Artist News Legal

Campaigners call for an end to ‘gang injunctions’ against drill artists

By | Published on Monday 4 February 2019

Skendo & AM

A total of 65 musicians, lawyers, academics and representatives of human rights organisations have signed an open letter to London’s Metropolitan Police, calling on them to stop using injunctions against rappers in the UK drill scene as a means of reducing gang violence. “These injunctions are demonstrably ineffective at tackling youth violence and present a threat to all our civil liberties”, the letter states.

The Met began securing injunctions against various drill musicians last year, restricting their ability to perform or in some cases even make music at all, based on claims that their output has or could incite violence between rival gangs in London. Then, last month, rappers Skengdo and AM were given suspended prison sentences of nine months, after being found to have breached an injunction by performing their track ‘Attempted 1.0’ at Koko in Camden last December.

The signatories of the new letter, published by The Guardian – and who include grime rapper Saskilla, Index Of Censorship CEO Jodie Ginsberg and Black Lives Matter’s Joshua Virasami – say that they “wish to register our serious concern at the increasing use of so-called ‘gang injunctions’ as a means of policing artistic expression”.

“These injunctions are demonstrably ineffective at tackling youth violence and present a threat to all our civil liberties”, the letter goes on. “The injunction that precipitated the conviction of these two artists was alarming in its breadth. As with other injunctions used against ‘gangs’ and ‘gang-related’ activity under the Policing And Crime Act 2009, it did not simply prohibit incitement to violence but banned references to individuals, events and places”.

“We’ve seen other injunctions used to ban musicians from even making work that could be seen as ‘encouraging’ violence, again under threat of criminalisation”, it added. “How many now-celebrated artists and poets and polemicists would survive such limitations?”

“Incitement to violence is rightly an existing offence”, it continues, “but these injunctions go much further than this. We condemn this suppression: silencing one of the few avenues, through threat of criminalisation, by which young people can discuss the reality of their lives with any hope of being heard”.

It concludes: “The heavy-handed policing of music, and the structurally racist outcomes that follow from it, are not new. There is also a wealth of evidence to prove that limiting civil liberties in an attempt to appear tough on crime does not work. We call on the Metropolitan Police to stop seeking these repressive and counterproductive injunctions. All artists should be afforded the same rights to freedom of speech and creative expression”.

Another of the letter’s signatories, drill artist Drillminister, who writes politically driven lyrics, last week released new track ‘No Deal Brexit’: