
Among the new safety proposals expected to be on the agenda
are an earlier finishing time to reduce after-dark crime, new
policing strategies and moving the event from west London's
narrow streets to a more open location.
Mr Livingstone, writing in The Independent newspaper, praised
the annual festival of Caribbean culture as a testament to London's
cultural diversity but said it must not risk becoming a victim
of its own success.
"It is that ever-growing popularity which now poses issues of
public safety which all of us want to see sensibly resolved,"
Despite a downpour at midday just as the colourful parade of
floats, flamboyantly dressed dancers and Caribbean steel bands
was about to start, the streets of west London were packed with
The event, which featured more than 75 costume bands and two
live stages, has its roots in a 1964 street procession aimed
at bringing together an Afro-Caribbean community blighted by
racism and prejudice.