Because of the way I look I’m crying. My tears are flowing for deeply personal reasons but I’m also crying for my country. Our country. I’m crying for our future.
Everything you’re about to read here is true. Everything. Allow me to take you back to London on September the first in twenty twenty one.
The police are arresting me, confiscating my drum, impounding my car, seizing my phone, taking away my laptop and now I’m in jail. Banged up. I’m being held in the Charing Cross police station and I’ll be here in this cell for who knows how long. I’ve had my two phone calls and now I only have a stainless steel toilet bowl and a starched blue blanket for company. Extreme digital detox.
Because of the way I look.
At a quarter to nine in the morning I’m driving past the Tate Britain Art Gallery wondering why a lot of bands form at art school, why don’t they stick to art? Is it something about the silence of the gallery and the seduction of the groove? Yes, just a normal day ‘kickin’ down the cobble stones and feelin’ groovy’.
“Give me the keys driver and step out of the vehicle.”
Grills on their windows, lights in their eyes. Eight police officers bundle out their yellow minibus onto the pavement. They stretch, yawn and surround me. All my paperwork is neatly folded in the glove compartment, tax, MOT, insurance. I’m dressed in black tie. I try not to but I click into George Clooney mode. Ocean’s Eleven.”What can I do for you fine officers today?” I have paperwork proving I’m going to the annual industry trade show, CONFEX, as an exhibitor. I’m twenty minutes from the venue and I’m scheduled to begin meeting customers on my pre-branded exhibition stand in forty five minutes. Twenty five minutes contingency. I can give them fifteen, wave goodbye and still have time to grab a coffee before I network like a pro till the party tonight. Not that I’ll stop then. I have proof of a booked parking space and I’m on the official CONFEX 2021 website.
So, do your thing guys, I’ll soon be out of here with a tale to tell my pals on social media. I wonder if I can get a selfie.
I’ve paid £2K upfront for my exhibition stand and I have the invoice. I couldn’t be more legitimate. But, because of the way I look, one of the younger officers reads me my rights, arrests me and handcuffs me. All eight police officers agree, with no evidence at all, that I’m on my way to an Extinction Rebellion street protest where, they tell me, I am going to block the road with my car and whip up the crowd with my drum. However, I’ve already shown the arresting officer my sat nav which is taking me to the ExCel Exhibition Centre where I’m spending the next two days.
Oh yes I am. Oh no I’m not.
Because of the way I look I’m being held under extended powers that a new Extinction Rebellion police unit have been given by the government. These powers are similar to powers that will be rolled out nationwide if the new ‘Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill’ gets through parliament. In other words, I’m experiencing what it will be like for all of us in the future if this bill goes through. My tears are for my drum, which they break during storage in a warehouse in Kent, and for the violation of them entering and searching my home, top to bottom, while I’m in jail. Because of the way I look they can do this. They could do this to you too, right now in the UK, because of the way you look.
I’m crying because they impound my car for a month for further investigation. I’m crying because they keep my business computer and my business phone for two months for further investigation. I’m crying because after eight weeks of limited communication about my case a police officer sends me an email saying it’s ‘not in the public interest’ to pursue my case. However, she says two charges of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance will be held against my name and should I find myself in trouble in the future these ‘offences’ will be taken into account. Because of the way I look, as far as any visa application goes, I may well now have a criminal record. And I’m getting Keynote Speaking enquiries from The States.
This all happened to me six months ago but I’ve written about it in the present tense today in an attempt to convey to you what it felt like, and what it still feels like. It feels unjust, like living in a country I don’t recognise as my home. A country where I’m not welcome.
But I’ve stopped crying. I’m fighting back. It’s taken a while but I’ve found one of the best ‘Actions against Police and State’ lawyers in the country. Together we’re about to sue the police for wrongful arrest. Because of the way I look those eight officers may think that, having broken my drum, I have no voice. The Metropolitan Police are about to discover that Tom Morley is not just a drummer.
Note. For legal reasons I can’t answer a lot of questions here. I was held for twelve hours, questioned at length by a ‘good cop bad cop’ double act, and it was gone midnight before I found myself, stripped of the tools of my trade, standing on The Strand. I got £100 out the wall and handed £20 to a cashpoint street sleeper. “Wow! Where did you come from with your silver wings and everything? You must be an angel!”
I’ll leave you to guess my reply.