Reverend Joyce Daley

The Reverend Joyce Daley, Pastor at Faithful Ministry's at St Luke's Church

Reverend Joyce Daley, Borough Dean for the Independent Black Majority Churches in Hackney and community leader, doesn’t want August 8th 2011 to become “another glitch in history”. She says people in Hackney recover well, they’ve done it before and slotted back into a routine.

Daley was on the Pembury Estate on the nights of the riot. She saw what happened. She was also there one week before when the police after a 22-month undercover operation raided the estate and arrested 26 people allegedly part of the Pembury Boys gang.

In an interview with the Citizen, she talks about those who jeered or just stood and watched the chaos. She takes time to congratulate the police, but strongly feels that it is the community that must take responsibility and it is the community that must come together to offer solutions.

EM: You were there the night of the riots. What was it like?

JD: I wouldn’t say it was scary, but I was disappointed. A vast number of the crowd were not engaging in the rioting, but they were standing just observing, taking images on their mobile phones rather than going out and doing something – like putting out fires that were smouldering in the huge dustbins. Some of them were anarchists, a lot older, and their view of the police and government was terrible – saying this was young people fighting back. That really did upset me. I was able to phone the police and get them down here to remove the bins and Tesco trollies out of the way, because if the group had come back they could have been used as weapons and barriers.

EM: What were the mood and atmosphere like?

JD: Some people where jeering it on, quite happy, usually the older ones I was talking to. I spoke to one lad and told him if this doesn’t stop the police would be forced to take further measures and he said they can’t do that…

EM: Why?

JD: …because he said that this country has too many civil rights and I was blown away by that. Some young men were masked. I told them if they’ve got a cause pull the masks down, but this was not a cause. This has nothing to do with the death of Mark Duggan or the cuts – this is just people taking opportunity to loot and be violent. As the riot police moved forward, the crowd started to run like jack rabbits – which I was pleased about. If there had been a direct physical confrontation, I hate to think what would have happened.

At a couple of points throughout the night, I had seen the police come under a barrage of missiles and I really did feel for them, because some of them looked like they were four foot tall and they were ladies and it was quite frightening for them to be in the midst of that. A very young English lad, about 18, came up to me and held my hand and said he was really scared, he just wanted to go home and I didn’t know how. Then a couple offered to walk him home the long way round – which was really lovely. It set his mind at peace. It was quite a distance and I thought that in the midst of all this chaos there were people who were concerned and felt that even though they couldn’t stop what the rioters were doing, they could in some way help just one individual by walking him home.

EM: You saw both sides – you saw what the rioters were doing and you were working with the police. How did you balance that?

JD: For me it was about safety of life on both sides. People could have died on that night. For me I saw the ugly side of humanity. It was quite horrific to see that. I felt that the community around should have done more. When you look at it, the numbers of people out there was quite small in comparison to the people that live there. For me, at one stage, I wanted to run around the houses and say bring your pales of water out and let’s try and put out these fires. It was frustrating night for me. Very sad.

EM: Do you think the raids that happened a week before in the Pembury Estate contributed to the riots?

JD: There was clamp down on some of the Pembury Boys and some of the key players were taken out. I think we have to thank god for that, because these are people that are strategic in their planning. We have no idea what would have happened if they had been on the scene. I felt that the young men that were left in that gang thought it was their way of getting back and saying we are not defeated. Someone I spoke to said we are still here and we are going to stay here and I thought WOW – you could also die here and he looked at me and he had no answer. It was this resounding police have lost control, police have lost control, but in fact when you look at the overall damage that happened in Hackney, compared to other boroughs – who claim not to have a large gang problem as Hackney does – Hackney did pretty well. I think the police did extremely well given the circumstances.

EM: What was the meeting like the next morning with the police?

JD: I think relief. Because of the facts that we were given and the fact is we didn’t have burnt buildings in Hackney. There were attempts to, but thank god they didn’t. Hackney wasn’t as bad as other places as the media like to portray Hackney. The community is annoyed about that and it’s not fair. Things have changed in Hackney. We do have our problems and we are working through them. We shouldn’t lose site of the good things that are happening in Hackney.

EM: You say it’s not fair, but you pull together a meeting for the community to come along and not many people turned up. They are willing to complain, but they are not stepping through…

JD: It’s a fact. It’s something we have been trying to address with the Black Parent Community Forum for some time to get people to realise the power of change lies within them. Not within the government or police. It’s up to us to make the change and the difference. Until we change people’s view of things, we can’t just see another death on the street, or whether it’s another person involved in gangs. I have seen it at funerals that I do, thousands of people will come. You will see men as you have never seen them before.

EM: So thousands of people come to a funeral, but thousands of people won’t get up and try and stop it from happening in the first place?

JD: Exactly, this is the frustration. It is saying to people – do they not realise the power they have? In order for things to change what you feel is not right, you are going to have to band together, not like the days of the riots, but sit down and discuss the issues and draw out a plan that you can take to the Prime Minister and say we are not happy with this and things need to change. That is where the struggle is and that is where the fight is. To get people to realise that this is my community and I do have a vested interest in it and I should take responsibility as much as the next person.

EM: Has the lack of the community coming together had an effect on the IPCC investigation into Mark Duggan?

JD: Again as a community we need to realise that many people say that they have witnessed it, they have seen something and they have posted things up on the internet. They are all screaming for the police to be brought to justice and these laws to be changed, but unless we come forward and go through the process, nothing happens, nothing changes. So at the moment we are left with the officers and their report. And the taxi driver and no one else. Then we as a community will turn round and accuse the IPCC or the police of covering up. I said at one funeral (when the girl got killed in the chicken shop) the police weren’t there – the council weren’t there – you were, you saw what happened and you need to come forward and make sure that it stops. So for me, it is important for the community, particularly the African and Caribbean community to take responsibility for what is happening in our community.

EM: If people are not doing that now, then how do you change that?

JD: Oh my gosh. If you keep going, keep going, keep going, things will change gradually. It’s all about communication. There is a scripture “people perish due to the lack of knowledge.” We need to come around the table and learn from each other. People were astonished when I told them that in 2008 the armed police had over 2000 call outs but they had only deployed their weapons twice. Now that doesn’t ring with what we hear on the market streets and in our homes, so when people are fed with that information they are challenged with what they believe. They are challenged to change the way they think about the police and the response unit.

EM: Does the community need to know how the police work in order to understand them better?

JD: You can’t trust anyone if you don’t have some sort of engagement with them. You are asking to trust total strangers, so what we do is hold monthly meetings. I have learned so much myself. Our guns, gangs, drugs and knife conference is planning to focus on rough justice. We are hoping someone from the IPCC will sit down and take the community through when and why they are called, how their investigation goes on and clearly show the community they are totally independent from the Met Police. For me that is important because we have got to stop accusing people of cover-ups.

EM: What are your biggest concerns?

JD: My biggest concern is that the community slips back into this lethargic state and they don’t realise that this is a window of opportunity for them to band together and address issues that are affecting us particularly in the African and Caribbean community. A disproportionate number of our young people are dying on the streets, are in mental institutions and are incarcerated and we need to address those issues. We need to ask ourselves and see why that is happening and then we can look at the system and say look this is where we need to change. My fear is that we don’t slip back into business as usual and the 8th August becomes another glitch in history.

EM: Do you think what happened was justified?

JD: You can’t justify burning down people’s homes and putting people’s lives in danger. We have to look at the underlying issues, but let’s just not do what the government did and blame police tactics and blame parenting, that was the worst thing to do. We have cracks in parts of the system. Education is failing our young people. We have to take a look at the social services and that whole network there and see where that’s failing. People need to take responsibility of where they are going wrong – whether that’s in the home, at the Met or at Westminster.

EM: Did you learn anything from it? Is there anything that you will share with your congregation?

JD: Yes, that we can’t remain silent, we can’t give up. Whether I wear a collar or not, we need to come together and sit down and deal with the issues that affect our community. If we do slip back into that lethargic state – this could happen again. The concern for me is that we need to why are so many people feeling not connected to their community. Faith is a builder. Faith builds in communities and if people aren’t feeling connected then we are failing in that area as well. It’s about looking at your side and saying where do I fall short? It’s about saying we have got a lot of work ahead of us and we can’t give up.