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A very 'public execution'

The eleventh-hour arrival of former England footballer Paul Gascoigne at the scene of the manhunt in Rothbury over the weekend certainly was bizarre. But unfortunately Gazza’s efforts at mediating a non-fatal outcome were unsuccessful. Like Raoul Moat’s brother and uncle, the footballer was turned away by the police.

Many who have followed the lurid coverage no doubt believe that a brutal man who killed his ex-girlfriend’s partner got his just deserts when he died on Sunday morning in what his brother likened to a “public execution”. But there are those who feel otherwise.

As Moat managed to outwit police for a week, Facebook sites supported by thousands of people sprang up in his support. Flowers have been left and a shrine set up outside his home by those who feel they were on his side against a police force which has a tense relationship with many Northumbrians.

One person wrote: “How many people cussing him on here would be able to keep thousands of armed police at bay for 8 days???? I think all of them would meekly and passively surrender. That's why he's an inspiration ... The French resistance would have loved him in 1940, they might not have surrendered so quick if they had more of him ..."

The £4 million operation, the biggest and most expensive in recent British history, included snipers armed with a variety of assault rifles, pistols, carbines and sniper rifles plus 50,000-volt electric Taser stun guns and an RAF Tornado aircraft with heat imaging. But despite vast resources, advanced technologies and huge firepower, the entire handling of the situation leaves many questions unanswered.

Northumbria police did not act on warnings from Durham prison that he intended to harm his former partner. Neither were at least eight sightings and incidents acted upon swiftly. But the most shocking aspects of the case were raised by Moat’s close relatives.

His brother Angus said he felt the round-the-clock media coverage seemed like “they’re working up to what could be a public execution in modern Britain of my little brother … I think I’m probably the only person who’s ever watched his brother die on national television in the UK, which is obviously horrific.”

Angus Moat had told police he was “willing to walk into the cordon with no flak jacket and try to talk to Raoul to calm him down”, but that his offer, like that of his uncle Charles Alexander, was rejected out of hand. He said: “If the police are so keen to get this defused and they want to talk him down and negotiate and his family are figuring so prominently in what he is saying, then why didn't they go for that option?” Good question.

They and others have raised the possibility that the two Taser shots fired by the police (who initially only admitted to one shot), could well have caused Moat to pull the trigger on the shotgun he had pointed at himself. Northumbrian police certainly love their Tasers. In the five years to April 2009 they used them more times against a population of 1.7 million than the Metropolitan Police did in area covering 7.4 million people.

Behind the ugly scenes in Rothbury are deep social tensions and massive deprivation. Northumbria has never recovered from the job losses and devastation of communities caused by the pit closures during the late 1980s and 1990s. Shocking as it may seem, elevating a man who has gone out of control to the status of a hero can be read as an attempt by those who feel abandoned by society to give themselves an identity and a status.

Corinna Lotz
A World to Win secretary
12 July 2010

Jonathan says:

I think the issue is sympathy, not agreement, and certainly not condoning his action is appropriate. It seemed clear from this at the beginning, as I read in the Manifesto, and agree with, some police are too close to the criminal fraternity. In fact they are sometimes policing for this fraternity; another reason for people hating the Police. On the level Moat seemed to be at the banks were not, or the building Society was not, or whoever, party to any agreement. Obviously his world collapsed.

The capitalist system, of which a lot of crime is a part, creates these tensions, and offers no way out from those in these social position. This 'redistribution' of the total product and the different areas what is called crime (let us not forget the 'small' matter of preparing for and waging an illegal war: so not to be too glib with the use of the concept crime) from the Kray's, too close to the Political establishment and other the other forms. There is little difference, and there never was, between the 'entrepreneur' and the petty, or big, criminal. But this battle at the top involves informers and even agents; a strange and murky world. And if this is a world to which Moat belonged then the 'handlers', a trained and cynical lot, cared little as to the outcome, indeed may have needed such an outcome to keep their world and involvement 'secret'. Neither do I think they care too much as to crime itself.

But the response of different officers also means that this is not a solid body of ideas. What also lurks in the background is that as this crisis bites deeper and deeper not only will new forms of this entrepreneurial system be created but these flash points, these breaking points will increase. Just think of it: legalize drugs and at an instant the control of this whole edifice of entrepreneurialship is transformed, police penetration into communities is first stopped and then made responsible to that community and a whole network of criminality, is transformed and hundreds of thousands brought in out of the cold and protected from the various ravages that communities are subject to. The associated personal, i.e. against personal property and persons, crimes, the criminalization of those associated with the world, prostitution, and the petty theft to feed this habit at its artificial high prices (not to mention the freeing up of the small farmers trapped in this trade, and paid badly for it).

If Moat turns out to be involved in this whole world, as a member or informer, then the ultimate responsibility is to be laid at the correct door. This form of society produces criminality: not criminality this type of society. Though those in 'control' perpetuate it, and are based on it. The deeper the crises either the greater the degree the state will resort to criminality, or the more law that this compliant legislature will pass to make legal what was previously illegal, or to sanction in national law what is proscribed by international law. It is not to fanciful to say Moat and his victims raise all these issue.


Anne says:

What really worries me is the hate campaign by the media. Many outside the mainstream corporate controlled media would recognise that once a hate campaign is launched against someone, there's a cover up of facts they'd rather the public didn't know. The police were scarier to me than Moat. Remember the wild eyed female copper reading out letters 'from members of the public' who called Moat a nutter? At that point I knew Moat was not destined for trial in open court. They were going to hunt him down like a defenceless fox and kill him. There was no cordon, the press were allowed very close to him being shot, and the actual killing was broadcast live!!?!. Anyone who thought this was a free society - please let this be your wake up call. Despite his pitiful last words, his bullies still haven't let up their hate campaign against a dead man. This episode is disgusting. The police lied about what happened to Jean Charles de Menezes. They're also lying now. It was a public lynching - like they had of African Americans in the Deep South after Abolition.


Corinna says:

Disquiet about the police operation as a whole is growing. So, we can support defiance of trigger-happy police without in any way condoning Moat’s shooting people. Those worst affected, in particular the mother of Chris Brown, who was killed by Moat, say that police ignored information which might have saved her son’s life.

Moat was a police informer for years, according to several reports. He had been arrested on serious charges several times but had been barely touched by the courts.

His best friend Anthony Wright, rushed in by police at the last minute, has said that officers fired Taser shots, just as negotiators anticipated a non-fatal outcome.

“When I got there the police said he was calm and they had the situation under control. They expected to be talking to him all night and maybe into the next day. The negotiator was a real professional and he was stunned that Raoul killed himself. Why did it go from preparing me to speaking to him to him shooting himself? Something must have triggered it – and I’m sure it was the fact they shocked him. Later the negotiator had his head in his hands... he said it wasn’t supposed to happen like this.”

The fact that Moat has become something of an icon for those who hate the police need not imply that we have sympathy for his actions. But if people in deprived parts of the country see fit to do this, that’s because of a healthy distrust of those who the state gives a license to kill with impunity.


Fiona says:

The police with all their showy technology went way over the top and missed opportunities to defuse the situation with the volunteered help of his family. However in the end he chose to take his own life and frankly I have no sympathy with those who wish to elevate him into some sort of folk-hero. He is no inspiration to anybody no matter the social circumstances. Only a few weeks ago we had the tragic spectacle of the Derrick Bird murder spree, does that relate in any way I wonder to the actions of Raoul Moat in the sense of perhaps 'inspiring' him to go down the same route? In both cases the media of course went into hysterical overdrive. As for the French Resistance 'loving' Moat, they would probably have executed him.


Peter says:

Good piece. The police are unable, or don`t want, to see crime or mental illness in the context of the social environment. In this case they seem to have simply flooded the area with armed police leading to a predictable and probably hoped-for outcome.


Jonathan says:

I thought his brother spoke very well, especially given the circumstances. More will come out, but let's see how the gutter press retrenches over this.

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