Should My Tram Experience woman be arrested?

When the Nazi-woman-on-a-tram video came out, I was one of the twitter-chattering classes who bemoaned what she was saying.

In case you haven’t seen it, here’s the foul-mouthed and utterly inarticulate rant by a woman with her toddler on her lap bemoaning that “my Britain is fuck all” because of immigration, asking other passengers where they come from, telling them to go back (one person is told to go back to “Nicaraguaberra”)

It’s horrible, but it represents the views of many, many people who don’t yell it in public and who aren’t daft enough to do it in front of a camera.

But then I read that “Emma West (34) of New Addington was charged with Racially Aggravated Section 4a on Monday. She was remanded in custody overnight.”

It makes me uncomfortable that she was arrested and spent the night in a police cell. Before you call me a racist, let’s be clear: I disagree with everything she said, and the manner in which she said it. And, had she and a few of her friends surrounded a black person and started shouting at him, they would be obviously threatening and should be arrested.

But Ms West wasn’t threatening anyone. She remained seated, with her child on her lap. While her words are abhorrent, they’re only words. No-one was physically threatened. She wasn’t inciting anyone else to violence. So what’s her crime? Being a horrible idiot isn’t a crime. She’s offensive, but being offensive isn’t a crime. And no-one has the right to be protected by law from being offended.

It seems to me that those of us who believe in free speech must support the right for people to spout offensive nonsense.

Right. Who’s first to call me a racist?

51 Responses to “ Should My Tram Experience woman be arrested? ”

Comment by Kriss Watt

I’d have to say that I probably agree with you, Bruce. Through the video going viral she’s already become a figure of ridicule. Taking her away from her kid for a night wasn’t really necessary.

She’s no Peckham Terminator, that’s for sure!

Comment by Louis Simoneau

Not going to call you a racist, and I totally understand your viewpoint, but there’s one area where I disagree: I don’t think you need to physically intimidate or assault someone in order to harass them or do damage.

You can get fired for bullying your co-workers emotionally or psychologically just as much as for physcially harrassing them, and likewise I think it’s reasonable for verbal assault to be criminal in some degree, whether it’s racist or not.

I realize that there’s definitely a slippery-slope/can-of-worms counter-argument to be made: who decides whether certain behaviour and language constitutes “assault”, and how do you prevent laws against it from being used for censorship?

But my feeling is still that there are some forms of behavior that society doesn’t need to tolerate, and shouting insults at strangers on a tram falls in that category.

It’s also worth noting that there are countries (e.g. Canada) where strong protections of free speech exist alongside criminal prohibition of hate speech in ways that have not led to censorship or suppression of free expression.

Comment by Jasper

I’m torn on the issue really. On one hand, I think that a life being that stupid should be punishment enough but when it verges on harrassment (this kicks through harrassment in my opinion) I do think something should be done to try and make her keep it to herself. She’s obviously set out to piss those people off and there should be repercussions. Whether it’s getting punched in the face or a night in a cell, she (and more importantly, her kid) should learn that negative actions can result in negative
consequences.

Comment by Charlie Apps

What disgusted me most about this clip was that she used her child as a shield against violence. It was clear that it would have gotten physical had the child not been there.

I’m not saying violence is an acceptable outcome, just drawing attention to the fact that she seemed to have no problem risking her childs safety.

Comment by passing through

Really?

Does a black person really have to be physically surrounded before you accept that they feel threatened?. Are you implying that only physical violence can be threatening or that black people can only be threatened by physical violence?

Im struggling to see how you (who has never been at the other side of this type of abuse) are able to determine what is threatening or not to the group of people who are being abused.

There was more than one black person on that train and there was a black man sitting behind and infront of her. Notice their silence?. It took an older black woman to respond (probably because she felt she had nothing else to lose)

Most of those black people know that if they so much as open their mouths, the situation could turn ugly very quickly and the blame will fall on them.

YOU might not have felt threatened by her words, but then you are not black, you have not lived a black experience in the UK. How can you presume to know how a black person feels when being verbally abused by someone who at time stood up and wildly, aggressively gesticulated at a crowd of people.

We silence black people in many ways. a few of those include:
1) Daring them to react to our aggression
2) Presuming to tell them what to be offended by
3) deciding for them how to react to offense
4) not focusing on the effect of the action taken against them, but instead on the feelings or aptitude of the person dishing out the abuse.

You do not get to decide if any of those black people on the train felt threatened and its a shame that no where in your post did you even consider that a single black person on that train could have felt threatened.

I felt threatened just watching it.

Comment by Darren Walker

Spoken like a true whitey eh? ;)

Just because you don’t feel threatened by her doesn’t mean she wasn’t threatening. Did she not sound a little aggressive to you? Or is that simply how you talk when discussing semantic markup?

People should be able to go out in public and not be subjected to this kind of racial abuse. This was not just voicing an opinion or invoking a right to free speech, she was verbally abusing people on that carriage.

I’m mixed race and have had racial abuse directed my way, there is always an undercurrent of violence. It is not pleasant and to me it is only right that there are laws against it. Zero tolerance otherwise you risk encouraging others.

What I would like to see is someone filming a video of an english person on a train being nice to immigrants.

Comment by Jorge Encarnação

Although I’m no law expert, nor do I live in the UK so I don’t really know your laws, but I am pretty sure she broke some laws there, and if so, yes she should be arrested.

I see things that simple. On a more personal note, this lady deserved something different from one night in jail. She is not only racist but she also shown some really bad parenthood and civic behaviour.

I agree with you that she said what many people think, unfortunately.. and as economy goes worse, these problems will also get worse, but if law doesn’t act, there will nothing stopping these people from harassing other people in public spaces.

Comment by Bruce

@passingthrough

“Are you implying that only physical violence can be threatening?”

No, I’m saying that upsetting someone is not the same as threatening them.

“How can you presume to know how a black person feels when being verbally abused”

I don’t. I don’t presume to know how my mum feels when being verbally abused, or how my wife feels. How I would feel about it depends on what kind of day I’ve had. But I’m saying that hurting someone’s feelings shouldn’t be a crime because it can’t be policed, it isn’t a deterrant and it restricts free speech.

@stephen “racism is a crime is it not?” I hope not; that’s tying to police peoples’ thoughts. Acting upon racism by hurting people physically or damaging their property or restricting their rights is, quite rightly, a crime.

@Darren: “People should be able to go out in public and not be subjected to this kind of racial abuse.” I entirely agree. But putting someone through the courts isn’t going to make that happen; education and community solidarity make that happen (much as we saw in the video when the white woman giving the black guy a hug, and the white woman challenging Ms West).

“I would like to see is someone filming a video of an english person on a train being nice to immigrants.” Nobody films it because there’s nothing to see. But it happened on the train I was on from Leeds to Birmingham last night. The fact that there has been such an outcry about this video shows how uncommon it is.

Comment by Andrew Davidson

I’ve no problem with her being arrested. She’s not just saying things.

If she was sitting there calmly saying “I think Nicaguaberrians need to go home because we don’t need you here”. That would be one thing.

She isn’t though; she’s ranting, raving, quite wildly offensive in language and demeanour. Threatening too even with a goddamned infant on her lap.

The way she says her things that are personally repugnant to me is what makes me quite content at her arrest.

Comment by passing through

She WAS threatening, aggressive and a public nuisance – arrestable offence.

The issue here is that YOU (obviously) fail to see her actions as threatening. Since you are not the target of her abuse, you don’t get to decide how the people on the receiving end feel about it.

And her abuse is not isolated you have admitted that most people feel this way, which would not be news to any of the black people on that tram. You don’t think that any of them would fear that other people might get involved? and it would threaten their safety. Which is frequently the end result of these things.

I’m sure there are black people who will tell you that her actions were threatening.

Which brings us back to the issue of you trying to decide what action is threatening to a black person. I don’t think thats what you are trying to do, but that is the result of what you are doing.

Comment by passing through

“The fact that there has been such an outcry about this video shows how uncommon it is”

@Bruce unfortunately, this is simply not true. (wish it was, but it just isn’t).

Comment by David

@Bruce “I hope [racism is] not [a crime]; that’s tying to police peoples’ thoughts. Acting upon racism by hurting people physically or damaging their property or restricting their rights is, quite rightly, a crime.”

Well, she’s not only thinking. Do you imply speaking is not an act ?
For me it’s simple : Free speech stops with defamation/calumny and incitement to hatred.

Whether she’s doing the latter or not is to be established, and not so simple. So I understand they arrest her to be judged for that.

“Incitement to racial hatred” is wrong indeed, because dangerous.
I fail to understand why would “hatred against religions” be, though.
I put philosophies and religions on the same bucket.
Racism is a philosophy (and hateful in my opinion). I can insult a racist for his belief. Right ?
So why can’t I insult people who have other beliefs (Christianity, Islam and Judaism) ?
But that’s an other debate.

Comment by In despair

Just wrote a big reply but deleted it in case I offend anyone living in their cosy little fluffed-up world where everyone can live in harmony. Suffice to say, I agree with you Bruce…

Comment by Tobias H.

I think its very sad that an individual or a institution can deal with words only with violence.

I think the only appropriate way to deal with bad speech is with more speech.

And by the way, this women seems to be on drugs or sick. She should get help, not punishment – that’s the only way to change her.

Comment by George Katsanos

Plus, I think she’s really drunk. Plus, my recent London experience this summer tells me there’s lots of weird stuff going on in public transportation over there. Gay guy publicly hit on me shouting and licking the window and whatever while I was with my GF. Rather funny but you know. That’d never happen in belgium, france, greece, italy or any other country I can think of!

Comment by Bruce

@GEORGE

I wondered if she was drunk, too, which is worrying when she’s looking after a child.

And, yes, her child might very well turn out to be a neo-nazi. Similarly, children of homophobes are often homophobic; intolerant muslims pass their views onto their children etc. We can’t legislate against that.

Comment by Paul

I disagree. My wife is from south america, and when we lived in Europe, she was victim of such abusive talk, and it does more than “offend”. It can be traumatic, and humiliating.
She needs to be taught a lesson.

Comment by Thiago

You’re not rascist at all, but I and, in this case, the Brazilian laws disagree: racism is a crime and should be treated as such.

Comment by Daan

I actually partially agree with her. Everyone whose great-grandparents were not born in Britain (at least what is now Britain) should go to the country of origin. As soon as possible, and everyone on the same day. I’m sure a date can be agreed on. Give the white supremacists what they want, and now.

This could be very interesting: how well would Britain do without its “foreigners”? Not very well, I think. I hope that it would teach a lot of white supremacists a lesson: even though they have a different skin color, they are part of the same economy and part of the same social structure: they are part of Britain.

Of course, everyone can come back after a month. It’ll be like a long, mass holiday. People that don’t want to leqve can also hide in isolation for a month, with no con

Comment by Mr. B

I honestly think, the woman who uploaded the video on YouTube is an idiot. She should of just shown it the police and let them do their job. The video didn’t need to be shown world wide. Saying that, she never would of predicted the video to end up with 8 million views.

Comment by Tom Fotherby

I didn’t know we had trams in England. They look like a far more interesting experience than the underground.

Comment by Karl-Alfred

Oh, she wsn´t threatening anyone physically, but she sure as hell posed a threat!

Had I been on that tram, the only reason for me not to bash her face in would be the toddler. I think she´s damn well aware of that.

Comment by Stef D

So here´s my 5 cent from Germany, where racism is a crime, and i think we Krauts have some good reasons to treat it like that. This lady has a serious problem with life and deserves some advice on how to be a polite and respectful member of society. You cannot forbid people to think like a nazi, but you should prohibit them to act like one. There is of course freedom of speech in Germany, but there is also the bill of rights. And there freedom of speech ends where dignity of man begins. It is a crime in Germany to neglect Auschwitz – anybody, including a bishop of the Pius-Brotherhood, will be prosecuted because he violates the dignity of the surviving victims of the shoa.
This woman violates the dignity of immigrants. And if she does so because she is drunk (or has some other mental disorder like shizophrenia) one should check her ability to take care of her child. (and of herself, of course). I´m kinda pissed of these days after a series of 10 cases of murder on immigrants committed by a Neo-Nazi-Gang in Germany was disclosed; they sure felt that they were delivering what their victims deserved and what the silent majority of people agreed with. And people like this lady create a climate that encourages these thoughts. Fight the beginning, zero tolerance against people with zero tolerance.

Comment by passing through

‘And there freedom of speech ends where dignity of man begins’ and ‘This woman violates the dignity of immigrants’.

But that is the point. Most people don’t really care about the dignity, fear or real emotions of the immigrants.

If they did, you would have blog posts trying to enquire what effect this had on the black people on that train and not posts questioning whether the woman should be jailed or not.

People expect black people to be able to face aggression quietly and humbly. they are expected to just shrug it off.

Comment by Bruce

@passingthrough said

“Most people don’t really care about the dignity, fear or real emotions of the immigrants.

If they did, you would have blog posts trying to enquire what effect this had on the black people on that train and not posts questioning whether the woman should be jailed or not.”

Bullshit. My wife is an immigrant. (And, when I lived overseas, so was I.)

I’m not “trying to enquire what effect this had on the black people on that train”; it’s obvious they’re upset or angered.

I’m questioning whether people’s rights not to have hurt feelings outweigh other people’s rights to free speech. I think not.

Comment by RR

I’m with Bruce on this. I live and grew up in Scotland, a country I love. But because I was born on English soil I was subject to nasty verbal abuse right throughout my childhood and teenage years, sometimes physical abuse.

Harshly punishing the offenders would have done nothing more than strengthen their views and make them feel like victims with a cause being suppressed. Is that not counterintuitive?

You cannot punish these people into changing and it is extremely dangerous to dictate the views they should hold. Constructive confrontation and education are the only way to make a real change for the better. We could also (and do) show support for those being vicimised.

It looks like this woman will be in prison over Christmas. I guarantee she will not learn the slightest thing from this punishment, she will only have her opinions reinforced. If that’s what you want then fine but I don’t see the purpose.

Comment by passing through

@bruce
And some felt threatened. You just can’t seem to connect them with that.

They didn’t just ‘get their feelings hurt’ Her actions were threatening, aggressive and a public nuisance.

Is it possible that you can ever accept that point of view?

Comment by passing through

@RR

She doesn’t have to change, she is entitled to hold her views for as long as she likes. What she is not entitled to do is cause a public nuisance and be threatening and aggressive towards people in public. You could get arrested for that whether its racial, sexist or just random abuse.

You don’t have to like the immigrant population, but you should not be allowed to threaten and silence them by virtue of your majority in society.

Comment by RR

@passing through

Don’t get me wrong I think what she did was vile and extremely objectionable. But I question whether it should be illegal, people need to learn to deal with each other instead of looking to the law and government to control everything in our lives.

What I’d like to see is a climate of constructive discussion with people like this (as tough as that may be) and education (to fight ignorance) rather than the pursuit of punishment for anything we dislike. I don’t see any positive outcomes from locking her up.

Comment by Bruce

Tanya,
I’m not afraid of being called a racist. I’m not afraid of being called anything, because it doesn’t harm me. I know I’m not a racist, and so do the people I care about.

It’s quite an interesting article, though it tries too hard to offend (calling people with Down Syndrome “mongol”). I agree with him r/e Jeremy Clarkson and the silliness of apologising for ancient wrongs.

Comment by gaz

i agree with comment 36 . but the person who videoed the racial attack and put it on the net should also be arrested . becuause this person is as bad as emma west , this person who done this is trying to intise racial hatred towards her and uk citierzon’s and has runied her life just because she opened her mouth when she shouldn’t off done . fair enough show the police but why the internet ? but she and everyone else is allowed free speech as long as you don’t use phsyical violent or mental abuse . ive also been on website’s forums whatever nationally have said she deserve to die and deserve to rot in hell which is disgusting . there are some imgants in britian are good for the uk and some that should be kicked out of the uk ,it don’t make me rascits . there was another lady on another site which made me sick and she is a forigner living in the uk , her words where lol she should and get a job ive got her job now ha ha. to me this person is trying to wind up the brits , so if free speech is not allowed in this country , i would call this a racial attack from a forigner to a brit . but as usual in this screwed up country it overlooked ,but if a british citierzon made this remark they end up in prison .

Comment by gaz

as far as im concered the labour and con/dem’s are to blame for this country to open it’s borders up to every tom dick and harry to come over here to commit crime and take to avantage of our benfits what most brits don’t get . i know not all of them are bad and some work hard ,but both goverment have taken uk born citerzon’s rights away and given it to the forgeinors . labour should of made some of these lazy brits work if not cut there befits in the first place . we should be like australia , when immgrants from anywhere around the world should have a skilled job to go to if they are short in that skill from uk citierzon’s , have over 10 thousand pounds in bank , speak fluent english , have family or freinds over here . execpt they can not claim any benfits for 10 years . see how go home then especally most eastern europeans.there are some forginer’s in this country who are arrogant people who should not be here just as there are nice immgrant’s . the hatred is not always come from brits , some immgrants are just as bad .

Comment by gaz

and for some of these forginer’s that hate the brits , and can’t execpt our way of life should no offence go back to your own country , we only want good imgrants over here not lazy , racial , benfits cheats , or people who commit any offence . it should be the same with british immgrants abroad . but the 3 main parties are soft on them just as they are british crimminals . i have to ask myself when the iron curtain came down why did most eastern european wanted to come to the uk not germany ,france , portgual , spain (e.t.c ) because they thought they would get it easy over here ! and what really annoys me is that some companies in britian will only employ forgein workers because they can exploite them more than british workers . this is what emma west was trying to get over , alot of what alot of british people think , brits are 2nd class citierzon’s in there own country and there are some imgrants rub the british citierzon’s noses in it ,and wonder why we get fed up with it . we as a nation need to stop imgration for the next 10 years and deport trouble makers . just ike the brits would be treated in other countries .

Comment by gaz

anothe problem in this country is the pc brigade who stire up trouble and tell us how to live our lifes no matter what nationailty . yes you need laws in any country but some of our laws are over the top thanks to labour giving all our laws and rights away to the eu .

Comment by Patrick H. Lauke

I love how Gaz is all about the australian “speak fluent english”, and yet he can’t even fucking spell himself. Gaz, are you sure you’re a real UK citierzon? Is that like the mysterons?

Comment by gaz

yes patrick my spelling is bad , it don’t not mean that i can’t have freedom of speech . so why don’t you go fuck yourself you forigen loving cunt .

Comment by Bruce

Gaz

you do have freedom of speech. I could have deleted your comment because (a) you swear (b) you are stupid enough to use “foreign-loving” as an insult, thereby showing your true racist colours. But I didn’t, because I don’t believe in censorship.

But Patrick’s correct in calling out the irony that someone who wishes that immigrants speak fluent English is unable to spell or write coherently.

It’s also indicative of your own fluency in English that, on first challenge to your diatribe, you can only respond with insults.

Have a lovely day, dreaming of a white christmas.

Comment by Ciaran McNulty

Bruce,

There is a line between harassment and free speech, as I’m sure you appreciate.

Ms West isn’t being accused of a thought crime – she’s being accused of ‘intentional harassment, alarm or distress’ with the additional modified that it is a racially motivated offence.

This sounds like thought crime, but really isn’t anything new to our justice system. In the case of killing, we make strong sentencing distinctions between Murder and Manslaughter, in cases where the only difference would be the mental state and motivation of the perpetrator.

It’s an entirely valid line of argument whether racial motivations make crimes ‘worse’, at the moment we as a society have decided that they are, because Racism is something we’re trying to eradicate. Maybe in 100 years we can strike it off the books entirely as a anacronism.

Comment by Patrick H. Lauke

oh Gaz, the best part is that I *AM* a forigen. A forigen pulled you up about your spelling…now if that’s not shameful to your pure english heritage, I don’t know what is. now excuse me while I go buy lots of pressies with the benefits I get from your hard-earned taxes…