Thousands protest in Hackney as family of strip searched teenager vow legal action against police and school

Protestors outside Hackney Town Hall. Pic: Alan Denney

Thousands took to the streets of Hackney yesterday in support of the fifteen-year-old schoolgirl who was taken out of an exam and strip searched by police officers on suspicion of cannabis possession.

On Sunday, protestors marched from Stoke Newington police station to Hackney Town Hall with banners such as ‘No to racist police’, ‘Schools + cops = violence’ and ‘Withdraw consent now’, chanting: “Justice for Child Q”.

The girl, known as Child Q, was taken out of an examination and subjected to a strip search during which her sanitary towel was removed and without any adult being present. Police has been called by the school because staff claimed she smelt of cannabis; no drugs were found. The school has not been named.

A protestor told the BBC:  “What they did to that child has brought tears to my eyes every day because I’m thinking ‘could that have been my daughter once upon a time, could that be my granddaughter?”

Another told Sky News: “I felt numb, I felt a chill wash over me. And I thought ‘what better way to show support?’ Because that’s what you need when you’ve been dehumanised in such a way.”

Protestors marching with banner Pic: Alan Denney

Hackney Cop Watch, which organised the protest said: “It’s been a weekend of resistance and solidarity with Child Q and all the other children, mothers and communities impacted by state brutality and police violence. No cops in schools, no cops on our streets.” A petition to ban police from schools on, has gained 32,000 signatures in over two days.

The search was deemed by a safeguarding review to have “no reasonable justification” which also concluded that racism was considered a “likely” factor.

It is said to have led to psychological treatment and trauma for Child Q. In a statement issued by her family’s lawyers, she said: “I can’t go a single day without wanting to scream, shout, cry or just give up… I just want to go back to feeling safe again.”

Since then, Child Q and her family are looking to take legal action against the Metropolitan Police and the school.

“I want to thank the thousands of people across the world of all backgrounds who have offered me support – both publicly and through messages conveyed to my legal team – following everything I’ve been through, “I know I am not alone”” Child Q said in a statement released by her legal representatives, solicitors Bhatt Murphy and Florence Cole, a solicitor at Just For Kids Law, a charity which helps children and young people with legal issues.

Signs outside Stoke Newington Police station. Pic: Alan Denney

Cole said : “This is an appalling, shocking case which illustrates wider problems in schools and communities about the treatment of black children which unfortunately is systemic; and the lack of safeguarding and the failure to recognise the ripple effects of trauma that follows, long after such an ordeal.”

Ngozi Fulani, the founder of Sistah Space – an organisation supporting African and Carribean heritage women affected by abuse, said: “There’s something in our system that doesn’t see the humanity in black people, much less black children…the police involved should be sacked.”

At one Hackney school, Petchey Academy, saw children sitting out of classes staging their own protest for Child Q. It has been reported at other secondary schools, children are refusing to re-enter classrooms after lunch break.

Scotland Yard has since apologised, saying the incident “should never have happened”. The Independent Office of Police Conduct has investigated three police officers for misconduct.

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