Grenfell Tower in the wake of the tragic 2017 fire. Image credit: ChiralJon/Flickr
The Met Police have been accused of racism after it was revealed officers predicted releasing the Grenfell death toll would cause “crime and disorder” because most of those affected were Muslim.
A community impact assessment, created by the Kensington and Chelsea police branch days after the fire, predicted “outbreaks of crime and/or disorder within hours”, the Grenfell inquiry heard this week.
The document, which was read out in the hearing, said the rationale for that prediction was that disclosure of the death toll “could have an impact on community tensions, especially when the majority of those affected are believed to come from a Muslim cultural background, combined with the incident occurring during the [holy] month of Ramadan.”
Allison Munroe, lawyer for the bereaved, survivors, and residents, told the inquiry on Monday police had “attributed imminent threats of an outbreak of crime and disorder to the Muslim background of the victims”.
Munroe added: “This is Islamophobia, it is racism”.
A lawyer responding on behalf of the Met said the force would “strongly refute any suggestion that Islamophobia affected its response to the tragedy”.
Grenfell United, a group for the bereaved and survivors, told The Big Issue: “The Metropolitan Police were more concerned about us than the actual criminals.”
A spokesperson added: “When we should have been protected and supported, we were treated as suspects not victims.
“Working within a system riddled with racism and Islamophobia will never bring about true justice.”
The revelation, first reported by Inside Housing, comes in the week the Met was put in special measures over “systemic” failings after scandals including the strip-search of Child Q and the murder of Sarah Everard by police officer Wayne Couzens.
There was speculation in the aftermath of the fire, which happened on June 14 2017, that the death toll was being concealed. Initial estimates changed, with police at one point saying 79 people had died.
Labour MP David Lammy, who lost a close friend in the fire, said on BBC Newsnight on June 27 2017: “What people say is that if you put the numbers out early, there could be civil unrest. That’s what they say.”
He added he had “no idea” if there had been a cover up, but was “sympathetic” to the community.
He said: “I am going to walk alongside those people.”
Another death toll was released in November 2017, saying 71 people had lost their lives. The death toll now stands at 72.
As part of the closing submissions in the Grenfell inquiry, Munroe read a police Grenfell community impact assessment from four days after the fire.
She said: “The entry of June 18 read: ‘Imminent: Local, national or international events, taken alone or in combination, expected to lead to outbreaks of crime and/or disorder within hours… Rationale: There is an expectation that the final death toll from the fire could rise substantially and with the cause still unknown, any subsequent disclosure could have an impact on community tensions. Especially when the majority of those affected are believed to come from a Muslim cultural background, combined with the incident occurring during the [holy] month of Ramadan.”
Munroe said the panel needed to “look no further” than this document to see how questions of race are “inextricably linked with Grenfell.”
She added: “This is Islamophobia, it is racism, the elephant staring back at us in the room.”
Andrew Warnock, responding on behalf of the Met, said: “The MPS sought to work in a positive way with all those affected by the tragedy. Whilst it will not have got everything right, it would strongly refute any suggestion that Islamophobia affected its response to the tragedy.”
Warnock added that the assessment read by Munroe also said: ”Community leaders from local mosques have been contacted and are working with the police and to support those affected, as are community leaders from other faith groups.”