It’s a shakedown. Vans and landcruisers disgorge uniforms who bully the destitute with all the moral certainty of unquestioned power. The street outreach people are there going through their own righteous motions while their client group are informed, in deeds if not words, that they are less than Human.
I walk through this with my rucksack and combat jacket radiating my own special loathing.
I’ve been on the streets.
And I now know no pig will ever protect me.
I enter a shop, scan the headlines on the paper rack then go.
They drive past and pull up in a side street. They get out and wait. They’re staring at me, one male, one female, both eager.
“Would you step over here?”
“What do you want?”
“We’re going to search you.”
“I want your names and uniform numbers. Write ’em down.”
“We don’t have to write anything down. There’s my name, Constable McGrillen.”
I look from him to her.
“There’s my name, Constable Allen. We don’t have to show you our numbers.”
It’s printed on her badge.
The male one speaks,
“Do you know why we’re searching you?”
“I’m not a mind reader.”
“We saw you go into a shop and leave very quickly. You didn’t steal anything, did you?”
“Where are you coming from?”
“We have the right under the Public Safety Act and the Terrorism Act to stop and search anyone we consider suspicious.”
“So it’s East Germany.”
“Ahhhh…..no. It’s Northern Ireland. Other people don’t mind at all if we stop and search them.”
“The innocent have nothing to fear.”
“That’s the first cry of the tyrant.”
“What??…. I’m not a tyrant. Is there any reason you don’t want us to stop and search you?”
“It’s an infringement of my civil liberties.”
“No. It’s not. I’ve just told you, it’s the law.”
“And if I don’t cooperate?”
“We can use force. We can bring a van.”
“What do you have in your bag?”
I turn to her,
“Why don’t you look in it?”
She hokes and pokes,
“Did I ask what you’re studying?”
“What are you studying?”
A homeless drunk stops,
“What way is that to treat an Iraq War hero?”
My jacket’s desert camo. She wants rid of Homeless,
“Go about your own business.”
“What way’s that to treat a man?”
She’s losing patience,
“It’s an offence to interfere with an officer. We can arrest you.”
“Oh ye can, can ye?”
“That’s the law. Go about your own business.”
He grins as he walks on then looks back, giving the thumbs up. I smile back at him.
McGrillen’s pulling on rubber gloves,
“I’m gonna search you. You don’t have anything dangerous on your person?”
“Knives, sharp objects.”
“We called you into this side street. We didn’t want to search you in the middle of Botanic Avenue.”
“That’s real good of you.”
“It is, actually.”
He empties my pockets, does a body search.
“You can put your arms down now.”
I leave them up.
Two old Republicans walk by, too ashamed to make eye contact.
She’s still hoking in the bag,
“There’s a lot of pockets in your rucksack.”
“That’s why it was invented.”
He’s scribbling in a pad,
“This is your copy of the form.”
“I want an incident number.”
“There’s no incident number. I’ve put my uniform number on there because you seem…..disgruntled for some reason.”
I’m free to go.