For I don’t don’t know how long, the police have been educating people how best to use the 999 emergency number. Often their time is wasted attending needless incidents that divert attention from genuine emergencies. Politicians, who are the guardians of how public money is spent, have been at the forefront of this education campaign.
So….take an incident which happened outside Stepney Green Tube station this morning. Labour council leader and Tower Hamlets mayoral hopeful Helal Abbas and a few of his supporters met there for a morning of canvassing. And so too did a few of Lutfur Rahman’s team, including Cllrs Alibor Choudhury and Oli Rahman.
There was an exchange of pleasantries, then harsh words and then some “aggression”. And then a 999 call. And then police arrived.
Here’s Oli Rahman’s account:
Abbas came and shook my hand and also Alibor’s. There was a third person in our group [Oli names him, but for legal reasons, I'll refer to him as X] who also wanted to shake his hand. Abbas didn’t want to and said in Bengali, ‘This is your father’s land you are telling me to go away from.’ In Bengali, this is extremely insulting.
There was a big Bengali guy with Abbas and he started shouting at X. The big Bengali guy then came towards X as if to hit him. He was aggressive. Abbas and another person there [Oli also names him, but for legal reasons I won't] came towards us. They had aggressive facial expressions and body language. The big Bengali guy touched and pushed X. He didn’t fall over. Alibor had to go and restrain him by standing in the middle.
I called the police because I felt intimidated and that if Alibor hadn’t been there, there would’ve been physical violence.
I then asked Oli if he called 999 and he said ‘yes’. I then asked why – given it was broad daylight, it was outside a busy Tube station and in an area covered by CCTV cameras – he just didn’t walk away, as community safety experts advise. He said: “I was genuinely concerned for my safety. Yes, I could have gone to a police station to report it later, but at the time and under the circumstances, I was afraid we were going to get beaten up. I genuinely thought my safety was threatened.”
The Met Police have confirmed the call took place and I am waiting to hear whether there is an ongoing investigation.