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A video posted on YouTube of a woman on a packed South London tram spouting off racist and xenophobic statements has, in four days, garnered more than two-million views, and resulted in the arrest of the woman in question.
The video was widely shared in the UK, resulting in the top Twitter trending topic #MyTramExperience, has widely been denounced as one of the most deplorable instances of racist attitudes in the UK being captured on camera.
The video, seemingly filmed surreptitiously, captures the women who has been identified as 34-year old Emma West making comments which have been described as “disgusting and offensive” by UK authorities.
“What has this country come to? A load of black people and a load of f***ing Polish… You ain’t English. No, you ain’t English either. You ain’t English. None of you’s f***ing English. Get back to your own f***ing… do you know what sort out your own countries, don’t come and do mine.” West shouted with a little boy perched on her knee during the two and a half-minute tirade.
Other passengers on the tram, to no avail, tried to confront West on what she was saying.
Reaction to the story was swift.
Twitter user Aaron Hussey summed up the general opinion.
When authorities got wind of the video, they quickly issued statements denouncing what had happened and calling on the public for help in identifying the woman.
A spokesperson for British Transport Police (BTP) quoted by The Daily Mail said, “The video posted on YouTube and Twitter has been brought to our attention and our officers have launched an investigation… As a result we need anyone who witnessed this incident, or with any information that could assist our investigation — including the identity of the woman — to contact us. We will not tolerate racism in any form on the rail network and will do everything in our power to locate the person responsible.”
The decision by authorities to pursue the woman was not wholly welcomed.
While this case has received widespread media coverage, looking at BTP’s website, the use of the web to locate those who infringe on their regulations is not new.
Its website currently features cases where CCTV footage is being used — as was done during the London Riots — to track down people who have fallen foul of the law.
It is not clear at the time of writing whether the authorities apprehension of West — who has been arrested on “suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence” — could be connected to information received via social media.
This case brings to mind the now infamous incident of the UK’s Mary Bale, also known as the “Cat Bin Lady,” who in 2010 was caught on CCTV throwing a cat into a bin. The video was subsequently posted on YouTube, following which Bale was identified and charged with animal cruelty.
In China, the naming and shaming of people caught on camera in moments of illegality they had thought private are fairly prevalent. In 2010, The New York Times Magazine ran a feature piece on these actions which in China are known as “human-flesh search engines”.
WARNING:Video contains highly offensive language