The Wits Justice Project in South Africa writes about its context:
We the People: Policing the Pools
June 15, 2015
At our editorial meeting last week, the Wits Justice Project (WJP) watched a video that has been circulating over social media that depicts a white police officer using excessive force against a group of black teenagers at a pool party in McKinney, Texas. The most shocking frame of the video shows the officer violently manhandling a young black teenage girl of slight build and waving a gun at two black teenage boys who try to intervene on her behalf.
This 6 June 2015 video is about police violence against swimming children in McKinney, Texas.
We reflected on race and spatial exclusion, racist policing in the United States, the role of gender, the policing of juveniles, and South Africa’s own history of segregated pools and beaches. Since the video was first released, Police Corporal Eric Casebolt was suspended and then he subsequently resigned from the department. Whether criminal charges will be filed against him remains to be seen. The Black Lives Matter movement has come to McKinney. The protests have started. A spotlight shines on McKinney and offers insights into the way that race plays out in America. The conversations will continue.
This blog has been written by Beena Ahmad, WJP visiting researcher from the United States. …
In an interview with National Public Radio, Jeff Wiltse, a University of Montana history professor, discussed the racialized history of swimming pools in America. Community pools first proliferated on the eve of segregation, and they were built in working class neighbourhoods as well as more affluent ones. They were noticeably less available in areas that were predominantly African American. During Jim Crow, segregation was enforced by laws, as well as through violence perpetrated by whites against blacks with police acquiescence, even in the absence of an official policy of segregation.
“Wade-ins” were held in a number of communities to protest segregated beaches and swimming pools. In one famous account captured on photograph, a Florida motel owner poured acid into a pool to force black bathers out of the pool. Some credit this story with playing a role in the passage of the Civil Rights Act. According to Wiltse, by the time of desegregation, pool construction had become cheaper. Whites stopped using municipal pools and started building pools in private communities or in their backyards. Many municipalities have since closed public pools, and there is a racial disparity as to who has access to swimming pools in America today.
By Markus Salzmann in Austria:
Austrian municipalities impose ban on refugees using swimming pools
2 February 2016
The Austrian towns of Korneuburg and Mödling have imposed a ban on refugees using their public swimming pools. Refugees are allowed to use these facilities only if accompanied by an “escort.”
In Mödling, Councilor Robert Mayer of the conservative Austrian People’s Party (ÖVP) announced the measure by issuing instructions to the town’s employees. He had an order posted on notice boards stipulating the ban on unaccompanied people “with immigrant backgrounds.”
He justified the measure by saying that young refugees from two nearby facilities had jumped into the pool in underwear or sweatpants. …
The situation is similar in Korneuburg. Because bathers allegedly felt harassed and molested, a general ban on refugees was imposed. …
The web portal Vienna.at cited police officials who claimed that eight Afghan asylum-seekers had misbehaved, making noise and jumping from the edge of the pool, which is forbidden. It was also claimed that a man had gotten lost and wandered into the women’s changing room. The police acknowledged that there had been no criminal assaults and no charges had been filed.
On the basis of these flimsy pretexts, the city imposed a blanket ban on refugees and hired a security service to enforce it.
On social media, thousands have reacted angrily to the ban and the right-wing officials who imposed it. Many have drawn parallels to the methods employed by the Nazis against the Jews. However, ÖVP Mayor Christian Gepp has defended the racist measures.
Such discrimination against refugees is not limited to Austria. In Bornheim near Bonn in Germany, the town’s social affairs department, which is controlled by the Green Party, has banned adult male refugees from using the public swimming pool. Here too there have been no legal complaints.
In Koksijde in Belgium, the mayor almost succeeded in banning all refugees from the local swimming pool because one Iraqi refugee had helped a little girl distressed by a whitewater whirlpool; leading to a false accusation of padeophile sexual assault.
The same week in which the bans were imposed, the Austrian government closed the country’s borders to refugees. At a refugee summit, leaders of the governing parties—the Austrian Social Democratic Party (SPÖ) and the Austrian Peoples Party (ÖVP)—agreed to introduce a ceiling for refugees. As Chancellor Werner Faymann (SPÖ) told the press, Austria will take in only 37,500 asylum-seekers in this year. This number, added to the 90,000 refugees who have remained in the country in the past year, brings the total to the limit of 1.5 percent of the population set by the government.
The ruling parties are now following the line of the far-right Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). The Greens, who are closely linked with the government parties at the provincial and district level, are joining in the witch-hunting of refugees.
Green Party politician Efgani Dönmez, who until last year was a member of the Federal Council, the upper chamber of parliament, appeared Friday as a guest speaker at an FPÖ event in Linz. …
Burgenland, where the Social Democrats are in an alliance with the far-right FPÖ in the state government, has announced that it intends to set up neighbourhood watch groups in its municipalities. According to the state premier Hans Niessl (SPÖ), “security partners” will carry out a broad range of tasks. The details of the powers they will have are currently being negotiated, but they will definitely include the power to check identity cards. Even arming the civil militia is under discussion.
The deputy state premier Johann Tschürtz (FPÖ) announced that the project would initially be introduced in nine municipalities. The municipalities selected include Schattendorf, where, on January 30, 1927, members of the fascist Veterans Association shot into a Social Democratic meeting, killing a worker and a six-year-old child.
The introduction of neighbourhood watch groups evokes memories of this dark chapter in Austrian history. The acquittal of the murderers by the judiciary in 1927 led to a mass demonstration in Vienna, against which the police carried out a massacre, killing 89 workers.
Tschürtz explained that the makeup of the “security partners” remained unclear, but might involve private security companies. It is likely that the FPÖ will use its close ties to the neo-Nazi scene to recruit thugs from this milieu for the neighbourhood watch groups. Last year, FPÖ politician Ralph Schäfer tried to establish a neighbourhood watch group in the city of Wels that included right-wing extremists known to the police.
The links between the FPÖ and the extreme right are well documented. In his book Strache: The Brown Swamp, author Hans-Henning Scharsach details “many, many points of contact with the neo-Nazi scene.” Heinz-Christian Strache is the leader of the FPÖ.