Read our report and watch youtube footage of the meeting formally called by RMT and supported by FBU, NUT and many other trade unions and campaigns such as Defend the Right to Protest. Speakers included iconic 1968 medalist John Carlos, Doreen Lawrence and Janet Alder as well as many others from justice and anti-racist campaigns.
Well over a thousand people packed into the Friends Meeting House in Central London, Euston on Monday night to hear John Carlos (bronze medalist from the 1968 Olympics, who pumped his fist as he was awarded his medal with gold medalist Tommie Smith), Doreen Lawrence (Mother of murdered teenage Stephen Lawrence) and Janet Alder (Sister of Christopher Alder, killed in police custody).
Doreen Lawrence spoke first after receiving a standing ovation. She called for all those in the audience to join her in fighting for a public inquiry which was met with loud applause.
Janet Alder then spoke of the horrendous death of Christopher Alder in police custody. She spoke of how police officers mocked, laughed and made chimpanzee noises as her brother choked to death on the floor, with his trousers pulled down in Hull Police Station. The Crown Prosecution Service eradicated crucial evidence against the police officers, after a case was brought against 5 officers because the inquest had found he had been unlawfully killed. When Janet Alder said she brought a case against the Crown Prosecution Service herself after no law firm would take it on, it was met with exceptionally loud cheers and applause. Janet reiterated that there has been 3,000 deaths in police custody since 1969 and asserted that this is state murder. She called on everyone to support families of those who have died in police custody.
John Carlos was the third speaker who was met with thunderous applause, cheers and pumped fists. The first thing he said to us was, “I heard you mention I won a bronze medal. My life is not about winning medals. It’s about being a freedom fighter.” John Carlos told us stories of resistance which dated back to his childhood. He made the audience laugh and cheer with several one liners such as [on the Olympics], “it’s the Royal Family in the Royal Box. You get the royal shove!”. John Carlos’ act of protest meant he was scorned by the establishment. He shared how his treatment extended to his family, poignantly stating that it sent his wife to her grave and meant his children were shunned growing up too. Read about John Carlos’ original plans to boycott the 1968 Olympics here.
There were then a variety of speakers from different campaigns.
Marcia and Sam Rigg spoke on behalf of the Sean Rigg Justice and Change Campaign – they told us how they have outrageously been asked to contribute £21,000 towards the inquest of the death of their brother Sean Rigg, who died in police custody in Brixton Police Station. Sean Rigg’s inquest will begin on 11th June 2012 at Southwark Coroners Court. You can donate money towards their campaign and legal costs here. Marcia Rigg specifically mentioned Alfie Meadows as a living witness to police brutality. Both sisters called for a mass link up of campaigns such as Defend the Right to Protest and United Friends and Families Campaign.
Weyman Bennett spoke on behalf of Unite Against Fascism, saying: “the police’s role is to protect the queen’s peace. That’s their actual role… The queen has a very big peace!”
Farhad Ansari spoke movingly on behalf of the Free Barbar Ahmad Campaign. Barbar Ahmad has been locked up for 8 years without trial under anti-‘terrorist’ legislation. Farhad wisely stated, “first they’ll come for the Muslims and then they’ll use the precedent against others”.
Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the FBU, gave a rousing speech asserting that you cannot separate sport from politics and congratulating the efforts of grassroots activists in the RMT and other unions who had made the meeting possible as well as all the speakers.
Unjum Mirza (RMT Trade Unionist) who had originally planned the meeting also spoke. He reiterated Doreen Lawrence’s call for a public inquiry into police corruption. He said “This is a trade unionist meeting. We have our own torch of solidarity, justice and resistance.”
Dave Zirin was the final speaker of the night (co-author of John Carlos’ book). He called for hundreds to shout with him, “hell yeah!” to calls for justice for those killed by police. He said, “these are the austerity games.. The hunger games”. He added, “Greece is passing on a different torch. Resist”.
Watch the meeting in full: