Grenfell Tower: the scapegoats and the guilty

November 14, 2018

 

The Grenfell tragedy has recently returned to headlines after an appalling video showing a burning model of Grenfell became viral online. Yet what was more sickening than the video was later reports of a gagging clause to stop criticism of our Prime Minister`s involvement in the tragedy. An investigation into the Grenfell disaster overseen by engineering firm WSP was contractually banned from criticising the Prime Minister and generating ‘bad publicity’ for the government. It should be a concern to all of us when this Prime Minister, so incapable of admitting accountability and acknowledging responsibility, quite happily condemns the burning of a cardboard model of Grenfell as ‘utterly unacceptable’, while deliberately restricting any criticism that could come her way.

 

These five men, who were both stupid and insensitive enough to post a video of burning a Grenfell effigy have been arrested under a ‘public order offence.’ This is a questionable justification seeing as this occurred on their private property, and though it became viral on social media, people have the freedom to watch and avoid what they please. Photos of the police investigation show them examining the bins and cardboard rubble as if it genuinely were a crime scene, and not just the site of a moronic bonfire. What they did was worthy of denouncing, but does this justify arrest, and what precedent does this set? If one can be arrested for burning an effigy under the crime of a ‘public order offence’, nothing protects those burning effigies of politicians from arrest.

 

 

 

The five men have now been named and shamed after their arrest. One of these men is only my age, 19, and will now have his entire life branded because of a stupid night of insensitivity. It is hard to empathise with anyone who can find pleasure and amusement in the deaths of 72 people, yet things are always more complicated than they seem. For example, we know nothing of this 19 year old’s motives. The other ‘culprits’ were aged 46, 55 and 49, one of them being his father. It is surely very possible that this teenager was coerced by his father. We do not know this for sure and probably never will, but the ability to demonise and persecute these men which both the police and papers have gladly provided us means that that matters little. Their lives can now be destroyed under the reassuring veil of ‘justice.’ Looking under any comment section of an article on the subject will confirm to you that people feel righteous in their abuse of these men. And the tragic thing is that whilst we are all demonising five men whose only crime was insensitivity, the Tory government responsible for the neglect and apathy which caused this disaster sit cosily in their cabinet positions, happy to denounce these five powerless men who bear no responsibility in the Grenfell tragedy.

 

Theresa May and her predecessor showed complete apathy for the welfare of the residents of Grenfell when local authority budgets were cut by 40% and firefighters reduced by 11,000. The Prime Minister couldn't even muster the motivation to meet the survivors after the disaster, and as we now know ensured the investigation did not find her guilty of any fault. Tory apathy towards this tragedy continued well after the investigation, and as of June 2018 more than 60 households are still living in emergency accommodation after the Grenfell tragedy. Her enthusiasm to denounce these five men suggests her relief in finding a scapegoat and a new target for demonization, a target far from Downing Street. It is no accident that far more people have heard of the burning of the Grenfell effigy than of the gagging clause that prevented the WSP from faulting the government. The five men who burned a Grenfell effigy are fools. But if we target our anger and frustration at these five idiotic men, we will simply be giving a free pass to those truly deserving of our condemnation.

 

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First published in 1965, InQuire is the University of Kent student newspaper.

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