THE BLOG

The US Must Guard Against a Jean Charles de Menezes Disaster After Boston

19/04/2013 12:09 BST | Updated 18/06/2013 10:12 BST

Now that the FBI has published images of two suspects in the bombing of the Boston marathon, many people living in London, UK, will anxiously recall the disastrous actions of the Metropolitan Police in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the London Underground in July 2005.

On 07 July, 2005, fifty-two people died following three suicide bomb attacks on the tube, and one on a London double decker bus. This was four years after the attacks in New York, but the world was still on high alert and in fear of further terror held to be in the name of Islam, by the perpetrators. The hunt for Osama Bin Laden was at its peak, as was George Bush's war on terror. Despite this, the Metropolitan Police Authority expressed an admirably moderate and reasoned approach in its statement on 08 July 2005:

"Reassurance is now a key word. The Authority is working with the Met to ensure that there is no backlash against particular communities. MPA members have been liaising with their link borough commanders to reassure communities whose members may feel vulnerable that we take their concerns seriously and are making every effort to prevent acts of recrimination. Extra patrols are on the beat in some areas and meetings are planned with local groups to spread the message. This is a vital job and we offer our full support."

The sub-text here is that the as London was a very diverse community, with many visible ethnic minorities, including many from Muslim backgrounds, who now found themselves at increased risk from others, as paranoia grew after 07 July. The term 'home-grown terrorists' was increasingly causing British Asians to become the target of suspicion, and abuse. Youth started using the term 'Bin Laden' or 'Osama' as terms of abuse for Asian youths.

On 21 July, there were four further attempted bombings on the London Underground, the devices failed and the would-be killers escaped into the general population. London was a very tense place to be, people became more edgy.

Soon, the images of the suspects, captured on CCTV, were soon all over the news network as the Metropolitan Police launched its largest ever manhunt. They proved woefully inadequate for the task, when on 22 July, officers followed a 27 year old Brazilian man living in London, Jean Charles de Menezes, into the underground at Stockwell station, and in front of terrified passengers, they immobilised him and pumped seven bullets into his head. The man, an electrician, was innocent, and completely unconnected to the offences. His only crime was to be vaguely of Islamic appearance and in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Although the de Menezes family, poor and with limited resources, living in Brazil at the time of the killing, they spent years seeking justice. No criminal charge was brought against any police officer, and an unlawful killing verdict was rejected in favour of an open verdict. The Metropolitan Police, as a corporate body, was fined having been found guilty under Health and Safety legislation.

The US regards the 2001 New York attacks as an act of war, by an international enemy. Obama is to be praised for his moderate rhetoric, and decision to address an Interfaith service for the victims signalling that he will not sanction the condemnation of an individual faith should it be shown that the perpetrators associate themselves with one religion.